User Review: Akg K 81 Dj



Let me kick off with a disclaimer: I'm no audiophile, and certainly no expert when it comes to cans. So everything you read here should be treated as a layman's POV.


Starting with the basic stuff, these are pretty average-sized, supra-aural phones, with ear couplings large enough to keep your ears warm in winter and make ‘em sweat in summer, though not so large as to illicit sniggering or sneers from folk on the bus or the street.

In a word, the overall build quality is ‘robust'. What else can you say about a set that combines the strength of steel in the headband with a rubberised outer casing that complements some reasonably solid plastic bits? Size adjustment is by the usual ‘slide-the-arms-into-the-headband' arrangement, and you'd need a head the size of pea to go below about the number 7 setting (it goes up to 10). As for the pleather-clad ear cushions, they're generously deep – enough so that the less fleshy parts of your outer ear don't scrape against the material that covers the drivers.

The cord is unremarkable, except to say that for the price – and given the general size / weight / build of these cans – you'd think AKG would've made it thicker. Nonetheless, it's thick enough; and at 2.5m, not overly long (though portable users might want to do as I've done and invest in a Smartwrap from Sumajin: a snip at about US$5, and a great way to rid yourself of about a metre of unnecessary cord) The terminal plug is the usual 3.5mm jack with screw thread to attach the supplied 6.4mm add-on.

Oh, and you get a large-ish leatherette pouch to store the phones in, complete with drawstring closure. Er, nice?

COMFORT: 4.5 / 5

These are a big step up in comfort from their more compact brother, the K26P. And a VAST improvement on the similarly sized though less expensive Sony MDR-V300 (which is spoiled by a harsh headband fit … amongst other failings). Were it not for the moderate-to-strong pressure these exert on your lugs, you'd forget you were wearing them; certainly, the headband quickly becomes ‘invisible' in your mind.

A word on the afore-mentioned on-ear pressure. Like all closed cans, these are designed to seal pretty tightly against your ears – stopping sound from leaking out, and audible irritations from creeping in and ruining Mahler's Fifth or McFly's latest. When you first get these, you might want to let off a certain amount of this clamping pressure, as it can feel a tad headache-inducing. But please: DON'T DO THIS BY FLEXING THE CENTRE OF THE HEADBAND DOWNWARDS!!!! This will actually INCREASE the pressure! Instead, push the ear cushions together and, holding them this way between the ‘heels' of your hands, use your fingers to squeeze the arms of the headband together. Do this gently, and keep adjusting till they feel right. Do it too much and you'll put a permanent bend in the visible steel band on top, so please be careful!

So, how do they feel after 2+ hours of non-stop listening? Expect your ears to be fairly hot, but not bruised. Only circumaural couplings are going to give you the kind of comfort you'd enjoy at home, but these are a sensible size compromise for those who don't want to look a berk while out and about.

SOUND: 4.5 / 5

Owned the previously mentioned K26P? Found them a mite on the ‘boomy' side, bass-wise? Or as AV Forums member, extremelydodgy, amusingly but not entirely inaccurately put it: ‘ … like the bass you'd expect at a Max Power McDonald's car park meet …' (or words to this effect)? Then these will please.

Yes, they're designed for DJ use. So yes, the bass goes deep (too much to get anywhere near to being reference, but not so much that it'll loosen teeth). And yes, the upper bass / lower mid range does strike me as being a tad more forward than the rest of the sonic spectrum. But gone is the ‘boominess', replaced by a reasonably tight bass response which, if you add some EQ colouration – and you're stupid enough to listen at deafening volumes - you can easily feel in the upper part of your chest.

Headroom's description of how these cans sound overall is one which I'd tend to agree with. So here it is, almost verbatim:

The … AKG K-81DJ sealed headphone is a nice extension on the sonics of the AKG 26P and improves the clarity and detail resolution of the mids/highs while providing a more even-sounding and cleanly focused bass response. The tonal signature is ever-so-slightly rolled-off in the upper highs, but the bass response is significantly better balanced than in the AKG 26P model, so not quite as "boomy" to our ears. The soundstage image is also more expansive and deeper-sounding compared to its less expensive little bro' model.

I'll add to this, if I may. Rock music sounds very well-proportioned – and I'm thinking here of CDs like Evanescence's ‘Fallen' (which has sounded harsh through every pair of phones I've owned until these), or Embrace's ‘Out Of Nothing', which has some ropey production (IMO) but sounds nicely balanced with these. Classical is always going to suffer a little from the well-extended bass, but not so much so that it becomes ‘smudged' at the lower end, or just plain unenjoyable. Pop and dance fans are in for the biggest treat, however: these are the genres these were made for.

