Austrian Audio The Composer Review featured image

Austrian Audio The Composer Review

Today, Marcus reviews the Austrian Audio The Composer, which is a set of flagship open-back 49mm dynamic driver headphones priced at €2,499.

During this review, I will also be indirectly assessing the company’s new desktop solid-state discrete balanced headphone amplifier, the Full Score One, priced at €1,499.

Disclaimer: This sample was sent to me in exchange for my honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or partnerships. I thank Austrian Audio for their support.

Click here to learn more about the Austrian Audio products that we have previously assessed on Headfonics.

Note that this feature follows our latest scoring guidelines which you can find in more detail here.

Austrian Audio The Composer Review featured image
Austrian Audio The Composer Review
Summary
The Austrian Audio 'The Composer' is an impressive high-end set of dynamic drive headphones tuned with a reference-like focus on clarity and resolution. It has its eye firmly fixed on audiophiles who value detail and a high degree of accuracy in their listening preferences. 
Sound Quality
9.2
Design
9.4
Comfort
9.4
Synergy
9.1
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9.2
Pros
Impression sub-bass extension
Excellent design and very comfortable to wear
Easy to drive
Cons
Lacks a little euphony in the upper-mids
Stiff jacket material for the stock cables
9.3
Award Score

It is hard not to think of Austria in terms of headphones without the name AKG popping into your head. A 70-year history of manufacturing some of the most popular headphones culminating in the flagship AKG K812, (and K872), launched in 2013. 

Well, one corporate move after another translated to AKG being bought under the Harman umbrella and then subsequently under Samsung with all facilities in Vienna shutting down in 2017, production moving to China, and HQ to the USA. 

A gap was left, filled in by former AKG employees under the Austrian Audio brand in 2017, the same year that AKG closed down.

They soon built up a line of well-received headphones, some of which we have reviewed here on Headfonics including the mid-fi open-back Hi-X65 and the closed-back Hi-X60 dynamic driver headphones. 

The new Composer from Austrian Audio is on a hugely different level. This is a flagship dynamic driver headphone and a high-end offering priced at €2,499.

In a way, the Composer could be seen as the spiritual successor to the K812 from AKG. It is built beautifully, very comfortable on the head, and sounds clean and hyper-detailed. It is an excellent-sounding set of reference headphones.

Austrian Audio The Composer earpads off

Features

The Austrian Audio ‘The Composer’ is a set of circumaural or full-sized open-back dynamic driver wired headphones. 

It retains the company’s in-house Hi-X technology, which consists of a high-strength ring magnet with a copper-clad aluminum voice coil to keep the driver lightweight and highly responsive.

Up to this point, all their previous driver sizes have been 44mm, however, this time for the Composer, Austrian Audio has increased the size with a new 49mm driver.

They have also opted for what they call a Hi-X49 DLC finish. This is a diaphragm coated with diamond-like carbon to further improve its rigidity for better excursion control and the headphone driver’s impulse response. 

The Composer is rated at 112 dB/V with an impedance of 22Ω and a maximum input power handling rating of 160mW. It’s a fairly easy headphone to drive with both portable and desktop devices.

It is also a headphone that we have tested with Austrian Audio’s new balanced and discrete-engineered desktop headphone amplifier, the Full Score One. The results of which you can read in more detail on page 2 of this review.

Austrian Audio The Composer on its side

Design

This is a gorgeous and modern headphone design. The Composer officially weighs in at 385g but it doesn’t feel like an almost 400g headphone if that makes any sense. 

The design language is all about space which, in turn, helps reinforce that lightweight vibe creating a stronger visual hierarchy of its various elements.

From the lightweight mesh materials on the red-stitched leather pressure strap to the stiffer mesh grill finish combined with solid but lean aluminum lines for the frame, there is a ‘less is more’ feel about the Composer aesthetics. 

The form factor is of moderate size with elongated and highly articulated cups and detachable pads which I always prefer over rounded traditional alternatives. 

