AKG K812 Review
Michael Piskor 2014

AKG K812 Review

Today, we have an in-depth review of the AKG K812, which is the company’s new flagship open-back dynamic driver headphone priced at $1499.99. 

Disclaimer: This is a sample sent to us in exchange for our honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or status. We thank AKG for this opportunity.

To read more about AKG products we have previously covered on Headfonics click here.

Note, that this article follows our latest scoring guidelines which you can read up on here.

AKG K812 Review
AKG K812 Review
The cheaper K712, a model that should be a downgrade to the AKG K812 but beat its big brother bloody and without mercy on the low end. Things like this shouldn't ever occur and I feel the K812 is a vast letdown.
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Reader's Score

In the darkest, seediest areas of Hi-Fi Audio AKG has waged a secret war. At an eye-popping $1499.99 this K812 headphone seems like an all-star player. I have a few gripes but for the most part, I enjoy the hell out of these headphones.

Packaging & Accessories

Inside your package, you will receive of course the stunning K812 headphones wrapped neatly in protective plastic, a beautiful horseshoe-shaped wooden Omega headphone stand with a special and unique grain and coloration designed specifically for AKG, a nifty detachable 3m cable with a gorgeous mini XLR 3-Pin plug and a very nice box with the typical company paperwork.

The cable adapter is a beautiful LEMO EGG series 3-pin Mini XLR. Stunning! I must say, the wooden stand is vibrant and screams high quality at every turn. A highly desirable presentation to most of us Audiophiles, who doesn’t have a weakness for the Woodie stands out there?


Just as the headphone stand is of a higher quality, so too are the headphones themselves. They feel solid in the hand and on the head, a blessing and absolute pleasure to wear when compared to the likes of the heavy Orthodynamic headphones I’ve been playing with recently.

The K812 is lightweight at 390 grams, functional, and properly executed from top to bottom with absolutely nothing for me to gripe about in terms of comfort and fit. The clamp factor is average, allowing the headphones to be worn for hours with minimal fatigue.

For those unaware, the likes of the Audeze LCD-3 and other similar flagship headphones tend to be very uncomfortable, heavy, and downright awful in terms of exterior design elements across the board.

Such is not the case with the K812 and I find myself for the first time in the past few years enjoying the multi-media experience as a whole. She is comfy, really comfy.

Supple leather pads that are fully circumaural, a soft headband eerily familiar in design to the JVC HARX-700 with a mesh cloth and leather hybrid design, and a single-sided cable input all make for a physically fatigue-free experience…thank the audio gods! Someone finally remembered headphones should be comfortable.

Unlike the heavy and bulky Orthodynamic headphones out there of similar pricing, I can and will recommend these headphones to studio engineers and mixers of various types.

If you are sitting in a booth for 8-10 hours a day, you are going to appreciate these headphones a great deal. There aren’t many headphones out there that offer comfort like this along with a Summit Level Hifi sound quality.

Usually, they tend to have some serious design flaws, but I can find nothing wrong with the K812 in the slightest when it comes to exterior design elements.

Everything is in tip-top shape and as it should be: light and comfortable, not bulky and not oddly designed in the headband, conforming to a human head and something that doesn’t make you look like the International Space Station or giant radar dish.

Sound Impressions


Most audio nut jobs like myself thought this headphone was going to try to 1-up the general sound type of the K-712, aiming for something polar opposite of the Sennheiser HD-800 headphones of the same price and focus more on a toned down treble, along with a heightened bass experience.

Sadly, just like the HD-800 from Sennheiser, the AKG K-812 has a serious problem with the treble. It neither measures well nor sounds like a $1500 headphone should and is outclassed in yummy tonality and clarity by the $700 Hifiman HE-500.

I find the general treble response to be the major fault of this headphone and often find myself wincing now and then on notoriously sibilant tracks. I find the treble on this K-812 to be tinny, bright, splashy, and far from clear enough to match the price point of the headphones.

You will need to make good friends with your source’s EQ functions, drop that treble down a bit and you should be fine. Treble lovers exit to your left.


Lovely. I never for a second thought the general vocal and mid-journey would be anything less than excellent. This is a great vocalist headphone with a mildly relaxed presentation, but thankfully one not as relaxed as the Sennheiser HD-800 or similarly “distant” sounding and recessed mid-headphone presentations.

Naturally, just like the cheaper K-712, this upgrade to the K812 suffers the same upper mid-range nasalness and odd flavoring so to speak. It is so hard to wrap my ears around, but something just isn’t right sometimes. Not always, but sometimes the vocals sound a bit smashed together and like something is wrong.

