Headphone Showdown: AKG K371 Vs Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro
Which is a better use of $150?
I know what you’re probably thinking.
“Alex, why aren’t you comparing the AKG K371 to the Audio-Technica M50X?”
Because there’s not enough to talk about there.
The K371 so thoroughly trounces the M50X that there’s no real reason to buy the latter headphone anymore, in my opinion.
They’re both targeting similar design goals and usage scenarios, but the K371 is just better at every turn. It sounds better. It’s more comfy. It has a sleeker design and a comparable set of cables, but with a sturdier connector.
If you’re considering an M50X or M40X, consider a K371 instead.
Beyerdynamic’s DT770, on the other hand, is its own beast. It’s a headphone I’ve loved for a long time, and it has its own distinct character that will put some people off. But that character has also helped it stand the test of time on the market.
AKG K371 — Original Review Here
The K371 is a $150 closed back wired headphone designed for professional use, and also for anyone with ears who wants a clean, accurate sound. Its sonic characteristics are backed directly by Sean Olive and his Harman Target Curve research, and as a result it’s the headphone to pick if you want portable audio that sounds just like the original source.
It comes with a bag and three cables, tipped with Mini XLR connectors. It folds into a compact, light, portable package. And its design sits squarely between style and studio headphones.
It’s both a great place to start and a great headphone for people who’ve been at this for a while.
Beyerdynamic DT770 250 Ohm — Original Review Here
The DT770 is a closed back wired headphone with an attached cable. The current standard price is $179, but they’re almost always on sale for around $150. It comes in three different impedance ratings, with different lengths of cable. They all sound very similar, though the 80 Ohm version is famous for its more aggressive bass response.
Their sound signature is somewhere between modern studio headphones and the treble madness of Grado products, and follows the pre-Harman Target “Diffuse Field” curve.
What is meant by diffuse-field equalisation and free-field equalisation?
To be able to adjust the headphones to how we habitually hear things, we firstly have to measure and record the…
At one time in the past, I owned all three versions of these, and then I took a short break from the brand when we had a little…disagreement. I purchased a new pair last week and it’s been a wonderful time.
It’s not a strictly “accurate” headphone, although components of its sound are impressively tuned.
The K371 sticks shockingly close to the Harman Target, and is a better-sounding headphone overall.
It’s one of the most accurate headphones I’ve ever heard, and probably the most accurate closed back I’ve ever heard. At least, in my personal experience of 13 years of audio editing and 5 years of headphone reviewing.
It has air and midrange detail that rival a lot of the popular open back headphones. It has accurate bass that provides the exact right amount of punch. And it doesn’t rely on potentially fatiguing boosted treble for high-end detail.
More on that sort of treble later.
The only real sonic “weakness” of the K371 is soundstage width, but it still sounds much wider than most other popular studio headphones. The M50X, M40X, Sony 7506, Shure SRH440, and even the Sennheiser HD280 Pro all sound constrained and thin by comparison.
Beyerdynamic’s DT770, on the other hand, has a wide, spacious soundstage in an incredibly-isolating closed design. I’ve never grown tired of this and hearing it again in the last week, it’s still impressive.
The bass on the DT770 is also a little more textured and powerful than the bass on the K371. The 770 produces truly authoritative sub bass slam, which may not be the most accurate to your original recording, but provides a depth that’s hard not to love.
Outside the soundstage and bass, the DT770 starts its brazen march into love-it-or-hate-it territory. Midrange, though accurate and fast, is a little bit withdrawn. That’s followed by a massive peak in the treble response that I’ve described in the past as “Knife-like” and “Shouting Angel Trumpets.”
If you’re a high-volume listener, the DT770 is probably your new worst enemy. And if you don’t like a heaping pile of treble energy, you might also hate it. It can frequently sound sibilant. It can make vocals sound harsh. It’s a curious tuning choice that persists across many popular Beyerdynamic models.
But with the right material/usage, you’ll have these moments where you suddenly understand why they’ve done this. You’ll hear little details you couldn’t notice before. You’ll appreciate well-recorded acoustic material in a new way, feeling every pluck of every guitar string. You’ll delight at the speed of its attack and decay in one song, and then scramble for the volume knob to turn it down a bit on the next.
That treble aggressiveness is somewhat useful in both monitoring and gaming contexts. It highlights positional information and footsteps well in games, and makes it easier to hunt down every last bit of hiss in your recording setup. But the K371’s accuracy is also good for these tasks, and less in-your-face about it.
The AKG K371 is a pristine, exemplary example of headphone audio that should be the new standard for both audio work and for home critical listening.
But the DT770 is there for folks ready to kick everything up a notch, regardless of the bad that comes along for that ride.
Those that want wide soundstage, luxurious bass, and bristling detail at the expense of some accuracy will have a great time with the 770’s.
I’ve always said it’s like the studio headphone that would exist in a heightened fictional universe. It’s not at all the best-sounding of the two but it is more “fun” to listen to. It’s like a stubborn studio monitor with one foot firmly planted in “v-shape” territory.
Both of these headphones are relatively light, with ample padding for both your head and your ears. You could wear either of them for multiple hours of listening just fine.
However, the DT770 just edges it out on comfort thanks to its big velour ear pads.
Beyerdynamic’s grey velour pads are truly iconic. They’re large, and in spite of their circular openings, their tapered edges mean your ear will sit gently inside.
