Home Closed Back Headphone Reviews AKG K550/553 Review – Still Relevant In 2024?

AKG K550/553 Review – Still Relevant In 2024?

by Stuart Charles Black
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G’day mate and Welcome aboard!!

Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear), all over again, so…

AKG K553

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Check eBay!

In The Box

AKG K553 MKII Closed-Back Studio Headphones (Black)

Detachable Cable (6′)

3.5mm to 1/4″ Adapter

Limited 1-Year Warranty

Before we get into the AKG K553 Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…

You’ve come to the right place!!

What I will bring you in this review

  1. Ratings/Price
  2. Specifications
  3. Summary
  4. Pros
  5. Cons
  6. Video Review
  7. Amp/DAC requirements
  8. Who benefits?
  9. Consensus/Conclusion
  10. Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!

Specifications

  • Type: Closed back.
  • Fit: Circumaural (Around the Ear).
  • Impedance: 32 Ohm. What is Headphone Impedance?
  • Sensitivity: 114dB/mW. What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
  • Driver size: 50mm. What is a headphone driver?
  • Frequency response: 12Hz – 28kHz.
  • Material: Replaceable leatherette with slow-retention foam, plastic, and brushed aluminum.
  • Cable detachable: Yes.
  • Pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Connector: Screw-on jack combo (1/4″ and 1/8″), gold plated.
  • Color: Black.
  • Weight: 10.75 oz.

Introduction

Much has been said of the Harman target in recent years.

Some people love it, while others are vehemently opposed.

Me?

I lean towards “I like it” but I understand that it’s certainly not perfect and that some people simply won’t prefer it.

This is despite the fact that the Harman target is, statistically speaking, most people’s preferred response out of speakers and headphones according to the data. 

This makes complete sense when you listen to a headphone like the K553 (one that mostly follows this target).

Why?

Well…

BECAUSE I SAID SO!

Just kidding.

It’s because when you’re listening to it, it just sounds right.

You can’t quite put your finger on why, but you know it when you hear it.

I’ve demoed over 130 headphones at this point and I can tell you without a doubt that my experience with the K553 at Guitar Center will always stick out in my mind.

In fact:

I still have a place for the 553 in my Best Audiophile Headphones list because it’s just that good and still worth a look even despite a barrage of new headphones flooding the market on an almost daily basis.

The closed-back AKG K553 is a perfect example of a balanced headphone.

The bass is just right, the treble is crispy but not sibilant, and the mid-range is nearly perfect.

Think of a smooth, buttery, transparent, but lively sound signature that reveals much detail, but never becomes overbearing.

That’s the K553 in a nutshell.

It’s a smooth, seamless, and non-intrusive sound that feels like listening to an open-back.

Out of all the headphones I’ve ever owned or demoed, the K553 is one of only a few that legitimately does not sound like a closed-back.

The benefits are quite obvious:

You won’t bother others around you while at the same time enjoying a fatigue-free experience in terms of the sound not becoming claustrophobic – in effect tiring you out quickly and resulting in a needed break.

B&H said it best:

he black AKG K553 MKII Closed-Back Studio Headphones combine the noise-isolating qualities of a circumaural closed-back design with the spacious, dimensional sound of open-back headphones. With 50mm low-impedance drivers, the headphones deliver precise sound reproduction with extended bass response. They are sensitive enough to be used on laptops and mobile devices, making them ideal for travel or critical listening on any player.B&H Photo

I’m not a huge fan of marketing speak, but that’s about as accurate a description for these as you’ll find.

Just be aware of a potential caveat to the noise isolation bit – something we’ll discuss in a jiffy.

While we’re dancing around the subject, how’s comfort?

Comfort

Comfort is a bit of a mixed bag.

On one hand, they sit very well on your head and feel good, but you may have some trouble getting a good seal.

This is one of the biggest issues that users face.

I personally had the same issue when demoing them, but once you get a good fit, it’s smooth sailing.

Other than that,

these are extremely comfortable and can be worn for long periods without rest.

