AKG Y500 Noise Cancelling Headphone Review

AKG delivers on sheer wireless competence in a way few rivals can

by Ed Selley
Hi-Fi Review

7

Recommended
AKG Y500 Noise Cancelling Headphone Review
SRP: £129.00

What is the AKG Y500?

The AKG Y500 is a compact, over ear headphone that offers wired and wireless operation with the option to switch noise cancelling on and off. We’ve seen a fair few of these over the years - I generally try and review a few in holiday season- but the AKG is notable because it is one of the smallest and most affordable designs to offer this sort of functionality. Not the most affordable mind, that honour goes to fellow Harman International JBL who dipped below the £100 barrier with the Tune 600 BTNC, but still not at the level of many rivals.

The difference between the JBL and AKG approach is in the details. AKG is promising a more design led and elegant device with some clever facets to its Bluetooth operability that means you want to spend a little more on the Y500. On paper, it looks pretty convincing but headphones aren’t listened to on paper. Is the Y500 a stylish and cost effective option that justifies its existence or does it occupy a hinterland of not quite being one thing or the other?

Specification & Design

AKG Y500
At its heart, the Y500 is determinedly conventional. It’s a closed back design that incorporates a pair of 40mm dynamic drivers of unknown composition (even finding out their size requires you to bypass the Samsung site that you are directed to first and go to the actual AKG site). This is the type standard for portable and semi portable headphones but what is fairly notable with the AKG is that this driver takes up a significant amount of the enclosures which are only roughly 60mm across.

This isn’t significant in itself as other headphones make a similar design decision. When you consider that the enclosures also have to include an amp, battery, Bluetooth receiver and a microphone, it becomes clear that this is a fairly neat piece of packaging. The nature of this fitment is not state of the art by any stretch of the imagination. The AKG is built around a v4.2 Bluetooth implementation that has neither aptX nor AAC Bluetooth.

AKG Y500
This is perhaps not too surprising - it’s a fitment that is fairly similar to the JBL - but the competition is starting to raise their game a little. Audio Technica’s M50xBT is a Bluetooth 5.0 device with aptX and it costs £50 more (albeit with no noise cancelling). The 30 hour battery life of the Y500 does feel just about achievable but it will require a little care in use to achieve, whereas the Audio Technica genuinely does do 40 hours under almost all conditions. The sonic arguments are less absolute since at this sort of price point, the benefits to having it aren’t as immediate as they might be further up the food chain.

What you do get are some clever additional features in the Bluetooth implementation. It has what AKG calls multipoint connectivity which means that if you have it paired to, for example, your iPad listening to music, it can also retain a pairing with your phone so that if it rings, it will switch connection on the Y500. Don’t ask me how it works but work it does. Harman International has got some clever souls at its disposal when it comes to Bluetooth and it shows with technology like this.
AKG Y500
The noise cancelling system that has been applied is clever too. AKG calls it Ambient Aware and rather than being a fixed cut style noise cancelling system it might be better to think of the Y500 as a headphone where the noise cancelling is present all the time, unless you press a button that will allow for a greater level of background noise passthrough to be engaged to let you be more aware of your surroundings. It’s a little different to ‘normal’ noise cancelling but it does work rather well in practice. It probably wouldn’t be my choice for handling an aircraft but it will make a commute a less obtrusive experience.

And I think many people would be happy to wear the Y500 on a commute. AKG has some experience with these smaller form factor headphones and it has resulted in a comfortable and fairly sensible looking device. In the supplied black finish of the review sample, the Y500 is unlikely to attract a second glance in 2019 and I’m not sure that even the livelier finishes of blue, green and pink will be significantly different. This is a well made and well finished headphone that is being marketed at people looking for something more sober than what JBL is building.

AKG Y500
It isn’t, in absolute terms, the most comfortable design though. I’ve found that over extended sessions it tends to exert a lot of pressure on the back of my ear and I wouldn’t really want to do much more than ninety minutes in them. This does put it at a disadvantage to both the Audio Technica and the cheaper JBL, both of which are more comfortable for me. Of course, they’re also larger and this is an area where the Y500 is able to pull some points back. With a smaller set of dimensions outright and the ability to fold down, the AKG will fit into bags that its bulkier rivals won’t.

There are some other nice design touches too. AKG claims that a five minute charge will give you an hour of playback and this does seem to be the case. The only slight annoyance is that the charging socket is USB B rather than USB C. Given that the Y500 is now under the control of Samsung who have moved to USB C and wireless charging across big chunks of their range, the Y500 feels a bit old hat and will require you to have a separate charge cable to hand for it. The carry bag that is supplied with it is of useful quality though and doesn’t struggle to hold the headphones once folded.
AKG Y500
What you do get are some clever additional features in the Bluetooth implementation

How was the Y500 Tested?

