AKG K361-BT Wireless Studio Headphones Review
In the crowded world of closed back studio headphones, you can’t do much better than the AKG K361 and K371. They were both a big blow to the market, long dominated by models from Sony and Audio-Technica. For their prices, they offer astounding audio performance, packed into designs that look more suited to the street than the studio.
That visual conundrum made a bit more sense once the wireless versions released. Unfortunately, the K371-BT was a disappointment for me. It was priced reasonably, but many small changes to the design made it uncomfortable and cumbersome. Furthermore, the sound took a bit of a step back from the wired version, especially when used in Bluetooth mode.
Can the cheaper K361-BT fare better?
On the surface, that seems like an outlandish question…but the wired K361 has won many fans thanks to its more flexible lightweight build and better price/performance ratio compared to the more expensive model. Fortunately, some of these same benefits carry over to the Bluetooth edition of the K361, and it even omits some of the design mistakes that bothered me in its bigger brother.
I bought this headset with my own money. I don’t receive a kickback if you decide to buy one, and none of the links in this article are affiliate links. I wasn’t sponsored to write this, and I had full editorial control over this article.
The AKG K361-BT is a closed back, Bluetooth and wired studio headphone. It sells for a normal price of $129, but receives regular discounts. I bought mine for $99 from Amazon. That’s an astounding price for the features included here, and already makes the 371-BT look bad in comparison.
In the box, you get a nice AKG carrying bag, a micro-USB charging cable (these desperately need an update to USB-C), and two wired cables. The cables use the same 2.5mm twist lock connector as the wired K361, defeating one of the biggest issues of the 371-BT. The two 371 models don’t have compatible cables, with the 371-BT adding a useless extra pin to the mini XLR jack.
The cables are both straight, and a little bit prone to kinks. One is 1.2m long and the other is 3m long. Both of them provide noticeably better sound than the Bluetooth connection…which gets at the heart of the biggest problem with this pair.
Unfortunately, out of the four K300 series headphones, this one sounds the worst. And its sonic problems are more dramatic in Bluetooth mode.
It’s not a bad-sounding headphone overall, just extremely unremarkable and bland. The bass lacks some punch and detail. The midrange is decent as far as tone and accuracy, but has a bit of a withdrawn hollow “cupped-hands” feeling to it, particularly over a wireless connection. Treble is flat and a little rolled off, and the soundstage overall is more cluttered than the rest of this headphone family.
If you plug one of the wires in, the upper midrange and treble get a boost in level and quality, and things sound better. Listening over a wire, the driver has more of the characteristics of the wired K361, but still doesn’t sound as nice.
Compared to the wired edition, it feels like there’s a veil lying over everything, and it’s all a little bit less impressive. Again, in a vacuum, it’s not at all an awful-sounding headphone. With a few days of listening you’ll adjust to it and its flaws don’t stick out. 80 percent of the quality of a wired K361 still makes for a fine listen. But it’s the most bland, unremarkable-sounding headphone I’ve heard since the Pioneer MS5T, particularly over Bluetooth.
Fortunately, the K361-BT is much more comfy than the K371-BT. This is likely down to the lighter build materials and the smaller battery, which shave the weight down to an amazing 260g, which is only a touch heavier than the wired K371. That’s remarkably light for a Bluetooth headphone, and I think it’s the lightest Bluetooth headphone I’ve ever used.
The ear cups are still slightly thicker than the wired version, and the ear pads slightly thinner, both baffling design holdovers from the K371-BT. But the lighter weight and perfectly-balanced clamping force make this a non-issue. My ears don’t get nearly as squished by the back plates inside the cups here as they do on the K371-BT. With that model, I was ready to stop wearing it after about thirty minutes of listening thanks to the cups pinching the backs of my ears, but the K361-BT is an easy all-day wear.
With the K371-BT, I have a harder time getting a proper seal on my head. The cups have a tendency to pull towards the top of my head unless I extend the arms a little too far to fit correctly. The K361-BT fits me perfectly with two spare clicks of adjustment on each side, and I don’t have to do any work to get it into position.
Just like the wired K361, the 361-BT strikes an excellent balance between low-cost materials and a solid build. The headband is dense and creak-free, in spite of being made out of a basic molded plastic. The plastic ear cup forks have a nice matte finish and the folding rotation hinges snap firmly into position.
Again, like the more-expensive model, the one questionable design thing here is the thicker ear cups and thinner pads compared to the wired edition. I get that they probably needed the extra room for wireless antennas and a battery, but if the padding hadn’t lost some thickness then it would have been better.
The headband pad is a soft silicone piece, and it’s thinner than the one on the K361-BT. That’s okay though, because this is a much lighter headphone, and again I think the thinner profile of the headband actually helps me achieve a better fit and seal without any struggle.
The battery in the K361-BT is only rated for 24 hours of playback, unlike the 40 hour playback time on the K371-BT. But that’s okay with me. The weight reduction is worth it, and at this price point 24 hours of battery is still excellent.
Unfortunately, the same iffy touch pad and Bluetooth implementation from the more-expensive model return here. Still, it’s not as frustrating for a ~$100 Bluetooth headphone to only have SBC and AAC support as it was on the ~$179 AKG K371-BT. And this still uses a Bluetooth 5.0 compatible antenna, which means you’ll get solid range performance and should have no trouble hitting the battery life advertised even at higher-than-average volumes.
At least the cables aren’t stupid. The 2.5mm twist-lock cables fit firmly into the headphone, and shouldn’t be as hard to replace as the 4-pin XLR cables on the 371-BT should you need a new one down the line. The carrying bag is also quite nice, and will easily protect these from dust.
If the K361-BT sounded just a little bit better, it would be an instant “buy” recommendation. It doesn’t have as many design flaws as the more-expensive K371-BT, and it’s more comfortable to wear thanks to its lighter weight and sleeker design.
But sonically, both the K371-BT and the M50XBT do a better job. The Audio-Technica model is probably still the best choice overall if you need a headphone that can pull double duty as a studio pair and a Bluetooth pair, as long as you don’t mind the fit of those pads.
I always assumed from the industrial design of the K361 and K371 that they were built to be Bluetooth headphones first, studio headphones second. Having actually used the Bluetooth models now…that probably wasn’t true at all. The Bluetooth versions simply don’t have the sonic performance and clarity that the amazing wired models do, but they’re still fascinating experiments in their own right.
If you must buy one of these two Bluetooth AKG headphones, I’d argue that the K361-BT is a far better choice than the 371-BT for its cheaper price and better fit, even with its slightly bland sound signature.