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AKG K99 Studio Headphones Review
AKG K99 Pro Studio Headphones
AKG K99 Budget Pro Studio Headphones
A few weeks ago my beloved SONY XB500 Headphones broke leaving me without a good pair of headphones for music production, so I started out on the never ending journey that is buying a new pair of headphones.
Some of you may have read my previous Hub 'The Top 8 Headphones on the market right now' and would have seen my recommendations for a good set of cans. I myself went back to my Hub to see what took my personal fancy and to be honest, the answer was nothing!
So, I journeyed on. What I did get a taste for from checking out my Hub though, was that I wanted a pair of AKG's. I had never had a pair before but, I know they are high quality in both build and sound reproduction. ( I also considered the SHURE range )
Long story short... A plethora of reviews and unboxings later, I found the AKG K99 Studio Headphones. A budget pair of headphones with a wide frequency range, some good reviews and a cheap price tag.
I found the AKG K99's on EBAY for £36 including P&P! Which I thought was excellent value for money. I must admit for the price and the claims of how good the headphones were from reviewers, I couldn't help but be a little sceptical.
The AKG K99's come in a quality box that has a premium feel about it as it is cardboard and has a laminate type of coating over it which makes it smooth to the touch unlike many other headphones in this price range that come in those cheap clear plastic vacuum packs (Ahem! SONY XB500's).
Inside the box is plain cardboard with a few cardboard inserts to keep the headphones in place which do their job, I suppose but they do look cheap. You will also find a 3.5mm to 1/4 inch jack adapter, and AKG sticker and warranty card.
The headphones themselves are well protected and each individual part of the is wrapped in plastic including the headband, each can and the cable, which I thought was very premium style considering the price. (I guess these were higher in value a few years back though when they were first released as they have now been discontinued but are still for sale all over the place).
Once the plastics are removed my first impression of the AKG K99's is, CHEAP! They are made of a very lights and hollow plastic that feels very cheap to the touch. You definitely know at this point that you get what you pay for. The plastic is a matte colour which again does not lend to a premium look but, they do not look terrible. The open back section of the headphones have a cheap tin mesh that although seated well so it does not protrude, reminds me of a cheap pair of speakers with a dodgy front grill that just falls of (so far they they have been okay).
Unfortunately there is also another downside to the cheap plastic build apart from its look and feel. As the plastic is cheap and hollow, it creates an environment that produces sounds which have a high emphasis on mid-range frequencies. I believe this is because the plastic is so hollow that it is like putting a small speaker in a plastic tub. You get all of the echo type sounds and can every touch and movement against the plastic of the cans directly on/over your ears.
I must admit, that I am/was not pleased with that really, its not the sort of build quality I expected from AKG even at £36.
At this point, I was seriously questioning whether the reviewers had just been talking a load of rubbish when reviewing the AKG K99's?
So, not one to give up hope, I unravelled the cable, which IS good quality, thick audio cable with a strong mould around the 3.5mm jack, which I like as too often have I have headphones where the jack comes away from the plastic mould either rendering the headphones useless in one ear or at worst, both. The cable is brilliantly long at about 3 Meters, which is great for me as I listen in a studio environment regularly and move around a lot with my headphones on. Previously with my XB500's, thought the build and sound quality is superior, the short 1.5 Meter cable was too often giving me a snag as it was just too short for me to sit at a reasonable distance from my monitor and monitors.
The headphones themselves despite their budget build quality fit ver very comfortably on the head with an automatically adjust headband which, I think is amazing! I had never had one of these style headbands before; I have always had headphones where I manually adjust the headband and funnily enough, those always seem to be the part that breaks. When I first tried on the K99's, I remember thinking, 'Huh, they fit perfectly!' Then I remembered the auto adjusting band and was like, 'Wow, this actually works!' I can honestly say, I never want to go back to manual headbands again. One downside of the auto headband (On these at least) is that AKG have made an additional plastic arch over the headband that's adjusts to your head to compensate for different sizes of head. This makes it look like there is a really high arch of plastic above your head for nothing. This also makes it uncomfortable to wear a hood while wearing the headphones as it is unusually high and pushes up your hood and in turn your hood pushes down the headphones. Not very nice :(
So, onto the biggie. Sound...
Well, we already know the K99's are not premium quality high performance headphones but, what they are for the money is very good depending on your use.
Let me tell you now, if you are not someone looking for a pair of reference headphones but want something for listening to your favourite tracks out and about etc. These are NOT for you.
I bought these headphones despite knowing they would be of a cheap quality purely because of their reviews in regards to referencing.
As a music and sound producer, I use active studio monitors to listen to my mixes etc in the studio. What I wanted and needed was a pair of headphones that were going to complement my monitors as a stand in when I can't have the tunes loud I.E late night studio sessions etc.
The AKG K99's despite their cheap and plastic sound, which does colour mid-range frequencies somewhat, give you a very accurate signal in regards to monitoring.
When working on a track, I have found that what I am hearing in my headphones is what I am getting on my monitors and vice versa apart from the deeper low end (Kicks/Bass) that my studio monitors have, but very accurate nonetheless.
High frequencies are clear and crisp, not piercing and annoying, mid-ranges the same if a little bit seashell to ear sounding and low end frequencies like bass and kick drums are present and definable. I will say that the low end is NOT the speciality for these headphones. You will hear your baselines and kicks but, they will not be pumping. You are better of going for the XB range from SONY if you are in need of pumping bass, you will be much happier.
However, if you are a producer or sound engineer in need of a good budget pair of headphones, whether as a backup, a temporary or even for your budget home studio setup, the AKG K99's will serve you well. They are cheap (as little as £36 on Ebay brand new incl. P&P), they (so far) despite their cheap build quality, seem durable and hardwearing. The cable is beautifully long and is a single sided cable so it is only connected to the left ca, giving you a bit of extra freedom around the neck area which is always nice. Despite their cheap looks and feel, once the K99's are on your head they are lovely and comfortable, they do not squeeze your head or ears and fit nicely around your ear to surround them with the sounds.
As the K99's are Semi-open backed, they do leak a lot of sound through the grills on the backside of them, which I personally do not mind as it is a welcome change to the closed back style of the XB500's which after a while start to damage your hearing and make your ears fatigue. So for those of you who like to blast your sounds on the bus or train, be aware others can hear every word! I like this too!
The sound quality from these headphones is very good for this price and I am glad I bought them. I can hear every instrument in my mix clearly and accurately which is my main concern. I am confident that what I am hearing is a true representation of my sound and not having that extra bit of low end is great for helping to adjust my sound for the average listener as the majority of people do not listen on bass heavy systems.
All in all, cheap build, cheap feel, slightly prominent mid-range (which you get used to and it disappears), long cable, extra jack included, clear and accurate sound, very comfortable.
You can also check out my video review of these headphones below ;)