Harman’s AKG Reference K551 Over-Ear Review

Headphones don’t get bigger than the Harman’s AKG Reference K551 Over-Ears. These behemoths are outstandingly comfortable and feature a premium high quality build, lightweight design, fun detailing, and audio as big and loud as the appearance. Lets just hope your head is big enough!

The AKG Reference K551s (by Harman) are rocking the largest drivers AKG has built into their headphones, 50mm. These extra large drivers help produce extra large sound with ultra-fine detailing and reproduction. The build quality is outstanding. Though there’s some plastic involved, there’s a fuse of tough metal, plastic, and cushion that gives the K551′s a sexy industrial yet contemporary look and feel.

For such large headphones, the K551′s are surprisingly comfortable. They can be worn for hours on end without providing an annoying amount of pressure on your ears. The unique styling and lightweight headband help keep the headphones grounded to your head even if you’re moving around. The earcups are large enough to fit anyone’s ears inside of the ultra soft donut-shaped cushion. For large headphones, the earcups actually have a pretty thin profile, so they don’t jut far out from your head. There’s a huge “L” and “R” on the inside of the ear cups so you’ll always know which way they go on. The headband is adjustable (for seriously large heads). Unfortunately, you need to try them to see if they apply a nice seal on your head. The headband is somewhat bendable, which helps. There’s heavy duty hinges which allow the earcups to fold flat. While these aren’t the most portable headphones, the flat folding design definitely helps for safely packing them. There’s no travel case included.

The headphone cable is rubberized, tangle-proof, and has an inline microphone and ControlTalk for controlling music, phone calls, and voice commands on your iPhone or iOS device (Android compatibility will vary). The ControlTalk is sleek and has volume buttons and a universal play/pause/skip/siri button. The microphone works just as well as the mic on Apple’s headphones. The headphone cable is not removable from the headphones. It has a straight plug that’s strong but very chunky; it’s thicker than iPhone 5 and incompatible with pretty much any case.These AKG’s come in white or black, and on the white model the cable is blue and white. It’s smurf-colored but a very fun detail. The black model has a more traditional black cable.

So these AKG’s are comfortable, they’re awesome looking, and they have a cable that controls your iPhone…but how do they sound!? Amazing!, but arguably. The most notable facet of the listening experience is the K551′s realistic and broad sound stage. It doesn’t feel like music is being blasted into your ears, but more like you’re sitting in a room with speakers. AKG calls this “Real Image Engineering” and can be attributed to the huge ear cups and drivers.The audio quality is also top notch. It’s very balanced and clear. There was a decent burn-in period, and after a week or two you’ll notice them get less hollow and more refined. The bass is deep and fair enough to feel it, but it’s far from overwhelming. The mid-range audio is fantastically detailed and clear. The highs are also crisp and detailed. These AKGs will have mixed feedback mainly because they’re reference headphones, they’re more flat and not skewed to appeal to a certain type of music (i.e. Beats with abnormally boomy bass for rap music). Once you get used to them, they make all music sound great, but for first timers you’d want to listen to more acoustic and detailed music to fully appreciate them. First timers might be surprised how different their techno, electronica, and even rap may sound. They’re also great for watching TV and movies and they’re even kind to low bitrate music.

Verdict

I’m proud to announce I now have a new go-to pair of headphones (for this week anyway…). For someone who doesn’t mind big headphones, I feel these AKG K551s are just about as good as headphones get. With their lightweight and thin profile, they don’t feel nearly so big. After an initial burn in, the audio quality is very rich with a phenomenal soundstage that brings the music alive. I don’t mind that they’re not super bassy. They’re easy to wear hours on end and the included ControlTalk buttons and microphone seal the deal. The blue cable on the white model is a fun accent. While they could be a little more portable, they fold flat and have a premium build quality. At $329.95, these are expensive headphones. If you’re looking to treat yourself to a premium pair of headphones with accurate audio reproduction, the AKG K551s by Harman should be seriously considered. They’re currently available in black and silver or white and silver from Amazon.com.

The Good: Great design, Good seal, Comfortable, Light, ControlTalk + Mic, Phenomenal sound stage and audio quality, Durable, Clear right and left ear cup indicators.

The Bad: Cable is not removable, break in period, and headphone plug will be incompatible with most iOS cases. Expensive. No travel case. Low on bass and size of ear cups may not be suitable for all.