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AKG K371 Review (closed back headphone)

Kremmen

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Simply put, a properly voiced experimental model (calling it that due to lack of replacement parts) with exemplary bass for cans and THD problems around upper midrange and with a terrible fit. Nothing more, nothing less.
Hopefully a MkII or so will come someday...
The K371 fits me perfectly and I find it very comfortable for long periods of time. The BT version which I tried first was pretty awful though and the shallower pads meant the driver covers pressed against my ears causing pain after a while. Loud creaking from the left earcup which houses the BT electronics and amp was also a major annoyance. Both issues have been widely reported on this model. Back it went for a full refund.

I agree with you about the lack of spare parts. That simply isn't good enough. Luckily I have numerous headphones I rotate but for those that use the K371 as their sole or primary headphone then the issues reported with the headband breaking at a vulnerable point on either side, plus the lack of official replacement earpads (and an easy way to fit them in the way they are at the factory) are of concern. The folding/extending mechanism is something I never tamper with but I know that it irks many users who do.

A MkII version that resolves these and other issues that have been reported would be great. The sound of the K371 I am very happy with. They are fabulous sounding given their price point and I feel they hold their own when compared to some of my costlier headphones. If it wasn't for Amir's very good review it's unlikely I'd have added them to my collection and I'm glad I did. :D
 
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Feelas

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The K371 fits me perfectly and I find it very comfortable for long periods of time. The BT version which I tried first was pretty awful though and the shallower pads meant the driver covers pressed against my ears causing pain after a while.
Wait, AKG went with giving a different pair of pads for K371-BT? That seems odd!

A MkII version that resolves these and other issues that have been reported would be great. The sound of the K371 I am very happy with. They are fabulous sounding given their price point and I feel they hold their own when compared to some of my costlier headphones. If it wasn't for Amir's very good review it's unlikely I'd have added them to my collection and I'm glad I did. :D
Yep and if anyone comes around with a new, maybe more refined somehow (i.e. near-field-monitor-like) scientific-alike curves then K371 might as-well end up being an artifact of a valid methodology which just turned out to slightly miss the point. Yet I feel like kicking AKG in the balls for not getting everything "just right".

It's actually pretty funny when you look at it in another way...
- AKG N400 (TWS earbuds) came out in similar time (after AKG acquisition by Samsung obv) to various Samsung earbuds and the Sams are now on the market, Harman tuned. N400 is mostly out-of-stock and probably not to be followed up. From Amazon comments, these seem to be riddled with bad design flaws (like being unable to use TWS in mono mode), some different usage issues and stuff. Samsung releases numerous TWS models tweaked akin Harman, but without the technical issues fuss and better thought-out.
- AKG K371 came out and in very similar time JBL (also Harman owned) released numerous models which (according to Rtings etc.) seem to also be Harman tuned, but with slightly higher bass & treble shelves. Story continues for K371 with fit problems, production quality issues & general non-pro-audio behaviour of AKG. JBL releases it's stuff, even re-releases (e.g. JBL Tune700 & Tune710 being just the same) about 2-3 years.

Seems like AKG newer consumer/semi-pro audio products might just as well now be the R&D segment of Samsung's audio division, releasing numerous trial (early-adopter) models to both test out the technical aspects (akin white-box products) & probe the market. Maybe we're supposed to buy the follow-ups, not the original concepts? ;)

Makes sense?
 
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Kremmen

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"Wait, AKG went with giving a different pair of pads for K371-BT? That seems odd!" (I don't know how to do quotes like you did Feelas!)

It's true. I had both sets with me for a few weeks before the BT version went back. The deeper earcups on the BT version to house the electronics resulted in shallower pads being fitted. We're talking enough of a difference to be very noticeable to me. Neither set of pads was in anything other than perfect, brand new condition and I took measurements.

Have a look at this review on YouTube as this guy had the same problem. (He mentions this from around the 3-minute mark):


BTW, you made some very interesting points that I hadn't considered. Thanks for the info.:D
 

Bleib

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"Wait, AKG went with giving a different pair of pads for K371-BT? That seems odd!" (I don't know how to do quotes like you did Feelas!)

