Gadgets: Best sub £80 iPhone Headphones

275x250.jpg By Jay Garrett

It was time for some new headphones to plug into my iPhone. I’ve already tried the current favourite on the streets, the Beats by Dre Solo’s but they’re very expensive and not the cleanest sounding to my ears as they seemed to favour the bass-end too much. I also didn’t fancy wearing the ‘mug me now!’ sign that these would probably give out to certain people in certain areas of London.

I originally planned to go down the Bluetooth route but as my headphones would be used when ‘silent’ rehearsing bass guitar, mixing music ideas as well as blocking out chatter on the commute I decided a wired set would have to be the way.

I then thought that this would mean heading to the expensive premium sets because they’re the ones with a removable chord which can be replaced when damaged. I knew that Bose and Shure did cans like that – but I also knew that they were well into triple figures.

After rummaging around the interwebs I found some that looked as light (or almost) as my old Koss Porta Pro’s and as comfy as my Audio Technica’s. The headphones in question are the AKG K450. I am no stranger to the Austrian brand as I’ve used their mics a number of times in studios and so knew that they were quality.

200x175Originally I was put of by the K450′s £130 RRP but, before you run away, I bought the headphones from Amazon (of all places) for £44. Bargain!

Design

The headband on the K450 allows for good adjustment to allow for a large head or big hair. The cans themselves are a closed-back design with lovely soft padded cups for better comfort.

The left can has a port for the detachable cable. You get two cables in the box of varying lengths as well as a pair of jack adapters (2.5mm/6.3mm).
The K450′s fold flat and in on themselves for travelling. To protect them further you get a padded case so shoving them into your hand/man-bag wont leave them all scratched and battered. There’s pockets inside the case for your leads and adapters. It’s not a tiny case but it does offer your kit a lot of protection.

Hands free

The one thing I liked about the Beats was that they came with an inline remote and mic – the K450′s come with 2 different length cables but neither have a phone kit. So, to make the headphone’s more iPhone friendly I bought the additional AKG HA450 Communication Kit (RRP £50) new for £35 from an eBay store.

That’s a grand total of £79 for iPhone all-in! I got free shipping on both items too!

I’m guessing offerings from Griffin et al will work but I liked the idea of making a hands free call using an AKG mic

The HA450 Communication Kit gives you the cable with mic and remote, as well as adaptors for Nokia and Blackberry mobiles and a splitter lead so that you can use your headphones and mic for gaming and VoIP on your computer – one jack for the headphones and the other for the mic.

Hands free calling gets top marks. The voice in the headphones is extremely clear and, on the other end, my voice came through the AKG mic very well and, as yet, I’ve not had to repeat myself due to call quality.
The in-line remote is a one button job without volume control which is slightly disappointing. It is rare that I need to adjust the volume between tracks so it’s not that much of a deal breaker for me but it is something that you may want to keep in mind.

Sounds

What I love about the sound coming out of the AKGs is that it’s extremely even. Don’t confuse that with being flat by the way.

None of the ranges are battling for supremacy – bass, midrange and treble are all given equal attention. The bass isn’t overbearing yet still punchy and clarity is excellent thanks to the crisp high frequencies.

Vocals come through with plenty of detail and are at least equal to that of headphones three-times the price I paid for these.

I listen to a broad range of music and all sound clear, defined with a decent punch from the bass. I’ve not noticed any glaring looks on the tube caused by leakage either. Obviously you’re not going to get the same performance from some mini-headphones as some fully enclosed cans but these are rather good.

Verdict

The AKG K 450 headphones look like premium mini-headphones. They’re stylish, classy and are really comfortable as well as having the ability to be packed away into a small space. The added bonus is that the average chav probably wont give the brand a second look – unlike the Beats.

The removable and, more importantly, replaceable cable means that the life span of these cans should be much more than the 6-18 month life expectancy most of my headphones get.

It is a shame that you have to fork out for the Communication Kit to make them the perfect iPhone/iPod headset but you also get additional cables with that so you can Skype and game with them.
Sound-wise I don’t think you’d be disappointed if you had paid £130 for the K450s but at £44 you’re laughing!

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