AKG has been in the business of making audio equipment for more than 60 years, so it was only a matter of time before the company tackled the portable-music market. In AKG's expanding line of earbud-style headphones, you'll find the £50 K 340 earphones. They offer surprisingly open sound for in-ear 'phones, but potential comfort and durability issues may be a turn-off for some people.
The 340s are something of a disappointment when it comes to their design. The foremost issue is comfort. While the earpieces are rather small overall, the apertures are some of the largest we've encountered. Their considerable girth tends to put pressure on the inside of smaller ears, and the three sizes of silicone ear tips included in the package don't alleviate the issue.
The other problem is that the cable descending from each earbud is exceptionally thin -- it's perhaps one of the thinnest we've seen -- raising concerns over its durability. This, combined with the plastic earpieces, makes the 340s feel cheaper than their £50 price tag. The styling is nothing to write home about either. Although the earphones are by no means ugly, they're unquestionably dull.
On the plus side, AKG does include a handy inline volume slider, as well as a hard-sided carrying case for storing and transporting the headphones. We were also pleased to note the flexible, reinforced housing around the gold-plated straight plug, as this will help prevent breakage in that area. The cord measures an ample 1m in length, but it's worth mentioning that you get a fair amount of noise from the cable bouncing or rubbing against the front of your body. That's something to consider if you're thinking of using the 340s during active pursuits.
Big on bass
As is so often the case with headphones -- especially ultra-portable models -- whether or not you like the 340s' performance will boil down to personal preference. The 340s offer a clear, open sound space with plenty of low-end thump, provided you can get a good seal with the ear (we had to press them in because of the size issue). In fact, the bass can be slightly muddy and overpowering, although high-end details still shine through with hip-hop, electronica and pop. Alt and hard rock tend to suffer slightly. We prefer the crisper audio offered by the Klipsch Image S4s, and found them better-balanced across genres in a head-to-head comparison.
We're inclined to recommend the Klipsch Image S4s over the AKG K 340s. If inline volume controls are a compelling feature for you, though, the 340s may prove tempting.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet