AKG Y50 £60
Not again? The AKG Y50 headphones have now made it four years on the bounce as Award-winners and, just like last year, they are also our overall on-ear headphone Product of the Year. So next time you see a pair of these being worn on the train, we can’t help feeling more than a little responsible.
There’s no denying AKG’S handiwork, which is so good the company prominently displays its name on the headphones’ housing. But don’t mistake it for misplaced confidence – these are exceptionally well made headphones.
Their aluminium ear cups – which house 40mm drivers – have a smooth, glossy feel and feature fine cosmetic detail. Despite their size, portability isn’t an issue, thanks to a neat mechanism that lets them collapse inwards and fold flat for easy storage.
The stainless-steel headband is wafer-thin but durable – surviving a few yanks during our test – and ample cushioning underneath is good enough protection for your head. The leather earpads sit firmly on the ears – physically blocking out external noise, though they do become a little heated after an hour or so. Still, they should keep cool enough for a train journey.
The design might not be typical of AKG headphones, but their sound certainly is. The Y50s don’t fall into the self-destructive trap of style over substance, sounding as cheery as they look with Pharrell Williams’ Happy.
Revelling in the song’s cheerful beat and quick tempo, top timing and rhythmic, punchy expression are their forte. These Y50s have an open and spacious soundstage, and they fill it well.
Balanced and insightful, there’s equilibrium between the song’s clap beats, chirpy vocals and ever-present cymbals – though, if anything, bass throbs a little over-enthusiastically with the drumbeat. A huge amount of detail is revealed, the cymbals clearly present even when they’re just a whisper among the rest of the dense track’s noise. The Y50s convey the immense scale and power behind the orchestration in Mombassa on the Inception soundtrack. Dynamically sound, the Y50s effortlessly wind down during the more delicate moments too.
Going strong for so long is no easy feat, but that’s what makes the AKG Y50s a potent pair of headphones. They might not look like the most sophisticated pair of cans, but looks can be deceiving, and they shouldn’t be underestimated. We haven’t heard any better in a long while.
No mistaking the AKG name – nor the confidence in its headphones