AKG K430 Review

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Closed consumer-oriented ‘mini’ headphone from AKG

MSRP: $139.95 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $75 from amazon.com

Build Quality (7/10): The K430 is nearly identical in size to the similarly-priced Sennheiser PX200-II but uses a more conventional folding mechanism. The hinges are plastic but glide smoothly and lock into place. The quality of the plastics won’t threaten any of the beefy DJ cans but is good for a small portable. The single-sided cable is complete with a volume control but seems quite wimpy next to the cabling of the cheaper Meelec HT-21 and dB Logic HP-100. Strain relief on the 3.5mm plug is nice and soft, unlike that of the PX200-II.

Comfort (8/10): The K430 uses a simplified version of AKG’s 3D Axis folding mechanism, which gives the cups freedom of motion similar to those of the PX200-II. The K430 clamps a bit less, though, and remains comfortable for quite a while despite being supraaural. The balloon-like rubber headband padding can take a bit of getting used to but isn’t uncomfortable, though I still prefer the conventional cushy pad of the HT-21.

Isolation (6/10): For a small supraaural headphone the isolation of the K430 is quite good – a bit less than that of the PX200-II due to the lower clamping force but still suitable for outside use. Leakage is low but still present at higher volumes.

Sound (7/10): Despite being a consumer-oriented set, the AKG K430 is rather balanced and articulate in comparison to the K518-series ‘DJ’ portables. The bass is neither as impactful nor as boomy as that of the K518. There is a good amount of punch but not nearly enough for the headphones to be called ‘bass-heavy’. Extension is not the greatest but adequate – about on-par with the PX200-II and other similarly-priced ‘mini’ headphones, although sets with more of a mid-bass hump will usually have better extension as a side effect. Bass detail is decent and definition is quite good. In stark contrast to the K518, the bass of the K430 is not the focal point of its signature but merely a supporting characteristic and is therefore adequate but not groundbreaking in both quality and quantity.

The strongest aspect of the K430 is probably the midrange – it is clear, crisp, and fairly detailed, making the Maxell DHP-II sound quite a bit warmer and a little muffled in comparison. The mids of the K430 are also smooth and articulate, albeit not as textured as they could be. Transparency is surprisingly good in the midrange but there’s an odd glassy shimmer reaching well into the lower treble, which probably results from the combination of high clarity and low texture. I don’t mind it but it takes away from the overall realism of the experience a little. The treble itself is crisp and mostly inoffensive. There is a slight metallic tinge but nowhere near as bad as with the HD25-1. Harshness and sibilance are very low and what few treble peaks are there seem quite shallow. Extension is very good, making the DHP-II sound rolled-off at the top and keeping up easily with the Audio-Technica SQ5.

In terms of presentation the K430 fares well taking into account that it is a tiny closed-back headphone. The dynamic range of the drivers AKG chose for the headphone is quite good, allowing the K430 to portray subtlety well, but the presentation just isn’t very enveloping. The result is a slightly tubular soundstage with decent separation and good layering. Distance cues are pretty accurate and the K430 isn’t notably ‘closed’-sounding like a lot of cheaper closed sets tend to be. The tone is mostly neutral with a bit of coloration coming from the shimmery midrange. The resulting sound is quite natural and very coherent – headphones with better layering, such as the DHP-II, sound a bit disjointed next to the K430 – it is as if the blobs in the K430’s three-blob soundstage overlap (in a good way). Admittedly, the similarly-priced but significantly larger ATH-SQ5 gives a slightly better sense of vertical and transverse (front-to-rear) space but neither can be confused for a good open-back set.

Value (7/10): AKG’s consumer-class K430 ‘mini’ headphone stays true to its name, impressing first and foremost with the convenience of its form factor. The headphones are very small, with the provided cushioned carrying case fitting easily into my laptop bag, and stay comfortable a bit longer than Sennheiser’s competing PX200-II despite the odd air-cushioned rubber headband padding. Isolation and build quality are on-par with the Sennheiser pair and the sound signature takes a middle ground between the fun sound of the Maxell DHP-II and more relaxed sets such as the ATH-M30 and Beyer DT235. If the ‘mini’ form factor is not a requirement, some of the larger sets offer bang/buck but with the convenience factored in the K430 performs just well enough for the asking price. One detail that needs pointing out is the cable length – a potential issue for those with 6-foot frames. The cord on my set measured just over 1m flat – a far cry from the 1.2m quoted on the specsheet.

Manufacturer Specs:
Frequency Response: 12 – 28,000 Hz
Impedance: 32 Ω
Sensitivity: 125 dB SPL/1mW
Cord: 3.4ft (1.05m), single-sided; Straight Plug
Space-Saving Mechanism: Flat-folding, Collapsible


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

8 Comments

  1. felice on

    Hanno un buon suono, sono anche abbastanza comode, pero’ i pads si sono rovinati relativamente presto, il sottile velo di similpelle si e’ completamente sgretolato, anche il cursore del volume lascia a desiderare, ha iniziato a produrre un fruscio, cosi’ ho provveduto a bloccarlo al max con attak.

  2. Yatto on

    AKG plugs on the K430, K450 and K518LE are well known to break VERY easily . Even if you are meticulous with it. It’s a matter of months, 3-4 months. Brace yourself, the soldering iron is coming.

  3. siuxoes on

    I have a pair of Philips SHE 3590 and they are really great for the price but they don’t fit in my ears, they move constantly. That is why I want a on-ear, I’m thinking of getting a pair of K518 again or K618. And in-ear I’m thinking about Soundmagic e10. What do you think? Thank you so much

    • ljokerl on

      Another K518 would be a safe choice for isolation. Not sure how the K618 compares.

      The E10 is a very good in-ear but I don’t find it any more stable than the SHE3580 in the ear. Maybe with your ear shape it will make a difference – who knows. It’s not heavy or anything. You can also try a more ergonomic-shape IEM with an over-ear fit to see if that works better for you, like a MEElectronics M6. Those tend to stay in the ear pretty securely.

  4. Siuxoes on

    They are at 30 euros (shipment included) in Amazon. Do you recommend them ? I would use them while travelling in the subway. Thank you.

    • ljokerl on

      That’s a pretty good price for these but keep in mind they don’t have great noise isolation so on the subway you’ll likely have to turn up the volume to compensate. I’d personally use in-ears on planes and subways, but maybe our subways here I’m LA are just loud.

      • Siuxoes on

        Thank you for replying. I’ve had the K518 and they were really nice because of their isolation. I would love to some on-ear or in-ear, any recommendation?

        • ljokerl on

          The K518 does isolate better than these. Most in-ears can at least match the K518 in isolation, though. You can see my recommendations for in-ears here: http://theheadphonelist.com/earphone-buyers-guide/ In this sort of price range the Xiaomi Piston 2 is a good start (beware of counterfeits) but if you want to start even cheaper and with a bit more isolation, the Philips SHE3580 or 3590 is great and only costs $10-15.

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