Yup, it’s that time of the week again where I ramble about anime and all things gloriously audiophile. Last week, we talked about Mio Akimiya from K-ON! and the famous AKG K701 reference headphones. In fact, AKG has made many other iconic headphones whose eye candy-like design has made it the object of many animators to include in shows. Case in point these next pair of cans worn by none other than Hifumi Takamoto from last season’s comedy/slice-of-life NEW GAME!!
Round 2: Open & Semi-open
Taken from episode 6, Hifumi is seen here wearing a color-swapped AKG K142HD. Another fine choice for the avid mobile technology user. If you read last week’s column, you can pretty much tell that AKG headphones really DO have a very distinctive look to them. The brand was known for pioneering the use of a dual wire arc design, whose skeletonized simplicity actually reduced the clamping pressure to the head. This made the headphones very comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, making them a staple for studio recording artists who would keep them on their head for hours on end.
The K142HD was a modern rendition of the classic K141 MKII Studio, which differed in its color scheme and use of a detachable cable. This particular model had a more consumer-focused sound to it, including a boosted base section, but it still retained the characteristic “wide soundstage” that made these headphones great for watching movies thanks to their ability to place the direction of sound well. They had a larger cousin called the K242HD which was big enough to wrap its cups around the ears of the user. The K142HD, on the other hand, sits on top of the users ears. It’s diminutive size, however, meant that they were small enough to be portable — even more reason for recording artists to bring one along whenever they had recording sessions in an unfamiliar studio.
You may have noticed the “vents” on the cups of the K142HD. These are used to prevent internal resonance within the chamber, which can lead to sound distortions. It also helps in improving the soundstage, meaning you get a better sense of depth and direction when listening to tracks that are recorded in orchestra halls. This property also makes them great as gaming headphones since you can locate sounds with better precision. This type of design is called a “semi-open” design. Similarly, the K701 we talked about last week is a “fully open” design, meaning it has even less distortion and an even greater soundstage.
But these features come with a drawback. Open and semi-open designs leak out sound, so it’s possible for other people to hear what you’re listening to. That also means they are poor at isolating sound in a noisy environment, so there goes your shot at showing these off while taking a walk down the street. The other issue is that fully open designs tend to have a thinned out bass section (lower frequency response), which is usually made up for by changing the materials used in the headphone (which translates to more expensive materials).
But the good news is that the K142HD is very easy to drive. They were designed to work with mobile devices, including laptops and portable mp3 players, but they sound even better when amplified. They’re also very good at resolving details, and many people I’ve met who upgraded to these headphones mentioned the fact that they tend to “hear things they’ve never heard before” in tracks they’ve listen to for so many years. That said, low quality recordings will sound even worse, so try to keep your audio tracks in the higher quality spectrum.
Given their design, you can keep these on your head for quite a long time before you start to feel a strain. The K142HD may feel a little awkward at first as it sits on top of your ears, but the larger K242HD can be so comfortable, you might even forget that it’s there. All-in-all, these are well-rounded cans that I can actually recommend to anyone interested in spending just a little more to get really good quality audio.
So Hifumi is perhaps one of the more attainable headphones out there, but there are just so many more to choose from! Stay tuned for more audio tidbits and anime tributes to come! Until next time!