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AKG K553 Pro Studio Headphones
AKG K553 Pro Studio Headphones
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I've had mine since mid 2016 - purchased on a whim and was lured by all the colorful words in the product description of the drop (more on that later).
Mostly, I was attracted by the apparent build quality - love the rugged looks, I liked the large drivers as it is my opinion that while engineers can sometimes squeeze big sound from small drivers, large drivers will usually be better. The affordable price made it all the more attractive.
I have since purchased a pair of K7xx to add to my Beyerdynamic DT990 pro250 along with a Grace m9xx and Dark Voice amp - all in my questbfor superior head sounds. Sadly theae have taken a back seat to the K7xx and Beyer dt990 pros which are just better.
Lately though, perhaps out of guilt, I've been using these for general listening. Using my phone when doing chores around the house or my ipad to listen to spotify or watch some netflix in bed and wanted to share my thoughts.
The sound quality is as represented. For studio headphones they are supposed to be neutral and accurateand these are. If you love bass and have no clue what good sound is and don't care, don't get these. They will sound flat and dull to your caloused eardrums. If you are looking for excellent value and good enough sound where the soundstage and tonal quality are important with just enough presence and impact of bass do not hesitate. These deliver and sound even better if you have good sources and are driven by a quality dac or amp.
Build quality - love the fact that they are not plastic but this also adds some weight and leads to the main reason why I am just not as happy with these and why I am so disappointed.
The earpads are just not deep enough and my normal ears will touch the inner drivers causing discomfort. I find that I am often repositioning them to find the perfect position and fit for my slightly wider than average head but never finding a position that is comfortable for long. Trying to use these in bed is nearly impossible as the pillows keep pushing against them because they are so large. The padding on the headband is very thin another source of discomfort.
Lastly, using them on the go doing chores around the house is just frustrating as the cord is so long and not detachable (so I can't buy a shorter replacement). If I am doing something where I have to bend fequently, they will slip from my head, not actually fall off but the head band will shift to the front of my head and is a constant source of annoyance.
The drop description: "Treat Your Head and Ears:
The K553 Pro's over-ear design and soft, leatherette earpads ensure comfortable listening for hours on end, and the adjustable headband accomodates the biggest of heads with room to spare." Was written by someone who never wore these for hours on end. I will probably sell these soon as I get around to it.
Hey if your looking to sell for lower than the massdrop price I might be your guy!
how do you contest the dt990 are "just better" The k553 has a more linear frequency response uniformity than the dt990, especially if you attenuate the below 105hz. I would say, infact the the k553 walk all over the dt990`s, from an age past, and they do so with consumer load compatibility, which i think is awesome. if you can, id suggest that you do some equalization, this might help your experience. i feel the k553 can use a 4decibel boost from 105hz to 4000hz or something like that, then i think detail should be better revealed for ya. i always find myself turning down the source volume, because the cans are bass heavy, for me, ut then i run things a bit low, i agree, some people like allot of bass, I always say, if you need color in your cans, it`s easy use a "preset"... but let the headphones be neutral. The k553 are far more accurate and walk all over the dt990 pro measurements i`ve seen. which is crazy, given not only the high end positioning and prices today, but the dt990 prices 6 years ago. A little bit of eq will go along way, but that of course might not be available in some cases, but even still.. there is only a few different performance characteristics of a headphone, afaik, linear volume response is one, and speed of driver attack and degrade characteristic is another, there is also real sensitivity.. im pretty sure he k553 can be easily positioned above the dt990`s but then again, i`ve only read the charts.. and i`ve been known to make a mistake here and there.. i would not argue your personal comforts though.. i was looking at dt990's myself before for as a gift. i`d also suggest the k553 is much easier to equalize for consistent response than either of the other mentioned headphones.. and that where it's most first inaccurate is a boosted bass, which is not like, big change in the voice frequencies, just a little extra fundamental in the soprano, it's also as we both know much more sensitive, Maybe try a variety of source materials? i enjoy the build quality too, built like a tank, or a jeep, im embarrassed about the treatment of her, im going to try to take better care... They use the akgk700 series on some Canadian television news networks I seen, ;-) if you've got all these nice headphones, maybe use one per source, or one per "role", as you are, like if your cleaning the house, use something with a shorter cable, if your watching movies, use a different headphone, if you use headphones when watching movies i don't know.. i usually do, even in the living room often times. I put the speakers on when i have company over most times, or more than two people. the linearity of frequency response volume beats many speaker systems, and avoids the whole off axis issues and room resonance. Also cme to think about it, without say an analog attenuator, for general volume control, one might end up "bit clipping", more with these high sensitive headphones, coming straight-out of device, just a thought. And maybe another set for your work study or going out. This way you can put all your headphones to work and maybe save some trouble. I`d like to say your review im sure is useful to people, so thanks for sharing. and each person is entitled to their opinion and preference, however, i would have to question you assertion that the dt990's are "just better". Anyhow, all the best fellow.