The Y500 has almost exclusively been tested over Bluetooth as this is how it is likely to be used by real people. Aside from a quick test with a Chord Electronics Mojo, the sources have been an Essential PH-1, iPad Pro and LG 55B7 OLED. Material used has included Deezer, Qobuz, Netflix, Amaxon, YouTube and broadcast TV.
AKG Y500
In much the same way as was the case with the JBL Tune 600BT (and to a different extent the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay P6), the first thing to make entirely clear about the Y500 is that the absence of aptX is not make or break in terms of the overall performance. Listening to the AKG via the wired connection into the Mojo doesn’t magically unlock a huge extra reserves of performance and it suggests that the design has been set up to work with the nature of the Bluetooth fitment it has.

If you accept that this is a device that is made to do its thing with SBC Bluetooth, the actual performance on offer is more than respectable. The AKG is silent at idle and this ensures that the actual sonic content arrives at the ear with little sense of congestion or interference. There’s plenty of headroom on offer and the Ambient Aware noise cancelling does a solid job of removing a layer of external noise too.

This means that when you fire up Qobuz and listen to something pleasantly delicate like the Alba Griot Ensemble’s The Darkness Between the Leaves, the Y500 is a genuinely good listen. There is a reasonable feeling of space and three dimensionality to it and the tonal balance is fractionally tilted towards an over emphasised low end but the performance itself is very listenable. As you might expect, if you stop and close Qobuz and play the same material on Deezer, the performance is almost identical. If you’re a shoestring audiophile, looking to extract maximum bang for your buck, this might not be the product for you. If you want your £10 a month sub to Spotify or Deezer sounding big, fun and easy to enjoy for long periods, it makes rather more sense.

AKG Y500
It is also tied to some excellent Bluetooth functionality that makes for a convenient headphone to use. Press the button to turn Ambient Aware on and you can catch train announcements, safely cross roads and other tasks and if you simply place the Y500 round your neck, playback stops automatically. Taking calls is easy thanks to a decent built-in mic and while it still looks like you are having a vigorous conversation with yourself, at least the person on the other end of the phone won’t be aware of it.

Perhaps crucially for readers here, it’s also a bit of a star with film and TV work. Using it paired with the iPad to watch Netflix, really plays to the AKG’s strengths. The charmingly silly Love, Death and Robots episode Suits, shows this off to fine effect. Guns and explosions convey convincing levels of weight, there is enough detail retrieval to ensure that you can follow events on screen and the AKG successfully achieves the suspension of disbelief that you aren’t listening ‘buttoned up.’ It does the same thing when connected to the OLED and while I don’t suggest it’s a viable alternative to a full fat home cinema system, I can spend rather longer than I expected using the Y500 for viewing purposes. As a final neat trick, the multi-device support works a charm too, handing control of the Y500 back to the phone to take a call.

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Excellent real world facilities
  • Decent sound quality with video content in particular
  • Well made

Cons

  • Slightly old fashioned Bluetooth installation
  • Slightly uncomfortable for long stints
  • Seriously talented competition

AKG Y500 Noise Cancelling Headphone Review

The headphone market is a huge one and as a result of that, people aren’t looking for exactly the same things when choosing a product. The AKG Y500 is not all things to all people. If you want the ultimate in fidelity at the price, you’ll need to go wired and look at Grado or Sennheiser. For £50 more, the Audio Technica M50xBT is still an absurdly good headphone that offers wireless performance more akin to models nearer the £300 point. Then, in absolute noise cancelling terms, it’s not as capable as some more normal offerings.

What it is, is a superbly realised commuting and light travel design that has some features that are genuinely missed when you stop using it and move to another device. AKG isn’t chasing audiophiles with the Y500. It has instead created a well-designed and extremely capable device for day to day real world use. If this is what you’re looking for, the Y500 is tough to beat and for that reason earns our enthusiastic recommendation.

Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
.
8

Ease of Use

.
9

Sensitivity

.
.
8

Design and usability

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Value For Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Our Review Ethos

Read about our review ethos and the meaning of our review badges.

To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.

Related Content

Audio Technica ATH-MSR7b Headphone Review
  • By Ed Selley
  • Published
Nura, Nuraphone review
  • By Ed Selley
  • Published
KitSound District Bluetooth Headphones Review
  • By Greg Hook
  • Published
PSB M4U8 Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Headphones Review
  • By Ed Selley
  • Published

Latest Headlines

Bowers & Wilkins unveils new PX wireless ANC headphones
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Braven launches BRV rugged portable speakers
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
BluOS to integrate Amazon Music HD
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Roon Gen2 Nucleus and Nucleus+ servers available in UK
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Mitchell & Johnson UK Hi-Fi specialists to close
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Top Bottom