The AKG K872 is a flagship closed-back version of the company’s flagship open-back circumaural headphones, the K812. It is priced at $1499.
Disclaimer: The AKG K872 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion in this review. We thank the team at AKG for giving us this opportunity.
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Note, this review follows our latest scoring guidelines which you can read up on here.
I knew it was only a matter of time before AKG released the closed-back version of the K812 in the form of the new $1499 K872. It has a form factor begging to be bricked up and converted into a closed format.
It is a slight shame that its big launch has been clouded somewhat by the big buyout news regarding the takeover by Samsung and running around the ‘interwebz’ you do not get quite the same buzz as the original K812 release.
I didn’t review the K812 almost 2 years ago, that was Mike’s privilege and you can find his review here. However, I did manage to get one in 2015 for my own personal listening pleasure and I have to say I found it one of the more enjoyable headphones I have tried in recent times. It’s a peach to drive off almost any source, with some excellent build quality, and fantastic mids.
I do agree with Mike’s caveat on the treble response of the K812 though and it does require careful consideration when matching up to the right source due to the slightly uneven treble quality. My hope with the K872 when it arrived was that those ‘kinks’ in the sound of the K812 would be sorted out and we would have a top-class closed premium dynamic driver headphone.
What Is The Pitch?
The most obvious pitch AKG is pushing here is that it is basically a premium closed-back version of the flagship open-back K812 with the same price as the K812 and more or less the same fundamental design, driver, and built quality.
What you can expect internally then is AKG’s unique 2-layer voice coils nestling inside those hefty 53mm transducers which in turn are coupled with some very strong high performing Tesla 1.5 magnets.
All of this is wrapped in a mix of finely crafted metal, plastics, and leather. The big difference is that instead of a wire mesh open cup design you now have a closed plastic cup in its place. Side by side they look remarkably similar in form factor and appearance but for that one, albeit most significant, difference.
With the K872 there is a continued strong emphasis on durability and efficiency (36Ω rated) as well as being suitable for the hustle and bustle of studio environments, portable mixing stations (think laptops). I
t also goes without saying that clumsy but fussy fingered audiophiles who want something with a nod to reference-quality listening or critical monitoring with excellent passive isolation are in the crosshairs of the K872.
It will come as no surprise then to learn that the K872 weighs the exact same as the K812 at 390g. This seems to be about par for the course for full-sized circumaural dynamic headphones, perhaps tipping slightly to the heavier side considering that the HD800 is but 330g and the HD600 is even lighter at 260g. The finishing is the same understated but professionally finished gun-metal gray, black, and satin-finished metal found on the K812.
However, it is a darn sight lighter than full-size planar headphones such as the Hifiman HE1000 at 480g all the way up to the LCD-2 from Audeze which comes in at a whopping 550g. Much of that weight can be attributed to the use of metals in the design of the cups and the solid metal gimbal structure (cardanic hinge) as well as the enclosed 53mm drivers.
The build quality of the K872 is excellent and very durable looking. The plastic cups are accented with silver aluminum rings both inner and outer which gives it a bit of pop in visual appeal and has been a trademark of sorts for AKG down through the years.
The K872 has a single entry LEMO EGG series 3pin Mini XLR system splendidly integrated onto the bottom of the left gimbal rather than directly into the cup. The audio signal is carried out of the gimbal into the main wiring via a tiny flexible printed wire assembly just underneath the roof of the gimbal assembly.
It looks a bit flimsy, to be honest, but so long as you do not stick something sharp in their deliberately it shouldn’t break. The near-invisible printed wire bends and flexes nicely in tandem with the movement of the cup so it is not a rigid design and you do not have to think about it during everyday usage.
The K872 comes packed with the same 3m cable that came with the K812 and is terminated with a 3.5mm gold plated jack with some pretty durable strain relief. You do get a screw-on quarter-inch adapter for desktop solutions.
When the K812 first came out there was a slight groan at the proprietary 3-pin XLR not being set up for a balanced aftermarket cable connection and the fact the 3m length is not pitched well enough for those using the K812 in the field. I get that and you could apply the same thinking to the K872 cable since it is the same cable.
However, the market has adapted since the launch of the K812 and now you can grab a 3-pin XLR with a similar system to the LEMO connector and in a much shorter length on the likes of Moon Audio and Stefan Audio Art for unbalanced setups. Sorry, still no balanced option but the variety of single-ended aftermarket is now very healthy.
The dual arching metal rods of the headband support is covered with a slightly softer and more pliable rubber material to allow flex for varying head sizes.
Underneath you have the same mix of leather and breathable mesh pad headband strap from the K812 that acts as a support for the adjustment system of the K872 headband as well as a pressure release point for enhanced comfort.
The headband adjustment mechanism on the K872 is much the same process as the K812 with its notched slider at the base of each side of the band.
