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…
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
- Video Review
- Amp/DAC requirements
- Who benefits?
- Final Word
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!
- 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: No.
- Pads replaceable: Yes.
- Connector: Screw-on jack combo (1/4″ and 1/8″), gold plated.
- Color: Black.
- Weight: 10.75 oz.
Much has been said of the Harman target in recent years.
Some people love it, while others are vehemently opposed.
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).
BECAUSE I SAID SO!
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 120 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.
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.
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.
- Related: Closed Back vs. Open Back Headphones
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:
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 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-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.
- 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.
- Achieving a good seal is a bit of a challenge.
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.
You won’t need a head amp with these because of their high sensitivity (114dB) and low impedance (32 Ohm).
- Related: How to choose a headphone amp!
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).
Spend any more and you’re wasting money.
For something portable, I like FiiO’s BTR5.
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 basically no 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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…