Signature Sound at a Cheaper Price


Utilising AKG’s 70+ years of audio engineering experience and its whopping 1500 audio-focused patents, the company set out to bring its signature sound to the masses in the form of a pair of affordable lightweight, fashion-focused on-ear headphones. The AKG Y400 are the result of that mission, and for £109/$149, there’s certainly a lot to like.

Aside from great audio performance, you’ve got a refreshingly playful design, great battery life and wireless connectivity, but as with most modern tech, it’s not the perfect package. Carry on reading to find out why.

Design and build

Headphones tend to look a little same-y, and that’s particularly true with on-ear headphones, offering the same general build and muted colour options. That’s a trend AKG is trying to break free from with the entry-level Y400 headphones, sporting a more fashion-focused, vibrant design than most other options available right now.

Available in Black, Pink, Green, Blue and Rose Gold and sporting a high-gloss finish, the headphones have a noticeable sheen that looks great in the light, and the matte effect means it negates fingerprints and other smudges pretty well too – although the included soft carry case should help keep the cans looking fresh when not in use.  

The headphones are built primarily from plastic, showcasing their entry-level nature, but there’s a flexible brushed-metal frame embedded within to keep things sturdy. It’s exposed in certain places too, like across the top of the headband, giving the headphones a slightly industrial look.

There’s a focus on portability with the AKG Y400s, offering not only a lightweight design at only 170g, but the ability to fold down to a vanishingly small form that’s easy to slide into a pocket or bag when not in use. That’s almost half the weight of the upgraded AKG Y600NC headphones, to give you an idea of just how light these cans are.

These are on-ear headphones, meaning they’ll sit directly on your ears and not around them like over-ears, so comfort is paramount. The good news is that the earpads are super soft to the touch and there’s thick cushioning on offer too, with the potential for all-day wear without getting achy ears.

There are a bunch of on-cup controls to quickly accept calls, control music playback and access the virtual assistant built into your smartphone too. There’s also a USB-C port for charging and a 3.5mm headphone jack for the bundled cable, allowing for wired use when the cans run out of juice.

There is a slight issue though: the headband is a little on the small side, and when paired with the with minimal cushioning, it creates pressure across the top of my head over longer listening sessions. This will, of course, vary from person to person, and the headphone arms are adjustable in length, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you’ve got an above-average cranium.

Features and connectivity

With such a small and light form factor, you’d be forgiven for thinking that these are just another pair of ‘dumb’ headphones. That’s not the case, however, with the Y400 headphones sporting auto-pause functionality that’ll pause music whenever you take the headphones off and resume playback once they’re comfortably back in place.

It’s a nice feature that saves you from fumbling to find the pause button on the cans or on your connected device, but it isn’t flawless in performance, often failing to detect when the headphones had been taken off and simply continuing to play music. It is handy when it does work – I just wish it was a little more consistent.

Alongside auto-pause functionality, you’ve got TalkThru and Ambient Aware at your disposal. The former allows you to quickly mute playback and funnel audio captured via the mics through to the headset while the latter does the same while playing music. Both are there to help you be more aware of your surroundings, like when walking at night or when you need to quickly talk to a passer-by, and work pretty much as advertised.

In terms of wireless connectivity, you’ve got access to Bluetooth 5.0 utilising the AAC codec, allowing for improved audio quality when streaming from supported devices, and you can connect multiple devices at once for easy pass-over from one device to another too.

If you want to connect to an older device, or use the headphones once the battery has died, you’ve also got the option of connecting to older devices via the bundled 3.5mm wired cable.

In terms of battery life, the 360mAh battery provides around 20 hours of playback, although this will admittedly vary depending on overall volume, smart features, etc. That’s pretty decent for such a lightweight pair of cans, and with quick-charge tech that’ll provide four hours of use in 10 minutes and a full charge in two hours, you won’t find yourself caught out too often.

Audio quality

The idea behind the AKG Y400’s entry-level price point is to make AKG’s high-end audio quality accessible to more people, and after spending a lot of time listening to music and podcasts using the lightweight cans, I’ve got to admit that AKG has achieved its aim.

Generally, on-ear headphones tend to suffer in the bass department – powerful bass needs a strong seal around the ear, after all – but despite this, the Y400s manage to deliver surprisingly punchy bass. It doesn’t do so at the cost of the mid-range either, with great sound separation on offer.

Pair this with a rich mid-range and crisp highs and you’ve got punchy, energetic playback suited to everything from 90s classics like Mary Mary’s Shackles to The Weeknd’s punchy TikTok favourite, Blinding Lights.

Pricing

The main purpose of the AKG Y400 headphones is to bring AKG’s high-end reference audio at a more affordable price point, coming in at just £109.99/$149.99. That’s a decent price considering not only the colourful design but battery life, smart features and audio quality on offer. We detail the best wireless headphones separately for those who need a little more context about the wider market.

If you’re interested, you can buy the AKG Y400 headphones from Samsung alongside retailers like Argos in the UK and directly from AKG in the US.

Verdict

The AKG Y400s represent great value not only for those that want something more fashionable and vibrant than standard headphones, but for those that really want to appreciate every detail in the music they listen to. Despite the on-ear design, the cans offer AKG’s signature sound with crisp detail and surprisingly punchy bass, making them a great option for fashionistas and music lovers alike.

The smart functionality is great when it works, but it’s certainly not as consistent as some similarly priced rivals, often not detecting when the headphones were taken off. The built-in Ambient and TalkThru modes are very handy though, especially for those quick unexpected interactions when you’re grooving out on public transport.

Throw in 20-hour battery life, a lightweight design and more colour options than you can shake a stick at, and you’ve got a great pair of entry-level on-ear headphones. The only real downside is the headband fit, which can get tight if you’ve got a big head like me!

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Specs
AKG Y400: Specs

36mm drivers
20Hz-20kHz Frequency response
AAC encoding
Bluetooth 5.0
170g
Foldable design
20-hour battery life
USB-C charging
Four hours of charge in 10 minutes
Optional 3.5mm connectivity
Soft carry case

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