Perhaps the coolest aspect of the Composer construction is the low-profile circular mount and cardanic hinge which feels like a legacy concept from a similar design on the AKG K812.

It articulates very smoothly allowing you to rotate the cups freely by almost 360 degrees which is a much bigger rotational angle compared to the more restrictive articulating ability of the K812 version. 

Unlike the K812, the connectors are not on the base of the ring itself but rather on the cup mesh near a secondary aluminum ring. This secondary ring primarily acts as the pivot hinge but will also act as a guard against unintended contact from the moving outer ring.

Austrian Audio The Composer cables on wood

Stock Cables

Sticking with the connector discussion, the Composer uses an entirely new dual-entry 2-prong banana connector design compared to the current Austrian Audio headphones line-up’s use of a single-sided cable 2.5mm bayonet system on the left cup.

There are some pros and cons to this new system. The plugs are easy to connect and disconnect with readily identifiable channel markings on the top of each plug. It also blends perfectly with the Composer’s design language and keeps the cable far from disruptive shirt collars and other potential obstacles. 

The connector’s uniqueness means that 3rd party cable options are not widely available. I see one option thus far, Brise Audio. Oddly enough, that was also one of the issues with the K812’s special 3-pin LEMO connection system. It took some time before cable manufacturers rolled out viable cable alternatives.

I suspect Austrian Audio recognized that dilemma with the Composer since they included 3 stock cables in both balanced 4pin XLR and 4.4mm and single-ended 3,5mm TRS formats. 

Both the 4-pin XLR and 3.5mm versions are 3m long and primarily for desktop use with the 3.5mm version including a 6.35mm converter. The 4.4mm version is shorter at 1.2m and aimed more at modern DAPs and portable amps with matching 4.4mm balanced outputs.

Up to the splitter the cables are jacketed in fabric which adds a little stiffness to the cables’ handling. However, above the splitter, you get a more malleable rubber jacket which cuts out the potential for microphonics and is easier to manage.

Austrian Audio The Composer on its side

Comfort

The Composer is up there with the Empyrean II and the E3 for high comfort levels. Not only that, but the high degree of cup articulation, adjustable earcups, and adjustable pressure strap make it almost perfect for any head size.

I say almost because I felt I could have done with one more notch on the vertical adjuster rods on both sides to bring the cups up a few mm on my smallish head.

It might be nitpicking because I feel the Composer will offer an almost perfect lateral light clamping and vertical balance for almost everyone’s head shape.

I also found some additional comfort when using the cup’s unique lateral adjuster. This is a small ridged loop at the top of each cup with a red dot in the middle. You firmly move the cup with both hands over each ridge to angle it and better fit your ear shape. My fitting felt just right with 1 notch to the left. 

Detaching the ear pads and connecting them again to the cups is similar to how Abyss designs its pads for the Diana series. You take them off by gently lifting them with your hands and then set them down again with some light pressure to reattach them. 

The use of pleather materials might feel a bit cheap considering the cost point of the Composer and they can build up a bit of heat and sweat over longer listening sessions.

However, the huge size of the inner opening on the pads and the quality of the memory foam stuffed inside them are excellent. I am also told that Alcantara ear pad options might also be available this year.

Austrian Audio The Composer display box

Packaging & Accessories

Premium headphones require premium packaging and that is what you get with the Composer.

It is a huge slimline and tall retail box on the outer with an attractive, equally tall, display case made from wood and finished with a dark varnish and the Austrian Logo lightly etched on the front.

Once unlatched, the inside of the case neatly houses the headphones, manual, and cables inside a mix of cardboard and protective foam. 

I use the display case for storing the headphones when not in use. It is not durable enough or small enough to carry around though I am sure Austrian Audio is not pitching the Composer as a portable headphone. 

What more could you add here? Maybe a small soft pouch would be useful layered on top of the headphones in the case? Nothing too fancy, just a drawstring bag in case you want to pop the headphones inside the bag quickly rather than spend time putting it back in the box. 

Click on page 2 below for my sound impressions and recommended pairings.

Click on page 3 below for my selected comparisons.

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