I am. I've got less than 15 hours on mine.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I was alerted that you had replied but didn't have the energy to address all of your points till now. What better way to procrastinate and not prepare for income tax filing deadline than to do this, right?
My post was to address the relative comfort of the AKG K533 and not to engage in a lengthy discussion about which headphones are better but several of your points and solutions seemed to contradict your own statements and beliefs.
Perhaps my reply to your points will benefit the few who may read this and help to educate them further to make better informed decisions as it relates to audio in general.
From the context of your reply to mine - discussing qualities like "linear volume", "attack" and "decay" and understanding the value of "sensitivity" when evaluating any headphones and how the AKG K533s are easier to listen to and use without additional gear, I would gather that you have some experience so I will not dispute your assertions or claims.
The point of my reply is to raise awareness and offer some background to my assertions. My intent is to educate and will use your points to my post to address individual listener experiences in general and my personal feelings on the use of equalization in the overall evaluation of any product.
I understand that you are offering friendly advice and solutions to what you considered my bashing your headphones which you are evidently quite proud to own. Hey, I own them too and think they are fine headphones when you consider they are $120.
I didn't care for Massdrop's misrepresentation of their comfort for one and was not happy with how they performed when compared to my other headphones. I realize that I should have said were "different" and to my ears at least - better, by my own standards of measurement and evaluation. I must point out that I now own a pair of HifiMan HE400S and feel that they are even "better" than the Beyerdynamic DT990 pro 250 and the AKG K7xx in terms of vocal clarity (midrange) and the "sheen" and airiness they lend to the high frequencies like when listening to the strum of an acoustic guitar or the cymbals and highhats of a properly miked drum set (high frequencies). Not to say they are better in all aspects and please read the disclaimer that it is just my opinion. They do have skull crushing clamping force that I had to fix and poor overall build quality as the pivot and hinge points are, unlike the clamping force - are weak and flacid.
Now back to this.
You are probably correct to state that specs will reveal certain qualities
" The k553 are far more accurate and walk all over the dt990 pro measurements i`ve seen."
But - to
"walk all over"
For clarity let me state that I have been working in the consumer audio business for over 30 year. Initially trained as a recording engineer but fell into this business by chance thankfully. Let me help to dispel some myths and misconceptions perpetuated by manufacturers and their advertisers as they are a pet peeve of mine as you will soon see.
So - I am well aware of what goes into the complete audio chain from the making of the music, how to set up and use microphones, how to mix and master in the studio then how to set up and calibrate esoteric "High End" two channel audio systems.
It makes me cringe to see how the term "High End" is loosely applied to everything without any real merit. My background is truly in the "High End" realm of consumer audio where an understanding of the reproduction equipment and signal chain extends beyond the selection of the 'uber-expensive' components and speakers down to the cabling that is used such as expensive speaker wires, interconnects and yes - power cords and even certain accessories. I understand and have personally heard how switching from one to the other will in fact alter the sound and listening experience. Some changes will not make as drastic of a change as say - repositioning speakers in your listening environment but affecting subtle nuances that are not often as perceptible unless you are trained to listen for them but do in fact change the overall experience.
