After getting my sweaty palms on the K3003 earlier last year and having owned and enjoyed the often polarized but popular K702 for a long period, the arrival of the K550, I admit, got me kind of excited to say the least. Certainly the industry buzz would suggest AKG might have a hit on their hands with the K550 and the price at $299 places it right in the heart of the mid-fi competition giving it a more than accessible market to play with.

The K550 to me sounds like AKG got a new direction and perspective on headphone development and perhaps a shot in the arm given the really stiff competition these days in the mid-fi headphone market. It does not run away totally from the house sound of upper-tier AKG cans but it does point to a stiffened resolve not to loose their relevancy given their previous fine legacy.

Build and packaging

DSC_0001 The AKG K550  - A New Era?

The K550 doesn’t stop with the evolution in sound, the whole package including build and quality is a marked step up in class and build concept and comfort. This is without doubt the most leathery smelling pleather headphone I have ever held and man that smell is awesome and reassuringly expensive to the nostrils. Given the new approach they do indeed feel much better built then previous AKG cans. They are very light for their size also even with the metal infused construct. The leather-like quality of the pads is very high indeed giving better than average level of comfort on your head that you would be hard pressed to find in similar price headphones.

DSC_0005 The AKG K550  - A New Era?

The cups themselves swing flat for great portability though they are a full sized closed headphone so the degree of portability is relative to your sense of adventure I guess and whether a full sized headphone is right for you for daily commute or moving around in general. They do seem less fragile than previous incarnations so I suspect they can take the odd knock or two on the move. The drive for greater portability is also very evident in the ease of driving these headphones. The sound drop dead gorgeous out of a Burson or an ALO Audio RX3 but does not sound too shabby at all out of a regular DAP either. For those with K701/2’s will know that although rated with low ohms that were beasts to drive properly so great to see the K550 address that out of the box. Considering they boast 50mm drivers that rate at 114d/vb that is some feat to be honest for a modern full-sized can.

DSC_0003 The AKG K550  - A New Era?

Isolation wise it is above average but not clamp like isolation found on other ‘commuter friendly’ headphones. They did a good job once the music was on full blast but this is built for comfort rather than pure stickability on your head. They are though incredibly comfortable on the head with no obvious pressure points getting in the way and can be worn for hours without any discomfort. The cups have funky large L and R on the inside of the cups which helps a lot over those with so subtle L/R’s you need a search time to figure out where they are.

DSC_0015 The AKG K550  - A New Era?

I sill would have loved them to come in some sort of display case of sorts like the Ultrasones if portability was high on the mind. The fold flat design does give it possibilities for a flat albeit a wide casing and sadly the K550 comes pretty bare. The cable itself is terminated with a 3.5mm and screw on 1/4 jack with some nice branding on the jack. Its a single entry on the cups which aids portability.

The Sound

DSC_0014 The AKG K550  - A New Era?

Sound wise the K550 was a revelation to me. I put them on expecting the same jittery high end articulation, thinned out mids and shallow bass of the K series but what I got was a far more balanced headphone with admirable bass performance, a refined tonality and fantastic accuracy for a closed headphone that actually in no way really sounds like a typical closed headphone.

The sound stage of these headphones is a worthy or standout mention. Simply put there is no closed headphone in its class that is can come close to the open and airy feeling created by the K550 with its expansive sound stage. They really do sound like an open headphone with above average imaging and a very detailed presentation. Just for pure size the K7 series has the edge but in terms of accuracy and tonality but the K550 has the overall enjoyment factor. Comparing this to similar class closed headphones it beats out the claustrophobic ATH M50 by a country mile, had a truck load of upper clarity compared to the dark TMA-1 and far more refined than the energetic if slightly crass HD25-1 II.

DSC_00131 The AKG K550  - A New Era?

Tonality wise this is one heck of a balanced headphone with superb mids making the K550 a headphone of choice for vocal fans. The tight coherence in the full spectrum combined with wonderful clarity allows vocals to really take center stage which is often found to be the opposite in most other closed headphones. Whereas the M50 goes for top end and bass leaving much to be desired in the mids, the K550 really allows the mids to shine and breathe in an effortless manner.

The balanced nature of the K550 also trumps over the K series with a much more coherent bass signature that’s neither booms nor disappointingly shallow. The K series was often criticized for being too bass light and lacking in tonality control but with the K550 here we have a headphone that addresses that fault with a solid bass response called for when needed. I dont agree with some assessments that it is the most versatile headphone but it is certainly more musical and adept with bass orientated tracks than the K series and not as in your face as the K518DJ LE. Tonality wise AKG have got this spot on with a bass response designed to enhance rather than command attention.

