We were the first in Canada to launch these and we love 'em! The K550's look and feel even better in person. Surfaces are metal or rubberized finish. Pads are deep enough so that most people's ears will not touch and they're extremely soft, there is little clamping force and they have the pillows on the head feeling that none of AKG's other cans have. Nice thick cable, the metal headband and fittings click into place, everything feels very durable and precise.
AKG labels the K550 their new Reference closed headphone. The sound is very accurate, without much peakiness or drop off - so the highs are very present and detailed, but without excess. The bass is more present than in the AKG Q701 or 271mkii/272hd and has solid extension down low. The mids are open and detailed, as you'd expect from a headphone AKG labels as their 'Reference'.
The big thing that differentiates these from other closed headphones though is the soundstage. This really is a bit of a game changer, in our opinion, since you can listen and and start to forget you are wearing a closed headphone - you can just get into the music and the space in the music. For someone who has been looking for an open headphone to use at home and a closed headphone for when they need some isolation, the K550 may very likely be able to give you a great combination of both - an open feeling soundstage with effective isolation. You'll experience some nice front to back space and a pretty wide soundstage, something you may not notice in the first few minutes but will really be appreciated while you listen more, since this really allows you to get into the music more.
Re: Fit, the wide headband is well padded, zero issues. These do not clamp tightly, so they stay very comfy for hours - but... that also means that they may not automatically seal, since they don't squeeze much. The cups pivot 360 degrees and if you have a wide head, they'll seal easily. I have a medium size lid and find I need to tilt the cups in slightly to acheive the right fit when I put them on- without this, the bass may not quite connect. So if you get these, try giving them a slight push inwards when you put them on.
These are perfect for listening at the office, library or at home, given their combination of comfort and isolation. Radiohead on an ipod gets to a decent volume at about 7-8/10, but they do benefit from an amp and you will easily hear the improvements/differences between bit rates and with a headphone amp or a good receiver.
Reviews: Innerfidelity.com - 'Speaking of much better sealed headphones at the $300 price point, holy guacamole, the new AKG K550 is spectacular! It measures pretty well, but sounds way better than it measures.'
And he goes on in the full review here: '...The build quality of these headphones is excellent...it's refreshing to see a headphone designed for an adult. These are really an elegant and understated headphone...just beautiful! ... Once properly adjusted, however, the comfort and sound can be endured for hours with great pleasure ... I have to say AKG has indeed produced a sealed headphone with the performance usually found only in open headphone designs. This is the best sounding truly sealed headphone I've heard to date.'
Headphone.com: ' Right out of the box our jaws dropped at the clarity and detail of mid through high frequencies without edginess, mixed with an excellently balanced and full bass response uncommon to any other AKG headphone at this level.
The bass is tight and detailed as we’ve come to expect from AKG, but with a fullness that rivals the Denon D2000, only lacking the extreme sub-bass extension of the Denon. The mid-range presentation is lush, silky and cleaner than the thicker mids of the D2000, and while the highs are crisp and articulate, they never reach a point of harshness like the D2000 is prone to at higher volumes. We found the soundstage of the D2000 to be slightly more open and airy, but the K550’s imaging is excellent with good separation and definition, demolishing the sound of any other closed AKG headphone.'
What Hifi: 5 STARS! 'The soundstage is well-defined, and separates individual threads of the recording as well as it integrates them into a coherent whole. The vocal has ample space, and is packed with information – the AKGs don't lose a scrap of detail. The overall presentation is expertly balanced. The K550s are sweetly communicative, handle tempos in a natural, unforced manner and punch into and out of low-frequency information with precision.
It's sometimes a fine line between neutrality and dispassion, but the AKGs walk it confidently – and even though they relish the lushly analogue sound of Etta James, they have sufficient drive and attack to make Ladytron's Seventeen an exciting, hard-hitting and dynamic listen.
They're particularly adept at teasing out the fine details at the back or at the edge of the soundstage, and give a vivid, high-resolution insight into a mix.
