- 5/21/19: Added Video Comparison to the Samson SR850
- 6/2/19: Replaced the SR850 with the K240 for #4 Budget King.
- 1/22/21. Article/link cleanup.
- 5/20/21. Moved the K240 down a spot to make room for the 30i.
2,824-word post, approx. 3-4 min. read
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Hi there friend and Welcome!!
This is part of my “Budget Kings” Series, which takes a look at some of the best options for under $100. Check out:
- Budget King #1: The semi-open back Koss KPH30i Review!
- Budget King #2: The open back Philips SHP9500 Review!
- Budget King #3: The closed back Sony MDR-7506 Review!
- Budget King #4: The closed back Creative Aurvana Live! Review
- Budget King #5: This review
- Budget King #6: The closed back Status Audio CB-1 Review!
Why did I place this fifth?
The K240 has long since been a quintessential studio headphone, and for good reason. For a headphone under $100, it sounds like it should cost a lot more. You can listen with these for hours without fatigue, they have a fantastic mid-range, and a smooth, detailed treble that never gets out of line.
What holds these back from the top spot is they are a bit flimsy, the ear cups are rather shallow, and the bass is extremely lean. Many people coming from bass heavier headphones will be taken aback by this; there’s no getting around it.
However, it still receives a spot rather easily because listening to music with these honestly feels like the first time. Music seems more fleshed out, with better attack, sustain, and decay. There’s a sense that the artists are actually performing the song for you instead of you just simply listening through a device. For me, this has always been the goal; I want the instruments and vocals to sound as natural and organic as possible, giving off the impression of a certain amount of realism. The K240 does this incredibly well.
Fourth place in the Budget Kings series has proven to be the most volatile spot since I started the rankings. Originally I had the Sennheiser HD558, which is no longer a sub $100 headphone and kind of outdated. Then briefly I put the Superlux HD330 in there for like, a minute (still a great headphone). Recently I replaced it with the Samson SR850, but then I got my hands on another K240 and remembered just how good it sounded (I used to own a K240 Studio in 2016 and sold it). Sorry 850, you too bright. Lol.
Anyways, here we are. I think the K240 will probably stick around for a long time.
Before I get into the AKG K240 Studio Headphones Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
For clarification, this article will review the newer AKG K240 Studio 55 Ohm as well as the 600 Ohm version as seen above (and below!). The pictures seen here are of the K240M (600 Ohm).
Table of Contents
Click to navigate the page!
Video Review/Comparison to the SR850
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!
Back in 2016, I purchased an AKG K240 Studio 55 Ohm from my local Sam Ashe. Unfortunately, I sold it and wish I had not. It’s a great headphone and I don’t really remember why. Perhaps I needed some money. Story of my life.
Fast forward to 2019. I found a K240M 600 Ohm Austrian model on eBay for $35 shipped and couldn’t resist. I would say the sound of the 55 Ohm and the 600 Ohm is not much different. You’d also be surprised to find out that the 600 Ohm isn’t that much harder to drive. In fact, I used it with an E10K and was completely satisfied. Well maybe not completely, but it sounded fine. The Oppo HA-2 is a better option and does sound a bit less grainy.
All of this just goes to show that Amps and DACs are kind of overrated. Most of them sound about the same until you hear a Chord Mojo. That is a game-changing Amp in my opinion. It just sounds incredible and is definitely worth the investment.
The other part of it is that browsing the internet, you’d think you would need a nuclear reactor to power the 600 Ohm K240 when that’s just not the case. Sure, it’s a bit more difficult to drive than a 300 Ohm headphone with higher Sensitivity, but it’s not impossible and whatever you have lying around may work! What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
AKG K240 Studio (55 Ohm)
Note: The only real difference between the 600 Ohm and 55 Ohm is two-fold: Higher impedance and the original M was made in Austria. The K240 Studio was originally designed and made in Austria, but now is only designed in Austria and made in China.
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Check eBay!
- Type: Semi-open.
- Fit: Circumaural (Over-ear).
- Impedance: 55 Ohm. What is Headphone Impedance?
- Sensitivity: 91dB.
- Frequency response: 15hz to 25khz.
