Ears-on with AKG’s customisable premium headphones

There’s a wide selection of high-end headphones at every IFA, but very few stand out from the crowd. This year it’s AKG leading the charge with its new AKG N40 in-ears, which offer not only high-end sound but also customisable sound profiles and detachable cables.

Built from luxurious-looking stainless steel and sturdy black plastic, the N40 feels surprisingly light in the ear given the size of each earpiece and the choice of materials, with a hooked over-the-ear cable helping to relieve the strain on your ears. It comes supplied with a choice of four silicone ear fitments and supports hi-res audio, as you’d expect any modern premium headphone to.

It’s the combination of two different types of headphone driver (balanced armature driver and dynamic driver) that really catches the eye, however. Armature drivers typically deliver detail and crisp highs, while dynamic drivers’ strength are in the mids and low notes. The AKG N40’s key feature, however, is that even if the sound isn’t to your liking when you first pull them from the packaging, you can tweak it using a selection of three different sound filters, supplied in the box.

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By swapping these small disc-shaped attachments in and out of each earpiece, listeners can opt for a flat, linear sound (“Reference Sound”), a bit more bass (“Bass Boost”), or accentuate the high notes (“High Boost”). These aren’t the first headphones to offer customisable sound via filters, but they’re surprisingly easy to change over – if you have a steady hand and a sharp eye, that is. All you do is pull off the silicone fitment, unscrew the protruding tip and then replace with one of your choosing.


If you get them mixed up, you can tell them apart by the colour-coding on the seal – but whichever filter you choose the N40 delivers a broad, airy soundstage, solid, uncompromising bass, and oodles of detail reproduction. I haven’t had the chance to give them a thorough workout yet, but a quick run through of my usual selection of test tracks suggests a pair of headphones with plenty to give across the sonic spectrum. The armature driver delivers plenty of aggression and attack, while the dynamic driver underpins everything with a thumping, yet tight low-end.  

As I say I haven’t had much time with them yet, but so far, the sound filters seem to alter the sound only subtly. My preference is for the flatter-sounding, reference filter, which delivers more detail, seemingly without sacrificing bass. Time, however, will tell. 

AKG N40: Ready for iPhone 7?

Customisability isn’t the AKG N40’s only party trick. In good news for anyone who’s ever had to bin a pair of pricey headphones thanks to a snapped cable, or who’s holding off buying a new pair of headphones until the launch of the iPhone 7 – which is strongly rumoured to be binning the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack – the AKG N40 has rather cleverly designed its cables to be replaceable.


AKG supplies two sets of cables with the N40 – one with a remote control, the other without – and they’re replaced as easily as clipping them in and out.

At £349 a pair, the AKG N40s certainly aren’t cheap, but for once it looks like you’re getting pretty decent value for money. On first impressions, the sound quality is good, the fit is comfortable, and there’s a degree of future-proofing, too. The headphones will be available from the end of August.


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