From AKG: With the K 550s, AKG® engineers have struck a masterful balance between the noise-isolating qualities of closed-back headphones and the spacious, dimensional sound of an open-back design – creating reference-class headphones ideal for private listening both at home and on the go. 50mm drivers, the largest in our product line, deliver great AKG sound from your hi-fi system or virtually any portable device. The large ear cups and new headband design ensure an amazingly comfortable fit, and the 2D-axis mechanism folds flat to stow or go. Matte black finish with black metal accents.
Outstanding Sound: The 50mm (2'') driver, the biggest driver in the AKG headphone range, delivers a realistic soundstage – far beyond what other headphones typically deliver.
Cozy Fit: With large ear cups and a new, lightweight headband design, the K550 offers an amazing, comfortable fit allowing for hours of continuous listening.
Great Compatibility: The K550 works and plays well with virtually any portable device including iPod, iPod touch or iPhone.
Frequency Response: 12 Hz - 28kHz
Posted by Matthew on 18th Feb 2013
I decided to not rush into a review for the AKG 550, despite my very positive initial impressions and excitement. I have been using them for a little over a year now as my daily headphone at the office. I have approximatey 1500 hours of use on these and I feel that I can now make a fair assessment. For reference, these are paired with a fiio E10 (before the Olympus re-branding, though it doesn’t really matter) and my source media is a mix of 256/328 kpbs iTunes MP3, 256 kpbs internet streaming, Apple Lossless (ALAC), and WAV/CD.
The 550s have an incredibly warm and powerful and provide excellent sound in low and mid range. The treble, while not as sharp as some sets, is more than adequate and doesn’t have the often irritating brightness of other models (here’s looking at you Bose and Grado...). There was no discernible difference as a result of “burn in”, either positive or negative. These sound, to the best of my recollection, just as good on day one as they do now. They present music perfectly and I have had no need to adjusting any frequency ranges using an equalizer (the bass boost on the E10 has never been used and the gain is on low). I listen to a wide range of tunes, ranging from rock, folk, flamenco, metal, industrial, and electronica. I can hop from classic guitar solos to death metal to house without adjustment and without any noticeable difference in sound. The depth of music and soundstage on these is huge, the sound is very evenly presented and is not abrupt or focused. These cans will handle everything and anything you can throw at them. I would rate the music quality a 4.5/5, the high end being not quite as detailed as I would like, but I much prefer it to overly bright presentation.
These are the most comfortable set of over-ear headphones I have ever used. They will feel like they are going to fall off at times (they don’t) and that you are leaking music (you aren’t) but it is something to get used to. The cups allow very little sound to escape, even with the minimal clamping pressure provided. I was very surprised at the volume output while they are off your head compared with the negligible leaking while they are on it. It took me a few weeks of asking my co-workers “are you sure you can’t hear anything?” for me to rest easy. Some critics have mentioned the K550s as being a little warm on your ears and causing sweating; this is not something I have ever experienced. Keep in mind that these are HUGE headphones. They may look a little odd on most heads but it is definitely worth it. I had to give these a 5/5 in terms of comfort. I wear these for 5-8 hours a day and often forget they are on, which greatly adds to the perceived depth of sound.
Build quality gets top marks. 5/5 hands down. The K550 is an incredible robust piece of equipment. There has been no noticeable reduction in clamping, the adjustment strap is still tight and clicks solidly, and the swivels have not loosened. There is no wear on the pads or other soft material. The only sign of any use is on some of the sharp corners where the coating has rubbed a little, exposing the bare metal/plastic underneath. The cable is in perfect shape, again the sharp corners on the plug have a little wear. Based on how little these have worn during the first year I can only assume these are a 5-10 year set of headphones, providing they are not too mobile (they have only been removed from my desk a handful of times, though with the long cable and huge size I can’t see these being a commuter set).
Value is a bit harder to gauge, they are currently on sale for $250, though they are easily worth the $300 I originally paid for them. I would readily recommend these to anyone looking for a high-end set of headphones for serious listening. Seeing as how I would pay more for these than they are currently charging, I have to give these a 5/5.
Overally, the AKG 550s get a 5/5 in my books. They have been the most enjoyable set of headphones I have ever listened to. I hope AKG release a new open back set using the same styling and construction as these.
