AKG K181 DJ UE Review

AKG K181 DJ UE Review

Rapidly approaching the one-year anniversary of its release, the AKG K181 DJ UE is an updated version of the original K181 released back in 2004.  It’s a relatively cheap headphone ($119), but still sports some nifty DJ-minded features – a bass boost function and the ability to switch between stereo and mono sound.

AKG K181 DJ UE Review

AKG K181 DJ UE Review

When it comes to the nuts and bolts, this headphone doesn’t really have any.  Sure, there are some screws, but that’s about the extent of the metal used in the structure of this headphone.  That being said, the predominantly-plastic construction goes a long way in making these headphones lighter and more comfortable during longer listening sessions – or extended DJ activities.

The headband and earcups use a thick pleather padding, with an interchangeable coiled cable connecting to the left earcup via a mini-XLR plug.


Headphone type closed-back
Max. Input Power 3500 mW
Audio frequency bandwidth 5 to 30000 Hz
Sensitivity headphones 112 dB SPL/V
Rated Impedance 42 Ohms
Detachable cable yes
Cable Length coiled 5 m
Earpads Replaceable yes
Foldable yes

As we can see from these specs, the K181 offers a wider-than-average frequency range, relatively low impedance, and pretty decent volume.

Low End

In the low end, the sound is detailed, leaning toward “deep.”  There’s very little bleeding in the low end – something we weren’t expecting from a headphone this inexpensive.  The bass is there but not too accentuated – until you turn the bass boost function on.  Then, bass delivers with impact, while the low end may also suffer from moderate bleeding.


The midrage of the K181 is good.  A little recessed, but still good.  The level of accuracy seems heightened with male vocals – or maybe there is a little compression at play that detracts more from the instrumentation.

High End

There’s a high end on K181.  That’s about as nice as I can be about it.   The sound in general in the high end of the frequency range suffers from roll-off.  High-high notes never seem to get as piercing or “peak-y” as they should.  That being said, most female vocals don’t suffer too badly.


The K181 has no soundstage.  The sound, instead, is very “in-your-head,” but sensation isn’t accompanied by the usual canned feeling.  So while the sound remains pretty fantastic, there’s less depth and placement to the music that with other models.

Overall Impressions

The K181 DJ UE is relatively inexpensive and clearly aimed at those DJ’s on a budget who crave the kind of sound AKG is known for.  Despite their intention has a professional headphone, serious listeners (especially unrepentant bassheads) will rejoice in a detailed low end that includes the option of thumping bass.  The fact that the mids remain largely intact despite that heavily-developed low-end is only icing on the cake – these headphones are bound to give you the bass you want while keeping the detail you need.


If you’re after a bright sound – if you like classical music or high-pitched female vocals – you probably won’t enjoy this headphone…at all.  If, however, you’re looking for bass and detail, or just low-end and mid-range detail, these may be the cans for you.  I’m sure they sound good with Rock and EDM, but I can’t stop bumping Lil Kim long enough to find out.


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Carroll is a headphone junkie residing in Brooklyn. He's a huge fan of Grado, UK hip hop, and the English Language in general. When not testing audio equipment or writing, you'll find him taking photographs or fiddling with circuit boards. You can contact him at carroll@majorhifi.com.