AKG K812
Michael Piskor 2014

The K812 by AKG

In the darkest, seediest areas of Hi-Fi Audio AKG has waged a secret war. At an eye-popping $1499.99 this K-812 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.

The Package and Design Elements

Inside your package, you will receive of course the stunning K-812 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 3pin Mini XLR. Stunning! I must say, the wooden stand is vibrant and screaming 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 K-812 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 headphone 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 K-812 and I find myself for the first time in the past few years actually 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 flaw, but I can find nothing wrong with these K-812’s 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

Treble

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

Recommendation Bonus: If you are a treble head, seek the Hifiman HE-6. So far, nothing that is humanely priced can touch it, not even the Audeze LCD-3. It isn’t until you shell out $10,000 and up for a Stax Rig that you can best the treble on the HE-6.

The Mids

Lovely. I never for a second thought the general vocal and mid journey would be anything less than excellent. This is a great vocalists 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 K-812 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 lets say my Audeze LCD-3, a headphone with an incredibly lush and forward mid experience, seems 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. The upper mid range on the K-812 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 personally 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 of my music library, so that 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 K-812 harsh depending on the track with the upper mids. The K-812 is a genre master. I don’t believe any specific genre sounds bad through this headphone.

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 weighiness 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. With regard to the AKG K-812, 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 K-812 and is very abundant inside these other two headphones, so at least try to demo all of the forementioned headphones before buying if you are into the midrange experiences more than anything else.

K812-2

The Bass

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 K-812 offers a lean, firm low-end experience. Shockingly, the K-812 is not responsive to bass boosting or EQ in general, something it’s 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 K-812 does when I attempt to raise bass levels up 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 really think about how well rounded this K-812 is and how NOT well rounded any of the aforementioned flagships are. In terms of quantity of the low end, the K-812 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 print out 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 K-812 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 K-812 certianly has more bass than the overly lean HD-800 so if you are torn between the two, the K-812 is the better choice, it also boasts audible more bass quantity than all of the AKG K-700 series headphones prior to it with the K-712 as the only exception.

Recommendation Bonus: Genre Masters sound good everywhere, but not great in any one specific area. As a result, genres or tracks known for a solid low-end experience are going to sound thin and lacking no matter what you do. Those 53mm Tesla drivers simply were not designed to output a weighty low end so it would be wise to avoid cranking the bass up too much. If you are a bass head, try to get your ears under the Audeze headphones, any one of them will do as no other headphone in existence really does bass quite like them. The Audeze headphones do not offer the most bass, but they do offer the most response and clear bass of all in my opinion.

Click on next page for soundstage and final verdict

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