For some reason we don’t hear about AKG ultra portable headphone very often, definitely far less than Sennheiser ones. (Now that I’ve said that, I wonder if Beyerdynamic makes any ultraportables?) Anyway, the K404 is perhaps the best looking portable in this shootout, at least to my eyes. It’s a shame that the nice looks is not matched with an equally nice ergonomics. Starting with the metal sliding band — ala Koss’ Portapro. I find the band to always slide off and not hold its place properly. Next is the swiveling earcups that doesn’t seem to want to hold its position when placed on the ears. Out of all the portables reviewed here, the K404 is the only one that I can’t seem to get a good fit with. It’s so bad that I constantly have to hold the cups in place with my hands. The good thing about the K404 is that it folds very well and to very compact dimensions, more than the other models.
The sound is noticeably midrange-centric, and the only headphone in this comparison to have that signature. The mid-centricness really reminds me of the AKG K240 studio headphones. It’s really hard for me to recommend this sound, unless it’s something that you’ve tried personally and happen to like it. Though being midrange centric, I don’t really feel anything special about the mids. The mids are full, but lacks clarity. Likewise the treble is attenuated far more than anything else in the comparison, even in comparison to the dark sounding PX100-II. Perhaps if you listen to a lot of treble-happy recordings, then the K404 can work for you. But even playing some mainstream recordings, I think the attenuation on the treble is too much — and if I was to choose a laid back treble presentation, I’d still go with the PX100-II rather than the K404.
Surprisingly, the other day a friend of mine decided to go with the K404, his music being Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, and all the latest mainstream pop. So who knows, maybe the K404 fits those music. It does have quite a tight and punchy bass. And so I checked the K404 with some recordings that I know to be very hot on the mid and upper treble. Club and house music, some Japanese Jazz and Pop stuff. For instance, a few months ago I bought a CD from the Japanese band called Coco d’Or, and while the music is pretty good, I really can’t enjoy it on almost every set up I throw at it. With the K404, the music finally works. The treble quantity is perfect, and surprisingly the midrange is no longer muddy. Ah, I see what AKG was going for with the K404. I also tried some tracks from Enigma and Armin van Buuren, and if they’re normally too hot on the other headphones, the K404 plays them perfectly well. I then proceeded to dig out some Jpop CDs that I haven’t listened to in years: Globe, The Gardens, Two Mix, and other stuff like that. They sound so right through the AKG. Gosh, the recording engineers must’ve been using AKG studio headphones for these CDs. If you have been itching to enjoy those music with excessive treble, you’ve got to give the K404 a try. I know there are a LOT of those type of recordings out there, especially the Jpop and House stuff are notoriously bright! So here we are, with a headphone that sound muffled for most of the music I listen to, but perfect for some other genres that normally would be too bright.
Not bad AKG. This is really something that you have to try.