Reimagining a true classic can be a risky affair. You either do justice and improve on a winning formula or let down your loyal fans. In this review, we get hands-on with the K271 MKII from AKG to see if this new version is worth picking up.
AKG K271 MKII
The K271 MKII has a lot going for it. It offers an inviting price compared to other studio headphones. Plus, some features like an auto mute switch that sets it apart from the competition, making it one of the best recording studio headphones out there.
There is a lot to cover when it comes to the AKG K271 MKII closed-back headphones. So, let’s not waste any more time and dive right in.
Based on our tests, the AKG K271 MKII performs well but not without some niggling issues. Some of which may be dealbreakers for some. With a frequency response of 16Hz-28kHz, these have plenty of reach in both directions.
First, let us cover the lower end. For me, as a bass enthusiast, these are unremarkable and a bit too soft. Definition and accuracy are here across the bass range, but they lack punch and power. For studio monitoring or for use in a recording studio, this is a benefit. But for casual listening to bass-heavy music, these left me wanting more.
The AKG K271 MKII offers excellent midrange performance.
The mid-range is the most impressive. Very accurate, with plenty of life and clarity in the sound reproduction. Vocals and instrumental components translate cleanly. The rather expansive stereo stage also helps bring the mids out with perfection. Quite the feat for a pair of closed-back headphones.
The highs are equally clear and crisp. Perhaps a little too crisp. These don’t border on tinniness, but they are a little bright for my ears. But for accurate listening of highs, these perform very well. Lots of detail to analyze and enjoy.
This slight emphasis on the top end is something I’ve been finding in AKG’s entire line. For what it’s worth, some slight tweaking via EQ can resolve some of these issues. But even with this slight bump in the top end, these professional over-ear headphones from AKG are still up there with the best at this price point.
For the intended purpose of live and recording applications, these do a stellar job. But out of the box for casual listening, they are a little disappointing.
The AKG K271 MKII is exceptionally comfortable. Plenty of intelligent and thoughtful design decisions that deliver.
The ear cups are large and spacious. It does give them a slightly bulky appearance, but your ears will appreciate the room. Heat build-up is present but not as harsh as other closed-back headphones I’ve tried, and I did not experience sweaty ears even during long studio sessions.
Speaking of heat, the AKG K271 MKII ships with alternative velvet ear cushions. The leather earpads are comfortable. But the velvet ear pads are ideal for warmer weather.
The AKG K271 MKII is also exceptionally lightweight, which adds to the comfort levels. These don’t put undue pressure on your head. And this is one area where the K271 MKII impresses me the most.
The self-adjusting headband is fantastic. At first glance, it doesn’t look that comfortable. The padding is very minimal. But the headband mechanism contoured to my head with excellent precision. Fatigue and discomfort over long sessions are non-existent. A must-have feature if you spend hours upon hours in the studio like I do.
If you want a pair of comfortable closed-back headphones, the AKG K271 MKII is a worthy contender.
Appearance-wise, the AKG K271 MKII looks very similar to other AKG headphones. The large flexible headband frame and supporting rails are instantly recognizable.
Clean black styling with a metal ring highlight and blue accents gives it some life and pop. But there is a dominance of plastic that does give it a flimsy appearance.
These are nearly identical to the AKG K240 MKII headphones, except these have a closed back as opposed to a semi-open back.
The detachable cables feature a mini XLR connection point.
While very lightweight, these are quite bulky in size and do not collapse. Not a great choice for travel. But that is not where these headphones belong. They belong in a studio or home setting.
Beyond aesthetics, the AKG K271 MKII also offers an auto-mute feature. This is not a common feature among headphones and will appeal to certain people. A simple mechanism recognizes when you take these off your head and will mute the output. A handy feature for a recording artist.
These also don’t demand much power with an impedance of 55 ohms. You won’t have any issues running these with lower-powered devices. I tested this out on both my MacBook and smartphone and was able to enjoy high stereo resolution without a drop in quality.
Passive noise isolation is also quite good. Enough to block out a reasonable amount of exterior noise to keep you focused on what you are listening to.
Bleed is minimal but is dependent on head shape and general fit. For live recording situations, you shouldn’t hear any bleed in your mix. But that is as long as you are not running these too loud and manage to get a good seal for maximum isolation.
