A few days after this review is published, I'll be playing guitar and singing at my first solo show in two years. Over the last few weeks, I've been buying equipment like amplifiers, a microphone and stand, and a music stand. I also wanted some studio headphones to hear my amplifier effects without disrupting my neighbors. I also wanted neutral headphones around for when I get around to recording some music I've written, and some lightweight headphones for long listening sessions.

One of the record stores I visit frequently has a record player with headphones attached to an amplifier for customers to sample records on. While writing in there one day, I borrowed the headphones to hear how they sound and how comfortable. Those headphones were the AKG K52, and I immediately fell in love with them.

AKG K52 Headphones

Price: $65

Bottom line: These are headphones that sound great with neutral sound, featherlight weight, and are relatively inexpensive.

The Good

  • Hardly any bulk or weight, allowing for super long listening sessions
  • Neutral sound
  • Distraction-free listening
  • Long cable is great for studio use

The Bad

  • Cable is non-replaceable and annoyingly long for desk use
  • Wired only
  • Only one color option

AKG K52 Headphones What I like

I'll get this right out of the way: these are not Bluetooth headphones. If that's a deal breaker for you, that's entirely understandable and you'd be better served by a different pair of headphones. I didn't buy these to be my on-the-go headphones, they're for home studio use and to keep me focused during long writing sessions at my desk.

And they serve both of those purposes well. Not having a Bluetooth radio, microphones, and battery makes the headphones that much lighter, which makes them that much more comfortable for wearing for hours on end. The longest I've worn these headphones is eight hours — with bathroom breaks — and my ears and the top of my head didn't feel any discomfort by the end of that day. These are a full ounce lighter than the already light Bose QC35 II headphones, and you can feel the difference.

The 3.5mm cable is permanently attached to the headphones — more on that later — and it's sufficiently long enough to plug into my amplifier and let me move around with my guitar. It's a bit annoying to have the long cable running down my back, but an annoyingly long cable is better than a short cable that would make my equipment fall over. AKG includes a 3.5mm-to-6.35mm adapter in the box for plugging the headphones into an amplifier.

But the best part about these headphones — and the reason I specifically use them over some wired gaming headsets I already owned — is their neutral sound. Almost every wireless pair of headphones — and even other wired headsets — has some sort of tuning built in to make music sound "better" than competing headphones. I don't mind this since some manufacturers' definition of "better" matches my definition of "better", but for hearing myself play and sing I don't want any unnecessary effects or tuning.

AKG K52 Headphones What I don't like

My main complaints with these headphones come down to the 3.5mm cable being permanently attached to the headphones. The long cable is excellent when I'm playing guitar and singing, but much more annoying when I'm just listening to music at my desk. I usually have the cable wrapped up and velcroed to keep it tidy, but that's not great for the long-term health of the cable.

And because the cable's permanently attached, ruining the cable will ruin the headphones as well. This is made more frustrating by the fact that AKG sells other headphones at a similar price that includes a removable (though non-standard) cable.

Finally, while I'm sure most musicians would be fine with the plain black style — as am I — it'd be great to see more color options.

AKG K52 Headphones Should you buy them?

Maybe. There are definitely better studio headphones that feature a wider soundstage, but if you don't want to spend too much money on your home studio or desk headphones, these are a great option. I purchased my set for $30 at Guitar Center during their Fourth of July sale, and if you can find a similar bargain go for it.

At full price, things get a little dicey. I would have gone for the AKG's K240 solely for the removable cable, and the semi-open back design would have meant a wider soundstage for hearing myself play. But that also means my music would leak out, disturbing other people nearby. Each pair of headphones has merits and detractions.

4 out of 5

Even at full price, these are a great pair of headphones for anyone who wants an inexpensive pair of headphones for their desk or home studio.

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