Review: AKG K545 Over-Ear Headphones (Closed-Back)

A closeup look of the the AKG K545 over-ear headphones
The AKG K545 over-ear headphones deliver fantastic sound, powerful bass notes, and an almost-neutral reproduction. Brent Butterworth

AKG's K550 headphones caught a lot of attention with its promise to deliver the big sound of open-back headphones, but in a closed-back design. To some, the AKG K550 headphones come across (sonically) as a little bright – an element that many audiophiles tend to like. However, to the average consumer, the K550 can feel quite bulky to wear around town. So AKG's answer was to create the K545 headphones, which are smaller yet maintain visual similarities.

AKG also touts the K545 as having "rich bass," something the K550 definitely lacked. So we took a good listen to hear what the AKG K545 is all about.

Ergonomics

For people with large ears, the AKG K545 headphones can feel like a nice change of pace. It's one of the few headphones with earpad openings large enough to accommodate most without much compromise. It also has a light clamping force, which can make hours spent wearing easy and pleasant –  although the grilles covering the drivers cam tend to wear against earlobes after a while. To those with smaller heads, the clamping force might just be adequate enough to maintain a good seal around the ears. If a headphones' seal is poor, the music will lose a lot of bass.

The iOS-compatible remote cord works great with both iOS and Android devices.

AKG doesn't provide a carrying case for the K545 headphones, but at least the earpieces swivel so that it can fold down flat.

It's not so hard to slip these headphones it into a computer bag.

Performance

The AKG K545 headphones deliver powerful bass notes. When playing ADM (acoustic dance music) group Dawn of Midi's song, "Atlas," it's quickly revealed how the AKG gets the groove just right. The music doesn't come across as sounding too thin or over-emphasizing the piano and snare – something we've observed while listening to AKG's older K551 headphones.

With one of our favorite tonal balance test tracks, Toto's "Rosanna" (which seems to fill every available frequency band of an audio system), the AKG K545 headphones sound both detailed and full. By comparison, the K551 headphones sound leaner, with more of that "magnifying glass" effect that seems to elevate the upper mids and treble. Between the two, we certainly prefer the sonic styling of the K545.

Compared with one of our top favorites, the NAD Viso HP-50 headphones, the AKG K545 sounds a little more present and detailed in the treble, and a little lighter in the bass (especially in the midbass). This is a case where the performance is close enough that we wouldn't venture a prediction about which one most might like better. Both of these headphones pretty much exhibit a flat response with nothing strange in the tonal balance and no obvious anomalies.

To some, the AKG K545 headphones might come across as delivering vocals that are a little less full and round. But the overall reproduction can also be considered as sounding more neutral and level, leading towards personal tastes and preferences. There is a bit of bass distortion at louder levels around 100 dB. Other than that, the AKG K545 headphones sound clean with the deep bottom end of lows on Wale's tracks, "Love/Hate Thing" and "Bad." Wale's raps sound very detailed and clean, standing out clearly from the mix, although a little of the body of his voice can seem lost.

Singer Sam Dew's high-pitched vocals sound dead-on.

Final Take

The AKG K545 over-ear headphones present a far more enjoyable listening experience that its larger predecessor, the AKG K550. The K545 ranks right up there with other, excellent over-ear, closed-back headphones, such as the Sennheiser Momentum, the PSB M4U1, the B&W P7, and the NAD Viso HP-50. Compared to those others, the K545 exhibits the lightest bass response and the most treble-heavy sound –  not too far off from the PSB M4U1 in this regard. But for the price, the AKG K545 delivers fantastic sound that's also pretty easy on the budget.

Product page: AKG K545 Over-Ear Headphones