AKG reference headphones balance fashion and fidelity

September 5, 2013 12:00 AM PDT / Updated: September 5, 2013 10:35 AM PDT

AKG

A new pair of headphones is the best way to get everyone to notice your impeccable taste in fashion and design. Take a look around any metropolitan area and you'll see the colors of the rainbow perched on people's heads. Too many of today's models, though, sacrifice sound quality for sartorial flair.

AKG's latest K545, K845BT, and K323XS headphones challenge shoppers to demand excellence in both with three flavors for wired, wireless, and earbud options.

The AKG K545 headphones come with a detachable cable with an in-line remote for both Android or iOS devices Matthew Moskovciak/CNET

The K545 is arguably the least exciting of the three, though it's likely your best bet if you're shopping for a pair of headphones that carries a natural sound worthy of an audio engineer.

Most of the headphones designed for home use today are open-back, meaning they allow you hear the world around you, but the closed-back K545s endeavor to marry the best of both worlds with passive noise-isolation and a spacious soundscape. AKG also keeps the color shock low with four classy focal color blocks on the flat side of the earcups.

Dual 50mm drivers power the K545's 20Hz to 20kHz frequency range, and the company promises full-bodied bass, though we just reviewed the AKG K551 with the same internal hardware and found a significant loss of low-end thump in noisy environments like subway cars and around generic street noise.

On the other hand, AKG puts a mobile spin on these headphones with a remote and microphone built into the wire and swiveling earcups for easier storage, so if AKG has improved the seal on its earcups, this could be a viable purchase at $349 when it hits next month.

The AKG K845BT feature embedded NFC technology for instant pairing with compatible devices. Matthew Moskovciak/CNET

The company also jumps into the wireless space with the announcement of its K845BT Bluetooth headphones. More "audiophile" manufacturers are starting to throw their own wireless headsets into the fold, and the Harman Kardon BT as well as the Parrot Zik cans disprove the theory that you can't have Bluetooth headphones that sound as good as they look.

The K845BTs house the same internal guts as the K545s, but add Bluetooth connectivity by way of NFC for one-touch pairing, as long as your smartphone carries this feature.

iOS users can still easily pair the headphones with their devices, and the leather ear cushions also house all the controls you need to play and navigate through your music library without ever grabbing your phone.

True audiophiles tend to lament the loss in fidelity you inevitably encounter when playing music over a wireless signal, but AKG hopes to combat this affliction with those giant 50mm drivers, notably the biggest the company offers. As the line between trendy young people and older "trained listeners" is starting to blur, it also makes sense that the K845BTs will also come in two semiflashy colors for the fashion-forward. The 845BTs will be available in October for $349.

The K323 XS earbuds pack high-fidelity sound into four bright colorways AKG

If big, flashy headphones aren't your thing, AKG also just announced the K323XS in-ear headphones, which are a lot less bulky and just a bit more subtle.

They still come in four bright colors in addition to black and white, and each is available in single-button models with a microphone for Android users as well as a three-button control mic for track navigation and volume control on iOS devices.

The mantra for earbud headphones in the industry is "fit is fidelity," and AKG recognizes the noise-isolating value of a snug eartip, with four sizes that promise precision comfort without the drawback of long-term ear fatigue.

Look for the AKG K323 XS in-ear headphones for Android ($39) and iOS ($59) in stores next month.

Don't Miss

 

ARTICLE DISCUSSION

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Where to Buy See All

AKG K323 XS (Black)

Part Number: K323XSABLK
MSRP: $49.95 Low Price: $49.95 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Color black
  • Sound Output Mode stereo
  • Headphones Form Factor Ear-bud
  • Connector Type mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
About The Author

Justin Yu covers headphones and peripherals for CNET. When he's not wading through Web gulch or challenging colleagues to typing tests, you can find him making fun of technology with Jeff Bakalar every afternoon on The 404 show.