AKG Acoustics is one of the oldest brands in the headphone business, having been established in the 1940s in Vienna, Austria. While the company has retained some of that character even now, AKG has gone through some big changes as a result of its parent company Harman International Industries being acquired by Samsung. Today, the AKG brand has taken on a more modern, new-age identity under Samsung, and has launched various new products including the AKG Y500 that we have on review here.
Priced at Rs. 9,999, the AKG Y500 wireless headphones come with the promise of high quality in all aspects, from physical construction to sound performance. Does this pair of headphones have what it takes to become our favourite wireless headset priced under Rs. 10,000? We've had a chance to use it, and here's our review.
Not a lot of brands pay close attention to headphone styling, so AKG's products tend to stand out in this department. The company's Y-series headphones are generally ahead of the curve, with superb build quality and modern, eye-catching looks. The AKG Y500 is definitely among the company's better-looking options, and is built impressively as well.
The headphones have an on-ear fit style, and the ear pads are flat at the outer surface rather than ring-shaped. We don't usually like the way on-ear headphones feel when worn, but the AKG Y500 felt quite comfortable thanks to this flat foam padding, although we did need a break every couple of hours. There is also additional cushioning on the underside of the headband, which is itself a bit flexible to ensure a firm clamp when the headphones are worn. The on-ear fit and size of the ear cups don't make for very good noise isolation, though.
While much of the headband is made of dull-looking plastic, the outer parts of the ear casings are solid metal, giving the AKG Y500 a modern, industrial look. The headset has a folding mechanism that makes it easier to store when not in use. There is also a fair amount of swivel to the ear casings, which ensures a comfortable fit.
On the right side, the AKG Y500 has a sliding power switch that doubles up for Bluetooth pairing; an ambient sound switch; and a Micro-USB port, which we found a bit disappointing to see at this price. Pressing the ambient sound switch once reduces the volume of whatever's playing so you can hear sounds outside, and a long-press mutes the headset till you press the button again. This functionality seemed useful at first, but we didn't really find ourselves using it much; we found it easier to just pause our music or slip the headphones off our ears when we needed to listen to someone or be aware of our surroundings.
The left side has a slider switch which controls volume with quick motions, and lets you skip to the next or previous track by sliding and holding for two seconds, which we quite liked. There is also a button to play or pause music, and you can trigger the voice assistant on your smartphone with a double-tap. Finally, there's a 2.5mm socket to connect the included 2.5mm-to-3.5mm cable, letting you use the headphones with a non-Bluetooth source device or after its battery runs out.
An interesting function of the AKG Y500 is the ability to pause music automatically when the headphones are taken off, and resume when they are placed back on your head. This didn't work all the time, and we found that the headset needs to be taken off and placed back with a springing action to trigger the sensor that controls this function; it thus came across as gimmicky and awkward.
The AKG Y500 headphones support being paired with two devices at once. While we did have simultaneous connections active using a smartphone and laptop, we couldn't actually switch seamlessly between the two. On swapping sources, any audio track we tried playing on the second device worked for less than a second before both devices were forcibly paused. The only way to fix this was to disconnect from one of the devices.
The AKG Y500 has 40mm dynamic drivers on each side, a frequency response range of 16-22,000Hz, and Bluetooth 4.2 for connectivity. Only the SBC Bluetooth codec is supported, which is a bit disappointing considering that we've seen plenty of options priced well below Rs. 10,000 with support for the AAC and/or aptX Bluetooth codecs.
During our review, the 900mAh battery on the AKG Y500 headphones ran for about 28 hours on a full charge, which is close to the claimed figure of 33 hours. This is excellent for headphones in this price bracket and with this form factor. This device would make sense for anyone if battery life is a priority.
We used the AKG Y500 headphones with a OnePlus 7T Pro (Review) for much of this review, listening to music using streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube Music. While we didn't dislike what we heard with the AKG Y500, the overall experience was underwhelming, given the price and what else is on offer in the market.
We've heard some rather impressive AKG headphones in the past, including the absolutely fantastic AKG K52 which captured the essence of the company's signature sound beautifully. While the Y500 is a completely different product from a different range with a different approach, we did miss that typical AKG sound. What we got was a very typical sonic signature that sounded much like what we're used to with most products in this price range.
Listening to Basement Jaxx's Summer Dem, the sound was punchy, bass-heavy, and pleasantly reverberating, with a fair amount of detail to be heard as well. The mid-range was somewhat dull compared to the lows and highs, but we were able to get a good sense of the vocals despite the powerful bass. However, poor noise isolation meant that a lot of outside sound snuck in, and the headphones weren't particularly immersive as a result. There was also some sound leakage at high volumes, but this wasn't more than what we've heard on other on-ear headphones.
Switching to the catchy Another One Bites The Dust by Queen, we enjoyed the soundstage and imaging of the AKG Y500, which made for a distinct sense of direction. The bass-and-treble-favouring sonic signature didn't do justice to Mercury's strong vocals, but did capture the essence of John Deacon's iconic bass guitar riff. The headphones are thus best used for instrumentals and synthesised elements; we enjoyed how they sounded with most electronic tracks, but rock music and other more traditional genres didn't sound quite as good.
Finally, we used the headphones for voice calls. Performance was average at best, giving us acceptable but not exceptional performance most of the time. Turning the volume up, whether on voice calls or music, improved detail and audibility, but also made the sound a bit shrill and fatiguing.
The AKG Y500 headphones certainly aren't bad, but we'll stop short of calling them very good. We like how they look and feel for the most part, and the sound is decent if you like your bass punchy. However, we didn't find anything exceptional about these headphones; this is an average pair that doesn't quite live up to the AKG brand name, in our opinion.
While battery life is decent and there are some neat features, they only look good on paper and don't quite help us get over the price. At Rs. 9,999, the AKG Y500 is too expensive for what's on offer, and we were left feeling underwhelmed after our time with this pair of headphones. Options such as the Marshall Major III Wireless or LSTN Troubadour might be worth checking out over the AKG Y500.
Price: Rs. 9,999
Ratings (out of 5)