In-Ear Buds — Models K315, K317, and K319
Price: $55, $90, and $120
I couldn’t believe my ears, so I assembled a guest panel, ages 16 to 75, to assist in this evaluation. Each person was asked to use AKG’s bargain-priced K315 earbuds as long as they liked, before answering the following questions:
• How do they sound?
• Do you prefer them with or without the foam speaker covers?
• How do they fit?
All listeners unanimously agreed these $55 headphones sound good. Only one person preferred the foam covers. Two people could not get the buds to fit in their ears, because their ears were too small and/or the speaker enclosures were too large. The other four participants said the fit was fine. Never before had a panel been so consistent on audio quality and so divided on fit.
AKG gives earbud aficionados five choices of headphones. Two low-end models have already been reviewed critically at MyMac. Now we’re listening and looking at the three higher-priced earbuds. Are these buds for you?
Outstanding attention to web site presentation, product packaging, and case design has gone into all of these three slightly different earbuds. No instructions are provided, because AKG decided none are needed. Only one pair of foam covers is included, of inferior quality. Perhaps this company doesn’t take foam covers seriously; they are certainly out of favor at Apple, although I tend to use foam covers on the rare occasions I listen with earbuds.
You would be correct to expect that with a pricing structure of $55, $90, and $120, the sound quality would trend upward from good to better to best. AKG’s oversized speaker enclosures provide an audio experience that is:
• very pleasant with K315
• impressive with K317
• outstanding with K319.
Each models has a unique cable and case design.
K315′s traditional cable has an in-line volume control slider that is rather coarse and clumsy; the case is zippered, with premium, semi-rigid squishy foam.
K317 has an unusual and quirky behind-neck lanyard cable, with bonus cable extender adapters for iPhone and cell phone jacks, but no volume control; the case is zippered vinyl.
K319 includes both the aforementioned extender cables, plus an airplane adapter plug, and the same volume control as on K315; the case large, zippered vinyl.
All AKG in-ear headphones have a small raised dot on the interior of the left vertical segment, just above where the cable meets the plastic housing. Bravo! Never again need reviewers complain that a company makes it difficult to determine left ear from right.
Because you must try before you buy, make sure that wherever you purchase or audition AKG’s earbuds you have sufficient time to determine if the fit is good. You won’t have substandard audio with either of these three models. Our recommendation is if a conventional earbud is your preference, you’ll be pleased with the sound from the very affordable K315 buds, and you’ll be overjoyed with everything about the more expensive, but still reasonably-priced, K319. If you like the lanyard cable configuration for your earbuds, K317 from AKG will satisfy you.
But if you, like a substantial percentage of potential buyers, are not happy with AKG buds’ ear placement, do not presume they will become more comfortable over time. They won’t. Our MyMac ratings are only for people who have no problems with the fit of the earbuds in this series.
Please follow the links below for close-up photos of the different ear tips and colors, including a “Gallery” page for each product.
Prior MyMac review of AKG low-end buds, by Mark Rudd.