Because they are pretty light, you won’t feel them much on the top of your head and they clamp rather well on the sides.

I would say as long as you achieve the proper seal, these will isolate well.

Build

Build-wise, the K553 is excellent.

They are made of brushed aluminum, plastic, and protein leather, and don’t feel cheap in the slightest.

They are relatively lightweight but feel extremely solid and hefty enough to deter any doubts that you spent your money well.

At 10.8 Oz, they come with very large soft detachable earpads and also fold flat for convenient storage when you’re on the go thanks to AKG’s 2D-Axis mechanism.

Pros

  • Clean bass response. No bloat here folks!
  • Accurate mid-range with a phenomenal Timbre. What is Timbre?
  • Crispy treble.
  • Good noise isolation.
  • Good Soundstage. What is Soundstage?
  • Excellent instrument separation and overall clarity.

Cons

  • Achieving a good seal is a bit of a challenge.

Video Review!

Shoutout to my boy @Metal571 for this one. The K550 and 553 are very similar and I think this is a great synopsis of how the headphones sound.

Amp/DAC requirements

You won’t need a head amp with these because of their high sensitivity (114dB) and low impedance (32 Ohm).

However, depending on how good or bad your DAC is, you may invest in one.

Learn more about this in the link above (How to choose a headphone amp).

If you decide on a desktop Amp, I wouldn’t go any further than an E10K or K3.

Spend any more and you’re wasting money.

For something portable, I like FiiO’s BTR5.

Who benefits?

Endorsed for:

  • Mixing
  • Mastering
  • Reference
  • Hip-Hop
  • Rap
  • EDM
  • Pop
  • Indie
  • Rock
  • Metal
  • Gaming
  • Jazz
  • Classical

I think they do well with nearly all genres, as they are extremely balanced but still sound rather lively.

That said, your mileage may vary.

I prefer my bass to be on the lighter side because it tends to reveal the sound better and gives instruments and voices more room to breathe.

Thoughts from Stu’s notepad

  • You may opt to replace the padding, as they are quite shallow and may not work for everyone. The Brainwavz HM5s are a good option.
  • You may have an issue with the lack of headband padding.
  • The lack of a detachable cable may bother you.
  • The giant “R” and “L” on the insides of the earcups are extremely helpful in determining how to put them on correctly. A good feature considering very few headphones do this (the 9500 is an exception, but theirs are on the outside of the ear cup in large letters).
  • There’s a bit of a harsh character between 1-2kHz that can sound a bit grating. Not quite a Con, but keep it in mind. You can always EQ it down a few decibels if need be.

Consensus/Conclusion

The AKG K553 is a comfortable, well-built headphone that I will always look back on fondly and still recommend to this day because of how well it was tuned.

It has a fantastic Soundstage, a great bass response, excellent resolution, and a natural, true-to-life overall sound.

Final Word

I think this is an excellent upgrade from a headphone like the Audio Technica ATH-M50x and proves to be a viable solution to your studio reference needs.

Learn More:

 

 


Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this AKG K553 Review and came away with some valuable insight.

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

Do you have any experience with the K550 or 553? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

 

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

AKG K553

4.55

Sound

4.7/5

Build & Aesthetic

4.7/5

Comfort/Fit

4.3/5

Pros

  • Open Airy Sound
  • Excellent Build
  • Great Soundstage
  • Great for Reference

Cons

  • Tough to get a good seal

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11 comments

Aggie December 16, 2020 - 8:22 am

Hello Stu,
as you recommended in other comment I’ve read about AKG K553. It would be very good choice, but unfortunatelly there are 2 big cons:
1) it’s really hard to find it in stores (I wanted to try them)
2) this headphone is over-ears, and I’m searching something more portable, for commute. So in this case I would prefere on-ears headphones. Can you recommend something like this K553 but smaller?