It's true. I had both sets with me for a few weeks before the BT version went back. The deeper earcups on the BT version to house the electronics resulted in shallower pads being fitted. We're talking enough of a difference to be very noticeable to me. Neither set of pads was in anything other than perfect, brand new condition and I took measurements.

Have a look at this review on YouTube as this guy had the same problem. (He mentions this from around the 3-minute mark):


BTW, you made some very interesting points that I hadn't considered. Thanks for the info.:D
Thanks, that's good info. Not that I'm looking for BT headphones but I know now not to recommend the BT version of this.
 

Prana Ferox

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The BT ones are also fundamentally incompatible with Macs, the sound comes through AM quality due to not having a common Hi-Fi codec. Not sure what other devices have the same issue. Admittedly this is partly a stupid Mac problem but still.
 

markanini

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Yep and if anyone comes around with a new, maybe more refined somehow (i.e. near-field-monitor-like) scientific-alike curves then K371 might as-well end up being an artifact of a valid methodology which just turned out to slightly miss the point.
Not sure know what that means to you. If less warm tilt but keeping neutrality Shure SRH440 has been serving me pretty well. I'm using them for a few months now after selling my AKG K371. I didn't have a problem with the sound of AKG K371 but sold then after I got tired of fit issues. It's among the only three closed backs with a Harman preference score above 90: https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/Au...227d0034a834141ab7427cbc90/results/RANKING.md
 

jhaider

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The BT ones are also fundamentally incompatible with Macs, the sound comes through AM quality due to not having a common Hi-Fi codec. Not sure what other devices have the same issue. Admittedly this is partly a stupid Mac problem but still.
That is not my experience. That said, N700NC M2 is leagues more comfortable to me (K371BT rub on the tops of my ears, as with many people) and seem better built, too. So if you don't need your BT headphones to take an analog cable those are the AKGs to buy, IMO.
 

nyxnyxnyx

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My view is simple.
Fit: worth $20
Sound: worth $2000
sound alone I don't feel like it sounds better than any popular $200 headphones but I admit it is quite easy to accept the sound
fit and build quality is pretty meh though
Simply put, a properly voiced experimental model (calling it that due to lack of replacement parts) with exemplary bass for cans and THD problems around upper midrange and with a terrible fit. Nothing more, nothing less.
Hopefully a MkII or so will come someday...
I think it's time they upgrade the physical aspects (build and driver quality). I always think about it this way: If they nailed the harman target splendidly, then a better driver will probably deliver even more.
 

markanini

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sound alone I don't feel like it sounds better than any popular $200 headphones but I admit it is quite easy to accept the sound
What are you comparing to? I'm fortunate to have multitude of specialist stores near me that let me demo headphones with my chosen tracks. AKG K371 has a transparency that spans the whole frequency range. The type of transparency where you can take apart elements of a song just by listening. Whereas on average headphones elements will kind of smear together. Any good open back will excel at transparency in the mids and highs, but you won't be able to differentiate a 24" from a 20" kick drum. Average closed backs don't have any transparency to speak of. I can't say the AKG K371 is overrated as far as sound goes. Try listening to closed backs that were on the market before AKG K371 and you will understand.
 

Feelas

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That is not my experience. That said, N700NC M2 is leagues more comfortable to me (K371BT rub on the tops of my ears, as with many people) and seem better built, too. So if you don't need your BT headphones to take an analog cable those are the AKGs to buy, IMO.
So N700 NC M2 does have bigger pads in general, is that right? They look a lot like K371s on the internet pics, thus trying to clarify.
 

MayaTlab

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So N700 NC M2 does have bigger pads in general, is that right? They look a lot like K371s on the internet pics, thus trying to clarify.

Not really. The geometry looks similar, but remains slightly different in all dimensions.

