AKG K240 Studio Headphones Review: A Quirky, Analytical Studio Classic
The K240 Studios are on sale through the end of August 2017 for about $54.
This deal is on AKG’s web site, and numerous other retailers like Amazon and Frys have it also.
If you’re looking for a cheap analytical/critical-listening pair of semi-open headphones, that’s a phenomenal deal.
I’d probably recommend these over the also-decent Philips SHP 9500s, because I think these sound a little nicer.
Heck, the K240s are not bad at their full price either (if you’re reading this after the sale), and I can see why this design has held up for over 40 years…in spite of some weird little issues.
The K240 Studios are based on a design first created in 1975. The original version of the headphones had six passive radiators inside to boost the bass response. Eventually, someone at AKG controversially decided that this was a bit silly, and it was refined into the model we still have today.
The AKG K240 Studios normally go for about $69. They come with a 10-foot detachable mini XLR to 3.5mm cable, and a 6.3mm adapter. The box also contains a little cardboard triangle, some plastic, and some basic literature.
This is a no-nonsense studio-style headphone, then. They’re semi-open. They don’t have the big thunderous bass that makes most modern headphones fun listens. They have some weird design quirks.
But I still like them quite a bit.
The K240 studios feature incredibly detailed and clean mids and highs.
Vocals sound perfect. Guitars sound perfect. Cymbals and wind instruments sound perfect. Speed and detail resolution on high notes are both exceptional, mirroring the performance I’d expect from much more costly products. Imaging is great and airy thanks to the semi-open design, and the soundstage floats gently around your head.
Also…some bass is present.
I’m not even being that sarcastic.
If you like big thumping fun bass…you won’t like these at all. The bass is rolled off dramatically at the lower end, and the bass that is present is gentle and accurate without any real punch or energy.
So if you listen to a lot of EDM/Hip Hop/Drum and Bass/other genres with lots of sub-bass information, you won’t love these. You’ll think they seem a little bit weak and off.
But if you like acoustic stuff/classical/classic rock/detail listening in general, these sound pretty cool. They’ll still totally work for other stuff… but you’ll have to give your brain some time to adjust to their relatively unique, crisp signature.
And you might just find them a little tinny and lacking, even after you adjust.
Also, although these have a rated impedance on the lower side at 55 ohms, they’re not the most sensitive headphones ever. So you’ll probably have to crank them up a bit higher than you’re used to, and depending on your source device, that might expose you to more noise/hum.
I’ve had the best success with basic dedicated amps, though my phone is able to push them too, cranked up a bit.
I personally love the way these sound, and they’re a good cheap way to see what a brighter/more “detailed” sound signature is like. But they’re super tremendously not for everyone, or for anyone that demands a lot of thumping boomy powerful bass.
So buy from a place with a good return policy, in case you don’t fall in love with the sound.
There is none. Next!
Seriously though, this is a super-open pair of headphones. It attenuates some outside noise the tiniest bit. But pretty much everything comes in. And if you push them loud enough, everything will go out to your neighbors too.
Since I’m a crazy person, I still went ahead and did my usual coffee shop test on these.
Even with my music playing at a typical listening volume out of my Schiit Fulla, I was still very aware of what was going on outside my head. There’s not enough bass to help mask this much, either. It’s not an awful experience…but as a portable outside-of-the-home headphone these are very low on the list, isolation-wise.
I thought these were going to be really uncomfortable.
I’m happy I was wrong.
The suspension head strap has no padding. It’s just some leathery material. The ear pads are round and not all that nicely padded, either.
Fortunately, these are light. And they do a great job of conforming to my head shape without issue. The ear pads do gently touch my ears in a couple of places, but I’ve worn these comfortably for hours. My ears get a little bit warm over time thanks to the relatively cheap leatherette on the pads, but that’s okay.
The design of the K240 is generally great for something that’s so old. I like the color combination of black and gold. I like the relative lack of bits sticking too far out from my head. I like the removable mini-XLR cable. It’s surprisingly pliable and easy to manage.
The build is where things fall down, a bit, especially if you’re into metal.
Some folks might not like how light these headphones are. But I don’t think they feel cheap. They come dangerously close, though.
It’s essentially all plastic here, materials-wise. The tubes over the headband are plastic. The adjustment mechanisms are plastic. I think even the metallic-looking rings around the ear cups are plastic, though they are nicely finished.
The gimbals on the ear cups are amazingly smooth and rotate with a nice feeling that mirrors much more expensive products.
I like their flexibility overall, and their lightness helps them to fit well, but my personal taste might not line up with yours.
Having said all that…
Let’s talk about the suspension mechanism.
It features the one baffling design/build quirk that’s the only thing I don’t like about these headphones.
The K240s use a suspension head strap held to tension by some elastic strings. There are some little plastic cylinders around the mechanism and the band to help protect everything and smooth out the adjustment.
Unfortunately, when the headband is at rest, these cylinders kind of just bump into the backs of the ear cups and scrape against them.
You can see the point of contact here. It causes some light wear to the cylinder thing almost immediately, and I’ve had to clean the little bits of plastic away a couple of times in the last two days of my review process. I assume that, over time, the plastic will wear down a bit and this will be less of a problem.
But it’s still super strange.
Here’s some of the particles that resulted from the aftermath of the contact point.
I thought at first my pair might be slightly defective, but after close examination of other online photos and the design of my own pair…it’s just a quirk of the design. Even if things were positioned a little bit differently, these two points would still likely come into contact.
It’s not at all a deal breaker. Far from it! But the most detail-oriented among you would probably like to know about it. :)
The K240 Studios are a great-sounding, detailed, comfy pair of open headphones for a very affordable price. They’re a great alternative to the MDR7506 or the SHP9500s. It’s not too hard to find other Mini XLR cables online if you want a shorter cable.
But if you want lots o’ bass, or some gentle contact in the adjustment mechanism will bug you, run away now!
I’m so happy I finally got to listen to these, and the way their mids/highs sound is genuinely top tier.