Posted by Rob from Winnipeg on 6th Oct 2012
Received these a week ago. Service was excellent. Nice to deal with a Canadian company that seems to be one of the best on the net in this area. I spent a lot of time researching these. It paid off. Very balanced. Great fit (for me). Build is top notch. I was looking for a set that would do my system justice(Bryston/Esoteric/PMC). These fit just perfect.
Posted by John W on 4th Oct 2012
Bought these shortly after release. Even though I had bought the Fiio E17 seperatly a few weeks earlier, I was still given the combo price....nice service.
At this price I would say these are a no brainer. Enough has been said in reviews elsewhere. For me I think its clean sound, the lack of background noise. Get them with something like the E17 and rip to FLAC. Heaven.
Posted by rick on 27th Sep 2012
Have had the k550 for a little under a month now... I was looking for the following features: a closed headphone, that was comfortable to wear, didn’t require an amp, and sounded great. This AKG has delivered on everything I wanted. My 15 year old Grado’s had seen better days, so did a bit of research, and finally selected these. I am very happy with them, the sound stage is wide, and the sound is neutral, and accurate. It took me by surprised in a closed set of headphones! My listening tastes, have moved more to Classical, and Jazz, from my old steady diet of Rock... but I am pleased with the sound on everything I listen to. They do fit large, and would have preferred a detachable cable, but for the dollars I have spent, I feel I have received great value. Thanx Headphone Bar, pleasure doing business with you!
Posted by Jellybill on 9th Sep 2012
Been looking for "on-stage cans" for a long time.
These headphones are plenty of detail. Clear and balanced sound. Confortable and good looking. Big but beautiful. As open as closed cans can sound.
Posted by Mardi on 1st May 2012
I am a music enthusiast, an amateur musician and a gear-head that appreciates good sound quality at a budget price. Well the last part of that statement is not always true. When I do find a high quality item that does as advertised - I will buy it. These AKG K550's are of high value vs price. I need closed back cans because of my many listening uses. My journey to this purchase started with AKG K172HD (nice neutral sound but to small for my headsize); Klipsch Image Ones ( a little bass heavy for me); [returned them all to another online dealer] and then I found HeadphoneBar in my back yard of Vancouver. I tried various cans (guided by my under $200 budget) and on the first visit got the Phiaton MS400. Gave them about 15 hours of home listening time and for me, the sound stage was still a little bit closed and tight, (my musician friends and I loved the striking style and design and initial sound). Travis was more than accommodating on my second visit, and had the AKG K550 demo cans. The sound-stage opened up like a ray of sunshine piercing through black clouds (too much? okay LOL). For closed back headphones they sounded like the higher priced open cans in the store. After an hour of listening, my ears convinced me that this H'phone is the One! Reference quality headphones for $289.00? A bargain! Comfort for my big head? check! Design and style to impress my friends? double check! Wife's financial okay? That's another story... However, I had to endure a LONG 5 days of anticipation for the back order to be filled. When the 550s came in I also purchased the Fiio E17 to leave the store with me.
Take a listen - enjoy and order them while you can - IMHO :)
Posted by Jason on 22nd Feb 2012
I tried these on at the store and I was immediately drawn to the comfort. The style and comfort of these cans are extremely hard to beat, the ear pads are lush and the unit itself is light so long listening periods are easy!
These are reference headphones so but they have a slight colour to them in contrast to the AKG K271-MKII which I found extremely linear. The K550 don't favour one end or the other of the spectrum but I found they had more punch than the K271-MKII so more enjoyable for longer listens. Dance and hard rock may be better served with other cans but.....
Soundstage on these cans is phenomenal. I couldn't believe for a closed headphone how open these sounded. Bands like Cake, Radiohead etc sound exceptional here.
These are easily powered through your i-device but I tend to use them solely with the NuForce HDP at work and the pair really well.
Best not to listen to badly ripped or poor quality music with the K550 as it will be revealed.
These have officially surpassed listening time over my Sennheiser HD598, which although have a completely different sound that is very good the AKG K550 just seems more engaging with clear sounding music.