AKG K181 DJ: A Surprisingly Good Closed Headphone for Not So Much.

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by purr1n, Oct 26, 2015.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    AKG High Performance Closed-Back DJ Headphones - K181 DJ

    I didn't realize the measurement data on Changstar was not available to guest readers, so I thought it would be a good idea to migrate the measurements and quick subjective impressions here. The K181 DJ is an over-the-ear supraaural headphone. The feel is kind of solid and clunky as appropriate to it being a DJ headphone. What makes the K181 particularly interesting is that it is a closed design, it's good sounding, (very rare to find a good sounding close headphone), and it's cheap. As of 10/26/2015, Amazon Prime has it available for $119.

    [​IMG]

    The clamping force is solid, but not excessive. I'd say the clamping force is less than the HD650's out of the box. The pads aren't luxurious or plush, but rather firm fitting on the ear. The isolation is quite good. The K181 make excellent work headphones where you don't want to bother your co-workers or wouldn't worry too much about them being ripped off.

    There are two bass boost switches, one on each earcup. The bass boost is tastefully done and doesn't intrude into the mids. I prefer the headphones without the bass boost. Yeah, decent plankton too. Gilberto currently has possession of this headphone, and I have to admit that I do miss it at work. (I can't use open headphones at work and don't feel comfortable leaving expensive stuff on my desk.)

    DSC_0164 (1).JPG

    Figure 1: Frequency Response, Harmonic Distortions, and CSD of K181 (one channel only)
    K181.gif
    K181 HD.jpg
    K181.jpg

    The headphone sounds a bit warmer than measurements would indicate. (Supraaural designs can be difficult to measure.) I didn't have any subjective issues with the treble as I did with the Senneheiser HD25, another competing supraaural headphone.

    Gilberto has more exhaustive measurements of the K181 to follow:


    My Ken Rockwellien plea goes here:
    If this helps you, please help me
    and buy something from Amazon.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2015
    ultrabike and Deep Funk like this.
  2. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    Crap! I think I do have this one. Will check it out tonite. Sorry about that. Will add my measurements and impressions as well.
     
  3. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    Somewhere in the shoutbox (Changstar) today I believe there was some talk about good closed headphones. Well, IMO, this is an example of such headphones.

    They are well constructed, isolate well, have bass boost option (well done), stereo/mono switch, don't look like they came out of Paris Hilton's closet, and sound pretty darn good. I feel these are neutral w/o bass boost, and nicely warm w bass boost. Given these are supraaural don't expect super comfyness.

    This is the UE variant. Other variants offer different tone options. They sell for about $150.

    Measurements:

    Frequency Response
    AKG_K181_DJ_FR.png

    Distortion L
    AKG_K181_DJ_dist_left.png

    Distortion R
    AKG_K181_DJ_dist_right.png

    Distortion L Bass Boost
    AKG_K181_DJ_bass_dist_left.png

    Distortion R Bass Boost
    AKG_K181_DJ_bass_dist_right.png
     
  4. Deep Funk

    Deep Funk Deep thoughts - Friend

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    I ditched my good DT1350 for this headphone.

    On "small bass" it sounds good. On "club bass" you are in pleasant bass head mode. In between you are in light bass head mode.

    Solderdude made some interesting comments about this headphone. For me this headphone is a no-brainer because it sounds good, isolates really well, survives and takes very little space due to AKG's propriety folding system.

    Solid recommendation unless you do not tolerate pressure on the ears.
     
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  5. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    That's why!!! I posted this in Changstar before the move!

    Here are some CSDs as well (w ringing around 4-5kHz):

    CSD Right

    AKG_K181_DJ_csd_right.png

    CSD Left

    AKG_K181_DJ_csd_left.png

    CSD Bass Boost Right

    AKG_K181_DJ_bass_csd_right.png

    CSD Bass Boost Left

    AKG_K181_DJ_bass_csd_left.png

    And a comparo when moving the bass boost switch into intermediate positions:

    It's a little touchy. Half is almost like bass boost on. You have to get it closer to 1/4 towards bass boost off or less.

    AKG_K181_DJ_test.png

    "half" (yellow) is with the switch in the middle, while "1/4" (green) is closer to the bass bosst off position.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015
  6. spoony

    spoony Spooky

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    These used to go for ~$90 for a long time ;)
     
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  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    You need to DL the image files and upload here for it to work for people not signed into CS.
     
  8. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    Corrections applied.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015
  9. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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  10. Bagged Milk

    Bagged Milk Friend

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    Wait there was a shoutbox on changstar? I use another forum with the same type of format program thing as SBAF and they have a shoutbox. Why doesn't SBAF if that was the case?
     
  11. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    The shoutbox will probably be available in time. But dunno.
     
  12. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    Has anyone had a chance to hear the new AKG K182? Looks like it just came out a month ago for $100.
     
  13. takato14

    takato14 Doglover

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    Wow, that is uncharacteristically even at a price point like this. Color me impressed.
     
