Current testing methodology is v1.2
January 7, 2019
4.33 x 8.86 x 9.25 in
I want to say I don’t follow the idea of brand loyalty – but I do very much like AKG products.
I use the K701 in my music production. I use their Lyra USB mic in my streaming setup. I’ve also owned a K240 Studio, K545, and a K7XX over the years.
With this in mind, you can probably imagine my excitement when the K371 and K361 headphones came out alongside Bluetooth variants in 2018.
They were fresh, new designs, yes, but more importantly, they were the first headphones to come out from a very different AKG – one that just 2 years prior had been bought out by tech giant Samsung.
So as we go into this review of the AKG K371-BT, one question comes to mind: does AKG still have what it takes?
One of AKG’s best-sounding headphones in recent memory – held back by some serious shortcomings.
TL;DR: The AKG K371-BT is a welcome return to form for a headphone brand I hold in high regard – easily one of the best headphones they’ve ever made.
But while its soul is strong, its body is weak; egregious design flaws ensure the headphones will break much earlier than they should.
- Headphone Type: Closed-back over-ear headphones
- Driver Type: 50mm dynamic drivers, titanium-coated diaphragm
- Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 40,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 114 dB
- Impedance: 32 Ohms
- Weight: 300 grams
What’s in the Box?
- AKG K371-BT headphones
- 1 x 3-meter straight cable (3.5mm TRS to 4-pin mini XLR)
- 1 x 1.2 meter straight cable (3.5mm TRS to 4-pin mini XLR)
- 1 x 3 meter coiled cable (3.5mm TRS to 4-pin mini XLR)
- 1 x 3.5mm to 6.5mm screw-on adapter
- 1 x 1.2 meter USB charging cable (micro USB to USB-A)
- 1 x carrying pouch
Stuff I like
- Near-perfect Harman target sound
- Performs well in almost all genres
- Plush earpads for long-term comfort
- Generous accessories package
Stuff I like less
- Serious build flaws
- Seal causes driver pressure issues
- Bluetooth features are half-baked
Comparable products to consider
Still widely considered to be one of the best “pro audio” themed headphones on the market, the M50xBT2 doesn’t sound as good but will at least take a beating much better than the K371-BT.
A Bit of History
AKG has always been a bit of a divisive brand in the audiophile space. At one point it was considered one of the “Big Three” of pro audio brands (the other two being Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser).
But even ignoring the constant internal bickering from the toxic dust cloud called the “audiophile community”, the general consensus on AKG headphones is that they are rather hit or miss.
Stuff like the abysmal K72 and K92 to the expensive and disappointing K3003 are just three of the headphones that didn’t quite live up to standard. But whether that was caused by AKG’s turbulent history is up for debate.
To give a quick history lesson, the original AKG of 1947 was bought out by American audio conglomerate Harman International in 1994, which led to the company expanding into the US but leaving the original Austrian headquarters untouched.
Harman would later be bought by Samsung in 2016, which set more drastic changes into motion.
Most notably, AKG’s original headquarters in Vienna, Austria were closed down in 2018, which prompted a few of their engineers to funnel their expertise into an independent brand that we now know as Austrian Audio.
From this environment would come four new headphones: the K361, K361-BT, K371, and K371-BT.
With the pitch of being studio-quality headphones you could take everywhere with you, this lineup feels like an answer to the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT, which is still hailed as one of the best of its kind.
The K371-BT arrives in an all-cardboard box that shares the same print style as all of AKG’s pro audio releases since at least the 2010s. Black-on-white graphics and ample product info are plastered throughout.
Opening the box you’ll be greeted with the headphones in a display space – again, all out of cardboard.
Even with this “greener” approach to packaging, AKG still manages to make the presentation more interesting than most.
The included accessories are mostly tucked away underneath this space except for the 1/8″ to 1/4″ adapter that’s stuck into a hole on the top left.
With three cables of varying lengths alongside a carrying pouch and charging cable, the K371-BT seems to be patterned more after the M50x than its Bluetooth variant (which only has a single cable with an inline remote).
