I’m always in search of a headset that’s easy to pick up and hard to put down, and found just that in the AKG K240 Studio. These headphones descend from the original AKG K240, which debuted when bell-bottom jeans and Huckapoo shirts were unironically trendy. While the headphones retain that 1970s nostalgic design, sound quality holds up even in 2020. Let’s see why these headphones are still championed today.
Editor’s note: this AKG K240 Studio review was updated on February 3, 2021, to address FAQs, expand the list of buying options, and add context to the sound quality section.
Who should get the AKG K240 Studio?
- Podcasters will benefit from the K240 Studio’s neutral vocal response and will be more-or-less unaffected by the underwhelming sub-bass reproduction.
- Musicians should consider these headphones because of their semi-open design. This is great as it allows you to hear what you’re playing from moment to moment.
- Budget audiophiles and audio engineers may want to get a pair of these ‘phones. Enthusiasts and mixers across the globe champion the K240 Studio headphones as being one of the best bang-for-your-buck options on the market.
Using the AKG K240 Studio headphones
The AKG K240 Studio has an all-plastic build from the suspension mechanism to the ear cup exteriors. There are pros and cons to this: it decreases cost while increasing comfort, but it also means it’s less durable than metal-reinforced alternatives like the AKG K371. Seeing how this headset isn’t meant for travel, many listeners give the dubious durability a pass. During the AKG K240 Studio review period, I grew increasingly dubious of headband rails and plastic pivot points.
Both ear cups have uniform vents, giving the headset its semi-open status. This gives the AKG K240 Studio a great throwback feel while also serving a function: you hear a more realistic representation of sound and ventilation is better than with closed-back headphones. For those unfamiliar with how open and semi-open headphones work, this goes both ways. Anyone near you will easily hear what you’re listening to. Don’t use this headset in a crowded office or while working in close proximity to your roommates at home.
The AKG K240 Studio has earned its keep as one of the go-to headsets among enthusiasts and professionals.
The left ear cup houses a mini-XLR input with a small, flat divot. This serves to help lock the 3.5mm cable into place. Unlike higher-end models, AKG does not provide an assortment of cables or a protective case. Instead, you’re left to your own devices if the cable frays meaning you can either repair it or buy another when the time comes. The company does, however, include a ¼” adapter to plug the K240 into a guitar amp or audio interface.
Is the AKG K240 Studio portable?
No. Do not take these headphones out for a spin on the train: you and everyone around you will have a bad time.
The open-back build is great for listening in quiet, controlled environments, but your music leaks out from the back of the ear cups. If you listen to these outside or in a loud space, you’ll think they’re a bad pair of headphones—which absolutely isn’t the case. Auditory masking is a heck of a phenomenon, though, and the louder sounds of your environment will massively degrade your ability to perceive any musical detail.
Can you wear the AKG K240 Studio with glasses?
Yes, the AKG K240 Studio headphones are great for eyewear because of their lightweight build. Minimal clamping force also makes these a great option for bespectacled listeners. Admittedly, my initial reaction was that these were to be quite painful with glasses due to the thin earpads, but that’s not the case at all. If you want, you can really splurge by spending $10 on a pair of velvet replacement ear pads.
How do you connect the AKG K240 Studio?
The included mini-XLR to 3.5mm cable feels sturdy because both terminations taper into reinforced stress-relief pieces. Long-term users have voiced otherwise, though, citing that their cables snapped or frayed within just a few months. If this happens, you can always get a replacement or reach out to an AKG rep and see if they’re feeling generous.
Since these are wired headphones, you can take full advantage of lossless audio files like FLAC. This means the AKG K240 Studio is a great, cheap headset for listeners who subscribe to streaming services like Amazon Music HD, Deezer, and Tidal HiFi.
Do the AKG K240 Studio sound good?
The AKG K240 Studio’s dynamic drivers accurately replicate frequencies within the 100Hz-1.2kHz range. Sub-bass notes are heavily attenuated, anyone coming from Beats headphones may feel bass is nonexistent, but listeners whose music libraries are laden with instrumental and vocal-heavy tracks will appreciate how bass notes kowtow to mids.
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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, isolation is largely ineffective with semi-open back headphones like the AKG K240. This is more a feature of the headset than a detriment to performance, but only if the headset is being used correctly. You get to experience audio much differently than you do with standard closed-back headphones, meaning a realistic perception of 3D space in our music. To optimize the open-back qualities of the headphones, listen in a quiet environment. That means no screaming kids, no chatty spouse, and no background TV—just you and the headphones. Sounds like a dream, yeah?
Lows, mids, and highs
The Alabama Shakes’ song Rise to the Sun opens with a light drumroll, sans-crescendo, that’s soon followed by powerful drum hits. Since these hits don’t originate from the actual kick drum (sub-100Hz), they’re reproduced with great accuracy. Cymbal hits sound slightly “distant” due to the de-emphasis from 3-5kHz but I never felt like I was straining to hear them.
Brittany Howard’s low-register vocals sound excellent and stand out from the surrounding instrumentation. Harmonizing “Ohs” toward the end of the song (2:03) are hard to discern from the din of the electric guitar and drum hits, though. Clarity is great for a pair of cheap headphones, but it’s even better with the Grado SR80e or Monoprice Monolith 1060.
Do you have to burn-in the AKG K240 Studio headphones?
Should you buy the AKG K240 Studio?
Yes, the AKG K240 Studio has stood the test of time and will continue to do so because of its excellent sound quality-to-price ratio. AKG knows not to mess with a formula that works, which is why the K240 Studio has remained relatively unchanged since its 1970s debut. If you’re looking to stay within a $75 budget and want all of that money to go to sound quality, the AKG K240 is the best headset for you.
AKG K240 Studio vs AKG K240 MKII, which is better?
The headphones are virtually identical, except the AKG K240 MKII has blue accents instead of gold ones. Besides that, MKII version includes a coiled cable and more comfortable ear pads, which may be important if you listen for hours at a time. Rather than spending an extra $20 for a nominal comfort upgrade, you can spend $10 for a softer earpad material altogether.
The AKG K240 Studio and K240 MKII use the same drivers and have the same frequency responses.
Both headsets use identical Varimotion 30mm XXL transducers with a 15Hz-40kHz frequency response, making them sound nearly identical. Unless black and blue happens to be your favorite color combo, you’re better off getting the AKG K240 Studio headset instead of the AKG K240 MKII.
Go smaller with the Grado SR80e
The Grado SR80e is a completely open-back headset and rests on your ears, instead of around them. This may prove less comfortable, particularly if you wear glasses. The benefit is they’re more compact and can be stowed away because the ear cups rotate flat. Grado is a well-respected brand among audiophiles, and if you only have $100 to spend, this is a great alternative.
Go cheaper with the Koss Porta Pro
If you want something iconic, the Koss Porta Pro semi-open headset is the only way to go. These headphones remain one of the most popular vintage options out there, and I often see them on the subway and when walking through the Chicago Loop.
But wait, didn’t I say earlier that open-back headphones aren’t good for public use? Yes, glad you’ve been paying attention. Open-back headsets are usually intended for studio use, but the Koss Porta Pro is meant to be transported. The open-back design is advantageous because it allows you to listen to music while remaining aware of your surroundings—think of it as a safety feature.