AKG Y50 £60

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Awards 2018 -

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

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