There seems to be a renaissance of high end closed-back headphones happening, which I can only imagine is due to the rise of newer driver technologies like Tesla, Bio-Dynamic, and Planar Magnetic. AKG is continuing the trend with the addition of their K872 Master Reference Closed-Back Headphone. Stated as their Master Reference model AKG is setting the bar pretty high for their newest model, and from my listening so far they have created a neutral sounding reference headphone. While not having as much power or presence as other high-end reference models it creates a very detailed and clear representation of the frequency spectrum.
AKG K872 Review
Out of the Box
Coming in one monstrosity of a box, that when opened looks like it belongs on the bridge of a spaceship. Comes an angular hard-case that contains the headphones, a 3 meter detachable LEMO cable, 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter, warranty and booklet.
This is the only area I can knock off points for. Employing AKG’s signature headband while using a locking mechanism instead of the self adjusting band. It uses a stepped locking mechanism to ensure that the headphone stays at the optimal fit position. I noticed that when pulling the headphones down to ensure a solid seal around my ear that it can pull the headband’s lock out of position. This happened more than a few times making me readjust the band. Also of mention is that the 3D ear-pads don’t offer a solid seal around your ear because of the low clamping force of the headphones, and this can create some phasing issues with the proper frequency response of the headphones being shifted. They have a habit of sliding around on my head causing me to reposition them more than I cared to. When sitting properly the headphone is lightweight and comfortable.
Design aside the K872s deliver on their reference level sound quality. Sporting a neutral sound quality that offers detail and quality representation of sonic elements. When the headphone is fighting you and not positioning itself correctly the sound quality heavily spikes in the mid-range making everything sound incredibly boxy, so if you start noticing a hotter mid-range work on the positioning the headphone. With this issue I found myself constantly paranoid if I was hearing everything properly.
The low end is extended and detailed. Offering a concise representation of the information present it doesn’t get muddy or too powerful. It isn’t as articulate as the rest of the headphone’s frequency range, but that’s partially due to the frequency range itself. Since the headphone is pretty flat there is a little more information than I want around a specific area in the low end that I dislike on most recordings that causes it to sound a little less clear than it could.
The mids are crisp and clear. Coming out stronger in the K872s than most other headphones I’ve been auditioning lately which can be refreshing. Vocal detail is on point with more power behind them than other reference headphones which tend to dip around the mids. Be careful with the mid range because of the phasing issues with placement, when I first auditioned the headphones they sounded like garbage because I had not properly adjusted the headband.
The upper end is present while not overly bright or airy. The neutrality makes it not come off too brilliant which causes the high end to have a darker tonality to it. It focuses more on an instruments higher end body rather than the upper end harmonic detail that can become sharp if not kept in check.
While employing a good sound stage for a closed back headphone, it still doesn’t achieve the depth of field that open-backs can. I will say it definitely employs one of the better sound stages in it’s class of closed back headphones.
Once the headphones find their place on your head they offer a great sound quality that is to be expected from a reference grade headphone. They do not offer as much noise isolation as other closed back model headphones due to the light clamping force combined with the 3D form fit ear-pads. This goes up there in quality with the LCD-XC and Fostex-TH900mkII while being more of a detail oriented reference model than those two which are more musically inclined.
If you are in the market for a closed-back high end reference headphone then the K872 is a good option to keep in mind. While unlike AKG’s statement of using it in the studio I would recommend another closed-back headphones in that arena, something with more clamping force and isolation, but as far as closed back mixing goes this would be an excellent option.