Product Type: AKG headphones
Newest Review: ... previous experience with other headphones, that it was simply the cable giving up. So, I looked around online and found nobody who sold ge... more
Great Sound Quality, Poor Build Quality, Rubbish Customer Service
AKG K 450
Member Name: DanB7290
AKG K 450
Date: 29/01/13, updated on 19/09/13 (291 review reads)
Advantages: Perfect sound quality, amazing value, fantastic portability
Disadvantages: Broke too easily, customer service was about as useful as a chocolate fireguard.
First off, let's look at the build quality. While the construction is mostly plastic, it's a premium plastic, and feels very durable. The ear pads are made of pleather, and do not feel like they're going to fall off a la Beats Solo HD. That said, I do believe that if they do, AKG do sell spares. The only thing that struck me as potentially being problematic was that the cable is quite thin. That said it is detachable, and barring any extreme use, it should fare reasonably well, time will tell. Again, if it does go wrong, you can get a replacement cable, so no need to throw the headphones in the drawer and forget about them if/when the cable dies, as I have done all too often in recent years. The in-line remote on the cable feels sturdy enough, and is made from high quality, premium plastic. Certainly feels a lot more substantial than the Bose mic/remote on my old in ears.
Now let's look at comfort. It did concern me that, under Amazon's reviews, there were a few that criticized the K451s for being too tight, with a 'clamping' effect. I have a larger than normal head, so this was a slight worry, but that said, the same was said in the reviews of my £30 JVC HA-M750s, and once I got them, they were actually a little too big. Back to the K451s, they are a perfect size for me, albeit with the headband extended as far as it will go. But there is no clamping effect at all. I can only assume that the complainants on Amazon have alien sized heads.
They are of an on ear design, similar to the Beats Solo HD, but they feel much more comfortable in comparison. The ear pads/cushions feel softer, but as I mentioned previously, more durable than the Solos. In general, the K451s are extremely light, to the point where you can forget you're wearing them.
Now, the biggest part; sound quality. Having spent 2012 in pursuit of a perfect sounding headphone, I can now say I am becoming an audiophile. Where previously my Bose in ears seemed to be as good as you could possibly get, now I see them as the overpriced, overhyped product they really are. A lot of the frequency range of most high end headphones is not available with the Bose headphones, and the range that is is exaggerated greatly. Not so much with the K451s. The frequency response is quite broad, although I can't remember it off the top of my head. The bass is very much present, and very clear, and yet unlike the Beats Solo HDs, it doesn't dominate or drown out the mids or trebles. The trebles are perfect; every crash of the hi-hats are clearly audible, and the mids are perfectly balanced.
I listen primarily to classic rock, and the K451s are perfect for the genre. The instrument separation is great, and overall it creates a fantastic sound stage, which doesn't feel sealed inside your head, like many headphones do, and the K451s pass my simple test of good headphones; the tambourine in Led Zep's Whole Lotta Love is clearly audible alongside that main riff, bass and drums. The "hissing" sound that poor quality headphones provide when a word with a letter S in it is sung, is not at all present here; even before the burn in phase began. I have also tried the K451s with a variety of other genres, and they excel everywhere. While overall, I thought Beats by Dre were awful for most applications, it must be said they did fit the hip-hop/r&b/rap genre quite well, as you'd expect. But the K451s have them seriously outgunned. The bass is plentiful, but yet doesn't distract from the overall listening experience as per Solo HD. Using my girlfriend as a guinea pig, I can say that sound leakage is minimal. I couldn't hear her Disney music at reasonably loud volume from a few feet away, and she couldn't hear me rocking out to Fleetwood Mac from even closer. So that makes these ideal for when I'm working in the University library.
My conclusion then? The What Hi-fi? folks were bang on; these really are worthy of Product of the Year. They offer clarity which nothing short of the Bowers & Wilkins P5, which cost 4 times as much, can rival, and even then the K451s run them close.
I have compared the K451s to Beats Solo HD quite a lot in this review, as they are both on ear, portable headphones aimed at the iGeneration. I cannot fault Beats marketing; thanks to the Dr Dre endorsement, they sell in the millions. However, all things considered, if you really care about sound quality, they just don't stack up. I'm not saying they're dreadful, even though I did return mine fairly swiftly. My opinion of Beats Solo HDs is they would be great if they cost <£80, but they are not worth the £180 asking price. The K451s are worth the asking price of Solo HDs, and yet they are far cheaper. What Hi-Fi? tested them at £130, and they would have been a bargain at the price. But I paid less than half that; just £60. And all things considered, that makes them the ultimate headphones.
Update: Oh dear, it's all gone wrong with the K451. It all started sometime in April, when I was in the gym. I removed the headphones to talk to a friend while on the exercise bike. I managed to get the cable tangled in with the pedals, and it shredded it. My own fault, and I was using the regular cable, so I still had the remote and mic cable. They worked for around a month until, in mid June, the right earcup just stopped working altogether; only giving me sound from the left. The headphones were not subjected to too heavy a life, apart from the above issue in the gym they were always put in their carry case after use, and treated very carefully.
I thought, on previous experience with other headphones, that it was simply the cable giving up. So, I looked around online and found nobody who sold genuine AKG spare cables (even their own website!). All I could find were the 50p knockoffs from China.
I then had the chance to borrow a friend's cables, as he had bought the K451s on my recommendation (and an hour listening to Pink Floyd on them!). And even with his cables, which worked perfectly on his pair, didn't solve the issue I had; I could still only get sound out of the left side. Now was the time to contact customer services, and here's where the trouble started.
Amazon were apologetic, but as it was outside the 30 day return period, were unable to help me, and pointed me in the direction of AKG themselves. Indeed, the literature in the box suggests AKG give you a 2 year warranty. But they claimed it was Amazon's problem, and were rather rude about it in the process. I told them under no uncertain terms that I was not happy about this, as I effectively now have a £60 paperweight, and I will be seeking further advice as clearly the warranty isn't even worth the paper its written on.
A sad end then, to what were a fantastic pair of headphones. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on AKG themselves, it could have been that the person who replied to my email was going on holiday the next day, or leaving the company and not caring any more. But this experience has put me off going with AKG again; I was going to buy the K619s, but instead saved up and got some Bose noise cancelling headphones instead. I've therefore knocked off 2 stars from the K451s; one for the build quality, and one for the bad customer service. A real shame.
Summary: Great sounding portable headphones, let down by substandard build quality and poor customer service
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