The AKG K545 is a slightly less expensive, non-wireless pair of headphones similar in design to its Bluetooth-enabled cousin, the AKG K845 BT. From a visual standpoint, the two pairs are nearly identical except for the K545 lacking controls on the earcups. Its detachable cable is even more of a plus because AKG includes two types of cable—one with a remote and mic optimized for Apple products, one with a universal remote for other mobile devices. The K545 also delivers a powerful, distortion-free audio experience, with crisp highs and strong low-end that doesn’t overwhelm the mix. This price range has several worthy options to consider, but this fine pair is definitely a worthy contender for your money.
AKG has more or less mastered the art of chunky, cool headphones. The aesthetic of the K545, which comes in a black or white model, is uncluttered simplicity. The heavily cushioned, circumaural (around-the-ear) earpads swivel and the also-quite-padded headband can be adjusted down to numbered micro-clicks for a precise, secure fit that’s also quite comfortable. The aluminum accents on the earpads feature the AKG logo, as does the top of the aluminum headband, but visual flourishes are otherwise kept to a minimum.
The aforementioned detachable cables attach to a jack on the left earcup, and as mentioned earlier, there’s a mic and 3-button remote that allows for volume adjustments, track navigation, playback control and call answering on Apple devices, and a cable with a universal remote for other mobile devices.
Despite the headphones being able to fold down more or less flat, there’s no included carrying case or pouch, which is a bit odd in this price range—the cables are the only included accessories. (A 1/4-inch headphone jack adaptor would have at least been nice.)
On tracks with intense sub-bass, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the AKG K545 delivers some serious thunder without distorting, even at top, unsafe listening levels. The sound signature, however, is nicely balanced out with some crisp highs that keep the deep bass response from overwhelming the mix. This is less of a bass-heavy sound and more of a powerful, dynamic response.
On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” his baritone vocals receive plenty of high-mid edge to keep them crisp and at the forefront of the mix. Too often, a big bass sound means his baritone vocals will receive too much in the rich lows department and sound muddy, but that’s not there case here. Nor are the drums overly boosted—the kit gets a little added low frequency presence, but in a way that sounds natural, not forced.
No track seems to better display the K545′s talents than Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” however. Elements that often get dulled in the mix, like the sharp attack of the kick drum loop, sound present and powerful here. The beat really slices through the dense mix, but it also receives a good amount of solid, low frequency sustain, so things never sound thin. Meanwhile, the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat also are delivered with both a raspy, high-end edge and the ominous low-end sound that gives the track its depth. The vocals also float in front of the mix without ever seeming overly blight or sibilant.
Classical tracks, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” sound mostly bright on the K545. The lower register strings and percussion do receive some added boost, but it is subtle, and the higher register strings, brass, and percussion don’t ever really relinquish the spotlight. It’s a natural sound; this is not necessarily a pair for bass lovers. It’s a pair for lovers of natural bass, but not for fans of the pulsing, intense subwoofer sound that some brands out there have made their signature style.
If you’re looking for the booming bass sound, and balance is a little less a priority, the Beats by Dr. Dre Studio should satisfy your bass appetite. If the K545′s balanced approach to low-end is more your style, the Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H6 is a pricier, similar-in-sound option, and the more affordable Sennheiser HD 558 is a fantastic steal for the price. And finally, if you’re simply looking for a cheap, reliable pair of headphones with this basic sound signature—natural-but-powerful bass, crisp highs—the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro is a solid sub-$100 studio-grade option. For $250, the K545 delivers a sound that should please audiophiles who enjoy their bass as a compliment to a flatter response in the mids and highs. If you want a clinically flat response, or massive bass, look elsewhere.
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