Just how different can two similarly priced closed-back headphone models be? The answer may surprise you...
We often write in these pages about the issues surrounding 'translation'. Of course, we don't mean translation in the traditional sense, from one language to another, but in the sense of audio material surviving, or hopefully thriving, when heard on a playback system different from the one on which it was created. A significant reason that we talk so commonly about translation is that, as you will probably have noticed, everybody's listening on headphones these days. It's almost as if we can divide the history of recorded audio into two epochs: before and after the iPhone. Almost as soon as the iPhone hit the streets and iTunes became mobile, the use (and sales) of headphones soared, and it shows no sign of coming back to earth.
However, it's not as if translation is a new issue. There have always been considerations of playback on, for example, radio, TV, or in-car stereos to take into account, and of course it's also not as if headphones are solely a post–iPhone invention. But headphone use out in the wild is now so prevalent that it sometimes seems to me an anachronism that those of us involved in audio and music production still monitor primarily on speakers.
It's not just out in consumer-world that audio manufacturers have noted the rise of the headphone. Here in the pro environment too, the number, breadth and range of headphones aimed at music production applications has multiplied exponentially. For example, the two newly introduced AKG headphones that are the subject of these pages are drawn from an AKG range that currently appears to number 18 different products aimed at the pro niche.