I used to work in a renowned and very large "High End" audio retail store where one of my duties was to set up and maintain their many showrooms where many wealthy clients would make appointments to audition components and it was one of my duties to set them up and break them in ahead of time. When it was not busy, I would grab my favorite CDs and audition the equipment using my favorite passages and demo tracks from various CDs - each used to expose different elements of the overall sound. I was then able to discuss my experiences with others in our experiences and conclusions. Not surprisingly we could not always agree on what was "better" but could agree that there were differences. To properly evaluate the systems, the content was carefully curated. While my demo selections differed from the demo material used by others, each selection shared one thing - they were well recorded and mastered correctly which is paramount if you want to properly evaluate audio gear. You don't listen to test tones or white or pink noise from a generator. Also know that manufacturer's specs are sometimes altered to tell the story they want you to see. Just ask anyone who owns a Volkswagen with diesel engine purchased a few years ago. and ask them about their emissions and performance.
I recently saw a youtube video where the participants claimed that there was no difference between "hi quality" mp3 when compared to a similar uncompressed "flac" or "wav" file and did blind A/B testing to prove it. The listener was not able to tell the difference thus supporting the point of their video that there is no difference so don't bother. What made me laugh was they were using what sounded like the 8 bit soundtrack from an old Nintendo game. That's like taking a sports car out for a test drive around the block in traffic and then claiming that it was not different than your Toyota Prius and therefore not worth the expense. That kind of claim is just irresponsible and misleading. Enough about cars...
While I can hear the difference when switching from speaker cable that costs $5/foot to a similar length of speaker cables that cost over $50/foot in 'A/B' comparisons with everything else being equal (using the same source and musical passage from some music that is particularly revealing). As a man of science I can see beyond the pricetag and understand the engineering principles that are applied to each style and manufacturer of both cables and can acknowledge and associate what I can hear in the differences. What I can't do is qualify and determine that cable B is $45/foot "better" than cable A. This is a matter of personal choice as determined by each individual's own perceptions, likes and beliefs. To each their own.
I like to reference wine enthusiasts (which I am not) and how they try to use flowery words and terms to describe what they are tasting and experiencing to others. I have no reference to understand what it means when a wine is described as "flamboyant", "oaked", "toasty" or "bright". So, by comparison, many don't understand audio terms that cannot be described and extrapolated from charts or specs. These have to be
before they can be understood. Terms such as "dynamic", "airy", "presence", "soundstage", "imaging" - even basic terms such as "flat" or "accurate" won't mean anything to someone with no frame of reference.
That said - most everyone can hear the differences in bass and use that as the only criteria and in their quest for for superior tunes. I contend that many use "Beats" or similar headphones as a fashion accessory and are not listening critically.
My advice to those individuals is to read and absorb as much as possible and then take that information with you to actually listen and form your own opinions.
But, I digress - or do I??
I mention all this because what we are discussing here, the points and assertions made here and in all similar forums are based upon our individual experiences and how we perceive the world and our environment. ALL of our individual experiences are biased by our minds and framed through the filter of the tapestry of our own
life and experiences. It is safe to say that what I consider to be too salty is just fine to the next person. Neither is wrong but then again, who's to say who is right?
NOW - to your points.
how do you contest the dt990 are "just better" The k553 has a more linear frequency response uniformity than the dt990, especially if you attenuate the below 105hz "
You then make the claim later that:
"im pretty sure he k553 can be easily positioned above the dt990`s but then again, i`ve only read the charts.. and i`ve been known to make a mistake here and there"
My point is this - you have not personally heard the DT-990 pros (250 ohm variant) and make your claims by comparing the specs.
I do not have the specs in front of me and have no interest to research them. If I did they would confirm what I already know because I own and listen to both.
