AKG make microphones and headphones exclusively, so it's fair to expect that whatever they put out to the market is likely to be unquestionably good and perhaps not strictly following exactly the same design bible as all the others out there.
There's a huge range of cans in the AKG range, but the K 181 DJ seem to get the most attention from DJs, so that's what I'm pulling apart for you here.
In The Box: A fabric pouch, screw fitting adaptor and straight 1.7m uncoiled cable, which without the benefit of coils feels short.
Looks: A mixture of Silver plastic and Black rubber, as well as a distinctive hinge design sets these apart from the rest. And with the ear pieces being a tad thinner, they look everso slightly more discrete on your head.
Build Quality: Much like any other headphone to be honest. But the copious amount of rubber does give them a more rugged feel. The hinges do look too thin to last more than a few months, but with the ingenious 270° mechanism (handling them can feel like picking up a wriggling pet) that potentially eliminates the classic hinge snapping that most others are prone to, I suspect K181s will last a very long time.
In terms of repair, the ear pieces can be removed, and the cable simply clips in and out. The supplied cable however does feel a bit weak, and being straight will annoy some potential buyers. That said, you can get a coiled cable as an optional extra.
Sound Quality: Really nice. The closed cup drives the 50mm drivers with a full spectrum that deliver even at lower volumes. The bass is full at the loudest volumes without becoming distorted, but the K181s also come with a bass boost - or at least they should, as I really couldn't tell the difference with it on or off. But the mono switch is a nice touch (it's good for split cue use as well). It's only doing this review how stereo-separated some music is and sounds pretty bad in headphones.
Isolation: Despite their appearance, these are on-ear rather than over ear, and in my experience offer superior isolation, and are second only to the HD-25s on test.
Comfort and Stability: Because these sit on, rather than over your ears, I found them initially comfortable, but I did want to take them off quicker than other headphones. But they do stay on remarkable well and didn't really move when violent head nodding was applied. . I think this is down to the 270° pivots that simply mould the K181s to your head no matter where they sit. And they are by far the easiest pick up and use headphones in the review. The aforementioned pivot means that if you pick them up by an earpiece, the rest just swivels out of the way for instant ear access.
Compactness: Small enough. Fit neatly in the supplied bag.
Value for money: Not too bad really. They sound really good, have replaceable ear pieces and cables, plus I'm pretty sure that because of the 270° pivot, they won't snap in a hurry.
I found myself pleasantly surprised by the K 181 DJs. Just from the looks, I had felt that they were a little lightweight. But when I broke down the features, I came away feeling that a lot of thought had been put into them. The hinge assembly and 270° pivot is clever, and the sound quality is excellent. And while they isolate really well due to the on-ear styling, the comfort is a casualty.
I think they're excellent headphones, but I would urge you to try before buying from a DJ perspective.
Hype: 270° pivot - repairability - sound quality
Gripe: Can't keep them on for very long - fairly lightweight cable.