AKG together with Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser are the three classic European headphone brands. Back in the early 00-ies the Sennheiser HD650, Beyerdynamic DT880 and AKG K701 were the trio of decent headphones one would be looking to get. The AKG K712 is a direct descendent of the classic K701, using a very similar physical design, but a different driver. So read on to find out whether the AKG classic can stand up to the challenges of modern music production.

Pros
  • Nice build quality
  • Reasonably comfy
  • Complete accessory package
  • Neutral mids

Pros list with Sonarworks Reference calibration

  • Bass extension grows
  • Highs become neutral
Cons
  • Rolled off sub-bass
  • Upper mids have a severe dip
  • Highs are hyped
Use cases Recommended music genres:
Anything without too much sub-bass content
Best use case:
Mixing
Recreational listening
Tech specs Type
Open back, Over-ear
Impedance
62 Ohm
Distortion
Not stated
Frequency response
10 Hz to 39 kHz
Connector
threaded 3.5mm straight jack
Adapter
Screw-on 6.3mm adapter
Weight
300 g (without cable)
Require headphone amp
Yes
Headphone amp

Despite having a low-ish 62 Ohm impedance, the K712 isn’t easy to drive. This headphone is about 18 dB less sensitive than say an AudioTechnica ATH-M50x, so an audio interface headphone output is a must at the very least. 62 Ohm impedance also would meant that headphone output impedance should be kept under 1 Ohm, however the impedance peak at K712’s self-resonance is so low, that audible coloration shouldn’t occur.

Build quality


Build quality is very good, all of the important mechanical parts are either metal or durable plastic. The “hammock” headband is made out of leather and shouldn’t wear out too fast. Earpads are made out of firm foam and covered plush-like fabric. Like with all headphones the earpads should be able to last for 2-3 years before they get too deformed to maintain the same sound quality. Swapping them out shouldn’t be a problem as they’re easily obtainable and can be removed without tools. Cable is also easily removable and the K712 comes with two of them.

Sound


As with most open back headphones, the mid-band from 80Hz to 1100Hz is relatively neutral. This is vital as most of the music has instrument fundamental tones in this range. Therefore if the mids aren’t right, then forget about the rest. Going up things stop being rosy, upper mids show two dips at 1.3kHz and 3kHz which most noticeably affect distortion effects on many instruments. After the dip highs, starting from 5kHz, are hyped therefore making overtones too prominent. This does make the K712 appear more detailed than it really is, which can sound pleasant at first, but tends to increase ear fatigue. Sub-bass roll-off is typical for an open-back headphone, so EDM guys need to look elsewhere.

Channel balance

Matching between the channels on the K712 is fair. Only the mid imbalance at 1.5dB can be troublesome when balancing sound source positioning. For most of everyday work it should be fine.

Comfort


Like many other AKG headphones, the K712 uses a “hammock” type suspended headband to keep the weight of the headphone securely on one’s head. There are no pronounced pressure points, hence working with the K712 is a breeze even after many hours. The earpads are plush and exert little pressure on the ears and side of one’s temple. Overall AKG has done a really decent job here.

Value

Compared to its direct competition, the K712 does pretty good. At 225EUR it’s cheaper than the HD650 to which it loses in terms of sonic accuracy. Beyerdynamic open-back DT990 generally suffers from the same problems as the K712, yet can be found for around half the price. Therefore the value isn’t great, but on a deep discount these should be decent purchase.

Observations on how headphones perform after applying Sonarworks Reference calibration Total Harmonic Distortion


Distortion overall is typical of an open back headphone of this price range. I would say that the distortion in the low end is very good and only peaks over audibility threshold in the very bottom. There is slight peaking at 3kHz, however it’s probable that the peak manifests due to the drop in amplitude, as seen in the frequency response graph. In other words – if absolute distortion component stays the same, yet signal amplitude falls, then distortion to signal percentage grows.

How accurate and consistent is the correction effect among different listeners?

The rather large capsules of the K712 leave a lot of room for ear positioning changes, so consistency isn’t too good. The biggest change is the 3kHz region, which can be slightly off.

How much do they differ pair to pair in terms of frequency response?

Consistency between samples is good and in line with other headphones of this price point.

Rating

6 / 7.5 / 8

Sound rating is a weighted average of Frequency Response, Adaptiveness, Harmonic Distortion and Channel Balance scores, with Frequency Response and Adaptiveness having the greatest influence.

5 / 9 / 10

The flatter the frequency response – the higher the score. When evaluating the frequency response score with the Average calibration profile, the pair to pair consistency of the given model is taken into account – if we have measured a considerable frequency response inconsistency among multiple pairs of the given model, the score drops, as the profile loses accuracy. Individual calibration will grant perfectly flat frequency response.

5

Adaptiveness shows how capable these headphones are at delivering the same perceived frequency response to any listener. Headphones with high score will sound nearly identical to everyone.

8

Harmonic distortion – the lower the Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) figure, the higher the score. Headphones with prominent 3rd harmonic distortion above 100 Hz will score lower.

9 / 10

Channel balance – the closer to identical the frequency response of both channels, the higher the score. Individual calibration delivers perfect channel balance.

8

Comfort – shows if headphones can be used for long listening sessions comfortably. Every model is tested by at least a few individuals.

7

Build – evaluates how well the headphones are put together, the materials used and indicates the expected longevity. Easily replaceable (and easily available) parts will boost the score. We don’t do any stress tests and very few models are used for longer than a couple of days, so this is a fairly subjective score.

6

Value – indicates the price-performance ratio of the given headphones and how they stack up against the competition. High score means that you won’t find more neutral sounding alternatives for the price.

Conclusion

The AKG K712 is a decent offering from the Austrian (now owned by Samsung) company. The overall sound quality puts it behind the HD600/650/6XX trio, but it’s a better package than the Beyer DT990. Stock the K712 is a bit hot in the highs, but for from the worst offender in this department. Distortion figures are class leading in this price range for open-back headphones, however bass rolls off too early for serious EDM work.

Final Rating

7.4
With Sonarworks Reference 4
Calibration Enabled
6.2
Without Sonarworks
Calibration

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headphones with Reference 4

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