Review AKG K-371 - A Newbie's Exploration Into The World Audiophile Headphones

GoodVibes

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Jan 31, 2021
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A brief Intro:
During lockdown I invested in my first Hifi system, Wharfedale Evo 4.2 & Cambridge Audio CXA 81. Before I purchased them, I spent many hours obsessively reading forums and watching videos to educate myself so that I could buy the best system I could afford for my tastes. I ended up spending double what I had initially intended to spend. When I finally had them set up I was over the moon but as the weeks went by I became overly critical, searching for their shortcomings. In hindsight I can now see that I had invested so much money & time, I was expecting perfection and not relaxing into the glorious sound they produce. 1 year down the line, I am totally in love with the combination and truly appreciate the incredible listening experience they give me.

However, since lockdown ended my work and family commitments mean that the only time I get to listen to them is at times when it is not appropriate to crank up the volume and enjoy them fully. I began to delve into the vast galaxy of headphones with the intention of buying a good, budget friendly pair of cans that I could enjoy when I was not able to listen to my Hifi. During that process I came to the realisation that over the course of a year, I have a very small number of days when I can fully indulge in my sound system and a high-quality pair of closed backs would serve me best. I have made the difficult decision to sell and invest the money in high quality cans. Before I reached that decision some budget friendly closed backs came onto my radar. The usual suspects, Beyerdynamic DT700's, ATH M50's & the K-371's. After much reading and deliberation, I have decided to make the AKG's my first step into this unknown world of headphones and see what I can learn. They will be arriving on Tuesday.

I am aware of the various QC issues but I'm willing to take a punt in the hope I am one of the lucky ones and they won’t be faulty.

To give some further background info, I have been a DJ for over 15 years, my DJ'ing headphones of choice are Sennheiser HD25's, to my ears they sound good, are very robust and have stood the test of time and have served me brilliantly. I have no idea how these headphones would sound to the ears of an experienced audiophile but I am looking forward to comparing them against the similarly priced K-371's. I will report back and share my experience on here for anyone who may be on a similar path.

Once I have sold my system, I will be aiming for something along the lines of the Audeze LCD 2 or the Dan Clark Aeon 2 closed backs but I'm still a way off making that decision. For now, I am very intrigued to know what the K-371's will sound like to my ears.
 
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Gray

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You've certainly been on an adventure.
Not many people would sell a hi-fi system that they love (however little they used it) in favour of headphones. A different listening experience that's for sure.
Don't know much about the 371s, but found K-550 to be likeable closed-backs, with a sound more like opens.
I've tried / returned several makes and model of open-backs over the years but have now settled on Sennheiser HD-560S, from the balanced output of a Topping A50S.
(My mobile disco days were back when the best music was originally being invented 🙂but my 'headphones' were only half a cheap pair for backcueing - so they don't count).

Good luck with the 371s
Let us know what you think.
 
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GoodVibes

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Jan 31, 2021
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You've certainly been on an adventure.
Not many people would sell a hi-fi system that they love (however little they used it) in favour of headphones. A different listening experience that's for sure.

Gray, please don’t make this any more difficult than it is 🤣. I already feel sad and have yet to list them. During lockdown I had an abundance of time to spend with my system but listening to it is now a luxury I can no longer afford. I would love to keep it but there is a sensible voice inside my head reminding me I will have about 3 days a year to sit down uninterrupted and listen in a way that I can fully appreciate them. If the 371’s can hit a sweet spot for me I might even reconsider my decision to sell up. Anything can happen but the first hurdle I face is the QC issues I have read so much about.



Open backs appear to produce the best overall sound but due to my home and work life I would only get to use them sparingly so it’s the closed back life for me at the moment. Its still early days and I have so much knowledge to acquire before I spend big on a pair. I’ll be on here no doubt seeking more information on amps & EQ methods.
 
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GoodVibes

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The 371’s arrive a day early. They are impressively packaged, look better in the flesh and come with a selection of 3 cables. I opt for the coiled one as its what I use for my Senns. After reading so many issues with damaged and faulty units I felt like I was opening a lucky dip. I tentatively adjust the headband setting, mine seems fine. Phew! Next I move the folding ear cups, my headset seems to be fine but I can see how they have the potential to fail after a short period of time. The certainly aren’t as robust feeling as the HD25’s. As I put them on my head they feel comfortable but straight away I notice the headphone end of the cable is poking me in the shoulder… hmm.

