I’ve been recording/mixing/mastering on a pair of AKG 270 headphones for around 25 years. The leather ear pads are beat to crap, but these cans are excellent for detailed reference monitoring, especially because I have become so familiar with how they translate across listening environments. They are also good studio monitors for their closed back isolation and realism. A lot has changed over the years, but some things, like the job of a good studio monitor, have not. From this reference point, it’s interesting to hear how the new, affordable crop of AKG closed back headphones like the K275 and K371 compare to their legendary K270s.
My first impression of both the AKG K275 and K371 is that they are built like tanks and phenomenally comfortable. The K275s are a little heavier with metal housings, but the fit is tight and soft for both, and I can shake my head around without them moving at all. The memory foam ear pads feel great and competent, something my elderly K270s lack. I wore both headphones for many hours and they never stopped being comfortable.
Both the K275 and K371 have excellent isolation from the surroundings, plenty for studio monitoring applications. With the headphones turned off, hammering away on a loud dreadnought acoustic guitar with a big low end, not much more than a foot away from my ears, was remarkably attenuated. This is critical for a studio monitor, where the musician needs to hear the monitor mix with minimal bleed from sound levels in the room. I’m a singer, and I need to hear my vocal in the headphones without being drowned in bleed from the dreadnought.
What the K275 and K371 have in common is a respectable balance and clean sweetness that makes extensive listening comfortable and pleasing. Regarding loudness, the K275s needed about 5dB more gain to match the loudness of the K371s. The sound stage and imaging of both punch above their price range, though the K270s go deeper here.
The sonic signature is where the K275 and K371 abruptly part ways. The K275s have an extended low end, a bit of a low-mid prominence, a pretty flat run through the mids and upper mids, and an open, controlled top end. In contrast, the K371s sound like there’s a 100Hz high-pass filter on them. The low end is tight and present, just attenuated. They sound flat through the mids and upper mids, leaning a little forward in the 500-700Hz zone, and the top end is smooth. The mid-forward character turns up the overall impression of detail. As a reference point, the vintage K270s sound flat from bottom to top, rolling off a little at the bottom.
Three detachable cable lengths are supplied with the K371 headphones- Coiled 3m, straight 3m and straight 1.2m- while the K275 has one 5m coiled cable. Both include a 1/8”-1/4” adapter plug and a nice carry bag. To minimize any potential interference from the cable, it’s good to have your headphone input on the left side of your gear setup, so the cable from the left ear housing isn’t crossing your body and rubbing on your shirt.
While these spectral differences between the K275s and K371s make each less universal, they also sharpen their advantages in different applications. For example, if I were playing bass, drums or low register keys in the studio, I would be reaching for the solid low end of K275s to add some weight in this range over the rest of the mix. If my instrument were in the higher registers, like vocals, guitar, or violin, the tight and bright response of the K371s would be more generous in this range. For horns I would probably pick the K275s for smoothness.
For general listening, the choice is a matter of taste. The K275s and K371s both have a low-fatigue sonic character and are incredibly comfortable. For mixing and mastering, the vintage K270s have advantages in soundstage depth, image separation and frequency flatness. I would choose either the K275 or K371 over the K270s for studio monitors every time, though, for superior isolation and comfort.
AKG K275 Headphones: https://www.akg.com/Headphones/Professional%20Headphones/K275.html
Street price: $99.00
AKG K371 Headphones: https://www.akg.com/brands/akg/K371.html
Street price: $149.00