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.
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
MSRP: $139.95 (manufacturer’s page)