What is most different though is the materials (uses fabric on the inwards side), for the N700NC (not M2) a sort of harder reinforcement on the outside wall, perhaps a different foam arrangement inside, and most importantly a completely different orientation / yoke design / headband design that applies clamping force differently and as a result makes them feel very different once it's on your head.
 

nyxnyxnyx

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What are you comparing to? I'm fortunate to have multitude of specialist stores near me that let me demo headphones with my chosen tracks. AKG K371 has a transparency that spans the whole frequency range. The type of transparency where you can take apart elements of a song just by listening. Whereas on average headphones elements will kind of smear together. Any good open back will excel at transparency in the mids and highs, but you won't be able to differentiate a 24" from a 20" kick drum. Average closed backs don't have any transparency to speak of. I can't say the AKG K371 is overrated as far as sound goes. Try listening to closed backs that were on the market before AKG K371 and you will understand.
I don't mean to say my taste is right for all or it dictates what correct music reproduction should be. However I have extended experiences with many headphones on the market so it isn't like I've only tried a few, or tried many but in a short time. I did not consider only closed-back headphones when I say $200 range though. Ones like HD6XX/DT880 sound significantly better both (stock sound and when EQ'ed). I do think they offer great value for $200 but in the big picture (that people often compare) they aren't that good.

It is overrated in my opinion not because the price but because of how much it was praised and compared to. Many people talk about how good 371 is and how it made some other headphones kinda obsolete so I bought them and tried for a few weeks and simply felt disappointed. They sound quite "correct" but mediocre still. Separation is not competitive, and the soundstage is small and narrow (tbf it's kinda like this for many closed-back headphones too).

Edit: I can agree about the tonality and transparency of 371. I think they're some of the good traits people appreciate when they talk about it.
 
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markanini

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Ones like HD6XX/DT880 sound significantly better both (stock sound and when EQ'ed)
Those are open back. It's kind of like comparing a Tesla to a Ferrari.

Many people talk about how good 371 is and how it made some other headphones kinda obsolete so I bought them and tried for a few weeks and simply felt disappointed.
They were not wrong, AKG K371 dethroned all other closed backs as far as sound goes.

My line of work involves transcribing recordings and recreating their production so I have a financial incentives that determine what I value in headphone.

Most people in audio enthusiast communities consider enjoyment is the first priority and all instruments don't get equal attention. I'm sure you will find thousands of hobbyists that vehemently agree with you.
 

jhaider

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So N700 NC M2 does have bigger pads in general, is that right? They look a lot like K371s on the internet pics, thus trying to clarify.

The biggest difference is that N700NC M2 appears to be designed to slip the top cartilage of your ear between the pad and baffle. It sounds odd but I find them extremely comfortable. As is wear on an ORD/ATL/JFK to DOH flight and never feel the need to remove them.
 

nyxnyxnyx

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Those are open back. It's kind of like comparing a Tesla to a Ferrari.


They were not wrong, AKG K371 dethroned all other closed backs as far as sound goes.

My line of work involves transcribing recordings and recreating their production so I have a financial incentives that determine what I value in headphone.

Most people in audio enthusiast communities consider enjoyment is the first priority and all instruments don't get equal attention. I'm sure you will find thousands of hobbyists that vehemently agree with you.
Fair enough. I don't have a background or expertise with music and doing other sound-related work so I can't feel the same picture that you feel, but I understand your point. The success of 371 was not strictly compared to closed-back headphones that's why I did not only include only closed-backs.

For $200-300 there aren't many good closed-back headphones so I can see 371 remains one of the top priorities for both sound and value.
 

MayaTlab

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This is just me, and I have little doubt, given that they're passive closed backs susceptible to coupling issues, that someone else may have a different opinion, but I can think of quite a few cheap closed backs that I prefer over the 371, including Harman's own €59 710BT.
 

Feelas

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Separation is not competitive, and the soundstage is small and narrow (tbf it's kinda like this for many closed-back headphones too).
Separation sounds pretty correct on Harman-like since you're not really getting the disparity between reverberant sound & the original one. The revereberance (which gives proper 3D impression) is done wrong on DF-voiced headphones. Records are pretty often not mixed with top clarity in mind, but with a certain aesthetic & purpose and order to it. Feeling that the audiophile perception has been skewed towards "hearing how the orchestra members turn the pages", even though the mastering engineer has been doing everything to not get these noises hearable... Simply for the purpose of not detracting from the piece being played. In short, not hiding the flaws but letting them stay wherever they are.

