AKG K 271 Studio

The AKG K 271 Studio headphones have a closed-back design that isolates your ears from ambient noise and prevents bleed into nearby microphones.
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The AKG K 271 Studio headphones have a closed-back design that isolates your ears from ambient noise and prevents bleed into nearby microphones.

The versatile AKG K 271 Studioheadphones are designed for use in studio, stage, broadcast, and DJapplications.

AKG's remarkable new K 271 Studio ($249) headphones have aclosed-back design that isolates your ears from ambient noise andprevents bleed into nearby microphones. This makes the K 271 Studio anexcellent choice for recording-studio, DJ, and broadcastapplications.

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Mixing and mastering engineers will appreciate the K 271's extendedfrequency response, cited to be 16 Hz to 28 kHz. However, no tolerancesare given for this specification, because the exact performance dependson how tightly the headphones seal to the listener's head, among otherconsiderations.

A switch in the unit's headband mutes the audio when you remove theK 271 from your head completely, providing additional insurance againstunwanted bleed into mics. Singers will be happy to know that you canstill wear one headphone cup over an ear and place the other cupagainst the back of your head without the mute switch engaging.

AKG is so confident in the K 271 Studio's durability that itprovides a generous two-year parts-and-labor warranty and promotes theheadphones for stage use. The K 271 Studio's 3-meter cable, which usesa locking mini-XLR to connect to the earpiece, is detachable for easyreplacement in the field. The cable uses 99.99 percent oxygen-freecopper wiring and features gold-plated plugs at both ends. I especiallyliked that these headphones come ready for use with both pro andconsumer gear: the supplied, gold-plated⅛-inch-stereo-female-to-¼-inch-stereo-male adapter screwsonto the cable's stereo miniplug connector, making it compatible withprofessional TRS headphone-amp outputs.

Without the cable, the K 271 Studio weighs only 8.5 ounces. It wasdesigned with comfort in mind: the self-adjusting leatherette headbandand gimbal-type earcup suspension help the headphones hug your earssecurely without making you feel like your head is in a vise.

The Sound of Music

Like the other headphones in AKG's Professional Studio line, the K271 Studio incorporates the company's new XXL transducers and patentedVarimotion diaphragms. According to AKG, these diaphragms are thinnerand more elastic near the outside perimeter and thicker in the center,and are therefore less prone to resonance. This design purportedlyproduces greater bass response, accurate mids, and detailed highs.

In fact, the K 271 Studio sounds fantastic, exhibiting phenomenaltransient response, high-frequency detail, high- and low-frequencyextension, midrange clarity, and excellent imaging. Listening tonumerous mixes in a variety of styles through a Benchmark DAC-1 D/Aconverter — a DAC noteworthy for its well-defined bottom end— the K 271 Studio's reproduction was very tightly focused,crystal clear, and remarkably detailed.

Using the DAC-1, I also compared the K 271 Studio with myAudio-Technica ATH-M40fs headphones. AKG's cans offered more detailedhighs, clearer mids and upper bass, and tighter overall bass. Incontrast, the ATH-M40fs offered substantially louder — though notnecessarily more extended — bass and a more midrangey sound. Iwish the K 271 Studio offered a tad more level in the bass band, butonly if this were possible without compromising the headphones' openand revealing quality. Nevertheless, the K 271 Studio has quicklybecome my favorite reference headphone set for mixing andmastering.

The K 271 Studio worked great in recording sessions, especiallythose involving delicate acoustic instruments and vocals. With asensitivity rating of 91 dB SPL/mW, the K 271 Studio is louder than myFostex T20 headphones but not nearly as loud as the ATH-M40fs. If youhave a reasonably powerful headphone amp, the K 271 Studio should giveyou all the volume you need when tracking.

Music to My Ears

It's hard to find headphones that sound natural and unhyped andreveal the detail you need for critical applications. But these cansdeliver. The AKG K 271 Studio is arguably the most versatile set ofheadphones in the company's Professional Studio line.

Although they are somewhat expensive, you definitely get what youpay for. If you're looking for a versatile, rugged, and comfortable setof headphones that sound outstanding, do yourself a favor and check outthe K 271 Studio.

Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 4.5

AKG Acoustics U.S.; tel. (615) 620-3800; email akgusa@harman.com;Web www.akgusa.com