We’ve seen a rise in the number of expensive Bluetooth headphones over the last year or so. You now have no shortage of well-cushioned, black leather and brushed metallic luxury options to choose from. That makes it a little harder for a solid-but-expensive pair like the AKG K845 BT to stand out. At $299.95 (direct), it’s got a healthy $50 bump in price over much of the similar competition, and it comes with few accessories. Still, it gets the important things right. You can use the K845 BT with a removable audio cable to save battery life when you don’t need a Bluetooth connection, it’s very comfortable, and most importantly, it delivers powerful, clean audio that will appeal to fans of natural bass response.
The K845 BT is another beautifully designed headphone pair from AKG, available in black or white versions. With a focus on functionality, materials, and a uniformity of color, the K845 looks sleek and professional. Ample padding on the circumaural (on-ear) earcups and on the underside of the headband create a comfortable fit, while swiveling hinges and a headband with precise click-stop numbered points allow for a secure, balanced positioning on the head. The hinges also allow the headphones to fold down flat for easier storage, though surprisingly no carrying case or pouch is included.
The cloth grille covers on the insides of the earcups are labeled with a huge L or R for left and right ears, with the left ear cup housing the micro USB connection point for the included charging cable. There’s no dedicated USB wall charger included, which is a strange omission considering the high price. The right ear houses the 3.5mm connection for the included audio cable, along with a Play/Pause button, Volume controls (which work independently of the volume on your device), and a Bluetooth pairing button. The Play button is also used to answer or end calls, but the volume controls don’t double as track navigation buttons; you can only skip tracks on your source device.
The pairing process with an iPhone 5s was quick and simple. AKG estimates the K845′s battery life at roughly 8 hours, but this will depend on your usage—specifically, how loud you play your audio. It takes about 3 hours to fully charge a dead battery. When the 3.5mm audio cable is plugged in, the battery is disabled and you listen passively. It’s a feature that should be standard in Bluetooth headphones that offer wired playback, but often isn’t. The difference in quality between wired and wireless playback is barely noticeable, though the wired signal is a bit louder.
On tracks with serious sub-bass content like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the K845 BT doesn’t distort even at top volumes, and still delivers a thunderous low-end response. The high frequencies are well-represented here too, however, so the balance doesn’t get too far off. This is a pair that will likely appeal more to lovers of natural, dynamic (but only slightly boosted) bass than those seeking a more booming headphone. These headphones also don’t get quite as loud as most competing models, which I find to be a positive. They get plenty loud for any person who wants to preserve their hearing; they just don’t venture into blisteringly loud territory, which is where low-frequency distortion often occurs.
On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” the drumming that can sometimes sound too heavy and thunderous on bass-boosted pairs sounds powerful, but natural, through the K845 BT. The drums definitely get a little extra low-end oomph, but not so much that they overtake the mix. This is also because Callahan’s vocals and the guitar strumming receive healthy doses of crisp high-mid presence to help them carve out an edgy, prominent space in the mix.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the attack of the kick drum loop receives a nice crisp edge, which helps it slice through the mix, while its sustain receives a nice low-end push. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are occasionally delivered with some extra push, but not nearly as much you hear in seriously bass-boosted pairs. So, while there’s a solid, powerful low-end presence, the balance here is still very much in favor of the high-mids and highs, which helps the vocals remain clear and in the forefront of this dense mix.
Classical tracks, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” definitely have a high-frequency focus through the K845 BT, but the lower register strings receive a subtle low-end boost that keeps things sounding full and rich. Overall, the sound signature on orchestral tracks sounds more natural than just about any other genre—the higher register strings and percussion retain the brightness and prominence, while the lower register strings receive the subtlest of boosting.
If you’re looking for an even bigger bass sound out of a Bluetooth headphone pair, the Scosche RH1060 brings gobs of low-end, but obviously you will sacrifice the overall balance of the mix. The Harman Kardon BT is also a heavy-bass pair, but it’s a tad less expensive than the K845 BT and it comes with a much better array of accessories. In more affordable territory, the Outdoor Technology DJ Slims is a budget Bluetooth pair that delivers reasonable audio, but don’t expect too much magic at that low price. For $300, the AKG K845 BT gets the most important things right: The audio performance is strong and clean, you can use it as a wired pair, and the battery shuts off automatically when you plug in the cable. Yes, there could be more accessories for such a high price, but the K845 BT doesn’t need too much in the way of extras to be an enticing option.
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