Sorry to break it to you, but if you want to get into mixing your own music, your Beats Studios just aren’t going to cut it. While they're better for consumers than most audiophiles think, their bass boost is the opposite of what you'll need in the studio. Thankfully, AKG—manufacturer of some of our favorite cans—have just the kind of stylish quality and studio sound you're looking for. The K553 Pros (MSRP: $199.99) live up to their name and are a perfect choice for amateurs and professionals alike that are looking to dig a little deeper into their music without spending a bundle. They have everything you’d want in a pair of headphones, including fantastic sound and enough padding to guarantee long-lasting comfort for those marathon recording sessions.Even if you’re not looking to mix and master your own stuff the K553 Pros can handle nearly anything you’ll want to jam to. They're don't have quite the same consumer-friendly sound as say the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7s, but thanks to a nice balanced sound, you’ll be able to pick out all manner of details usually lost to booming bass. If you’ve got about $200 to spend, the K553 Pros are an excellent buy.
Design. Designed in Austria, the K553 Pros have a simple, straightforward design that isn't breaking any new ground. But sometimes, simple is definitely better. With large, encompassing earcups and soft leather padding, they’re a joy to wear from the start to the end of the work day. It didn't take long for them to become my new go-to for music while I work. One thing's for sure, though, these weren’t meant to travel. While the cups can rotate to create a flatter profile, without a carrying case, the non-removable nine-foot cable is destined for knots. We had a similar issue with the Sony MDR-7506s for years, although at least the spiral cable helps out there. You'd be better off with the Audio-Technica MSR7s, which have all of this and more. Instead, set them up at your desk or workstation and leave them be.
Sound. The AKG K553s are a great choice for mixing/mastering your own music. The best studio headphones don’t emphasize any one type of sound over the others. Instead, they keep the spectrum nice and level so you can adjust to your heart’s content. The K553 Pros give a slight boost to some high-frequency notes, but, for the most part, keep things well within our threshold for optimal studio performance. The AKG K553s handle most musical genres well. By giving a slight boost to high-frequency sounds and keeping bass relatively subdued, the K553 Pros do almost any genre justice. Instead of overwhelming bass that’ll drown everything else out, you’ll get a much more balanced experience with high notes that ring out with beautiful clarity. I was particularly impressed by this when listening to songs like "Flesh without Blood" by Grimes. If you don’t need to feel your music in your chest, the K553 Pros are going to sound great no matter what your favorite genre is.
The AKG K553s are ideal for blocking outside noise. If you’re constantly surrounded by chatty office mates, or just want to lose yourself to the music, you’ll be happy to know the closed-back K553 Pros do a great job at blocking outside ambient sound, unlike the much lauded AKG K701 Open-Backed Headphones. Even without playing any sound themselves, the padding on the earcups is enough to take outside noise and cut its volume in half. Turn on your playlist and it’ll be hard to hear your friend sitting next to you, let alone the general chatter of an office.In order to get the full breakdown of the results from our testing, head over to the Test Results Page to check out more.
Verdict. With large, encompassing earcups that are comfortable enough to wear all day and a sound profile that’s accommodating for most genres, the K553 Pros are a compelling choice for anyone looking for a quality pair of cans. They’re not the best studio-grade headphones out there, but at this price there’s not really anything to complain about. They sound great, plain and simple.
If you’d like a pair of studio headphones that cost a little less (now that they’re on sale, that is) and have a little more bass, the Marshall Monitors (MSRP: $199.99) are a great alternative. They’re stylish, comfortable, portable, durable, and they sound great. It’s a winning combination no matter how you slice it.Or, if you’re willing to spend a little extra, there’s the Audio-Technica MSR7 (MSRP: $249.95). Our favorite over-ear headphones of 2015, the MSR7s sound similar to the K553 Pros but benefit from a removable cable, better portability, and enough accessories to make sure you have what you need.Still, AKG has earned its reputation over and over again for producing some of the best headphones out there and the K553 Pros are just another in a long line of exceptional products. If you’re looking to mix, monitor, and/or master your own music, you won’t be disappointed with your purchase.