In Summary

This is one very clean, balanced and detailed headphone and a pure winner from AKG. The price is nuts to be honest. If they slapped another $100 on this we would still be talking of punching above its price range. The build quality is a marked evolution in terms of aesthetics and durability. It’s a seriously easy to drive headphone working perfectly well out of a good DAP and even better with amping without being too picky. Those with acoustics, classical and orchestral leanings will adore it’s balanced and spacious approach despite being a closed headphone but those who thirst for a more modern beats orientated music will not be left wanting either.

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About The Author

Editor

Founder & Owner of headfonics.com. I first started reviewing in the late 80s (ouch!). Back then it was albums, rock concerts and interviews with a typewriter for the local rag. Now its desktop/portable and digital 2.1 audio on a rather nice laptop. How time flies.

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  • Nice! lemme borrow em Marcus LOL

    • headfonics

      I wish I could Don, but I only have them on loan from Jenny and the team at AKG – mind you I want to buy a pair bad now 🙂

  • Harmonixer

    wonderful review sir marcus

    i was at egghead the other day, but the 550 wasnt there
    now i’m dying to try them out! 🙂

    • headfonics

      Go to AKG in Megamall if you have time and try out a pair 🙂

  • These are nice until you reach the upper mids and treble. There’s no warmth to the upper mids, as in it sounds flat and lifeless. The real problem though is that there’s a (literally) painful treble peak at around 7 or 8 khz, and it’s quite extended and obvious at high listening volumes. It’s quite obvious while listening to contemporary pop or rock music. There also seems to be quite a bit of harmonic distortion at that frequency. The only thing I’d find tolerable with it is classical music to be honest.

    • headfonics

      I found listening to female solo vocals to be a real pleasure myself personally. I had noted some treble play but nothing untowards and certainly superior to the K’s – did you amp it?

      • Yeah. I found that it paired better with warmer amps (or DAPs) for reasons stated above. Some people on other forums have noted possible differences in tuning between units for this headphone particularly, and the one I heard was a demo unit sent to local media reps a few months ago. I hope I get to listen to the demo unit you were provided with. The treble spike I mentioned can be seen quite clearly on the measurements at innerfidelity, headroom and elsewhere. It’s preceded by a 10db dip at 3k to 5k.

        • headfonics

          Oh I am always cautious about measurements given they are unique to that headphone and not the headphone range in general 🙂

    • How does it compare to the XBA1 Jake? I saw the XB1 FR and it was flat, but it still has peaks. imho flat and lifeless is good 😛

      • The XBA1 has mild peaks, which is not much compared to the huge 10db+ spike from 5 to 8khz for the K550. I think the XBA-1 is much more balanced actually, and I can even say its tuning shares similarities with custom IEMs. With gear, we have to look at the FR as a whole, not only where the actual peaks are. The K550 also has pretty bad distortion at the very same frequencies where the peak lies, which contributes to ringing and unnatural treble extension. Again, there’s nothing wrong with the headphone until the upper mids. Some mods to address the treble issue would be great, I’m sure some will appear eventually.

  • Wonderful review, totally agree with this. Mids were a big welcome, the rest were well in tuned and balanced, i think this pair can compete with higher end, higher priced cans too.

  • Sherwin

    There are now more and more 10K range headphones which is actually pretty good! It’s nice that AKG coming out with these new lines. I’ve not tried this but their new noise cancelling phones were quite something also.

    • headfonics

      Very much interested in the new noise cancelling ones also and hope to review them – I hear great reports about them!.

  • How would you compare this to fa-003/fa-002w?

    • headfonics

      Very different headphones – the fa-002/3 is more v shaped with thinner mids and lots of bottom end and a bright top end and the K550 is a mids king with plenty of space and a more balanced approach but a bit shallow in the bass compared to the Fischers..

  • Guest

    This review is excellent and a type I have a pair that has just been delivered. oh how this review has me excited for what’s in store when I get home

    • headfonics

      I have to admit I am grabbing the K550 a lot more than I thought I would for everyday listening – my new midfi fav? 🙂

  • Dan Tan

    The AKG K550 are wonderful headphones. A week before I purchased the K550, I purchased a pair of Sennheiser Momentum (which I still do own), and when I listened to the AKG K550, along with several more expensive and several cheaper headphones, the AKG K550, to my ears and my preferences, won hands down, so I ended up purchasing the AKG K550. Overall, I prefer the AKG K550 to my Sennheiser Momentum, but they are both excellent headphones.

    • headfonics

      I give the nod also to the K550 but the Momentum can be less picky and are more mobile. Both can sit side by side without too much fuss which seems to be the case for you and I was hard pressed to return the Momentum loaner unit after my review as well.

  • draoballa

    just bought a superflux headphone. this store is great! the sales people are very knoledgable about their cans. imma go back here everytime! 🙂

    • headfonics

      I think this should be in the other article regarding Egghead 🙂