The 770 uses a denser foam than its 880 and 990 counterparts to help isolate outside noise, and indeed, the 770 isolates you from the outside world just a little better than the K371 in my subjective experience.
Both headphones have a wide range of adjustment, and both fit my larger head with a couple of clicks to spare. Both have a strong clamp, which is rather normal for studio headphones, and both have enough padding that you won’t feel this clamp too badly. After a few days of break-in they both hit that comfort sweet spot.
You won’t be upset with the comfort of either of these, but the DT770 is a tiny bit less sweaty and a tiny bit more isolating.
I enjoy the “old” look of the DT770, but I’d wager most users will find the look of the K371 more enjoyable.
AKG’s model sits precisely between studio headphone and style headphone, with design aspects cherry-picked from each side of the fence. It has a small, sleek profile on the head. It has ear cups with smooth rounded sides, and a silicone headband. I wouldn’t even bat an eye if it someday released in additional colors.
The design of the DT770 screams “pro audio gear from the mid-80's” because that’s exactly what it is. In spite of its age and massive ear cups, it still doesn’t stick out that far from the head. Every screw, cable, and part is exposed, and the name of the headphones is proudly displayed on plates adorning each ear cup.
Some of Beyerdynamic’s newer headphones have updated this design, and I’ll admit that I don’t think any of them have the same charm as this older look. But there’s no mistaking it for anything other than an older studio headphone.
WINNER: AKG K371
It’s Beyerdynamic’s time to shine.
The DT770 is built like a hilarious metal brick. The headband is spring steel. The ear cup forks are solid metal as well. Every pair is hand-built in Germany.
Oh, and every part is user-replaceable.
The ear cups are made out of a dense textured plastic that I enjoy touching. It feels just like a musical instrument case.
I’ve never had a personal build issue with the ten Beyerdynamic products I’ve owned over the last five years (not counting two units I returned that had obvious shipping box damage), and if I ever do, it’s awesome to know that they have both a great warranty and a full parts catalog.
Repairability is important for a studio-focused product, and the K371 doesn’t really tout that feature at all. Its sleek look means that you can’t really dig it open and tinker with things without risking severe damage to the shell.
To AKG’s credit, their warranty is also solid and the ear pads are easily replaceable. The metal parts are smartly employed, and it doesn’t feel bad. But it’s not the “fixable tank” that some have come to expect from studio-style gear.
I can’t for the life of me figure out why Beyerdynamic still insists on shipping the DT770 with a permanently-attached cable. I understand that they need to save something special for the more expensive Custom Studio, DT1770 and DT1990 models, but come on.
The more time that goes by, the more the oddness of this choice sticks out as everyone else goes detachable.
I know that you can technically mod the headphones to have a detachable cord thanks to the repairability I mentioned above, but it wouldn’t dramatically increase production costs for Beyerdynamic to swap in one of the many detachable connectors they already use on other models in-house.
Beyerdynamic’s cables are at least of decent quality…but AKG gives you three cables of decent quality. And with Mini XLR connectors on the headphone side.
AKG’s carrying bag is also better, with a nice grey textured exterior. Beyerdynamic’s carrying bag is a hilarious nylon dust cover with a luggage tag on the outside. They’ve used this bag for years, and even though I’d never call it anywhere close to “amazing,” I’d be weirdly bummed if they ever stopped including it.
Regardless of your chosen impedance, the DT770 isn’t the most sensitive headphone in the world at a rating of 96 decibels.
The 32 ohm and 80 ohm versions can get by without a dedicated amp, but the 250 ohm version absolutely benefits from extra power. If you try to run it out of your laptop or a game console controller, you’ll have to crank it up several extra notches on the volume scale for a listenable volume. PS4 users should not buy the 250 ohm version, as it’s barely loud enough at max volume on the controller.
The K371 has no such sensitivity or driving issues. Its impedance load of 32 ohms and sensitivity of 114 decibels means you can blast yourself with just about any source. They’re much more flexible for a wider variety of listening tasks as a result, and you won’t have to go down the rabbit hole of buying amplifiers.
FINAL WINNER: AKG K371
AKG’s new studio headphone is truly a watershed, landmark release.
It’s the perfect balance of accurate sound and a reasonable price. Its style headphone design hallmarks might be off-putting to some professionals and those that like to heavily mod their headphones, but there’s really no overstating how well they perform.
Unlike the now-crushed-into-dust M50X’s, the DT770’s still have a place in a post-K371 world. Their big velour pads provide exemplary comfort. Their soundstage width and bass response are among the best in a closed-back dynamic headphone. And their replace-everything build has stood the test of time for a reason.
Some people absolutely hate their treble aggression. And I’d never tell them they’re wrong to do so. But those that don’t will find a headphone that’s a perfect amped-up complement to the balanced sonic smoothness of the K371.
If your personal tastes skew towards sonic accuracy, run towards the K371.
But the DT770 is still good enough to deserve some fans, and still a borderline “guilty pleasure” that I’m happy to have on my shelf for those times when I want to fall directly into my music/movies/games and be pummeled and surrounded by audio, or when I need to pick out some stubborn noise or hiss.
Listening to both for yourself is great if you want to see how headphone accuracy curves have evolved over years of research, from the older Diffuse Field concept to the latest Harman Target Curve.