AKG’s new closed-back, over-ear K371 headphones ($149 USD), reviewed by Brent Butterworth for SoundStage! Solo on November 20, 2019, are designed for “professional” use, and they sound so good that that distinction shouldn’t discourage anyone from buying them for everyday music listening. As Brent wrote, “I think every serious headphone enthusiast should at least hear the K371 headphones, and I expect many will want to add them to their collection.”
Brent also stated in his review that “the best science on what headphone frequency response sounds best comes from Harman Research.” AKG is part of Harman International, which in turn is owned by Samsung, so it’s hardly surprising that the K371s were designed in accordance with Harman’s latest research, their frequency response purportedly coming within 1dB of what’s called the Harman Curve -- a target frequency-response curve for headphones that Harman’s researchers have found provides the kind of sound that most listeners prefer.
Brent described the K371 as being, technically, “as straightforward as passive headphones get: a 50mm, titanium-coated dynamic driver in each closed-back earpiece, an industry-standard 32-ohm impedance, and a high rated sensitivity of 114dB at 1mW.” According to him, the “pro” part “is mostly the hinged earpieces, each of which can fold up 180 degrees -- a feature that not only makes them easier to travel with, but also lets DJs do that thing where they have one earpiece folded up so they can hear their P.A., and the other one down so they can hear what’s coming from their mixer.”
The K371s adhere to Harman’s target curve (as Brent confirmed with measurements he made that accompany his review), which aims for a neutral sound -- that is, no tonal colorations. So Brent began his listening expecting the K371s to sound flat -- in his words, “well-balanced and natural.” They did, but what stood out even more was their “exceptionally clean and clear midrange.” After listening to the title track of Mexican singer Jenni Rivera’s La Gran Señora (320kbps Ogg Vorbis, Fonovisa/Spotify), Brent wrote: “Rivera’s voice sounded incredibly clear through the K371s, with detail and intimacy that reminded me of the $3000 Focal Stellia headphones.” That clarity remained when he played “Silver Raven,” from Gene Clark’s No Other (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Collector’s Choice/Qobuz): “Through the K371s, Clark’s voice sounded clear and present. The acoustic guitars -- one in the left channel, one in the right -- sounded extraordinarily detailed, yet without a hint of treble boost, edginess, or the other unnatural tricks some headphones employ to create the impression of detail. The background vocals, which were also obscured through most of the headphones I’ve heard this tune through, also sounded much clearer than I’m used to hearing.”
Brent then listened to a track he described as “more aggressive”: Lil Baby’s single “Woah” (320kbps Ogg Vorbis, Quality Control Music/Spotify). He found that the rapper’s voice, which “is somewhat obscured by the deep bass and the insistent Roland TR-808 hi-hat,” was brought out “more clearly” than through any other headphones he had available, “including many much more expensive models.” With this and other recordings, “the K371s seemed to do the impossible: they brought out the voice without resorting to phony-sounding EQ bumps.”
However, Brent warned that “the K371s were not as relaxing to listen to as many of the headphones I gravitate to.” As an example, he highlighted the Monoprice M570 headphones ($299.99), which, he said, “couldn’t match the K371s’ detail, but they gave the piece a greater sense of majesty.” He noted that James Taylor’s voice in “Shower the People,” ripped from Taylor’s video Live at the Beacon Theatre (2.0-channel, 16/44.1 WAV from DVD, Sony), “sounded clearer than I can ever remember it sounding through any other headphones, and the same goes for the glockenspiel in the recording. But his voice didn’t sound quite as full as I’m used to hearing.”
Brent conceded that the AKGs “might not be what you choose for a long, relaxed listening session,” but that “in terms of sheer fidelity, the K371s are nothing short of extraordinary.” He also felt that their ability to “deliver extraordinary midrange and treble detail without using unnatural EQ tricks makes them a genuine achievement in headphone engineering.”
Those qualities also make them a real bargain for $149, and our choice for this month’s Recommended Reference Component. Harman’s research seems to be paying off for them and for consumers.
Manufacturer contact information:
AKG by Harman
Harman International Industries
Phone: (888) 452-4254