It’s at this point that I think it’s important to lay out the differences between the K371-BT and its non-Bluetooth version – or rather, the lack thereof.
Just about every aspect of both headphones is basically the same except for the Bluetooth functionality.
To make room for the battery, on-off switch, and other Bluetooth circuitry, the K371-BT’s earcups were given an extra 6mm of depth – enough to be visible, but done well enough to keep the BT version practically identical when it comes to the tangible aspects such as sound, comfort, and build.
Design and Build Quality
Indeed, it would’ve been nice to have some more changes to the design, as the K371 and its siblings were doomed to fail from the start.
Although planned obsolescence is one of the norms of the world, I want to give the AKG K371-BT the benefit of the doubt. As such, I will invoke Hanlon’s razor: “Don’t attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
Because let’s be real here, what other explanation could there possibly be for the K371-BT’s terrible design?
Before I get to the main pain point, I’d like to clear out some other nitpicks:
- The earpads are put together with glue instead of stitching, which means they’re bound to fall apart within months if not weeks.
- The earcups aren’t vented well enough, which means air is trapped between them and the drivers will push back on the drivers with even a slight press of the earcups.
- The headband adjustment mechanism is inconsistent, with the notches either getting stuck or gliding too easily.
- The swiveling mechanism is mostly nice but the folded size isn’t very small because of the earcups. A fold-flat mechanism probably would have been more useful.
Now for the real problem: the headband.
Despite the choice to upgrade the AKG K371-BT’s earcup arms to metal over the plastic used on the K361, both headphones still use mostly plastic on the headband with only a thin strip of metal as its main source of structure.
AKG has left a very obvious seam on the inner side of the headband, specifically, the part where the silicone headband cushion and the adjustment arm meet.
This seam is put under stress every time you stretch out the headphones—which doesn’t seem like a problem until you realize this also counts for every single time you put the headphones on.
Most if not all negative reception around the K371-BT revolves around this design flaw that basically guarantees the headphones will break, and soon.
I have practically babied these headphones in the four months that I’ve owned them, and they haven’t broken on me yet. But even my attempt to reinforce the headband with a splint of sorts will only delay the inevitable (assuming it even worked, which I have no way of testing).
This fact produces a feeling of disappointment and anger that is hard to express in words.
Fit and Comfort
One way I think I can do it is by talking about all the other things that the AKG K371-BT does right; comfort being one of them.
The earpads are done up in a smooth pleather and stuffed with delightfully squishy foam. While it does cause those air pressure issues I touched on earlier, these things are still very comfortable.
If the K371-BT was ever given ANC, it could very well do double duty as a commuter headphone.
Headband cushioning is provided by molded silicone and an air bubble that manages to spread the pressure out fairly well, comparable to something like a Beats Studio 3.
The use of silicone here keeps the headband cushion grippy, but I did find it to drag along my hair sometimes.
Combining both a warm, well-balanced tone with excellent clarity, the AKG K371-BT has one of the best and most versatile sounds within its price bracket.
Of course, I say that in the context of the K371-BT being tuned to match the Harman Over-Ear Target curve.
The Harman curve, a quasi-scientific headphone frequency target that’s mostly neutral from the midrange up but with a boost in the low bass frequencies, is just one of many sound targets out there.
It’s important to note here that not every headphone is tuned this way, and no single headphone *should* be tuned this way.
But within that context, the K371-BT stands tall as one of the best of its kind. Let’s break it down.
Despite having an obvious boost in the sub-bass, the AKG K371-BT manages to stay fairly agile in the low end.
In “Supersonic (My Existence)“, a difficult and complex bass track from Skrillex, Noisia, Josh Pan, and Dylan Brady, the K371-BT maintains excellent separation between the punch of the kick drums and the hum and buzz of the bass lines where lesser headphones would have just blended it into mush.
That said, at times the bass can come off a bit more “thumpy” than “punchy” because of that extra sub-bass boost.
