AKG, another Harman brand, has released its Y50 On-Ear Headphones ($100), designed with portable listening in mind. Powered by 40mm drivers, Y50 features low impedance and high sensitivity, making the headphones easily drivable by an iPhone with no extra amplification. Y50 is very light, with a thin, comfortable metal headband. Should you choose not to hang the headphones around your neck, they fold and swivel for easy storage in the included neoprene case. The 1.2m detachable cable is nice, but lacks iOS-friendly volume controls. Clamping force is just right for an on-ear; these headphones felt secure, but didn’t flatten our ears.
In the past few years, headphones have often become as much about self-expression as they are about music. Brightly colored headphones are everywhere, emblazoned with large logos that are probably just as much about attracting attention to the manufacturer as the wearer. Whatever its purpose, the AKG Y50’s design – especially in the Taxi Yellow we received – cannot go unnoticed. The real question is: has AKG sacrificed sound quality for looks?
Y50’s design is full of small details that make it fun to hold. The headband and earphone covers are brightly colored, with the AKG branding in a font so large, it can’t be contained by the headphones themselves. These covers are bordered by a chrome chamfered edge on the outside, and rubber strips bearing the AKG “Y” logo on the inside. Build quality feels solid and substantial, making a big statement without any bulk.
To answer the question we posed above: we’re happy to say that the AKG Y50 sounds very good, especially compared to similar headphones in the class. These headphones isolate well, and detail is more than adequate at this price point. Our only complaint was the lack of bass detail — lows sounded crushed, like a TV that can only display a few shades of blue. Songs with thumping bass sounded fine, but songs with complex bass experienced a palpable lack of definition.
This reviewer asked his wife, “How do I look wearing these headphones?” She responded, “I’m sorry, those headphones are wearing you.” The AKG Y50, in any color other than black, makes the wearer a billboard. However, the Y50’s sound quality is very good for the price. Some bass-inclined listeners might find themselves wanting a bit more, but again, it’s hard to expect too much more in this class. Y50 has a potentially polarizing design, but it earns our strong recommendation overall.
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Compatible: All iPads, iPhones, iPods