- Material: Plastic, Faux leather.
- Headband: Self-adjusting.
- Cable Length: 9.8 ft.
- Color: Black, some Gold.
The build on the 240 is pretty underwhelming when you hold it in your hand, but seems to hold up phenomenally well over time. The 600 Ohm model that I have is showing signs of cosmetic wear, but other than that there are no broken parts and it actually seems durable for something so lightweight. It feels like a toy you might find in your local Wal-Mart. It’s made of pretty much all plastic, but on the 600 Ohm versions, there seems to be a hint of Metal around the Ear Cups.
The ear-cups are made of faux leather, and are really shallow. You will feel your ears hitting the driver (through the cloth). What is a Headphone Driver?
Termination & Cable
The headphone terminates in a 3.5mm jack and comes with a 1/4″ adapter. Pretty standard. The cable is very long and not detachable. Keep in mind the newer Chinese model’s cable is detachable and looks a bit different going into the ear cup.
The headband is a thin piece of faux leather and sports my favorite: The Hammock style adjustment. Literally, put the headphone on your big head and shut up! Just kidding, but seriously. No adjustments needed. I’m a huge fan of this style and wish more companies would utilize it.
BUILD SCORE: A-/B+
I’m kind of at a loss about what to give it here. Have you ever personally had issues with the build of a K240? Let me know down below!
Comfort is pretty decent, but you will be making adjustments from time to time due to the shallow cups. They tend to dig into your ears and can get rather uncomfortable after about 30-45 minutes.
The headband and clamp force are perfect though; this headphone sits perfectly on your noggin and doesn’t dig into your head. I really wish the cups were deeper and made of velour. That’s one of the main differences between something like the AKG K240 vs. Samson SR850.
The 850’s pads are made of velour and its cups are deeper. This ensures better comfort over longer listening or Gaming sessions. The Best Headphones for Gaming!
Overall, the K240 is a bit average as far as comfort goes I’m afraid. Maybe slightly above average if you’re a bit more tolerable.
COMFORT SCORE: C+/B-
Sound & Imaging
Fortunately, this is what makes the K240 worth the price of admission and then some.
Overall, the sound is phenomenal. You can clearly hear (no pun intended) why this headphone has remained legendary for so many years. It’s one of the quintessential studio headphones, and will likely remain so for a long time.
Even with that said, the bass is what some people will predictably have a problem with, which is understandable. The 240s are very bass lean, but I don’t have a problem with it. It’s very textured and nuanced. It’s not a deep bass by any stretch, but you will likely come to appreciate it after a spell with these babies. You start to really appreciate the actual notes rather than the impact or weight that they are capable of delivering.
For instance, fire up Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and just listen to the bass. You can hear every individual pluck while being able to follow it with that proverbial microscope in your head. What a treat! What you’ll also notice is that the bass is articulate; there’s texture to it. There’s nuance. It sounds like an actual bass rather than a digital rendition of a bass.
The important thing to note is that these cans are very genre-specific. They are undoubtedly mid-range oriented, which isn’t a bad thing at all! The mids in my estimation are slightly forward, which makes stuff like guitars and vocals really shine on certain tracks.
There’s really something about these headphones that makes you stop and admire the music again. As a reviewer, constantly evaluating tracks can become overwhelming and stale after a while. The K240 reminds me again why I love music so much.
You know it when you hear it. It’s that moment when you say to yourself, “This is what music is supposed to sound like.” The K240 does a fantastic job of portraying the sounds as they were meant to be heard. They sound more fleshed out, more intricate. The attack, sustain, and decay on most tracks sound outright sublime at times.
To quote Alex Rowe from Medium.com:
This is precisely my same reaction to the sound. There’s just no other way to really describe it although I really put my try-hard pants on in this article.
Baby Love” by the Supremes is another great example of this. There’s a nice bounce to the track that just triggers this desire in you to let go and enjoy the music. At 2:11, her voice trails off so beautifully, with a remarkable sense of decay. Instead of cutting off or sounding lost, it’s fleshed out in a way that sounds so much different than your average headphone with your average source file.
The treble isn’t recessed nor is it too bright. I would position it somewhere in the middle. There is a nice sparkle to certain tracks, but it never gets out of line.