  14. Deep Funk

    Deep Funk Deep thoughts - Friend

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    Get one, keep it as a back up and do not look back. This AKG is one of the pro-audio gems.
     
  15. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    How similar is it to the K181?
     
  16. Ishcabible

    Ishcabible Friend

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    Huh, funny coincidence. I discovered the K182 last night too. I'm tempted to get it because I really like the K181.
     
  17. Deep Funk

    Deep Funk Deep thoughts - Friend

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    If the drivers are still the same, expect like identical twins.

    Thing is, how to confirm such details? Who has the "new" version of the K181DJ?

    Update: a K181, glossy,without mono/stereo button, no bass boost. Interesting...
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
  18. Ishcabible

    Ishcabible Friend

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    The pads seem to be more comfortable. They're no longer on ears.
     
  19. Deep Funk

    Deep Funk Deep thoughts - Friend

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    I would still miss the bass boost. AKG implemented that bass boost very well.

    I am buying a spare K181 DJ. They are going down in price...
     
  20. keanex

    keanex Martian Bounty Hunter - Friend

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    I don't seem to agree with the consensus here, but here's my review.

    [​IMG]


    Pros: Secure on head; Built in bass boost.

    Cons: Extreme clamping force; Cheap look and feel; Overall mediocre sound quality.

    Tonal Balance: Warm with a downwards slope.

    Style: Closed supra-aural

    Cost at Time of Review: $76



    Reviewing Process


    I’ve been using the K183 as my primary cans for the past two weeks, using them rather heavily during the time with a wide variety of music and games. While I feel confident that I have a good feel for the sound and construction of the K183, this is still a subjective review and your personal experience may vary. Personal experience will always be the best way to form an opinion on a headphone, though I hope that my words may be of some help also.



    Build & Fit
    Build

    Well they look cheap and feel cheap, and the headphones creak when held, but they feel like the type of headphone that would put up with a lot of abuse. There are stress points that look ripe for the breaking, but I’ve beat these guys up with no stress fractures or damage shown. The headband did survive an intense stretching session as well, so there’s that. The mini XLR removable cable is a nice touch to durability.



    Fit

    Easily the hardest clamping headphone I’ve ever worn. I had to stretch them over my clothing bin for 24 hours and even so, much of the clamping force is back. I’ve gone from pressure headaches caused in less than 10 minutes of wear to being able to wear them for 45-60 minute sessions at least. The on-ear design, combined with rather hard and uncomfortable pads don’t do much to alleviate this. They isolate well though, very well, so there’s that. These are definitely not for medium to larger sized heads.



    Sound Quality
    Bass

    Using the Bass Shaker Test the K183 purr from the start with some small dips throughout, but nothing alarming. With the bass boost function on the bass is noticeably increased. Minor driver rattle in the left is heard.



    When listening without the bass boost on the bass sounds warmer than neutral, somewhat untextured though not sloppy. Midbass is punchy and the sub-bass is extended well. I find it very slightly intrusive into the midrange though not annoyingly so. Adding just a slight veil.



    With the bass boost on the sub-bass gets a sub-woofer like presence though the texture goes nearly out of the window. Midrange veil is emphasized to varying degrees depending on the recording, but it’s certainly noticeable even using the likes of Steely Dan. I can’t say that I’m a fan of this tuning, the bass nearly fatigues me on some tracks before the end of it. One positive is that listening to the bass boost and going back to unboosted gives a very balanced perception initially.



    Mids & Highs

    The midrange is largely unintriguing to me. A bit dull, mildly veiled, moderately grainy. A bit congested as well. There’s a dip somewhere near the female vocal range causing the likes of Madonna to sound a bit hollow, and everything else sounds a tad fuzzy here. In photography terms, the midrange is not sharp, rather a bit soft. There’s slight added sibilance, and a bit of brightness in the treble region. Treble seems well extended, but carries some of the softness in detail retrieval that the midrange carries.



    Bass boost amplifies my disinterest in caring about the midrange. Sibilance seems slightly softened, but the bass is well overblown for any sort of alternative rock, or well anything that relies on the midrange. With bass boost on I find that the midrange seems excessively soft, lacking any punch when listening to something like Rage Against the Machine.



    Presentation

    Not entirely closed off sounding, but lacking hard edges of separation. There’s a resemblance of depth here, even if only slightly, and width isn’t completely closed in, but these are definitely closed. Good left/right signals but there’s little in terms of imaging quality outside of basic left/right and a hint of in/out.



    Conclusion
    The AKG K181 DG left a bad impression on me, rather immediately, due to a pressure headache and they didn’t do much to impress me from them on. There are too many flaws to make these an everyday tagalong can, and even when they do excel, which I find rare, they don’t do so to a degree of magnitude enough for me to recommend them.



    For $76 they wouldn’t make a bad closed back to carry around, but I have a very hard time recommending them over the Audio Technica M50x which, to my ears, sounds like a more versatile headphone and is far more comfortable - Yes I understand how weird it is to hear M50x and comfortable in the same sentence.
     
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