In dedication to my brother who was responsible for me getting into Hifi and has since passed away, my first track for testing any audio equipment is always one by Bob Marley. I opt for the brilliant “Live At The Roxy” collection.

Bob Marley - Want More - Live At The Roxy (Reggae)
My first impression of the 371’s were not great, I dectect a hint of grain and they seem to be slightly lacking in resolution. I question if I have made a mistake and start to think of the returning process. My second impression was that they had more of a stereo sound with better distinction between the left and right channels and a notable improvement on instrument separation. These aspects are what I enjoy most about hifi and I begin to get a sense of what audiophile grade headphones can offer. HD25’s sound like they have slightly better detail.
I move on to “Lively Up Yourself' High pitch crashing symbols sound a bit harsh, my ears are pieced by the sound of a member of the audience whistling. I’m concerned. The HD25’s have an in your face presentation but never have I felt like I want to turn the music down when listening to them. I pop them back on and my heart sinks a little as I immediately prefer the sound... Hmm


The Wailers - We Got A Date (Jamaican Version)
On this track the HD25’s present the music with energy, authority and an impactful kick. There isn’t much in it tbh but I prefer the HD25’s for this one.

The Wailers - Stop That Train (Reggae)
I try another from the legendary ‘Catch A Fire’ Album. A beautiful Rock & Blues infused Reggae album from a time when Bob Marley was part of a trio rather than a solo artist with a backing band. For the same reasons as above, I definitely prefer the HD25’s.

At this point the HD25’s are winning 3-0 but I have an expansive taste in music. How will the 371’s fair with one of my favourite genres… Drum & Bass.

Alix Perez - Numbers (Drum & Bass)
This chap is a legend on the scene and is renowned for making deep & soulful D&B.
The 371’s ability to give the impression of space and atmosphere has it firmly in the lead until the beat drop at 1min 06 secs. With the HD25’s back on the saddle, the beat kicks in with a defined punch, the upper frequencies are a tad bit sharper and the combination has me moving to the beat. As I go back and forth A/B’ing them the feel of the cable on the 371’s on my shoulder begins to annoy me. I swap the cable and to my relief it not longer pokes me. There isn’t too much in it but the energetic performance sees the HD25’s win this round on points.

Dave - Verdansk (UK Hip Hop)
I am very familiar with this song, one of my most played tracks in the last 7 months. I start with the HD25’s, as i’m about to press play I feel that they have the advantage. I press play and i’m instantly greeted with a sound that I expect. A simple piano rift accompanied by an onslaught of Dave’s vocals being projected in your face as he performs lyrical gymnastics. At the 53 seconds mark, sub bass activates and builds up to a powerful beat drop seasoned with a flow of energetic multiple kick drums. The sound is balanced, projected, energetic and has good attack. Time for the 371’s, I had been thinking it was game over for them but as I am putting them on my head I begin to look forward to hearing their more spacious reproduction and I know that sub-bass is going to sound great. As I press play I am instantly rewarded by a much more spacious and atmospheric sound. As the sub bass begins I realise I am starting to become familiar with their sound and on this song, against all odds, I prefer it. A KO victory for the 371’s.

GVN - Alone (Electronic)
A trancey, euphoric low-fi anthem. As I’m about to begin with the 371’s I think of that spacious advantage they have over the HD25’s and how the Senn's sound a bit cramped in comparison. My enjoyment of separation has me favouring them. I highly enjoy this presentation and my thoughts about returning them begin to dissipate. I put the HD 25’s on press play and suddenly I feel like I have been robbed of a luxury. 371’s clear winner, this song highlights their strengths.

I stay within the realms of electronica and head for uptempo dance music.

Alive - Jack Back, Fancy Inc & Roland Clark (Dance)
This is a techy, trance inducing house song that celebrates being back in the clubs post lockdown. Spacial vocals, atmospheric sweeps and pleasing sub bass make this a no contest. 371’s. Is the tide is beginning to turn?

I decide to give Reggae another go.

