Like all AKG headphones, the Y500 has a lot to offer to the right user but won’t have much appeal unless you play into its strengths.
These on-ear headphones are best suited to people who want to take their music with them anywhere they go, as they can take full advantage of the incredible battery life and embrace the full benefits of the lightweight and compact design.
AKG isn’t a mainstream brand, but it’s held in high regard by audiophiles and music enthusiasts. The audio gear that AKG puts out is excellent without exception, but it’s also fairly narrow in its application.
Because they don’t have to appeal to a massive target audience like Beats does, AKG is free to make headphones that excel in niche aspects. For example, the K701 is one of the most comfortable headphones ever made, but these are studio headphones and open back ones at that, so they’re not something that has mass appeal.
The same thing goes for the company’s recent wireless outing – the AKG Y500.
We can already tell these are good headphones, but they’re not made for everyone – only a particular type of buyer will be able to fully appreciate all they have to offer.
If you’re wondering whether you may be this type of buyer, read on!
|Connection||Wireless (with wired option)|
|Colour options||Black, pink, green, and blue|
|Driver size||40 mm|
|Frequency response||16Hz – 22kHz|
Right out of the box, the AKG Y500 has a minimalist yet stylish look to it that’s bound to feel right at home no matter your style. The several color choices on offer help with this immensely. This can cause the headphones to appear diminutive at first, but rest assured that they fit a grown-up sized head.
But don’t take our word for it. The AKG Y500 has won the IF-design award.
It should be obvious from the pictures, but the AKG Y500 is a pair of on-ear headphones. Traditionally, we haven’t been huge fans of on-ears – they just aren’t as comfortable as their over-ear cousins and they’re worse at isolating sound. But dedicated fans of on-ears will find a lot to love about these headphones.
What impressed us the most was the sturdy yet flexible frame. At first glance, the AKG Y500 may look all plastic, but its design incorporates a mixture of plastic and metal, which is rarely found at this price range. As far as durability goes, the Y500 has got it in spades. This durability and the stylish aesthetic make it perfectly suitable for outdoor use, which is where we think these headphones shine the most.
Other features that enhance the outdoor prowess of these headphones are the foldable, swiveling ear cups. This versatility not only allows you to find a proper fit no matter your head size and shape, but it also ensures that you can transport the headphones in several ways. They are just as convenient to wear around your neck with the ear cushions resting on your chest as they are to carry compactly folded in a bag.
You’ll also be glad to know that the Y500 is packed full of useful and convenient features, starting with the many controls on the ear cups.
One ear cup houses the pause/play button and the volume up and down – standard stuff that’s often underappreciated but sorely missed when absent. This is also where the 2.5 mm input is. The other ear cup houses the Bluetooth on and off button along with the micro USB port for charging and the ambient mode button.
Let’s break all of this down.
The 2.5 mm input enables you to use the Y500 with a wired connection, which is rather handy for when you’re out of battery or simply want to bump up the sound quality a bit. Not that you’ll often find it necessary to do so, as these headphones have a whopping 33-hours of battery life on them and a fast-charge option that’ll net you 1 hour of playback for just 5 minutes of charging.
The Bluetooth button itself needs to explanation, but we must elaborate on the kind of Bluetooth connection you can expect. Unfortunately, these headphones use the SBC Bluetooth codec, which isn’t ideal for sound quality. There is also no support whatsoever for AptX Bluetooth (AAC is supported). This is something we feel all prospective buyers should keep in mind, seeing as a lot of the competition does offer better Bluetooth.
However, the Y500 does offer the advantage of multipoint connectivity, which allows you to pair it up with two sources. This way, you can seamlessly switch between two devices, making this a perfect choice for folks who travel with both a smartphone and a laptop. Whether this feature outweighs the detriment of unimpressive Bluetooth is debatable, but we can see cases where it might. It all depends on the user.
Next up, let’s look at the ambient mode. Usually, this kind of feature is found on over-ear headphones and it uses a microphone to record your surroundings and play them along with your music. The Y500’s ambient mode does no such thing, it only reduces the overall volume of the headset. This reduction is based on the listening volume, so it’s often easier to just press this button than to manually lower the volume, but the result is the same.