I don't have the time to sit and critically explore and detail every nuance of what and why they are different but will make the broad statement that the DT-990 pros when properly driven have a fuller bass - unusually so. Also, much to their discredit - the DT-990 pros are also difficult to drive as you pointed out and also not what I would use for questionable content as they are unforgiving of poor quality and low bitrate music.
they are great when properly driven and when listening to certain types of music, which I do.
You can't extrapolate from the specs the "openness" and "soundstage" that they present when compared to the AKG K533. This claim is not my own but is supported by many others and can be derived by comparing the design of the two. You are really comparing apples with oranges here.
The Beyerdynamic DT-990pro (250 ohms) are "OPEN BACK" headphones which are good and bad for what those headphones are good and bad for. The AKG K533 are "CLOSED BACK" headphones which - again are good and bad for what those headphones are good and bad for.
"Open backed" headphones traditionally lend themselves to an "open" and "airy" quality to how they present the content. "Closed back" headphones tend to be less "airy" and "open". This is not to say that this is ALWAYS the case. Just a generalization so everyone
just calm down
before you attack my claims with your own experiences of how you have
pair of cans and how they are better than
Others have made this claim and I encourage you to read as much as possible to better understand. I will not elaborate further as this is already becoming quite lengthy and still have several other points to make.
Now - you offer as a solution that:
> " id suggest that you do some equalization, this might help your experience. i feel the k553 can use a 4decibel boost from 105hz to 4000hz or something like that, then i think detail should be better revealed for ya"
But you then state that:
" ... but let the headphones be neutral".
and then this...
" A little bit of eq will go along way, but that of course might not be available in some cases, but even still.. there is only a few different performance characteristics of a headphone, afaik, linear volume response is one, and speed of driver attack and degrade characteristic is another, there is also real sensitivity
" i`d also suggest the k553 is much easier to equalize for consistent response than either of the other mentioned headphones.. and that where it's most first inaccurate is a boosted bass, which is not like, big change in the voice frequencies, just a little extra fundamental in the soprano, it's also as we both know much more sensitive, Maybe try a variety of source materials?"
It seems that you are making a case to equalize and then state that you prefer neutral headphones.
I agree that EQ is a band-aid to fix for what wasn't designed right or does not suit your personal tastes. It's like going to a "High End" restaurant for "Foodies" - having a meal seasoned to perfection by their "High End" chefs and then covering it with salt and ketchup. EQ is like salt and Ketchup. They mask the flavor and kill the meal. Of course - you can argue that you paid for the meal so it is your choice to season the meal to your taste.
Now finally, while you are correct that it is easier to achieve audio nirvana using a very good headphone setup which is why I am dabbling. I just can't afford owning $250,000 in stereo gear nor do I have the room for a proper setup. Headphones are my only real option.
One thing that headphones do is project a virtual soundstage inside your head or at best slightly in front of your face. This is because it is hard to fool your brain that is looking for acoustic information from your surroundings to place you and the sound in a space. The best headphones and gear will do so and give the listener a wonderful experience provided the source material is up to it. The chain is only as strong as the weakest link.
This does not trump what a $250.000 stereo set up will do - when properly set up. It is very hard to set them up correctly as you pointed out because of room acoustics furniture, home construction off axis listening etc. Also - neighbors but those who can afford them usually don't have neighbors nearby to be concerned with.
So - what have we learned hear? Who can say. I say again that everyone's experience is uniquely their own and will extract whatever as it applies to their own situation.
Let me say that It is not my intention to dispute your claims Caiz. The use of "you" or "your" is not addressed to you but to whomever is reading this. This post is to inform and educate only. I will not be replying if you choose to reply to me as I have spent way too much time already and wonder how many people actually read this.
All the best!