It is tight and not something you can accidentally move and truth be told I had a few initial teething problems with it out of the box but after one or two slides it seemed to have brushed off any factory residue and become a lot smoother.
On the flip side, this is a headband adjustment mechanism that won’t fall in and out of the notches that easily so you can expect it to have impeccable behavior once on your head.
Comfort & Isolation
The unique shaped pads of the K812 are also used on the K872 and are made of protein leather with memory foam. They are designed in such a way to give more space on the inside than the outer rim opening.
This opening is cut in such a way as to act as a seal behind your ear and leave plenty of room on the inside for your ears to fit without any discomfort or the padding to encroach uncomfortably on your outer ear.
The balance of the headphone is excellent with only minor movement if you tend to move your head around a lot. The pressure is more focused on the top headband strap than the side so the clamping is good but not mollusk levels of pressure to the side.
There is no downward pressure on your ears emanating from the cups so in truth I would term the overall clamp levels as directionally neutral.
The seal is above average for a closed-back headphone. There is a minor amount of leakage towards the base of the cups as the pressure is the lightest there. You can feel the difference in passive isolation if you use your hands and press harder in that area.
If that area could sustain the pressure I am applying myself it would be a world-class seal. Otherwise, the pad seal on the K872 is just slightly behind those thick lambskin pads of the MrSpeakers Ether C and the LCD-XC but not that far behind with the bonus of it being much lighter in weight.
Accessories & Packaging
Props to AKG for including a rather excellent carry case that can double as a quick on-the-go headphone stand. Whilst not the military grade of the Audeze airtight hard plastic travel case it is well constructed with plenty of space to fit both the K872, and cable, and even has a spare slot for the quarter jack adapter.
It is finished on the outside with a black nylon cloth coating brandishing the AKG logo on the top and closes with a thick zip rather than any latches and is topped off with a carrying handle at the top.
Aside from the cable, adapter, and hard case you get a few associated cards, manuals, and stickers as well as a cool little wedge tool for use in dismantling the pads and replacing them with new pads.
All of this plus the case is neatly packed in a nice black presentation box which slots inside an understated but very professional-looking outer retail sleeve. It is a big box, similar to the one the K812 came in so you feel like you are getting your money’s worth.
The K872 comes across as a more natural-sounding reference presentation and more organic in its tonality than the lively and less forgiving sounding K812. It is an incredibly likable signature with just a hint of more musicality than I expected.
Whilst you could never accuse the K812 of lacking in musicality, the K872 fixes some of the negative feedback on the energetic and slightly uneven treble performance and instead offers a response that is coherent sounding with a better emphasis on textural quality as well as a very engaging timbre.
The sound stage is more intimate and less airy sounding than the K812 though for a closed headphone I would still consider it an open and spacious soundstage. The whole presentation has been brought forward slightly on the K872 with an excellent midrange focus, particularly on vocals.
Imaging is on par with the K812. That means you get a coherent and accurate instrumental placement and separation as well as top-class detail retrieval.
Bass performance on the K872 is tighter than the K812 and better defined though slightly drier. In comparison, the K812 has a mid-bass elevation around 80-100Hz that is around 1-2dB higher than the K872 but with a longer decay making it somewhat fuller but softer sounding. It makes for a very coherent yet linear low-end and overall I find it more accurate sounding than the K812’s equivalent low-end signature.
The sub-bass extension is excellent on the K872 with fantastic clarity and detail. There is some roll-off on both open and closed variants around the 50Hz mark, neither will hit with a lot of rumble or physicality such as you would find on an LCD-2 but my money is on the K872 bass signature with its more articulate performance.
Vocal presentation on the K872 is more forward than on the K812. They are also perceptibly richer and more powerful sounding. That elevated voicing gives the K872 a more immediate and life-like quality over the K812 which is more subdued and edgier in comparison on the 1-3k range.
There is also a more sibilant quality on female fricative consonants reproduction on the K812 whereas the K872 keeps a much smoother tonal control on voicing. Outside of the treble evenness, it’s one of the best attributes of the K872.
The rest of the midrange is impressively spacious and detailed though I give the edge to the K812’s open design in that respect. The K872’s midrange though does have a more organic natural quality to the instrumental timbre than the neutral-sounding K812 making it a more enjoyable pairing for modern rock and pop genres.
The treble on the K872 does not have the same upper treble sparkle and air as the K812 but neither does it have the same edgy lower treble spike that made the K812 a bit of a matching fusspot.
It seems AKG has smoothed out that 6-9k uneven spiking of the K812 and gave it a more gradual lift and fall with only the tiniest murmur around 12k so it does not sound attenuated or unnaturally shelved down.
As a result, the treble response comes across as a lot smoother sounding with a bit more body making it incredibly easy to listen to. Some may miss that air and sparkle and the odd time it can lack a little bit of bite up top with percussion in comparison to the K812 but I think it’s a worthy trade-off making the K872 a far less fussy headphone for both source and track.
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