The last feature we want to highlight is the automatized pause and resume feature. This feature works by pausing the playback when it recognizes you’ve taken the headphones off and resuming it when you’ve put the headphones back on.
It’s not 100% infallible when it comes to these recognitions – our advice is to snap the headphones back onto your head instead of just sliding them on if you want this feature to work more consistently – but overall it’s a super handy feature that’s bound to extend the already splendid battery-life even further in the long run.
A 33-hour battery life sure sounds marvelous, but this grows irrelevant very fast if the headphones are a pain to wear.
Luckily, the Y500 doesn’t suffer from this issue. Sure, it’s still a pair of on-ear headphones – the comfort level won’t match that of over-ear models – but they’re still rather comfortable. As we’ve said, the freedom of movement that the ear cups are given helps make sure everyone can find the proper fit.
The headphones are also super lightweight, which helps with this immensely. While the rubberized padding on the headband may look problematic because rubber is traditionally not a comfortable material and there’s not a lot of it, this surprisingly isn’t an issue here. The lightweight nature of the headphones helps, sure, but it’s more the fact that the headphones put a larger emphasis on the clamping force of the ear cups for stability than the headband.
Is this a good thing?
Well, we hate to sound like a broken record, but on ear-headphones are already bound to be more uncomfortable than their competition, so when you improve the clamping force, it’s easy to see how things could get messy. The folks at AKG know this better than anyone, so they didn’t fall prey to such a trap.
Thus these headphones still use the normal clamping force without benefiting a lot from the headband for stability. The memory foam ear cushions also offer a generous amount of padding, which is much appreciated. To say that the Y500 rests uncomfortably on the head would be a blatant lie, but because of this, they’re also not the most stable headphones.
Add to this the slippery effect that can be caused by ear sweating and you’ve got yourself a pair of headphones that feel like they could fall off if you were to get swayed into dancing by your music.
Is this better than a pair of headphones that are a bit less comfortable but rest on your head more firmly? That’s for you to decide. Our duty is just to point out the potential issue.
Finally, what do we think about the sound of the AKG Y500?
To sum it up in one word, it’s divisive.
It’s evident that AKG was shooting for a more balanced sound when making the Y500. As such, this is a pair of headphones that’s going to be suitable for all genres of music, without artificially excelling at any of them.
This sentiment may have a positive ring to it, but that’s because we’ve phrased it positively. We could’ve also said it like this: the Y500 feature a bland and dull sound.
Both of these statements are true – it’s all about the stance you take towards them.
If you’ve never used headphones with a balanced sound – meaning they aren’t bass-heavy and they don’t boost any frequency for that matter – then chances are you’re not going to find the Y500 exhilarating. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a pair of headphones that deliver music to you just the way it was recorded, the Y500 starts to look much more attractive.
These aren’t audiophile-grade headphones by any stretch of the imagination, the Bluetooth codec saw to that, but they are a good transitioning model that will take you from casual listener to audiophile if you let them. Using the wired connection improves the overall sound quality by quite a bit, but since these are wireless headphones we’ll judge their wireless audio quality.
As for the individual frequencies, we found the bass to be rather impressive. It’s not boomy but rather controlled in a very tight and precise manner. Conversely, the sub-bass is almost non-existent, so just keep that in mind. As for the mids and the highs, there’s not much to say – they do a fine job without standing out.
Overall, the AKG Y500 has the potential for excellence, but it takes a certain kind of user to fully realize this potential. If you’re already specifically looking for a pair of on-ear headphones with a balanced sound, the Y500 is a tempting choice.
If, on top of this, you tend to do most of you’re listening outdoors or on the road, they easily become one of the best options available thanks to the sturdy yet lightweight design and excellent battery life.
But if you’re just looking for good sounding headphones, the Y500 shouldn’t be your first pick. At this price point, the competition is strong, with many models offering better Bluetooth, better sound quality and better overall comfort, especially if they’re over-ear models.
We try to judge headphones based on what they’re trying to accomplish, so just keep in mind that, despite the high score, these headphones aren’t necessarily trying to accomplish what you’re after.