Stereoguy, I own a pair of these (K553 Pros) and I enjoy them well enough for casual listening (not the greatest frequency responsiveness or dynamics handling, etc, but better than average). I have been flirting with the K7XX's as they really aren't all that much more $$ and seem to be getting rave reviews (vs. those of the K553 Pros which, like me, seem to average out to "above average/above meh/good-enough-but-not-great" (and in all fairness, these were not advertised by Massdrop to be super hifi phone killers, but rather "listen to audiophile quality sound for entry level price" I seem to recall...). Anyway I digress: You sound like you have experience with both the K553 Pros and the K7XX's, and a preference for the K7XX's - would you be so kind as to summarize the differences for me between them? I would be most grateful, and thank you in advance for the time and effort in responding. Thank you sir!
the biggest difference is the comfort. K7xx fit and feel great by comparison to 533.
k7xx are also open back so immediately you are comparing apples with oranges. Most open back headphones when compared to most closed back headphones will give the impression of greater depth and soundstage. By comparison, closed back headphones usually sound more "confined" to the space between your ears. I can honestly say that both headphones do not deviate. You will note that I said "most" as there are always exceptions to these rules.
If you spend enough money on well engineered cans, these rules no longer apply.
Dollar wise - the 533's are good values. As you said..they are pretty "meh" and sound very good for the price you pay for them. They are heavy and well made so if you are looking for a not so bad set of headphones that don't cost too much and will stand up to some abuse they are great bargains. They are relatively neutral sounding and do not stand out much in any aspect. they are easy to drive because they have a fairly low impedance so you will not need to invest in additional gear to appreciate them.
Sadly, after I bought mine I came across the drop for the k7xx and immediately felt buyers remorse. Reading and watching the reviews seemed to make me want the 7xx even more.
I just wasn't satisfied with "not so bad sound from the 533 and felt I needed more so I bought the 7xx. Which did not disappoint.
Be warned though. They need more power than most portables can provide before they will reward your ears. So, like the 533s, the 7xxs were also kinda "meh" but in a different sense...to my ears. I wanted more.
As expected, they have better sound stage and better clarity (the strum of guitar strings, the sheen and decay of cymbals) as compared to the 533s...I found that they were also had deeper and more pronounced bass which may have veiled the midrange a bit but I wasn't aware of this till I bought a pair of HIFIman HE400S because I am unhappy in life and need these toys to fulfill me - at least that is how I am justifying it. Mostly because I could no longer wait for the 6xx senheisers to drop again (Currently with over 53000 requests)
The Hifimans were not as robust basswise As the k7xx but that is what I expected. Too my surprise, they revealed the midrange deficiencies of the k7xx by comparison and have tainted my love somewhat for the 7xx as well as my beyer dt990s
So, while it seems I digress...I don't.
The K7xx are wonderful headphones which, when driven properly and when listening to good tracks won't disappoint. They are very good $200 headphones with a great lineage (derived from the k712s. - I think) The memory foam pads, while extremely comfortable help to focus more bass to your ears which to some sounds pleasant. To me, it came at the expense of some midrange clarity which is probably what made me seek out a different listening experience.
To summarize (finally!) the 7xxs are excellent $200 headphones. I was fooled by the flowery words and glowing reviews then ultimately swayed by massdrop's "% off" apparent deal from msrp but was not satisfied. I am probably in the market for $500+ headphones but my wallet won't allow it
If I only realized this before I bought the k533 ($120), DT-990 pro 250 ohm ($200), Grace m9xx ($500), Dark voice 336se ($240) K7xx ($200) HIFIMan HE400S ($340 including earpad mods that helped improve the punch).
I should have just bought something in the $600+ realm with the Grace m9xx and called it quits.
Don't know if this helps you any, but it was extremely therapeutic for me. Thanks for that!
(please excuse any typos as I am using my phone!)
Sorry - I just realized I typed 533s everywhere. You know I meant k553 pros!
I read it all and you sir know your stuff, I hope others read this and think more before trying to give advice to someone on what they should buy especially when it comes to audio equipment, thank you for your refreshing insight
Thank you for the praise.
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