Bunny Wailer - Dream Land (Reggae)
371’s qualites give this a ‘live’ performance feel to it. The HD25’s have more of a ‘recorded’ portrayal. Not too much in it but I prefer 371’s and I’m becoming very fond of them.

Lets try something a little more bite...

Bulls On Parade - RAGTM (Rock)
The HD25’s impactful projection suits this absolute banger. Bass is good, vocals are in your face, crashing symbols coming through with a nice sharp attack. I feel a head bang coming on. The 371’s sound good but a bit polite and for this song thats not an advantage. HD 25’s pull one back and win this round.

Gary Clark Jr - Bright Lights (Rock)
This song is awesome. GCJ channels the spirit of Jimi Hendrix and his impressive guitar skills are the star of the show as it wails loudly through the track. The HD25’s do what I expect of them and as I listen to the guitar roar, I wonder if the slight harshness I noticed in the Bob Marley live recordings might rear its head. To my delight, it doesn’t. In fact I really enjoy their presentation. The wailing guitar comes through just right and with a nice level of separation. 371’s take it.

War Pigs - Black Sabbath (Remastered) Rock
The 371’s give me a sense of being at the concert and I don’t feel like there are any shortcomings in comparison with the HD25’s. The HD25’s do a good job but the live performance factor make this an easy choice. 371’s.

I abandon the comparison, dive deep into my music collection and stop taking notes. I’m really enjoying the qualities the 371’s bring and no longer have any thoughts of returning them. Time slips away and I have to talk myself out of playing one more song. As I take them off my final thought is that I am no longer able to detect any ‘grain’. Is this due to burn in or maybe brain burn in? I have no idea but something has changed. The review will continue on listening day two.
 
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Gray

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Great stuff.
Absolutely no question as far as I'm concerned; Brain burn-in ✅

Your comment about your heart sinking.....
such a common reaction as you return to familiarity.

So now you get to thinking about other headphones....every one sounds different....what are we missing 🤔
We can't try them all, so we need to learn how to be content (at least for a few months).

Bless your Brother and my Uncle, also now gone. Without them, we wouldn't be here.
 

GoodVibes

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Jan 31, 2021
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Great stuff.
Absolutely no question as far as I'm concerned; Brain burn-in ✅

Your comment about your heart sinking.....
such a common reaction as you return to familiarity.

So now you get to thinking about other headphones....every one sounds different....what are we missing 🤔
We can't try them all, so we need to learn how to be content (at least for a few months).

Bless your Brother and my Uncle, also now gone. Without them, we wouldn't be here.
The 371's are going to be a hard act to follow but I am already thinking of what the possibilities might be. Based on what I've heard so far, I think I would enjoy a pair that offer and improve upon all the things the 371's are good at plus some extra resouloution. My home and work life dictate that I will get much more use from a pair of closed backs but after getting a taste of the space the 371's are capable of I'm intrigued to experience a set of open backs. Apart from sound leakage, the other aspect of opens backs is the lack of sub bass & punch (based on what I have read thus far).

I'm not aware of any shops that I'd be able to sample so I'll probably have to buy before I try. I will enjoy the K371's in the meantime and hunt patiently.

RIP to your Uncle. I think this is the kind of hobbie you have to be introduced to before you can start appreciate what excellent sound can do for you. There's no turning back now lol.
 
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EvShrug

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Mar 4, 2022
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I love hearing the “Audiophile Uncle” stories (brother in your case :) ), it’s very common to be introduced to HiFi by someone close to you, and I like the idea of that bond and shared experience, ESPECIALLY, if it brings positive feelings to remind us of good times with someone no longer with us 🙏

You know… the K371 and the Sennheiser HD 25 are headphones I haven’t really familiarized myself with. Would you overall say the HD 25 is warm, intimate, not fatiguing to hear (but maybe the physical clamp is fatiguing… or not??) and lo-fi (in a good way! Not garbage-fi)? I’m not sure how the K371 is tuned from what you described (it doesn’t seem to be lacking in any major way, and seems to maintain sub bass performance from what you describe), but it does seem to be highly regarded in the community, and you seem to particularly notice the separation. I suppose you don’t just mean left and right separation, as all headphones have the L/R channels separated by our heads, but separation between instruments. Are you able to separate the distinction of distance as well

Thanks for the music, I checked out a bunch of the tracks you mentioned! Many experienced reviewers state their conclusions without citing any of their music or listening notes, which is a shame because music is what it’s all about and the examples make a review seem more concrete.

