AKG needs to introduction. They’ve pioneered the Pro audio sector since time immemorial, from making Headphones catering to the most hardcore audiophiles and some of the best in class studio recording mics. Their latest introduction is a pair of cheap portable studio monitoring Headphones, the K361 and K371 priced at 99$ and 149$. A stark departure from the higher end Headphones that the company usually comes out with. Today, we’ll review the smaller of the two, the K361 which is a very promising Headphone under 100$.
This unit is my own. No one has paid or otherwise influenced me to write anything good or bad about this Headphone. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Build & Fit:-
The closed-back K361 is completely made out of plastic to keep the weight down which is remarkably light at 219g only. The rubberized plastic is good quality and doesn’t feel scratchy. The padding on the headband is also rubberized and not foam which is not as soft as I’d like. The headband padding is quite hard out of the box but softens upon use. The headband could have used more padding on it. The ear capsules are oval-shaped thankfully, the oval earpads are plush and pliable.
This results in a very comfortable wear and the ear doesn’t touch the edges of the pads. But on the flip side, the pads are not as deep as I’d like them to be. After about an hour of usage, the shallow pads press on my forehead which in turn develops a hot spot. A hot and humid surrounding will cause the pads to get sweaty. The headband height adjustment uses the standard click mechanism and has plenty of height adjustment.
But when lying down, the headband tends to slide out of your head which requires a few clicks of adjustment every time. The capsules also fold to form a “U” which when packed in the included waterproof rough texturized carry case makes it super easy to carry around. The form factor when worn is discreet and minimalistic, which doesn’t draw attention in public.
Unfortunately, the connector is the locking 2.5mm which means finding an aftermarket cable is next to impossible. The locking 2.5mm connector is a major bummer and absolutely not needed in today’s headphones that mainly use the regular 3.5mm connector. Two straight cables are included 1.2m and 3m for portable and studio/home use respectively, also a 1/4th inch adaptor.
Amping/Powering The AKG K361:-
At 32 ohm and 112 dB SPL/V means this headphone will be driven by anything. An external amplifier is not needed. Though I have a proper desktop setup with me including Schiit Modi 3, Schiit Loki, and Schiit Magni 3 which I use to power my other headphones, the K361 is easily powered by my smartphone, Nokia 6.1+.
The first thing that jumps out is its resolving power given its price. There are no awkward peaks in the spectrum that catches the attention. The overall sound is balanced and I have very few things to complain about. A more detailed sound analysis is as follows :-
Sub-bass impact is not something this headphone does. You can hear and feel the sub bass frequencies when called for, with ease, and it is relatively quick. But it lacks the slam and punch. The sub-bass rumble is rarely felt and it lacks texture. So, this headphone is not for bassheads. The bass is controlled and doesn’t bloom into the mids otherwise.
The midrange is naturally represented. It is neither thick and lush, nor is it recessed. Which results in midrange that is neither congested nor thin. Vocals come off a tiny bit warm compared to neutral. Vocal separation is natural. It does lack a bit of lower midrange heft which makes the sound feel “light” and not the kind with grunt and weight behind it. I would have liked a bit of lower-mid grunt to the sound.
The detail retrieval in the midrange is remarkable for the price and even on higher price segments. Small details that would have been lost in the mix otherwise is shoved in your ear. I was surprised to hear such small details and nuances in the mix presented so effortlessly which even more expensive headphones just barely got it, not to mention with much less texture and accuracy.
The highs are remarkably transparent. It is slightly brighter compared to neutral but never uncontrolled and it accurately reflects the quality of the recording. Cymbals, violins, electronic violins and high pitch vocals are stupendously expressed with all the surface level detail and textures. If the recording is poor, the K361 is brutal and unforgiving. Such is the price you must pay for resolving power.
Soundstage and Imaging:-
The soundstage is decent for a closed back. Roughly speaking, it extends beyond the ear capsules but it is not super wide. It has enough soundstage width to give the instruments in the mix breathing space and not sound congested. Most listeners will not be disappointed with the soundstage width. Soundstage depth and layering of instruments are just okay.
Imaging, however, is tight and accurate, there is no haziness and it is evenly distributed throughout which is rare for headphones in this price category. Instruments are etched out clearly in the mix with well-defined edges and the total conglomerate sounds accurate and clear.
It still amazes me that the K361 is just 99$. The AKG K361 is a highly resolving portable headphone that can be used extensively in studios for mixing. It is a strong contender for the best-balanced sounding headphones under 100$, if not the winner. Beginner audiophiles who aren’t bassheads, yearning for a balanced sounding headphone must definitely check this out.