AKG K271 MKII

Summary: Gorgeous specimen of audio engineering. Not intended for outdoor use.

The first model in my road test are the most expensive and most professional of the lot. The K271 MKII from AKG were recommended to me by a professional sound engineer for concerts and recording sessions, I knew these meant business. But it was difficult to gauge the serious nature of these headphones until they arrived. All in all, these are impressive, and I would love to have them around for those times when I need to savour a bit of music, but for commuting, especially in a city like New York, they are slightly impractical.

AKG K271 MKII
The packaging is sleek and professional

AKG K271 MKII

By my previously stated criteria:

Comfort: With large pads that totally engulf the ears, these are an extremely comfortable pair of headphones. The headband features both a rigid wire exoskeleton and a soft leather flap, which work well together to fit your head properly. Considering these are designed for hours of studio use, that’s not surprising. They are also very lightweight considering their overall fortitude. However, these weren’t the most comfortable pair when wearing sunglasses and a hat.

Sound Quality: Rich and full sound, with good range from bass through to high-end. Certainly does not sound blown out or strained, even at high volumes. Very good sound quality overall.

AKG K271 MKII
Inside packing

AKG K271 MKII
What’s in the box: two ear muffs (fuzzy and smooth), two cables (normal and coiled) and a 1/4″ jack adapter. No airplane adapter or carrying case.

Insulation/Noise Cancellation: While there is no electronic active noise cancellation, these are a very well-insulated pair of headphones. In fact, the seal around your ears is so severe that you get the same muffled feeling where you can’t even hear yourself speak, as if you had proper earplugs or industrial ear protection as they wear in an airport or during construction.

Style: The styling is function over form, and by all measurements, these look rather goofy. They protrude out on either side, give the wearer a sort of Baby Stewie effect. Even with a hat, the headphones look overbearing, as if I’m really seriously trying to block out the world. Again, not a problem in a studio setting, where everyone is wearing them, but on the streets they get the wrong kind of attention. I like the black and metal aesthetic, but with plugs and knobs and wires all over the place, the design isn’t the greatest.

AKG K271 MKII
The look

AKG K271 MKII
Commuting mode, with hat and glasses

The Dredg Test: I was able to block out the background music and concentrate on what was playing through the headphones. After focusing for a minute, I could barely tell what Dredg some was even on, and the difference was dramatic. This is due mainly to the insulating effect and the generous sound quality overall.

The Subway Test: Unfortunately, these still allow some subway noise to filter through. While it is impossible to block out all sound, I was hoping that these would be able to cancel out the low-end droning of the underground trains. By turning up the volume, it quickly became a non-issue, allowing me to focus on my tunes, but subway noise still persists.

Does it have: A carrying case? [none] A detachable cord? [yes, but using a sort of mini-XLR cable (which may be proprietary). The detachable cord doesn’t tear away, but instead uses a release button, however, the K271 comes with an alternate “springy” cable, with the telephone-style coiled cable, which can stretch and bend. Therefore, snagging the cable is a non-issue.] Noise cancellation? [no electronic noise cancellation] Volume adjustment? [none] The ability to fold up? [does not fold or compact].

Overall Build Quality: These are without a doubt, heavy duty. Instantly, you’re able to tell that these headphones will last forever if you take care of them. Considering that studio engineers are usually respectful of their gear, these are a very rugged set of phones. They don’t feel flimsy, but rather they are designed to fit the head with a flexibility that feels completely intended. The ear cups are rock solid, with joints and screws kept nicely out of view.

Price/Value: With a retail price of $300, these are the most expensive of the bunch, and generally not for the lay audience. For a professional studio, it’s just the cost of doing business. But I must say, the amazon.com price of $150 or so changes things slightly. Perhaps an audiophile who works in a noisy office might like to dish out for these.

The trouble here is that these simply aren’t a practical commuting headphones. My main concern is that I will simply destroy these by carrying them with me everyday, packing them in and out of a messenger bag multiple times per day, and risk getting them bumped or snagged as I go about my day. The lack of a semi-hard carrying case indicates that these really aren’t intended to leave their home destination. I suppose I could rig something up with foam and cardboard, but that’s more work than I feel like doing for a $300 price point. The fact that these headphones don’t fold down mean that I’ll need a bigger bag just to accommodate these in the first place!

They’re big and bulky, but sound great. If you are a musician, or simply and audiophile, these are a great pair to have at your studio or home stereo setup. However, for the rough and tumble lifestyle of subway commuting, these aren’t the right pair.