This is a more chill electronica track than the Anjuna Beats you shared (I love Anjuna!), but this should have an excellent sense of separation between sounds, and natural depth of soundstage (without sounding like a large amphitheater), and I’d be curious for your listening notes with the two headphones!
 
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SteveR750

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371s are a great start, and my guess you'll keep them as daily beaters. I've done z similar thing, sold my really nice separates system to a good sonos system, I've now got rid of that and my critical listening is now all on headphones. I got to owning Grado Hemp, Sennheiser HD650 and Hifiman Sundara. As much as Grado are fun things, the Sundara have been outstanding, and I'm so impressed with planar that I'm going to trade them all in for some Audeze LCD-X. Hopefully that will scratch the itch once and for all. Good luck on your journey!
 
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Friesiansam

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Once I have sold my system, I will be aiming for something along the lines of the Audeze LCD 2 or the Dan Clark Aeon 2 closed backs but I'm still a way off making that decision. For now, I am very intrigued to know what the K-371's will sound like to my ears.
If you are still thinking about what to buy, you may like to know Focal Elegias are still available with a big discount at £499 from Richer Sounds and others.
 
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GoodVibes

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Jan 31, 2021
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I love hearing the “Audiophile Uncle” stories (brother in your case :) ), it’s very common to be introduced to HiFi by someone close to you, and I like the idea of that bond and shared experience, ESPECIALLY, if it brings positive feelings to remind us of good times with someone no longer with us 🙏

You know… the K371 and the Sennheiser HD 25 are headphones I haven’t really familiarized myself with. Would you overall say the HD 25 is warm, intimate, not fatiguing to hear (but maybe the physical clamp is fatiguing… or not??) and lo-fi (in a good way! Not garbage-fi)? I’m not sure how the K371 is tuned from what you described (it doesn’t seem to be lacking in any major way, and seems to maintain sub bass performance from what you describe), but it does seem to be highly regarded in the community, and you seem to particularly notice the separation. I suppose you don’t just mean left and right separation, as all headphones have the L/R channels separated by our heads, but separation between instruments. Are you able to separate the distinction of distance as well

Hi, sorry for the late reply.

The HD25's are a popular headphone amongst amateur and professional DJ's worldwide. They project all frequencies in a forward and balanced way which helps when monitoring two songs at the same time with the aim of mixing them together harmonically in a noisy club environment. They have fast, punchy bass that suits and helps when beat matching uptempo music. The highs are well pronounced yet non fatiguing which also assists in the blending of two songs and accomodates long listening sessions. They don't offer any sense of width or space which I think would not be conducive for their intended application.

They are light and comfortable to wear and importantly are also very robust and durable. I have had mine for many years, regularly throwing them in and out of my DJ bag and to this day they are structurally as strong as the day I bought them. For the DJ'ing application they are fantastic. The K371's are more enjoyable to listen to but build wise seem a little on the fragile side. I look after mine very well and I'm sure they will last me a long time but if I were to start treating them like my HD25's I'm not sure they would last longer than a month.
 
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GoodVibes

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Jan 31, 2021
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If you are still thinking about what to buy, you may like to know Focal Elegias are still available with a big discount at £499 from Richer Sounds and others.
Thank you for the suggestion, they have been on my radar along with the EMU Teaks. I'm still yet to make a decision.
 

EvShrug

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Mar 4, 2022
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Thanks for the description!

I used to do contract work for Sennheiser until the start of this year, but the HD 25 was one I didn’t have the chance to have shipped to me (remote work!) to listen to myself. They certainly are tough! Meant to take a beating, and even if they do get damaged pretty much each piece is replaceable.

I owned three AKGs before I started working in the industry, and people regard the K371’s so highly for their price range that I can’t help but be curious about them too!

My personal collection has bloomed to the point where my wife teasingly has declared that I am not allowed to buy any more headphones (that’s when I start buying in-ears! LOL!), but even if I honestly feel like my needs are well met, my curiosity remains :)

Have a great day, and thank you for serving up tunes for people to enjoy 😊
 

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