Trying to look past the aesthetic of the mix to look for "as many details as possible" (or whatever other concept, like "getting these female voices sounding intimate") feels wrong to me and very disrespectful of whatever point the artists (musicians, engineers, producer, etc.) tried to push forwards, which seems like a severe no-no when going for actual music listening instead of using music as a tool to argue for "the correct sound curve" or perhaps pushing product rankings etc. If you're hearing the narrowness that the artist intended to put there, it is more correct. If they didn't care about this aspect, why would that get hidden either? I think we can disregard the commonly-brought forwards "circle of confusion", since no matter what the engineer has on hand, he is trying to instill the idea, the execution will be flawed (by whatever gear he has) but it would be far-fetched to say that stuff mixed on imperfect gear hasn't the aesthetic sought after.

Just to underline: I'm not trying to dispute Your opinion, rather the general approach that I feel is wrong. Going after enjoyment is always fine, but doesn't seem like a proper talking point when discussing objective performance of stuff.

FYI HD6xx also has a reputation of sounding narrow and when checked thru FR graphs these aren't really that unsimilar after all. Maybe we're just being affected by an open-back vs closed-back bias after all? Also, seems impossible to me that you could ever try to regard anything w/ Mount-Beyer treble peaks & very wobbly FR under 2k as tonally correct or sounding better, since peaks & dips are the real-deal with details losses. Smooth is the new best.
 

markanini

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Trying to look past the aesthetic of the mix to look for "as many details as possible" (or whatever other concept, like "getting these female voices sounding intimate") feels wrong to me and very disrespectful of whatever point the artists (musicians, engineers, producer, etc.) tried to push forwards, which seems like a severe no-no when going for actual music listening instead of using music as a tool to argue for "the correct sound curve" or perhaps pushing product rankings etc. If you're hearing the narrowness that the artist intended to put there, it is more correct. If they didn't care about this aspect, why would that get hidden either? I think we can disregard the commonly-brought forwards "circle of confusion", since no matter what the engineer has on hand, he is trying to instill the idea, the execution will be flawed (by whatever gear he has) but it would be far-fetched to say that stuff mixed on imperfect gear hasn't the aesthetic sought after.
Interesting perspective. Any good engineer checks mixes on a multitude of system for such reasons, but I think there's merit your though. It's easier to create something consistent with pop production. Purely acoustic recordings like orchestral music get much more colored by the reproduction equipment. Either way vocals sounding close or distant, for example, is a deliberate choice a mixing engineer makes. A headphone that's biased to making voices intimate obviously strays from the intentions of the creator.

AKG K371 feels very much like looking under the skirt of a song to me. It's almost jarring. It's not a quality I've sought out for enjoyment purposes but I happen to find it useful for audio work, but I can disconnect from it if I want to. The fact that many enthusiasts, who expect that type of presentation, compares it to open backs without a second thought is actually a compliment to AKG/Harman. A level of overly-detailed presentation is probably inevitable for a well designed headphone. But some certainly go beyond what's necessary if the goal is to convey what the creator intended, like Beyerdynamic DT990 for sure. AKG K702 does something different where it sounds like you are in a tiny room with the performer.
 
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nyxnyxnyx

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Separation sounds pretty correct on Harman-like since you're not really getting the disparity between reverberant sound & the original one. The revereberance (which gives proper 3D impression) is done wrong on DF-voiced headphones. Records are pretty often not mixed with top clarity in mind, but with a certain aesthetic & purpose and order to it. Feeling that the audiophile perception has been skewed towards "hearing how the orchestra members turn the pages", even though the mastering engineer has been doing everything to not get these noises hearable... Simply for the purpose of not detracting from the piece being played. In short, not hiding the flaws but letting them stay wherever they are.

