No other headphone model has been copied more by other manufacturers than AKG K240 Studio. The iconic design can be traced back to the 1970s and it has its strengths, but music has changed quite a lot since then. Are the drivers 21st century ready? Is the build up to par with modern headphones?

Pros
  • Good comfort for the price
  • Detachable cable and replaceable ear pads help longevity

Pros list with Sonarworks Reference calibration

  • Increased both low and high-end extension
  • Neutral frequency response
Cons
  • High THD in the sub bass
Use cases Best use case:
Mixing
Production
Tech specs Type
Open back, Over-ear
Impedance
55 Ohm
Connector
Threaded straight 3.5 mm jack
Adapter
Screw-on 6.3 mm adapter
Weight
240 g (without cable)
Require headphone amp
Yes
Cable
3 m straight
Headphone amp

K240 Studios can be driven by a laptop to dangerously high volumes. However, Reference requires 15dB of safe headroom for this model, so when used with calibration, you’ll be better off plugging them in an audio interface or amp, or else you may run out of volume.

Build quality

The design of AKG K240 Studio is largely the same as K240 Monitor, a classic headphone model released way back in 1975, making it even older than Sony MDR-7506 predecessor MDR-V6.

K240s are instantly recognizable as AKG headphones thanks to their trademark “hammock” style suspended headband that offers infinite adjustment instead of pre-set clicks found on most other designs. Apart from the retro styling and design, the age can be noticed in the feel of plastics used throughout the build which feels more industrial than the materials used in modern counterparts. A very welcome upgrade over K240 Monitor though is the detachable cable with the mini-XLR connector, this feature still is not as commonplace as it should be.

The build isn’t fragile but it doesn’t inspire confidence to throw them in a backpack and carry them around on a regular basis. Their place, as the name suggests, is in the studio, not on the road.

Sound

There are 3 main issues with the frequency response: the increase from 6kHz onwards makes the sound overly bright, the build-up in low mids introduces some muddiness, and perhaps the most notable issue is the absence of sub bass. Also, the high frequency cutoff point is relatively low, but that may be noticed only by the younger listeners. Overall, K240’s are far from being the worst-sounding studio headphones and deliver somewhat balanced sound, but there’s quite a lot to be gained by calibration. The highs and low-mids are evened out nicely by Reference, also the amount of bass introduced is surprising at first and it comes unexpectedly that the drivers are ready to handle it at all, but more on that later.

Channel balance

For such an old design and relatively affordable price, the channel balance is remarkable! Imperfections are few and of little magnitude, and are nothing to worry about, as they will have virtually no perceivable impact on your work.

Comfort

Similar to another age-old design – the MDR-7506 – comfort is one of the strengths of K240 Studio and in this regard, these are among the best headphones in its price segment. The headband applies pressure very evenly and should work well with many different head shapes and sizes. The ear pads will get sweaty and uncomfortable after extended use, but at this price point, it’s to be expected. But overall, AKG has done a very good job!

Value

The current street price of €55 in Europe and $69 in the U.S. seems fair enough. If there were no issues with THD, it would be a very sweet deal, but as it stands, it’s still a good one.

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

When compared to other headphones, we had to lengthen the Y-axis quite a bit to fit that massive 2nd harmonic distortion in the graph. With headphones as bass-light as K240 Studios, it’s typical that the low end boost that calibration applies stresses the drivers and leads to distortion increase. While the figures are rather dramatic, the real-world listening experience is nowhere near as compromised as with Shure SRH1840, since for these AKGs it’s the 2nd harmonic that receives most of the distortion, and usually this results in less detrimental artefacts. With that said, these still aren’t headphones for bass heavy music producers and engineers. At lower volumes, sub-100Hz frequencies will not sound as clear as more modern rivals and with SPL increase very audible coloring will rear its head. As in most cases, the rest of the spectrum has zero distortion issues.

If you’re not working with sub bass heavy content, you can get away with the high THD not causing any major issues, but if you do, better look elsewhere.

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

The adaptiveness, as with most AKG headphones, is not the greatest, meaning that frequency response may noticeably vary between listeners by about 3dB, in some cases more. The areas most affected by this are frequencies above 5kHz and below 100 Hz.

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

Same as with channel balance, pair-to-pair consistency is also impressive and surprising for an older model. High marks for AKG here.

Rating

6.4 / 7.8 / 7.4

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.

7

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.

4

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.

7

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

6

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.

7

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

While most of the K240 Studio’s more modern rivals will not suffer from the distortion the way these classic AKGs do, few can compete with its long session comfort. Not everyone requires a pristine sub-bass response though, so trading that for a better comfort may be an option worth considering, especially if your budget is limited. They’re not perfect, but at this price no one expects them to be. Perhaps even after all these years, there’s still a place for these humble old AKGs.

Final Rating

7.7
With Sonarworks Reference 4
Calibration Enabled
6.4
Without Sonarworks
Calibration

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