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(Pocket-lint) - Every manufacturer seems to be after a slice of the headphones market and AKG's approach with the Y50 on-ears is very savvy indeed.

When we started testing the AKG Y50 headphones we assumed they were in the £150 price category based on their finish alone. But how wrong we were: they're an affordable £80.

Does this price point mean entry-level audio and a handful of compromises, or is it a case of budget brilliance throughout?

Prominent design

The first apparent compromise that might see people shy from buying the Y50 is the unsubtle branding. It seems AKG wants to use your head as a mobile advertising board based on the giant logos on both earcups.

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Some people will love that brashness, we're sure, but we'd be far keener if the great use of primary colour options - black, red, teal and yellow - were accompanied by subtler, smaller branding instead.

That obvious point out of the way, though, and the AKG Y50 on-ears are really well made for the price. The large earcups are well padded with leather, which feels soft and comfortable from the very first wear - unlike some other on-ears that can "pinch" a little too hard.

We also like the trim and adjustable headband that keeps the overall size of the product down. It's made from plastic, but it doesn't scream budget by any means, the slightly gloss sheen conveying a premium finish. Aluminium earcups house the 40mm drivers within and add an additional touch of class.

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A 3D metal hinge structure ensures those earcups fit close to the ear, but also mean quick and easy folding for transport purposes. There's a simple carry case included (with a far more subtle AKG logo use on it), along with a cable complete with in-line remote and 3.5mm jack to plug into a port on the Y50's right earcup.

The AKG Y50 headphones get the comfort factor absolutely right and show that quality headphones don't have to cost an arm and a leg.

Big bass and brilliant audio

If we were considering the Y50 as headphones in the £150 bracket then we wouldn't consider them to deliver full-marks audio, as there's a lack of crispness in the mid-range compared to some over-ear headphones we've been testing recently, such as the Sony MDR-1A (but they're twice the price).

We found boosting around the 1,000Hz mark released vocals that much more freely, and added some clap to snare drums, while an upward EQ curve from 4,000-16,000Hz added some extra sparkle to the top end.

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But these are £80 headphones and, given that price, the sound is astoundingly good. Bass throngs, volume is loud and can't be called into question and we didn't find any distortion to be a problem even at high output levels. Apple Beats eat your heart out.

We've been testing all manner of headphones of late, from Sennheiser to Sony, and Pioneer to Audio Technica, so to see a more budget pair of on-ears stand up to many of those models is an impressive accolade at this price point.

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If you picked the Y50s off the shelves they'd probably have you sold on first listen, especially if you like big bass. As much personalised tinkering as we did, the out the box audio here is quality.


The level of build and audio quality the AKG Y50 deliver for their £80 asking price is astounding. Comprising metal, leather and glossy plastic in just the right amounts, it's the kind of construction many big-name competitors would charge twice as much for.

Super comfortable to wear straight out of the box, the AKG Y50 on-ears sound great too. Sure, the abundant use of the oversize AKG logo may put some off, and we'd like a little more snap to the mid-range, but at this price point the AKG Y50 on-ear headphones represent budget brilliance with few to no equals.

Writing by Mike Lowe.