Trying to look past the aesthetic of the mix to look for "as many details as possible" (or whatever other concept, like "getting these female voices sounding intimate") feels wrong to me and very disrespectful of whatever point the artists (musicians, engineers, producer, etc.) tried to push forwards, which seems like a severe no-no when going for actual music listening instead of using music as a tool to argue for "the correct sound curve" or perhaps pushing product rankings etc. If you're hearing the narrowness that the artist intended to put there, it is more correct. If they didn't care about this aspect, why would that get hidden either? I think we can disregard the commonly-brought forwards "circle of confusion", since no matter what the engineer has on hand, he is trying to instill the idea, the execution will be flawed (by whatever gear he has) but it would be far-fetched to say that stuff mixed on imperfect gear hasn't the aesthetic sought after.

Just to underline: I'm not trying to dispute Your opinion, rather the general approach that I feel is wrong. Going after enjoyment is always fine, but doesn't seem like a proper talking point when discussing objective performance of stuff.

FYI HD6xx also has a reputation of sounding narrow and when checked thru FR graphs these aren't really that unsimilar after all. Maybe we're just being affected by an open-back vs closed-back bias after all? Also, seems impossible to me that you could ever try to regard anything w/ Mount-Beyer treble peaks & very wobbly FR under 2k as tonally correct or sounding better, since peaks & dips are the real-deal with details losses. Smooth is the new best.
I'm delighted that you have written a quite detailed response and describing some reasonable points that I might have forgot or missed. For the sake of curiosity and also to strengthen our discussion can you show me some reputable studies or sources claiming that the Harman-target for headphones is somehow the more "correct" take on music reproduction? Not that I don't believe you or think it's bogus, I am just aware that among well-known studios and successful mixers/producers, many don't even know that much about Harman for starters, let alone using Harman-tuned headphones/speakers to mix and calibrate songs. So to broaden this idea I would love to see some examples.

I think your point about varied headphones tunings somehow could lead to a "falsified and disrespectful notion to the point of the artists" is a bit confusing. Like, do you mean that people using non-DF/Harman headphones are listening to the incorrect/impure "presentation" of the artist/mixer/etc...? Because that's like how 99% people listen to the stuff they like. And if you're talking about the mixers/engineers then its back to my previous point.
I'm unsure how this headphones is the correct presentation of the original intentions of artists. And even if it is, then what have we been hearing/mixing all the time before the existence of 371 (and the few previous Harman-tuned headphones)?

I do appreciate the sound quality it delivers and the objective selling points of it (FR, driver material, seal....), I also do respect the brainwork behind 371. I do not judge it just on "personal enjoyment" at all, however I am cynical on the objective claims of this headphones and I prefer to see crystal-clear evidence.


I agree open vs closed is not a just comparison, however not all dips and peaks (especially when it is very narrow) are easily audible. I do not think the Beyers (both 880/990) or Sennheiser(6xx/600) is more "tonally correct" than 371 though, I said I like them more and I think they both are way more impressive than 371 - And this is indeed a personal, subjective opinion. I do not have enough expertise and appreciation in the industry to be bold enough to say whether something is truly "right" or not.

Lastly, do you have any recommendations for smooth-FR headphones? I would like to try more to broaden my experience, but as far as I am aware headphones tuning is typically very "wild west", every brand has their own ideas and they make tons of varied targets.
 

Feelas

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I'm delighted that you have written a quite detailed response and describing some reasonable points that I might have forgot or missed. For the sake of curiosity and also to strengthen our discussion can you show me some reputable studies or sources claiming that the Harman-target for headphones is somehow the more "correct" take on music reproduction? Not that I don't believe you or think it's bogus, I am just aware that among well-known studios and successful mixers/producers, many don't even know that much about Harman for starters, let alone using Harman-tuned headphones/speakers to mix and calibrate songs. So to broaden this idea I would love to see some examples.
I will admit that I don't have hard evidence about Harman being more or less correct. My idea based straight on the premise that the target curve arrived at for Harman was derived from a well-adapted room with top-of-line Revel speakers, thus would seem like something that would be considered a "good sounding setup" by many. In short, theoretically the result is akin to a mirror-image of a reference sound system but on headphones.

