AKG K545 Headphones – Crisp, Clear and True

AKG K545 Headphones

AKG K545 Headphones

The office I work in is fairly noisy, with lots of hustle-and-bustle and that can be pretty distracting at times.  When I need to get-in-the-zone, I’ll frequently put on my pair of AKG K451‘s1.  They are comfortable and light-weight, cans that shut out most of the surrounding noise.  Most importably, they sound outstanding for headphones as small as they are.  In fact, I used the K451’s on daily train commutes between New Jersey and New York City for a couple of years.  Alas, sometimes trains have nothing on startups when it comes to noise.  So, I started looking at closed-ear headphones.  The closed-ear system is the best form of passive noise-resistance, as the headphones cover all of your ear.  You can still hear what’s going on around you, but just barely, even with the volume muted.  Really, to my ears, good passive noise-reduction is on-par with most active noise-reduction systems out there, such as Bose, etc.  Except for situations with droning, repetitive noises such as on-board an airplane, and, even then, it’s a close-call.

AKG K545 retail box

AKG K545 retail box

Admittedly, I’ve been an AKG-fan for many years now, going back to first set of ‘real’ headphones I had, the old AKG Studio Monitor K240‘s2 – a gift from my parents.  Over the years, I’ve owned several sets of their cans, and only have had one bad experience, the poorly designed cable connector on the Q460‘s3.  Otherwise, the Q’s were outstanding, and I ended up replacing them with the K451’s.  Doing my geek-bargain-hunter research, I happened across Best Buy running a very nice sale on the very well reviewed AKG K545’s.  So I picked up a pair…  wow!

Feel:
The K545’s are extremely comfortable.  I’ve worn them for up for about 4 hours per day at the office over the last week, and I never feel the headphones pinching or pressing.  The ear-pars are a velvety leather and extremely soft.  The padding on the top of the headphones is less velvety, but also very soft and comfortable.  Closed-ear headphones often suffer of ‘ear sweats’, and, so far, the K545’s have been dry-as-a-bone for me, a welcome change to the K240’s.

Passive Sound Resistance:
I found that the K545’s do an extremely good job at cutting out surrounding noise.  At my office, there are no cubes and few offices, and is always buzzing with noise.  Wearing the K545’s cuts out most, but not all, of the outside-world.  As for them, the K545’s leak virtually no sound.

The Sound:
Crisp, clear and beautiful.  You can hear everything, and, recording errors aside, no hiss.  The K545’s are reference-quality headphones, so, they can sound flat without using an equalizer.  The highs are clean and true.  Listening to the vocals on Kate Bush’s “Big Sky“, the multi-track texturing during the chorus comes through perfectly.  The guitar intro in Judas Priest’s “Hellion/Electric Eye” screams through with sharpness and power.  The cymbal work in “Blue Rondo A La Turk” by Dave Brubeck rings with amazing clarity.  In Enigma’s “Return To Innocence“, the multitude of high and mid-range effects and sweeps are fully present, and woven in with the beat, rather than obliterated by it.  Speaking of which…

Bass:
These are not, repeat – not, Beats.  The bass is certainly there, but you hear it rather than feel it.  Tracks with very deep bass lines, such the chorus for Bruno Mars “Locked Out Of Heaven” you can still feel, but it’s subtle and never to the degree of Beats.  The upside is that you can can really hear the tight guitar work and synth-sweeps going on during that same chorus.  Another example is Jay-Z’s “Empire State Of Mind“, which is extremely bass-heavy.  The bass-feel is always there, but focus on clarity of the bass rather than the sensation, allows Alicia Keyes’ multi-track background vocal work to truly shine through.  Lastly, Sade’s “No Ordinary Love” is another track that is very bass-heavy.  It’s still there, but along side it, are vocal “ahh” drop-in’s, and other subtle guitar and effects that are usually drowned in bass.  Again, I want to stress that the bass is there.  Loud and clear, but never overpowering.

Clarity, and authenticity of the sound reproduction are really the hallmarks of AKG headphones, and the K545 absolutely do not disappoint.  The bullroarer ‘whoosh’ sound is present throughout Midnight Oil’s “Bullroarer“, while the mid-range guitar work is crisp and true and Peter Garrett‘s high notes are powerfully clear.  Still, they are not perfect.  Nothing is.  At volumes that are louder than people should generally listen to, during extreme and sustained high-notes the K545’s will begin to strain under the pressure.  Outside of that small caveat, the AKG K545 headphones are the finest set of cans I’ve ever owned.  Generally they sell for between $200-250, and are an extremely fair deal at that price.  If you can find them cheaper, grab ’em.

AKG K545 Reference Closed-Back Over-Ear Headphones4

Pros:

  • Extremely accurate sound reproduction, across highs, mids and lows.
  • Very comfortable, even after hours of use.
  • Very well built, with a solid feel that isn’t heavy on your head.
  • Ear pads breathe well, no sweaty ear syndrome.

Cons:

  • Wide headband will result in headphone-hair.
  • Continues the trend of detachable cords that are simply 6 inches too short.
  • Included accessories limited to an additional, non-mic/control, cable. No bag, no nuthin’.

Verdict = Highly recommended.

Update – 11/13/2016:  I still love these AKG K545’s, but, due to my headphone jack-less iPhone 7, I’ve upgraded to the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless Headphones. They are a significant upgrade in sound quality, while also being significantly more expensive (of course).

References   [ + ]

1, 2, 3, 4.Amazon Referral Link

Mike Knotts

Mike Knotts was born in 1968 in a small town in southern Indiana. Even when very young, Mike showed a love for all-things technical and sci-fi. Moving with his family to California in the early 80's, he eventually graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in History. Rather than put that to good use, Mike continued to pursue his passion for technology by working for early, regional ISP's in the mid 1990's. He currently resides in the Pacific Northwest, where he works as a project manager for an Internet startup. Mike is a co-founder of Geekometry.

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