VALUE: 5 / 5

All things considered, you could drop £50 + P&P on plenty of worse bits of kit than this. Not the greatest cans in the world, but then for the price, would you expect them to be? I'll leave you with another quote from Headroom, with which I again concur:

The next logical step up from the AKG K26P

In a nutshell, there it is. Thoroughly recommended if you want some decent, non-bank-breaking phones with a good pedigree behind them.


Active Member
shadowritten - nice review & should be helpful to anyone considering cans in this price bracket - just a thought, it might be helpful to mention what other hardware you used on your test (?)
Paul :smashin:


Thought this might be a good opportnity to add a few more details I left off for time reasons the other evening.


Headroom suggests that this is not so thorough with these cans and is actually better with the K26P, which I have to say I dispute strongly. The second the ear couplings of the K81DJ hit your lugs, there's a very noticeable 'disappearance' of surrounding noise - even before you've got any music playing out through them! Naturally, certain frequencies can still be discerned whether there's sound in the cans or not, but on a busy London street in rush hour, all you're really aware of is a sufficient level of traffic noise to stay safe if listening on your way to work. To sum this up in simple terms, these cans take the edge off of outside ambient noise by dulling the higher frequencies significantly.


This is an area that's a bit technical for me, but I'll attempt to make myself clear.

These are 32 oHm impendance phones with a sensitivity of around 115 dB, which is 10 dB less than the K26P. And you notice this difference almost immediately. Coupled with the improved sonic delivery of these cans, this lower sensitivity seems to prevent the overall sound from 'screaming' at you even at moderate volumes, which was sometimes the case for me with the K26P. However, the price you pay for this will ultimately be reduced battery life on your portable - if that's what you're using these with - unless of course you've invested in a pocket amp.

On the amplification side of things, I do detect a slightly better response from this phones when they're being fed with direct current rather than batteries. Using them with my PC I find the sound is more 'gutsy' and effortless, and the volume levels can be accordingly reduced. But even with a portable, you're only looking at perhaps a notch or two more up the volume bar to get an acceptably comfortable level for outdoor listening.

I'll add more comments as these occur to me, but here's what I tested these cans using (please don't laugh at the relative naffness of my kit!):

Panasonic SL-CT710 Portable CD/MP3 Player

Sony CMT-A50 Mini HiFi with CD source being fed in through Line in from a Sony DVP-NS30 DVD/CD Player.


Occurred to me this evening that the one thing I'd really have appreciated when choosing these or any cans was a pic of they look on an actual human head!

So here are the K81 DJs on my bonce!


As you can see, they're not stupidly large or anything.


Given that it's been over a month since I started this review thread, just wanted to report absolutely no problems so far with these lovely sounding cans! Still incredibly comfortable, still delivering a nice, even, non-fatiguing sound ... and still well worth the £56 I paid for them. So, still recommended!


Novice Member
Thanks for the review - really helpful, and the face on picture to show the comparative size of the headphones is especially so!


Senior Moderator
Surprised to have found this.....I ignored the links to your reviews in your sig :D

I googled for shops after reading some head-fi reviews....any chance you could take a up close pic of the cord? Just before I order it...mind you from elsewhere for £50...


Senior Moderator
shadowritten said:

The cord is unremarkable, except to say that for the price – and given the general size / weight / build of these cans – you’d think AKG would’ve made it thicker. Nonetheless, it’s thick enough; and at 2.5m, not overly long (though portable users might want to do as I’ve done and invest in a Smartwrap from Sumajin: a snip at about US$5, and a great way to rid yourself of about a metre of unnecessary cord) The terminal plug is the usual 3.5mm jack with screw thread to attach the supplied 6.4mm add-on
Just a pic in your hand or something...those pics above are manufacturer pics and so you don't can't make out the thickness...and on your pic I can't make anything beyond the facial hair :D


Senior Moderator
Cheers mate

P.S. Please refrain in future from calling Evanescence and Embrace rock. Pop or pop-punk rock is fine however


LFC_SL said:
Please refrain in future from calling Evanescence and Embrace rock. Pop or pop-punk rock is fine however

I put everything electric guitar-based into the 'rock' bin, sorry! I'm not so up on these new-fangled sub-genres! Except where classical music is concerned ... :D

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