Presentation, design, and comfort
The AK T5pV2 ships in a simple and stylish black cardboard box, which opens to reveal a rather large, and rather stylish velour-coated clamshell case. It’s a ‘hard/soft’ design and reminds me of a more luxurious version of the more professional/utilitarian Beyerdynamic DT1770. It’s extremely nice, and will certainly keep the AK T5p V2 safe from any number of bumps, spills, and tumbles, but it’s so…big? There’s absolutely no way you’re getting the AK T5p V2 into your backpack or overnight bag if you’re planning on packing more than a few articles of clothing. And briefcases? Absolutely not. If you have any intention of picking one up for on-the-go usage, be prepared to fork-out for a more compact transport solution.
If you squint, the AK T5p V2 might look pretty familiar – a sentiment that will be shared by literally anyone who’s had more than a passing experience with one of Beyerdynamic’s full-size headphone line-up over the years – from the venerable DT770, to the more recent DT1990, right up to their flagship T1. The round, circum-aural (over-ear) cups, single-piece metal yokes, and large round headband design are classic Beyerdynamic – this design language has essentially been their bread-and-butter for the past 30-odd years or so for their audiophile line of headphones.
While it does have the same basic construction as a $150 pair of Beyerdynamic DT770/880s, the AK T5p has enough added visual flair to set it apart and mark it out as ‘premium’ to the casual passer-by. Sporting all-black furniture from the sheepskin and velour headband to the laser-etched surface of the cups, the AK T5p V2 has a bit of a ‘stealth’-vibe going on that makes it feel reasonably high-end without being quite so ostentatious, say, as the Focal Stellia. I might understand why some punters might feel that it’s not ‘special’ enough in the looks department to warrant the price-tag, but aesthetically it sits just right with me and looks pretty great in the flesh. Beyerdynamic’s build quality is legendary, and the AK T5p V2 certainly feels every bit as well built as every other model in the line-up that I’ve either owned or come across. Now, I wouldn’t exactly feel comfortable subjecting a nice new pair of $1,199 AK T5p’s to the bottom of a gym-bag or lying around in an airline overhead compartment, so an aftermarket carrying case is probably going to be a wise investment for anyone looking to use them while out and about.
The headband, a mix of sheepskin and velour is a delight to touch as well as to have perched on top of your head. It’s impossibly supple and provides superb support and comfort. Design-wise it looks to be the same material and construction as my Gen 1 T1’s, which is a great thing as they’re probably my most comfortable headphones. Astell&Kern have decided to take a pass on the usual Beyerdynamic velour round earpads, instead choosing pads made of the same sheepskin as the headband which attaches and detaches in the same fashion as other Beyerdynamic headphones. Sheepskin has no doubt been used to improve the seal, which will ultimately provide more isolation and better bass response than velour. They’re a stupidly comfortable pair of 340g headphones and in addition to being lightweight, they feel great on the ears thanks to the plushness of the sheepskin plus a ‘goldilocks’ level of clamping force. The AK T5p V2 grips well enough that you can tip your head all the way back while wearing them (handy if you need to finish the end of a beer while listening, for example!), and so that you never feel like they’re going to slip. They’re a beautifully-snug pair of headphones, and I happily wore them for 8 hours at a time without feeling pressure, hot-spots, or overheating. Great news if you’re planning to take these on long-haul flights! Speaking of which, the AK T5p V2 provides excellent levels of passive isolation thanks to its closed design and excellent seal from those wonderful earpads.
The AK T5p V2 is actually pretty useful when it comes to being used in a portable capacity. I took them out for a couple of hour-long walks to see how they fared in non-stationary use cases. Ok, so they’re not entirely small headphones and I was somewhat conscious of the reasonably conspicuous shiny black headphones jutting out from my head. But, they remained firmly in place the entire time, performed admirably and their excellent cable didn’t annoy, make noise, or get in the way. Their form-factor (and packaging) do make the AK T5p V2 more transportable than portable, but if you’re determined to use them in a pure portable sense you won’t be disappointed.
The AK T5p sports a pair of 45mm ‘Tesla’ drivers which it borrows from its Beyerdynamic counterpart. They’re angled-back at the wearer’s ears so as to improve their sense of soundstage and imaging, but this also leaves plenty of room inside the cups for your ears – mine don’t touch any of the insides of the cups whatsoever.
Accessories are a pretty simple affair: there’s a 1.4m detachable 2.5mm balanced cable, a ~10cm adapter cable terminated with a right-angle 3.5mm jack, and a 6.3mm adapter. While it doesn’t sound like much, I need to remark on the fact that the AK T5p V2’s cable is probably the best cable I’ve ever come across. Period. It’s braided from two strands of OCC copper and two strands of 99.8% pure silver in a ‘Litz’-type configuration. Astell&Kern remark in their marketing materials that this was chosen and painstakingly developed to heighten the sonic performance of the AK T5p V2 – not having a ‘regular’ cable on hand to test-out I’ll have to take their word for it (I also don’t tend to spend time testing cables…), but what I can say with confidence is that this is the best I’ve used from both an aesthetic and tactile sense. Its plastic outer sheathing is soft and supple to the touch and looks great snaking out from both portable and desktop devices. It never kinks, always maintains its shape, and it doesn’t transmit a skerrick of microphonics whatsoever – the AK T5p receives absolute full marks in this regard. Other manufacturers: please use cables like this.
The fact that it’s terminated for use with a 2.5mm balanced jack might perplex some readers, but for me, this is the perfect termination. Sure, I get that 4.4mm Pentaconn is probably more sturdy, but it’s not exactly that widespread…yet, anyway. 2.5mm, for me, allows all the benefits of 4-pin XLR in a diminutive form-factor, and it also happens to play nicely with all the equipment that I either use on a daily basis or have on hand for testing, including Astell&Kern’s own SA700 Digital Audio Player, which I reviewed earlier this year. Astell&Kern have steadfastly used 2.5mm topology in all their equipment, and so it’s no surprise that a pair of their own headphones optimised for use with their players is equipped with a 2.5mm cable as standard. The 3.5mm 10cm single-ended adapter is made from the same braided wire as the cable, and it’s equally as impressive in terms of build and form-factor.
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