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Review - AKG K361

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 



I recently reviewed the AKG K371 (you can find the review here: Review - AKG K371) and now it is the turn of the AKG K361, the cheaper alternative that shares a lot of similarities. Both are marketed as closed back, folding, over-ear studio headphones. 

The K361 is currently available for around 75€ which is 30€ cheaper than the other model, I was interested to find out what, if anything, is missing in order to reduce the price point.

While I will review these headphones on their own merit, it is to be expected that I will compare to the K371 along the way.



Presentation…

The external presentation of the K361 is almost identical to the K371, as is the internal presentation and included extras.

Arriving in a cardboard box that shows an image of the headphones on the front cover, with various specifications and other information distributed around the exterior.

Upon opening the box, we find once again the headphones in a folded cardboard cutout, along with a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adaptor.

Below the top layer of cardboard we find the user manual, a bag for transport and two cables.

The cables are the only difference as far as contents from it’s bigger brother. In the case of the K361, there are two cables included (instead of 3) and the connector that attaches to the headphones is a proprietary 2.5mm connector instead of the 3 pin mini XLR we found on the previous model.

I obviously prefer the 3 pin XLR instead of a proprietary connector but at least they included 2 cables with the headphones, although finding a replacement cable is going to prove more difficult if needed and making a DIY cable will probably prove almost impossible to find the relevant connector.



Build and aesthetics…

As far as looks, the K361 is identical to the K371 except for the extension arms of the headband that are made of plastic, rather than metal as found on the more expensive version, and the lack of imitation leather covering the top of the headband.

Again the build quality seems to be fine, without any signs of creaking or slackness, however, the same pivoting system is used and will be just as prone to issues as its bigger brother.

The headphones are quite a bit lighter due to the plastic extension arms and the clamp force seems to be quite a bit less also. This actually improves comfort in my personal case but I am still not a fan of the pads, which are overly soft and squishy.

The weight does make it feel a bit more of a toy than the K371 but for longer sessions it may prove to be a little better. It doesn’t create a hotspot on the top of my head (due to the reduced weight) and as the clamp force is less, my ears don’t touch the drivers.

Again, this is not a headphone that looks like anything special but is not offensive either.



Sound…

Now the important part... What sound differences are there for 30€ less?

The first thing that stands out is that there is a lot less bass, both in extension towards the subbass and in the whole of the bass in general. There is still an elevation in the bass but this is much less than the one on the K371 and the roll off in the lowest registries starts around 30 or 40Hz.

Personally I still find it to have enough subbass to perform well enough with my usual subbass test tracks, although the rumble is not as pronounced and switching from the K371 to these will be noticeable.

The general bass frequencies have enough elevation to provide bass for the majority of songs that I usually listen to, however, these are far from a bass head headphone. When listening to songs such as “No Ordinary Love” by Sade, that I mentioned in the K371 review, the definition of bass is still not excellent but due to them not being so boosted, the driver doesn’t seem to struggle as much in complex bass orientated songs, giving the impression that bass details are improved. One of my latest additions to my test tracks has been “No Sanctuary Here” by Marian Herzog feat Chris Jones, and I much prefer the results on the K361 over the K371, but as you probably know by now, I like my bass in balanced measures. There were times that I found bass overpowering on the K371 but I haven’t had that sensation with these.

The transition from the bass into the lower mids is again decent for a closed back headphone in this price bracket, with the slightly reduced bass presence (in comparison to the other model) it actually seems cleaner, allowing a nice texture to the higher bass regions that don’t interfere with the lower mids.

However, I do feel that acoustic guitars and basses miss a little bit of warmth and body in their lower regions. They are not terrible but in songs like “Free Fallin’ (Live)” by John Mayer, I feel that the guitar sounds a little sterile and lifeless at times.

This is also related to the mids in general. With the K371 I said that the mids were my favourite part but in the case of the K361, I feel that the mids come across as a little sterile and lifeless in general, with a higher midrange that, while it is not hash, seems fragile and lacking body. Vocals on the K371 are much better than on the K361, in my opinion of course, and I just get the sensation that things are not quite right as far as tonality and are generally lacking in detail.

Sibilance is a little more present than on the K371, however, it is not overpowering, it just seems to be on the verge in songs like “Code Cool”, just a touch too much.

There is also a bit more range in the higher ranges than on the more expensive version, giving a little more impression of air in the higher regions but again it is the details that are lacking.

In fact, while I feel that speed is better on this model, due to not suffering as much with the lower bass regions, I find that detail and definition is lacking throughout the whole range, giving the sensation that there is always something missing that I can’t quite place. If moving to these headphones from other lower priced headphones then I don’t think that it would be quite as noticeable but having listened to my test tracks hundreds of times, I always feel that things are not quite complete. It is similar to increasing the brightness of a screen but without compensating with contrast.

The general soundstage and image placing tests give a similar result to the K371, a width that is not terrible, especially for a closed back budget headphone, but is not great either. The placement of images inside the stage is again fairly smooth but does not have pinpoint accuracy. I would say that the K371 are smoother in their image transitions, such as “Letter”, but neither is anything to write home about.



Conclusion…

The frequency response of the K361 matches my preferences more than the K371, of that I have no doubt, but I just find the rest rather bland. It is not as though the K371 are detailed headphones but they didn’t give me the sensation that everything was not quite complete. It’s true that the tuning of the K371 made me focus more on other dislikes and probably didn’t quite focus on the detail as much.

I would place the AKG K361 basically in direct competition with the Audio Technica M40x. Both headphones have terrible pads, a plastic build and a similar sound signature, although if I had to pick, I would stick with the M40x, maybe because I have used it so much that I know it inside out. 

To be totally blunt, I find the K361 to be a little bleak, it is by no means a bad headphone for its price, but it just does not excite me at all. 

If I had to choose between the two AKG options, then I would go for the K371 even though I prefer the overall tuning of the K361.

SenyorC