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40 x 40 mm (ear cup diameter)
200 grams (headset only)
Stalwart audio company AKG has a plethora of highly respected and genuinely good studio headphones, with models endorsed by producers like Quincy Jones. Moreover, AKG has tuned some well liked Samsung earbuds too. So when we saw there’s a cheap set of closed back headphones — the AKG K72 — we had to give them a shot, and put them through the paces.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on August 21, 2023, to answer a FAQ and to update formatting.
If you wanted the signature AKG light clamping fit, this is about the cheapest access point.
What’s it like to use AKG K72?
What stands out about the AKG K72 is the light weight at 200g. The cable adds an additional 50 (or so) grams, but your head won’t feel that, so long as nothing tugs on the left side where the cable connects. They do not fold down, and you get some movement where the ear cup housings meet the arms to adjust your fit. Thanks to the suspension headband found on most AKG headphones, they’re comfortable along the crown and sizes automatically.
The large, round ear cups have stiff vinyl covered padding. The padding does not conform around glasses particularly well, which negatively affects the sound and isolating properties of the K72. At least the light clamping force means the AKG K72 doesn’t press on any nerves along the jaw when having a snack.
Weirdly, the ear pads almost feel like they’re on backwards. The padding is thicker towards the front, particularly the left side. There’s 60mm of height and width between the inside edges of the ear pads, so most ears will fit the K72, but that much space also means you need to pay attention to how the headphones are worn. If your K72 headphones sit too far forward or back, the sound perceivably alters. Lastly, temperature is not an issue except where the vinyl directly touches your skin, as the K72 heats up, but no more than the average closed back studio headphones.
How does the AKG K72 connect?
The AKG K72 comes with the 3 meter cable permanently affixed, terminating in a 3.5mm jack. You also get a 1/4 inch adapter. The length of the cable is fine for at home use, but definitely too long for use outside.
How well does the AKG K72 block out noise?
As a set of closed-back headphones the AKG K72 isolates somewhat poorly. This is the result of a few elements, namely the stiff ear padding that does not create a good seal around the ear. For example, I can fit my smallest finger easily between where my jaw and the K72 meet.
The just shy of 30dB noise attenuation between 4kHz and 8kHz means people speaking in real life will be harder to make out. It’ll dull some clanging sounds like dishes, but anything lower pitched will come through unabated.
It helps that the AKG K72 is a pair of over-ear headphones and that the ear cups articulate to attempt an even application of pressure. Although, it wouldn’t hurt to be able to articulate even more, because I max out the adjustability towards the back of the ear cups.
How does the AKG K72 sound?
Rather surprisingly, the 40mm dynamic drivers inside the AKG K72 project an unusual and not especially good-sounding frequency response. It’s not “neutral” like you might expect of studio headphones, and it’s not really pleasing for average listeners either. In essence, frequencies between 200 and 1000Hz are mostly too loud relative to everything else. Lower pitch frequencies see a steep volume roll off, and where the headphones should have the most volume peaking at 3kHz, the K72 under-emphasizes by nearly 15dB.
This seems a little odd when considering that AKG is currently under the Samsung umbrella, along with Harman International, known for its target curve, which bares a resemblance to our headphone preference curve at SoundGuys. In other words, AKG knows how good headphones sound, but made the K72 this way regardless.
Lows, mids, highs
Listening to Bones by Radiohead, the AKG K72 offer what sounds like a worse alternate reality version of the song. Thom Yorke’s vocals sound extremely quiet and distant compared to the guitars, especially during the first verse. The bass guitar completely lacks oomph and plays quietly compared to the guitars, noticeably so at the choruses.
In fact, the running theme of the AKG K72 playing this song is that the guitar grabs all of the attention, because it’s loud. Initially, it seems kind of cool when the song begins with the prominent quick stereo panning tremolo effect on the distorted guitar, until the other instruments come in at low volumes. Lastly, the snare sounds inaccurate and surprisingly hard to differentiate from the cymbals with this frequency response. Essentially, it only sounds good if you listen to guitar by itself.
You can EQ the AKG K72 if you have a set already and want to make it better. Manually equalizing it may prove difficult with some apps or hardware because you’re not dealing with a smooth or consistent curve. It has a lot of dips and peaks, which especially challenges some of the more rudimentary equalizers. However, the above chart gives a sense of where to start.
Should you buy the AKG K72?
If you’re looking for a set of studio grade headphones at a cut rate and you found the AKG K72, keep looking. AKG has a lot of good products under its belt, but the AKG K72 are not among them. Ruining their potential, the AKG K72 have a weird frequency response; it’s neither suitable for studio use, nor consumer audio. What’s worse, the K72 are not really an easy headset to EQ either.
Frankly, the K72 do not do much exceptionally well except sit over your ears with a light clamping force. Even then, the ear padding has different thicknesses on each ear.
These days it’s difficult to recommend the AKG K72 for anyone, unless you want to make sure your latest track sounds good on every conceivable frequency response, including wonky ones.
What’s better, the AKG K72 vs AKG K92?
The AKG K92 cost a little more than the AKG K72, and come in black with gold, rather than black with silver. Both headsets have very similar specs, including 40mm dynamic drivers and closed back housings.
Rather surprising is that both the AKG K72 and K92 sound quite alike and isolate similarly. As you can see, the K92 have more emphasis between 4kHz and 9kHz. This gives the K92 a more trebly sound than the AKG K72. Unfortunately, both pairs retain this odd and difficult-to-equalize frequency response.
You can definitely do better than both the AKG K92 and AKG K72. It’s not worth paying the premium for the bigger number because they are not effectively any better than the K72. Do not mix with either the AKG K92 or K72 if you can help it. So, should you get the AKG K92 or AKG K72? You should get neither. Get one of the suggestions below.
What should you get instead of the AKG K72?
Sure they costs a bit more ($176 at Amazon), but you’ll thank me if you get the AKG K371 rather than AKG K72. Unlike the AKG K72, the AKG K371 has really pleasant frequency response, and aligns closely with our headphone preference curve. Besides better sound, the K371 are simply better built, with articulating ear cups, and detachable cabling. Additionally, the AKG K240 Studio ($56 at Amazon) are still a standard starter headset for mixers, albeit they have open backs, and are a bit light on bass.
You can’t go too wrong with the Sony MDR-7506, which has been around for decades goes for $79 at Sweetwater. They are not quite as comfortable as the AKG K72, but they sound way better, and still feels good enough that you can wear them for stretches while editing audio. The robust build dwarfs the plasticky build of the AKG K72.
For a similar price, the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x are imperfect, but impart a notably better and easier to EQ frequency response than the AKG K72. They lack the comfort of the suspension headband of the AKG K72, implementing a more conventional sliding headband. Even so, they are a better pick for recording and tracking for $79 at Amazon. Now if you’re really going for cheap ($49 at Amazon), try the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x, which skimp further on luxuries, but sound quite a bit better than the AKG K72, so they are still useable.
Frequently asked questions
The frequency range of the AKG K72 is 16Hz to 20kHz. It should be stressed that a listed frequency range does not mean you’ll actually hear the lowest or highest listed frequencies due to the limits of human hearing and because they that range doesn’t tell you how loudly or quietly those frequencies are reproduced. Plus, there’s a good chance your music has little or nothing in those frequencies at the poles of the frequency range.
Yes, you can swap out the ear pads on the AKG K72. However, because the headphones are inexpensive to begin with, and for reasons outlined in the sound quality section, it’s probably not worth investing additional money into the AKG K72. Furthermore, changing ear pads alters the acoustic properties of a given set of headphones, so we can’t tell you precisely how they will sound.