As @markanini mentioned, it is considered a good practice to give a listen to multiple sound systems while mixing & mastering, thus Harman might not be on a hit list. On the other hand, neither would be any FF or DF-voiced headphones, since these are both theoretical models. It is often discussed in gear reviews that modern pop doesn't sound right on tonally-correct gear and that makes sense to be true. Consider these mixes to sound good on cheap car sound systems (which have ridiculous bass issues) or on cheap radioes. Underscoring, neither of these would align with "proper audiophile" (aka non-Harman) gear either.

Also, read up about "house curves" for speaker EQ-ing - a declining bass-to-treble curve is considered something that typical sound system should be tweaked for to give a realistic room-sound impression. Looking at the recent topic by @neutralguy it is shown that, at least to some extent, such a curve is basis of Harman's tuning.

I think your point about varied headphones tunings somehow could lead to a "falsified and disrespectful notion to the point of the artists" is a bit confusing. Like, do you mean that people using non-DF/Harman headphones are listening to the incorrect/impure "presentation" of the artist/mixer/etc...? Because that's like how 99% people listen to the stuff they like. And if you're talking about the mixers/engineers then its back to my previous point.
I think I might have came out disrespectful which was not my intention at all. I'm just raging against audiophile community going after everything but the music itself. Purposefully mangling the record's aesthetic just feels wrong. The 99% people using imperfect gear to just listen to music on anything - I don't have anything against. They might just be missing out on some aspects of the record. That is my personal philosophical digression which honestly doesn't hold under scrutiny, since one might argue that mangled stuff might result in new aesthetics being born and so on... Consider this to be the worst part of what I put in words ;). It's just frustrating that music doesn't seem to be the priority sometimes.

I'm unsure how this headphones is the correct presentation of the original intentions of artists. And even if it is, then what have we been hearing/mixing all the time before the existence of 371 (and the few previous Harman-tuned headphones)?

I do appreciate the sound quality it delivers and the objective selling points of it (FR, driver material, seal....), I also do respect the brainwork behind 371. I do not judge it just on "personal enjoyment" at all, however I am cynical on the objective claims of this headphones and I prefer to see crystal-clear evidence.
Amusingly to some extent the mentioned HD600 are close match to Harman, barring the bass shelf. Many highly-regarded headphones which came out back before 2012 seem to be Harman-compliant to a higher extent than can be incidental (SRH840). Might be that Harman guys just put the idea into proper research and done the work to formalize it.

I feel that since there have been many headphone voicings in the past rooted in esoterics and showroom aspects, I believe that there's not one pair that really sounds realistic to speakers (which is impossible anyways without active processing), which are the common mixing target. Harman is also a "sell more" curve, after all, but rooted in a general idea that seems to make sense. You could bring up binaruals mixed for headphones, but these make like, what, 0.1% of recordings?

I agree open vs closed is not a just comparison, however not all dips and peaks (especially when it is very narrow) are easily audible. I do not think the Beyers (both 880/990) or Sennheiser(6xx/600) is more "tonally correct" than 371 though, I said I like them more and I think they both are way more impressive than 371 - And this is indeed a personal, subjective opinion. I do not have enough expertise and appreciation in the industry to be bold enough to say whether something is truly "right" or not.

Lastly, do you have any recommendations for smooth-FR headphones? I would like to try more to broaden my experience, but as far as I am aware headphones tuning is typically very "wild west", every brand has their own ideas and they make tons of varied targets.
Let's just get something straightened out - I don't necessarily feel the K371s are the best on the market, they just lack major flaws which make many other products annoying, apart from well-known 3.5-4k dip which is bad and probably tells why I consider HD560s a much more consistent experience. It might be that, after all, anything you consider better does sound more accurate due to your personal features. If there would be one thing I'd like to see adopted from Harman's research, it would be the insistence to keep the FR without wobbles, no matter what actual bass/mid/treble balance is adopted.
 
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