We'll say this from the start: the JBL Reference 410 headphones are a dead ringer for one of our favourite portables, the AKG K26 P phones. With the JBLs you get a faux-DJ design with swivelling earcups, and the phones fold easily for maximum portability. The improvements on the AU$80 AKGs seem to be an external volume control, an infinitely more comfortable headband -- as the AKG tends to pinch your head -- and improved drivers in the earphones.
The difference in looks is a matter of taste, because the pad sits quite high on your head, and because the retractable mechanism appears to be the same -- only hidden by the band -- the pad can sit a little lopsidedly, so you may need to manually adjust it if you don't want to look like a dork (see below). The headband means the phones also come off more easily -- if you bend over you may need to hold them on, and more than once we launched them across our desks with a sneeze (flu season and all).
The bass-heavy emphasis of the AKGs is still there, but there is more midrange detail on offer. The dense layering on the Flaming Lips' Fight Test readily unravels with the JBL Reference 410s uncovering details we'd missed before. If your favourite genres are rock or dance then you need look no further than this set, but fans of acoustic music or jazz may miss out on some of the nuances that less bassy portables like the Sennheiser PX100s offer.
The JBL Reference 410s are very comfortable phones, with a sound made for rocking out without sacrificing sound quality. But if you are looking for the bargain of the year, try the budget AKG K26 Ps which sound very similar.
Don't let this be you! The JBL Reference 410 headband can easily sit crookedly.