Songs like Daft Punk’s “Lose Yourself to Dance” features a very heavy bassline and kick drum combo that does
The midrange performance of the AKG K371-BT is one of the cleanest-sounding within its price range, with an edge taken off of an upper midrange peak to produce a slightly warm tilt.
I personally would’ve liked a more neutral treble but the warmer profile is a bit easier to digest since the upper mids don’t come in too hot in the mix.
What I find interesting about the upper midrange scoop gives the perception of stronger bass without really sacrificing clarity in the midrange.
It produces a U-shaped sound signature that’s easy to like but with the clarity and other sensibilities of an “audiophile” sound, so to speak.
In other words, it’s a sound even my mom was wowed by when she tried it. If that’s not the highest praise I can imagine from a headphone, I don’t know what is.
But a midrange scoop is still a scoop—against the Harman target, it’s a big deviation that you might notice as thinness in feminine or otherwise high-pitched vocals relative to the weightiness of lower octaves. Madeon’s “Miracle” is a good example of this in action.
Crisp and clear without any sharp peaks, the AKG K371-BT’s treble tuning is one of the best I’ve heard and has become my personal benchmark for other headphones.
While I would’ve liked to single out highlight songs from my listening sessions, part of the appeal of great treble performance is that it just sounds great with everything.
Being a closed-back headphone, the AKG K371-BT is fairly limited in its ability to present size and air in a recording. It’s certainly no K701 in that regard, but they aren’t cramped in any way either.
At the very least, the K371-BT can render directionality and space pretty well, being able to render the room and space of things like the drum set in “Blue Planet” by fox capture plan, as well as the (mixed down) positioning of Earth, Wind, and Fire in “September“.
I normally don’t dedicate a separate section to Bluetooth audio when I review headphones with that feature; the reason being that they are usually near-identical anyway. Not so with the AKG K371-BT.
For some reason, audio played over Bluetooth sounds noticeably compressed compared to listening to music over the wire. And this is despite the headphones supposedly having Bluetooth 5.0 support.
I don’t have any concrete evidence for why this is, but I have a couple of theories.
The first would be that the K371-BT is just this impressively clear that it makes the consequences of Bluetooth audio compression more obvious than it should. Despite its convenience, Bluetooth is still a compromised wireless standard after all.
The more likely theory is that AKG, in their infinite wisdom, just slapped on the Bluetooth features into their K371 and called it a day without really considering that some people might use it and expect similar quality.
With the K371 being a studio monitor first, it’s reasonable to believe that Bluetooth isn’t a priority for whoever would use them.
Indeed, we see this with how AKG describes the K371-BT on its data sheets and marketing.
At most, AKG just says the K371-BT supports Bluetooth 5.0 with no mention of what codecs it can support at all.
From my testing with a POCO F1, the K371-BT can use SBC and AAC – both of which are of lower quality compared to something like LDAC or AptX.
The AKG K371-BT is priced at $209, a $30 premium over the wired-only version and right around the ballpark of the ATH-M50xBT.
Given its feature set, it’s impossible to avoid a comparison between the two.
What I find kinda funny is that both headphones are similarly compromised on the Bluetooth front – their audio over Bluetooth is just noticeably worse than how they sound wired.
But while I’d pick the K371-BT any day of the week on its sound, I also find it hard to recommend it to anyone else over the M50xBT because of its durability issues.
Such is the feeling of disappointment and frustration that I have with the AKG K371-BT.
The K371-BT is a headphone that has just about everything I could ever want in a portable – decent looks, great long-term comfort, class-leading sound, and Bluetooth when I want it for whatever reason.
But like a sappy drama with a romantic interest that dies in the end, there’s a constant feeling of dread as I use these headphones. One knows that this (frankly pretty expensive) experience I have with them isn’t going to last as long as I expect them to.
I’ll continue to baby the AKG K371-BT for the time being, and I’ll keep using one of the best-sounding headphones that AKG has ever made.
But I can’t, in good conscience, recommend this to anyone else. No one else has to spend $200 on a tragedy waiting to happen.
This post was last updated on 2023-11-28 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.