Whether you have a dedicated MP3 player or a music phone, one thing is certain: to enjoy your tunes to the fullest, you need some decent headphones. Not everyone likes pushing earbuds into their ears, though, which is where still-compact on-ear headphones come in. The AKG K 518 LE headphones, which you can find for as low as £45 online, fall into this category.
Walk the line
When it comes to gadget design, there's a fine line between dull and over-the-top, and AKG walks it well with the K 518 LE headphones. The semi-exposed metal headband and pop of colour on the earcups gives them some style, but not so much that you'd feel overly conspicuous when rocking them in public. The headphones are available in a rainbow of shades -- from red all the way to fuchsia (seven colours in all) -- so you should have no trouble choosing one that appeals to you. The circular earcups are quite compact, measuring 69mm across, meaning these headphones fall squarely into the on-ear category. Like any portable earphones worth their salt, the K 518 LEs fold down for transport, and come with a soft travel pouch.
Upon slipping the K 518 LEs onto our head, we immediately met with one possible design issue: the headphones are exceptionally tight. After less than an hour of wear, we became bothered by the uncomfortable pressure on the top cartilage of our ears. They also got quite hot during this period, although this may be a bad or good thing, depending on what you're doing. Fit is very personal and not everyone will experience discomfort.
On the plus side, the headphones do fit very securely, and they offer a good amount of passive sound isolation considering that they're of the on-ear variety. Our only other design concern with the K 518 LEs is that the top portion of the Y-cable, which measures about 1m long in all, is thin and may not be durable, although we do appreciate the thicker lower half and the reinforced, gold-plated straight plug.
Could sound cleaner
The K 518 LEs aren't the cleanest-sounding headphones we've heard, but their overall audio quality is very solid for a set in this price range. Other than a few select songs that had a muddy quality to them, we were impressed with the performance across a variety of genres and would have no issue recommending these headphones to listeners with eclectic taste.
The low end is deep and present without being overwhelming in most cases, but it could stand to be slightly tighter, as it tends towards being loose and mushy. Given the price and small size, this is a minor complaint. Mids are rich and lovely -- easily the best performers in the bunch -- and there's a reasonable amount of detail in the high end, although clarity isn't excellent. Also, one should be aware that there's a fair amount of sound leakage, meaning your neighbour on the train will probably be able to hear your splatter-core death metal.
Despite some fit issues, we were pretty pleased with the AKG K 518 LE headphones. They offer good value for money, with a slick design and balanced audio quality. If you're searching for reasonably priced, portable on-ear headphones, give these a shot.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet