Not everyone wants a massive pair of over-ear headphones, but not everyone can handle the compressed feeling of wearing in-ears either. Fortunately there's a happy middle ground: on-ear headphones, such as the affordable AKG Y500 Wireless, could be a great option for lightweight, portable listening.
AKG - which is run by Harman, which itself was bought by Samsung - represents quality sound without the significant cost associated with some other brands. And with the Y500 cutting the need for wires thanks to Bluetooth - although a 2.5mm-3.5mm cable is included in the box - is this on-ear pair the perfect affordable solution?
Design & Comfort
- Colour options: Black, Marine Blue, Ocean Green, Pink
- On-headphone controls for volume, connectivity
- Folding design and carry pouch included
- 2.5mm jack for wired listening
- Micro-USB for charging
- Weight: 230g
Finished in black with a silver edging around the earcups (blue, green and pink options are also available), the AKG Y500 look the part - and certainly better made than their £129 asking price (at launch) might suggest. Sure, there's some plastic and the exposed screw wells on the inside of the headband are small downers, but otherwise the cladded metal headband and subtle logos make for good-looking on-ear cans.
Although Bluetooth is the primary form of use for wireless listening, if you'd prefer to listen wired - or the battery has depleted, but with over 30 hours of use that's not that likely - then a 2.5mm output is on the left earcup (the cable with mic remote is included in the box). Alongside this are controls for play/pause and a toggle for volume up/down too.
On the right earcup is where you'll find the Micro-USB port for recharging. We're really disappointed this is the type of fitting - a more recent USB-C would look better, match with more current premium phones (one cable for all), and be easier to use, too. But it's not to be here. Still, like we say, the battery lasts an age - something we've long said of AKG, including the Y50 on-ears from back in 2014 - so you won't need to plug in all that often.
A folding design means the earcups can be tucked in against the headband, then popped into the included drawstring carry pouch, making the Y500 Wireless even more appealing as portable headphones for on-the-go listening.
Comfort-wise, however, we find the on-ear design has its limitations: positioning sound into the ears with precision isn't perfect, which can create an imbalance of sound; long periods of wear become uncomfortable against the lobes; and sound isolation - both internally and externally - isn't all that either. None of which is a big problem for casual commuting, but for hardened headphone fans who want to shut away the outside world, this won't be the perfect pair for you.
Sound & Connectivity
- Bluetooth v4.2 wireless connectivity
- Over 30 hours battery per charge
- 16Hz-22kHz frequency response
As we alluded to before: the way on-ears fit is critical for sound quality, because if one earcup is half-a-centimetre offset then the high-end might sound off in that ear and, therefore, the balance will sound a bit skewed and lack impact.
Get the fit spot-on, however, and the AKG Y500 Wireless sound well beyond their affordable asking price. The drivers are capable of outputting down to 16Hz on the low-end, which means bass isn't absent in your favourite tracks - but, again, fit is vital - although we found some of the much lower-end stuff in underground tracks lacked real presence.
That's the overall sentiment to the Y500's sound: there's a lot of volume and the drivers are capable, but the fit and a lack of snap to the mid-end doesn't make for the most complete or 'together' soundscape you'll ever hear. But in terms of £129 headphones the quality is solid and representative of the type of sound AKG outputs as a general rule (with the Y50 we had said much the same).
Bluetooth connectivity has performed well in our experience, too, although don't expect any aptX certification for Hi-Res Audio or anything like that. But having a strong connection is a firm tick in the box nonetheless.
If you're looking for affordable, attractive and comfortable cans that aren't massive over-ears or uncomfortable in-ears then the AKG Y500 delivers all that in an on-ear format with the bonus of wireless connectivity.
Sound quality is decent considering the size, too, so long as you get the fit perfect and don't expect extended periods of wear due to decreasing comfort after many hours.
Overall, the Y500 Wireless bring together great sound and features into a small and portable package that will outsmart much of the competition at this price point.
JBL Live 650BTNC
Ok, so quite a different prospect, but if you want over-ear fit and active noise-cancelling thrown in for a more isolated listen, the JBL offer just that for just £40 more.