My history with AKG goes back a ways, as my grandfather had a pair of AKG K180s that I often wore as a child. As a toddler, I was more enthralled with the massive K180's looks more than its sound, for when I had it on, it made me look like a rocket man or fighter pilot. That was some 25 years ago, and yet as I sit here typing this, I realize little has changed, for headphones are still as much (if not more) a fashion statement as they are a hi-fi one. It's not that I have a problem with headphones as fashion - I don't - it's just that many "fashionable" headphones do their best to appear studio grade, and they simply aren't. I've used my fair share of studio cans in professional endeavors and a lot of what passes for studio quality is anything but. Is that to say true professional studio headphones aren't stylish? If they weren't, why would the number one-selling headphone, Monster's Beats by Dre, try so hard to emulate their style, albeit of course updated? As I sit here staring at the pair of AKG k240 Studios (k240) before me, I can't help but think, why pop for a knock-off when you can have the real thing for a fraction of the price?Additional Resources
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The k240 belongs to AKG's professional lineup of studio headphones and sits in the line a mere three spots from the top. Retailing for $165 the k240's near-flagship status among the famed manufacturer's lineup seems to qualify it as an unmitigated value. The headphones themselves are a decidedly retro-looking affair though clearly of modern construction, two elements that are big right now. The large, semi-open ear cups hark back to an era where the only headphones you could get your hands on were large spaceman cans, though the k240's cups are made of heavy plastics rather than the metal of the day. Still, the two-tone black-and-gold color scheme looks both old-school and badass at the same time. The heavily cushioned surrounds feel more like pillows and act as such, cradling your head in effortless comfort. The ear cups are large enough that they surround the ears rather than apply pressure directly to them, which aids in the k240's sound as well as long-term comfort. The self-adjusting leather strap ensures a secure and proper fit each and every time you put on the headphones. While the k240 is by no means a compact headphone, its weight is surprisingly light: a mere 240 grams or 8.5 ounces. In comparison, the famed Beats by Dre Pro edition headphones tip the scales at 9.2 ounces.
The k240 employs two dynamic transducers, using AKG's patented Varimotion design. It has a reported frequency response of 15 to 25,000Hz, with an impedance of 55 ohms and a sensitivity of 91dB. Total harmonic distortion is listed as less than 0.3 percent, with a maximum input power of 200mV. Standard connection is a gold-plated stereo mini-jack, although a gold-plated mini- to quarter-inch screw-on adaptor is also provided. The cable itself is plug-in-style and one-sided, as opposed to relying on a Y-like structure. The plug-in configuration makes cable adjustments and/or replacements easier down the road. It also cuts down on snarls, which can degrade signal quality and consequently sound quality over time.
In terms of sound quality, the k240's sound is more akin to that produced by a pair of near-field monitors than it is to a pair of over-the-ear headphones. Okay, maybe not quite the same, but the genuine sense of space and air that surrounds your ears does make for a much more realistic experience, rather than one contained within your own head. The k240's tone is the epitome of neutral and is as uncolored as I've heard form a headphone thus far. High frequencies are light, airy and above all natural, with tremendous air and breath. Midrange, especially vocals, feels organic and possesses good weight. Bass is articulate and textural, with solid grip and low-end punch - the k240 is a headphone with real, natural bass rather than relying too much on voicing and/or gimmicks. Dynamics are superb and come across in wholly realistic fashion. The same holds true with regard to the k240's sense of space and movement and placement within. Because everything about the k240 seems so effortlessly balanced, every texture, nuance and inflection are brought to the forefront in ways few headphones that I've encountered have been able to manage. The same is true of its power handling capabilities, for I found it near-impossible to overdrive the k240 and get it to distort in any way.
Best of all, thanks to its larger-than-the-other-guy ear cups and supreme cushioning, long-term listening sessions are non-fatiguing. After 20 minutes of use, I began to forget that the large studio headphones were even resting on my cranium. Not bad.
Read about the high points and low points of the AKG k240 on Page 2.