In this department, I do have some reservations. Don’t get me wrong, component quality is high. The headband, in particular, is very durable. I twisted the frame, and at no point did I feel that it was going to break, but I still couldn’t shake that feeling of flimsiness that these exude.
Likewise, the earpads seem robust. Plus, with additional earpads included, these should last you quite a while.
My issue is primarily with the quality of the plastic. It is rather thin and doesn’t inspire confidence. But it does lend to the lightweight nature of these headphones. I was relatively rough with these, and to be fair, from my testing, these headphones appear to hold up well.
The supplied cables are high quality and feature a mini-XLR connector. Having access to a detachable cable always earns a few extra points in my book.
You’ll have access to two cables. A long coiled cable along with a shorter straight cable. At 16.4 ft (5 meters), the coiled cable is exceptionally long. But the shorter straight cable still comes in at 9.8 ft (3 meters). I always appreciate a choice in cable as well.
So, while the feel of the AKG K271 MKII is a little flimsy, they are still quite good. Especially if you are not overly rough with them.
The AKG K271 MKII headphones offer reasonable value. There are plenty of more expensive headphones out there. Many of them perform about as well as these do.
The included accessories also add to the value proposition. But the lack of a pouch or case is disappointing.
If you want a reasonably priced pair of closed-back headphones for your studio, these are a decent choice. But even at a lower price point than some competitors, these are still not exactly cheap.
The vast majority of people like the AKG K271 MKII. A good successor to a popular set of headphones. Plenty of praise for the mid-range, but many do note the underwhelming bass response.
The Importance Of Midrange
As you move throughout the frequency spectrum, there are a lot of nuances to be aware of. But arguably, one of the most important is the midrange. This generally covers frequencies between 500 Hz to 2 kHz.
The midrange band of frequencies is critical to making clean productions.
The reason it is so important is this is the range that most instruments will occupy in your mix. It is also the range that catches the ear most. As a result, it is important to have maximum clarity in this range to make accurate mixing decisions.
Careful adjustment to bass tones can ensure your mix doesn’t exhibit a boxy tonality. Likewise, vocals benefit from tweaks in the midrange to avoid an overly nasal reproduction. Higher-pitched instruments also need attention in the midrange to prevent them from sounding tinny.
A solid pair of studio headphones with a good midrange makes your job easier. High transparency and definition ensure you can pinpoint issues in your mix and make the relevant adjustments.
That is one of the reasons why the AKG K271 MKII is a popular choice for studio mixing.
There is a lot of competition in the closed-back headphone market. Below are some alternatives to the AKG K271 MKII that are worth considering.
Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X Review
The Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X is another excellent set of closed-back headphones. They feature an excellent sound profile that is great for serious work and casual listening.
- Excellent balance across all frequencies and plenty of clarity and life.
- Very comfortable fit with superb ear pads.
- Much like the AKG K271 MKII, these are not cheap.
Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X
Audio-Technica ATH-M60x Review
Many studio headphones are bulky and cumbersome. If you need a more compact set of cans, the ATH-M60x is a great choice. Excellent sound and build quality with an on-ear design.
- A neutral sound profile makes these a solid choice for a range of studio tasks.
- Three cables in both coiled and straight options give you full freedom.
- The on-ear design might be uncomfortable for some people.
Shure SRH840A Review
The recently refreshed SHRH840A from Shure is an aggressively priced alternative to the AKG K271 MKII. Smooth styling and great sound.
- Fantastic clarity and impressive balance across all frequencies. Good for producers.
- More approachable price point while maintaining good build quality.
- Much like the Mackie MC-350, the clamping force is a bit tight.
Should You Buy?
As mentioned in the introduction, it is a difficult task to reimagine a classic. After putting it to the test I can confirm that AKG has done a great job of refreshing this popular set of headphones while maintaining impressive sound quality.
Excellent clarity and precise mid-range delivery stood out when we trialed these headphones. This makes these a fantastic set of headphones for drummers, keyboard players, and vocalists. The build quality is also decent, and the fit is very comfortable. These are solid mid-price headphones suitable for a range of applications and worth adding to your shortlist.
AKG K271 MKII