AKG has been in the business of making audio equipment for more than 60 years, so it was only a matter of time before the company tackled the portable music market. In the expanding line of AKG's earbud-style headphones, you'll find the $120 K 340 earphones. The set offers surprisingly open sound for an in-ear model, but comfort and potential durability issues may be a turn-off for some people. We're still inclined to recommend the cheaper Klipsch Image S4 headphones first, but if inline volume controls is a compelling feature for you, the K 340s might prove tempting.
The design of the AKG K 340 earphones is a bit of a disappointment. Its foremost issue comfort. While the earpieces are rather small overall, the apertures are some of the largest we've encountered. Their considerable girth tends to put pressure on the inside of smaller ears, and the three sizes of silicone ear tips included in the package do not alleviate the issue. The other problem is that the cable descending from each earbud is exceptionally thin--perhaps one of the thinnest we've seen--that raises some concern for its durability. This combined with the plastic earpieces also makes the K 340s feel cheaper than their $120 price tag implies. The style is nothing to write home about, either. Though the earphones are not ugly by any means, they are just dull.
On the plus side, AKG does include a handy inline volume slider, as well as a nice hard-sided carrying case for storing and transporting the headphones. We're also pleased to note the flexible, reinforced housing around the gold-plated straight-plug as this will help prevent breakage in that area. The cord measures an ample 40 inches overall in length, but it's worth mentioning that you get a fair amount of noise from the cable bouncing or rubbing against the front of your body--something to consider if you're thinking of using the K 340s during active pursuits.
As is so often the case with headphone performance--especially ultraportable models--it all boils down to personal preference. The AKG K 340s offer a clear, open sound space with plenty of low-end thump, provided you can get a good seal with the ear (we had to press them in because of the size issue). In fact, the bass can be slightly muddy and overpowering, though high-end details still shine through for hip-hop, electronica, and pop. Alt and hard rock tend to suffer a bit. For our part, we prefer the crisper audio offered by the Klipsch Image S4 headphones, and, in fact, find those to be better balanced across genres in a head-to-head comparison. Again, some may better enjoy the audio of the K 340s, but they're not necessarily the best value in our opinion.