I would describe it as much more relaxed than something like an SR850’s treble. While that headphone can sound artificial and sibilant in the upper regions, the K240 dons a more relaxed approach. It sounds much more natural and organic while still retaining a nice sense of detail and subtlety.
One of the best aspects about this headphone is the Soundstage and Imaging it’s capable of. The K240 is going to sound more open, airy, and detailed than the average, and I think this is in large part why it sounds so bloody good.
On Santana’s “Everything is Coming Our Way” you can hear exactly what the rhythm guitar is doing. Like, with a microscope. Every strum sounds so crystal clear that it really makes you wanna slap someone. Lol.
This detail reached a pinnacle for me on “(Love is Like A) Heat Wave”, from Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. The K240 achieved door 3 status during the intro to this song. There was this ringing from one of the instruments at 3 seconds in that I’ve never been able to distinguish in all my years listening to the track. The instrument took on an extra dimension, which for me hearkened back to the first time I heard Pink Floyd’s Time with a HIFIMAN HE400i and Bryston’s BHA-1.
All in all, I can’t say enough good things about the Sound & Imaging on the K240. If you’ve never heard what music should sound like, the K240 is a fine example of a headphone that showcases it.
SOUND SCORE: A/A+
Video Review + Comparison to the SR850
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Click to see the K240! Some of these include an 850. 🙂
These puppies however really shine with some sort of amplification. In fact, I would argue that they need an amp or an audio interface to shine. Running them through my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and throwing on the album “Grow” by Chon, and they just sing like you wouldn’t believe.
However, I would recommend a dedicated Headphone Amp/DAC to run these.
As I mentioned in the open, the bare-bones minimum would be something like an E10K, but you won’t want to rely on that as a longe term solution. In comparing it to an HA-2, it’s a bit more grainy but still sounds good overall. The HA-2 definitely does sound cleaner but it’s still a relatively subtle difference.
The Element pumps 140mW of power into 600 Ohm while the Objective 2 provides 88. For clarity, the 240 requires around 80 from an amp. How to Choose a Headphone Amp!
It helps to use the 850 as a barometer for comparison here. I noticed that the K240 will not sound that great for harder stuff like Metal, Hard Rock, etc.
This is due to its more relaxed treble, and rolled-off bass. It ends up lacking that impact and weight needed to make Metal sound thrash worthy and exciting. If you’re looking for a great headphone for Metal, I would recommend the Sennheiser HD25 without hesitation. It will melt your face off.
Because of the fact that the 850’s treble is brighter, it will sometimes work better for these harder genres while the K240 won’t.
On some songs, like Chon’s “Bubble Dream” for instance, these seemingly negative qualities actually work to the 850’s advantage while also rendering the K240 a bit dull.
The song sounded much more lively, engaging, and exciting through an 850. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying experience, and the sibilance heard on other songs was somehow negated here. It didn’t have a harsh, forward quality to it which was rather interesting. What does Sibilant mean?
Aside from that, I also wouldn’t rely on the K240 as your main Hip-Hop/Indie/Pop headphone, though it will work better for Indie Pop than the former. It just doesn’t have the weight needed at times and can sound fuzzy and weird.
Of course, the lean rolled-off bass response is the culprit here. It will sound kind of clammy and distorted at times, mainly due to the kind of extreme lack of sub-bass. there’s just nothing there and it can be a bit disappointing if you’re goal is to bang your head.
Fortunately, the K240 does amazingly well for Classic Rock, Doo-Wop, Soul, and Oldies type stuff, as well as various different types of Jazz and Classical music. This is a headphone for detail heads. You’re gonna want to kick back and relax with this one for sure.
I’d give the K240 an A-. It’s not a perfect headphone, and it’s kind of quirky about what you’re intentions are, meaning: It will sound great with a lot of genres and not so hot with others.
Comfort is a bit hit and miss, and the build may concern you at first.
Keep in mind that these are all minor complaints. I love the K240 and now that I have the 600 Ohm version, I don’t see it leaving the studio any time soon.
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this AKG K240 studio headphones review!!
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please contact me!!
What do you think about these? Are they worth a try? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,