Thanks

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 20, 2020 - 11:08 pm

And if they are sold through on drop, just snag them here. Easiest purchase I ever made.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 20, 2020 - 11:04 pm

How about the KPH30i? Have them now, haven’t reviewed them officially. Perfect headphone for your needs. I just got back from my dad’s house about an hour away (spending the night), and you can bet your buns I took them and my DragonFly Red with me on the trip! Just a perfect portable combo. You can also go with something like a BTR3k which I also brought along.

Reply
Aggie December 22, 2020 - 7:59 am

Thanks for recommendation. This KPH30i looks sooo old-school 🙂 I’ve read your review on Drop, and also some other reviews in the internet – this headphones could be amazing – I want it!!! 🙂 Here, it isn’t so cheap, because about 40 EUR, but I still consider it (maybe not now, but next year). I have one question – how about sound leakage? KPH30i has open construction, so I’m afraid that leakage is quite big…and this can be a problem in a bus or tram.

About BTR3k – this look interesting, but personally I don’t see the purpose of Bluetooth DAC/Amp – why don’t just plug headphones in phone? Or phone > dac/amp (wired) > headphones? Maybe there is a good reason to use BTR3k instead of (i.e.) Q1, but I don’t see it. If you do (and I’m sure you do 🙂 ), tell me, please.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 27, 2020 - 5:02 pm

Hey! The KPH30i does leak, but perhaps not quite as much as a fully open headphone. I was just over at my mom’s and both her and her friend were amazed at how good it sounded. I’m not lying to you; both of their jaws dropped when they pressed play. They really had no idea what was in store for them. The sound is just that good. Like, my mom was dancing around laughing and smiling from ear to ear. It was ridiculous lol. If you’re blaring the music (like her friend was), then yes, you’ll be able to hear it. When she was listening, you could kind of hear it a little. To me it’s a super easy purchase. In fact, this headphone will be replacing the 9500 on my Budget Kings series for top spot.

The Bluetooth DAC is a bit more convenient than a regular Amp/DAC. I personally hate strapping a dac to my phone, so the 3K is a nice alternative. I also enjoyed the Q1 with my phone, but that was one of the few times I carried one around.

Reply
Oscarilbo December 12, 2022 - 8:31 pm

Hi Stu. Love your site. Always come back to it when I’m in doubt.

How do you compare these with the K371.? Some say K371 is the direct replacement of these. Even Metal571 loved over the K553, although he is a declared Harman lover. Does the K371 sound fuller bodied than the K553 like for Cellos and Instrumental/Orchestral/Acoustic music? Which one do you feel have the more natural mids?

Thanks so much in Advance

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 13, 2022 - 4:02 pm

Hey man, thank you! K371 is going to be bassier with less Soundstage and to me, slightly worse resolution though it’s been a while since I heard a 553 and my bias may be showing. K553 was an astounding listen – for sure one of the best closed-backs out there.

Both mid-ranges are handled wonderfully, but you may find the 371’s a bit smoother and slightly more natural though again, it’s very close.

Fuller bodied? I’d probably lean 371 on that. It’s a bit lusher and denser while the K553 is more analytical, crisp, and open sounding – kind of like a K702 in that regard, actually. The K553 felt like and open back headphone to me and while the K371 does not, it’s more open than I was initially expecting.

Just because of your comment I may pick up both and do a comparison in 2023.

Hope that helps. Let me know!!

-Stu

Reply
Piyush Kumar May 28, 2023 - 1:32 am

Yes comfort is a problem and for me it was more, therefore I sold it.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black May 29, 2023 - 12:40 pm

Sorry to hear that!

Reply
Jako January 14, 2024 - 6:27 am

I love my K550 the only issue is when the pads need to be replaces.

Then the headphones become useless.

I can not find anywhere compatible ear pads like the original.

Have you found Stu any so as to replace??

Thanks for all!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black January 18, 2024 - 12:31 pm

Hey Jako! I found some with a really high rating and people saying it’s as close to the original as you’ll get. Go to Amazon and type “k550 Earpads – defaen Replacement” and it should be the first result that pops up. Let me know! They should have an almost perfect star rating.

-Stu

Reply

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