Issue 60

AKG K812 HEADPHONES — AudioTechnology


April 14, 2015


Expensive headphones… ’cos you’re worth it.

Review: Christopher Holder

Justifications for buying a pair of $2600 headphones:

You’re a hedge fund manager.

It’s cheaper than buying a pair of studio reference monitors and acoustic treatment for your room.

A ‘significant’ birthday is coming up.

“Because you’re worth it.” — L’Oreal

A sound engineer’s relationship with headphones is complex. Headphones can be a commodity item tossed about the live room or they can be another reference source for checking a mix or recording. And when it comes to monitoring we don’t always expect reference quality reproduction from our headphones. Often it’s enough to double check a delay setting we’re concerned about, making sure a compression setting isn’t pumping or how the vocals are sitting… most of us rarely turn to a pair of cans as the last word in monitoring a mix.

Sometimes that’s because ‘reference-quality’ headphones can be too ‘clinical’ — they’re all detail and sensitivity but not particularly warm or enveloping. It’s clearly tough to nail the perfect combination of fidelity and listenability, otherwise every headphone manufacturer would be doing it.

AKG has a new flagship pair of headphones and they’re exquisite.

I knew I was in for something special when the K812s arrived in a bomb-proof aluminium road case (like you might transport a Fabergé egg… minus the armed guards). Inside was the presentation box that revealed the headphones snuggled about a bentwood timber stand.

They were on my head in a thrice. Lightweight carbon fibre construction; leather ear pads; circumaural… They really are the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn. There’s a spaciousness about the fit, nothing is touching your ears they’re simply being ‘housed’ in the K812s, like a well-appointed executive condominium.

They’re an open back design. And by that I mean, really open back. Put them on and there’s very little protection afforded by the ear cups from the outside world. The flipside is that everyone is hearing what you’re hearing when monitoring. Needless to say, this precludes you from using the K812s on any studio recording duties.

The K812 stereo sound stage is detailed and expansive — direct-to-stereo recordings stretch out for days. Tonally, the K812s make my beautifully detailed Shure SRH1440s sound shrill, and my Sennheiser HD500s sound dull and comparatively lifeless. The bass reproduction is punchy and extended — much like a great pair of closed backs.

There’s always a danger in monitoring with headphones for extended periods. You can get lulled into a false sense of space and detail, and be crestfallen with how mono and lifeless your mix translates in the real world. This is doubly true of the 812s. Such is the detail and sophistication of the soundstage that you’re best to use them sparingly — only when you need to cross reference your mix. That said, you’ll want to keep putting these headphones on. Whether you’re working or listening recreationally, they’re such a treat. Are they revealing? Yes, they are, but not at the expense of listenability. For the ultimate reward, reserve the 812s for monitoring your final mix. Place them on a plinth, mounted on their curvaceous timber laminate stand, next to your Jason recliner. Have your slippers, fez and pipe ready, because I can’t think of a more decadent personal listening experience.

Oh, almost forgot. One other justification for buying a pair of $2600 headphones:

You’re a professional sound engineer who demands the best.

Hard to argue with that.  


Frequency Bandwidth: 5 – 54,000Hz

Sensitivity: 110dB SPL/V

Max. Input Power: 300mW

Rated Impedance: 36Ω

Transducer: 53mm


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