What is the AKG Y500?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
How was the Y500 Tested?
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.
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.
- Excellent real world facilities
- Decent sound quality with video content in particular
- Well made
- Slightly old fashioned Bluetooth installation
- Slightly uncomfortable for long stints
- Seriously talented competition
AKG Y500 Noise Cancelling Headphone Review
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.
Ease of Use
Design and usability
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
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