It’s a brave manufacturer that uses the words ‘studio’ and ‘Bluetooth’ in the same sentence, as the wireless tech remains a compromise between performance and convenience. That’s especially the case when the headphone in question costs a modest £155. But, to be fair, AKG chooses its words carefully, and describes the new K371-BT as a “studio headphone with Bluetooth”. This suggests it’s primarily designed to be used in wired mode, while also offering the convenience of Bluetooth streaming when you’re on the move.

AKG takes the wired side of things seriously. The left earpiece is equipped with a mini-XLR connector, with a pair of straight (1.2m and 3m)and a 3m coiled cable along with a 6.35mm adapter and pouch. The Bluetooth features are a little more basic, supporting SBC and Apple’s AAC codec while aptX remains absent. Battery life is good, with 40 hours’ Bluetooth use quoted. Switching to wireless mode activates touch-sensitive controls on the left earpiece making it easy to control playback or adjust volume.

The matte-black design isn’t particularly exciting, but the headphone is sturdily built and has a comfortable over-ear design, with large padded earpieces housing the 50mm drivers.

Sound quality
With Bluetooth provided as a bonus, rather than the main feature, I start with a wired connection to my Astell&Kern AK70 MKII. And, as the sales pitch for the K371-BT claims its 5Hz-40kHz frequency response is, “unheard of at this price”, I turn to Max Richter’s Shadow Journal.

The ambient electronics of the opening section create a great sense of space as the looped samples seem to swirl and echo through the air around me, but it’s the piercing clarity of the viola that stands out. There’s a sharp, emotional edge to the strings that cuts right through the gentle wash of background sounds yet avoids sounding harsh or strained. The deep, electronic bass completes the picture and the K371-BT lives up to AKG’s claims, introducing a real sense of unease as the subterranean rumble echoes off into the distance. I’ve heard few headphones in this price range that can recreate the depths of the track so effectively.

Damien Rice’s Eskimo also embraces extremes. The K371-BT shows a delicate touch, picking out every hesitant breath in Rice’s opening vocal, and there’s a real brightness to the lightly strummed acoustic guitar. Once again, it excels with strings, giving full expression to the mournful tone of the cello as Rice reaches the somewhat baffling chorus.

But it’s the final refrain that provides the real challenge. Bringing an opera singer at full blast into a gentle acoustic ballad can defeat less-discerning headphones, but the K371-BT maintains its composure admirably. It doesn’t show any sign of faltering as it follows Doreen Curran’s soaring soprano, yet still manages to keep the strings and acoustic guitar in sight, ready for the moment when the song comes back down to earth for Rice’s final, weary lament.

Switching to Bluetooth reveals that higher frequencies lose a little of their brightness, and Curran’s roof-rattling tones start to sound a little harsher. The midrange and lower frequencies still work admirably, however, maintaining the rich, woody texture of the cello and strings, so Bluetooth streaming is certainly an option when you’re out and about.

It’s a shame that AKG couldn’t manage to stretch to including aptX for Bluetooth streaming as well, but I can’t fault the performance of the K371-BT when used in its primary, wired mode. And the hype is justified as the far-reaching frequency response produces a level of sound that is genuinely impressive at this price. Certainly worth a listen. CJ    

Product: AKG K371-BT
Type:Closed-back, over-ear headphone

●  50mm drivers
●  Claimed frequency response: 5Hz-40KHz
●  2x straight cables (1.2m/3m); 1x coiled cable (3m); 6.35mm adapter jack
●  SBC, AAC Bluetooth streaming

Read the full review in  Issue 465