Tracks that do not have this problem on let us say my Audeze LCD-3, a headphone with an incredibly lush and forward mid experience, seem to sound more aired out and spacious depending on that vocalist.

The female vocals in particular seem to sound more like the HD-800 than the LCD-3, which is a bad thing to me. I’m one of those audio junkies who just doesn’t understand the appeal of the HD-800 and the way it presents that gack ugly recessed presentation as a whole.

Upper mids

The upper mid-range on the K812 seems like it has stolen a page right out from Sennheiser’s book, but for the most part, the rest of the musical journey through the mid-range is fantastic and highly enjoyable.

It is moderately forward and far from recessed for the most part, which I desire very much. Expect smooth vocals when they are recorded properly, expect a slightly harsh upper mid-range when tracks are not properly recorded or of a lower quality.

The problem areas in the upper midrange are not a common occurrence inside my music library so nasalness only comes around once in a while.

Don’t let that sway you from not buying or trying it, just like the HD-800 is harsh depending on the recording with all of the treble, so too is the K812 harsh depending on the track with the upper mids. The K812 is a genre master. I don’t believe any specific genre sounds bad through these headphones.

With that in mind, many more doors open up in the musical enjoyment department. If you are into the lush midrange and want something vibrant, satisfying, and with a well-formed and solid weightiness to the vocal experience, take a listen to the Audeze LCD-3 ( $1949 ) and the NAD VISO HP50 ( $299 ).

Both are exceptional values for midrange experiences and are well known for providing some of the most incredibly memorable sonic experiences money can buy.

Concerning the AKG K812, the mid and vocal experience seems to fall short of the mark in the sub $1500 headphone tier and is far less enjoyable than the significantly cheaper NAD VISO HP50, which is a closed-back headphone by the way.

Musicality is lost through the AKG K812 and is very abundant inside these other two headphones, so at least try to demo all of the aforementioned headphones before buying if you are into the midrange experiences more than anything else.

AKG K812 Review


Once again I found myself yearning for more bass than what this headphone naturally offers. I’d hoped for a more solid and weighty approach like the K-712, something to seriously put that HD-800 to shame on the low end but instead, the K812 offers a lean, firm low-end experience.

Shockingly, the K812 is not responsive to bass boosting or EQ in general, something its little brother the K-712 seemed to be able to handle without much effort at all. Still, I can’t complain I suppose. It handles Bass EQ better than my HD-800 which goes seriously off track a few notches before the K812 does when I attempt to raise bass levels a bit.

The bass texture is solid and of a typical dynamic headphone: broad and flat, lacking coloration and warmth which happens to be something I also desire…and why I reach for my Audeze LCD-3 so often.

In terms of clarity, I think the HD-800 bests it and that the Beyerdynamic T1 is probably right on par with it. Not such a bad thing when you think about how well-rounded this K812 is and how not well-rounded any of the aforementioned flagships are. In terms of quantity of the low end, the K812 scores somewhere on the lower end of moderate.

Rock, Dubstep, R&B, and similar genres lack seriously on the low-end experience and my sole desire while listening to these types of music tracks is that of a more intense, weighted feel to everything.

Dipping down to 5hz on a technical printout means absolutely nothing for the quantity aspect of the responsiveness of the drivers. It doesn’t boost much on the bass, nor does it offer a true-to-life and accurate representation of certain instruments I know to be more bassy on a neutral EQ setup than what it offers.

On a dead flat EQ with no bias and all switches off inside my music software, source, or amplifier, the K812 does not accurately recreate upright bass quantity, electric bass, snare drum kicks, or horns as it should.

At this price range, there are no excuses. But do not let that sway you from not giving it a try because it still outperforms the Sennheiser HD-800 of the same price on the low end.

The K812 certainly has more bass than the overly lean HD-800 so if you are torn between the two, the K812 is the better choice, it also boasts audible more bass quantity than all of the AKG K-700 series headphones before it with the K-712 as the only exception.

Soundstage & Genre Selection

The headphone sounds best in the classical venue. Due to that excellent stereo imaging which has plenty of width and height, instrument separation, and airy qualities, classical seems this headphone’s strongest cannon in its arsenal.

It’s a middle-ground headphone in every way, an all-star player of sorts. Want to watch movies and enjoy multimedia in general? No problem, the K812 smashed through gaming and movies, general TV, and late-night YouTube binges.

This might be the best overall useful headphone I’ve ever had on my head, and I’ve owned every major flagship from most companies outside of that insanely expensive Abyss Ortho and the Staxx 00x models. Gamers and studio engineers are going to love these headphones.

I wouldn’t expect it to compare to the HD-800 in imaging, but against most other headphones this K812 does exceptionally well. As a sound stage lover first and foremost ( I look for vast sound and stereo imaging qualities before everything else when I buy headphones, amplifiers, and sources ) I can safely say that soundstage lovers will not ever feel let down.

The downfall here is the stereo depth, which is not nearly as good as my Audeze LCD-3, which in turn is not nearly as good as the Sennheiser HD-800. However again, width and height, general separation, and air qualities are all excellent and noticeably better than the already great stereo imaging properties of the cheaper K-712.

It is very rare to find a headphone with a sound stage this large and one that has a moderately forward presentation as a whole. Sound stage lovers unite! The K812 is a winner concerning stereo imaging.

Spatial accuracy in a physical sense is phenomenal. It outperforms all of the Planar Magnetics by a significant margin and does a fantastic job of recreating the soundscape as a whole.

AKG K812 Review



I didn’t expect this headphone to perform this well with no amplification at all. No amp is needed, just grab yourself a great USB Dac or portable player and enjoy.

The K812 is highly efficient and runs immensely well off my Astell and Kern AK120 which was modified by Red Wine Audio. That portable player wasn’t even meant to handle much else beyond IEMs and still sounds great with the K812 despite not having a lot of driving output power.

At only 36 ohms, this headphone will run well on almost anything so look for clarity and staging qualities over output power in your source or USB Dac selection. I’ve been using it right out of the AK120 from Astell and Kern, the Hifiman HM901, and the Burson Conductor SL USB Dac/Amp combo.

The Hifiman HM901 has a lot more power than the AK120 with a lot more options to tailor the general sound. Due to that, the bass experience has more oomph than most other portable sources.

I find the Hifiman HM901 to be highly enjoyable with the K812 with no exterior amplification needed. Hell, it even sounds great with the IEM amplification card installed into the HM901 and only that much nicer with the standard amplifier card.

I think this pairing is generally the best meshing of a headphone and portable source that I’ve come across. The HM901 + the K812 is a serious win.


The Burson Conductor is one of the few USB DACs known for exceptional soundstage prowess and pairs extremely well with the K812. Excellent imaging capabilities on this Burson combined with the excellent imaging on the K812 headphone make for a sound stage lovers paradise.

This headphone is not picky and I don’t own a single USB Dac, amp, or portable player that sounds bad with this headphone. My $20 Sansa clip sounds pretty darn great with it…now that is saying something about how nice the K812 plays with other toys.

You’ll never have to stress about the proper pairing of source and amplifier with this headphone, unlike most of the other flagships from other companies.

I prefer to use the Burson Conductor 1793 Dac Chip, which is a warmer presentation with more bass over the more neutral and flat response of the 9018 chip. That is purely subjective, I simply think it sounds better and more fun and engaging with this chip than any neutral or flat setup. I prefer a little bit of color to everything, but not too much.

AKG K812 Review

Our Verdict

The cheaper K-712, a model that should be a downgrade to the K812 but beat its big brother bloody and without mercy on the low end. Things like this shouldn’t ever occur and I feel the K812 is a vast letdown.

I wouldn’t worry though, as mentioned early in this review AKG has been learning, listening, and putting a lot of effort into their headphones lately. The K267 portables and the K712 are incredible headphones and raised the bar so high that a lot of summit-level audiophile headphones in that $1000 and up price range started shaking and running for cover.

AKG will take a lot away from this one and correct it in the next model. For now, it’s not a good headphone due to terrible treble and a lack of sonic depth and spatial imagining in a forward sense.

AKG has had 5 or so years to study the HD-800 from Sennheiser and find a way to beat it, sadly they fell short in a few ways and only just managed to compare in a few other qualities. It hurts me to know that AKG failed to drastically improve the sonic imaging and depth qualities over the Sennheiser HD-800.

AKG K812 Technical Specifications

  • Headphone type open-back
  • Audio Frequency bandwidth 5 to 54000 Hz
  • Sensitivity headphones 110 dB SPL/V
  • Max. Input Power 300 mW
  • Rated Impedance 36 Ohms
  • Detachable cable yes
  • Cable Length 3 m
  • Earpads Replaceable yes
  • Foldable no

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