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Review

 The AKG Y40 – not perfect, but still a standout
 
Today we’re taking a close look at AKG’s Y40 wired on-ear headphone set.
 
We’ve found that the set isn’t without its flaws, but by and large it’s worth a close look, thanks to the strength of its design and construction and its overall charm.
 
The time’s never been better for would-be buyers of headphone sets of this sort. The market’s awash in them at this point in time; a full range of units is available and buyers can have their pick in terms of price, size, quality and other key considerations.
 
Does the Y40 have what it takes to rule the roost – or at least to gain a little traction and carve out a niche for itself in such a competitive market?
 
What’s in the box?
There’s not an awful lot the Y40 box contains, to be honest. Buyers get no more than the unit itself, its connection cord, a rather nice soft carrying pouch, and the device’s documentation.
 
As a matter of fact, as an aside, the box is a bit on the big side for not a lot of gear – hopefully AKG is doing something to shrink the box in the name of packaging and shipping efficiency and all that.
 
Styling, features, and initial impressions
Remove the Y40 from the box and you’ll be impressed by its look and feel. AKG, in keeping with its reputation, doesn’t seem to have skimped on the Y40’s construction – resulting in a headphone set that impresses from the moment it’s picked up.
 
The Y40 is subtly handsome and discreetly styled, and is quite well put together. AKG seems to have gone out of its way to choose good materials for this headphone unit; the plastics and metals utilized feel expensive and sturdy. (We’ll have to see how durable the soft material used in the ear cushions will prove over time; in our experience, no thanks to wear and tear and exposure to our hot and humid weather, these components don’t really last all that long.)
 
There’s little to no slack or looseness in our test unit’s moving parts either. Everything is slick yet nicely dampened. Hardware aficionados will also be won over by little touches such as the subtle ridging on the outside of the ear-cups. It’s not immediately apparent, but quite interesting once noticed.
 
Note that these are foldable earphones – they’re already small, but they can be twisted and turned into themselves for ease of storage and/or transport (and, when they´re compacted, they fit well in the provided soft carry pouch).
 
The Y40 can also be used for handsfree calling thanks to discreetly integrated equipment. Its cable incorporates an inline three-button remote and microphone, making it easy to take a call while listening to music and vice versa.
 

Oh, and we hear that the Y40 can be had in black, yellow, and blue – our test unit came in black. We’re not sure if the other colors are or will be made available locally, however.
 
Lastly, AKG has also crafted a version of the Y40 that runs on Bluetooth and doesn’t need to be physically plugged in to work (except, of course, when it’s charging its batteries).
 
User experience
Sound quality. In terms of their construction and assembly, the Y40s are quite compelling. Sound-wise, while they won’t blow the competition away, they can still hold their own in most situations.
 

The Y40 does quite decently under most circumstances. They boast dual 40mm audio drivers, which, for the most part, do pump out sound that’s quite adequate for almost every situation and irrespective of whatever kind or type of music one wants to listen to (save for music with heavy bass).
 

 
We tried our test unit with a wide range of music – from classical to pop and everything in between – and it did all right for the most part. We walked away satisfied with most of what we were hearing. Live recordings sounded almost true to life, and those recorded in settings such as concert halls were able to preserve the feel of the music.
 
Unfortunately, when used in areas that are a bit on the noisy side, the Y40 doesn’t do as well. The sound doesn’t distort much when a user turns up the volume, but it’s as if the unit can’t really contend with too much background noise.
 

We suspect this is due to the Y40’s relatively minuscule ear-cups. While their small footprint does make for easier packing and transport, said cups aren’t large enough to cover large-sized ears completely – and are thus unable to block out enough background noise. Users will have to turn up the volume a little bit to try to compensate for this shortcoming. (Making the music louder can help, but it doesn’t deal with the root cause of the situation.)
 

Comfort. We found the Y40 to be really comfortable to have on, even for hours at a time. There are no raised, sharp or oddly textured surfaces to irritate or hurt a careless user, and the padded surfaces provide excellent comfort. The headset fits snugly without chafing or fitting too tightly. Additionally, the unit’s low weight and precise design make it a joy to have on.
 
Switchgear. Thankfully, the Y40 doesn’t come with too many physical switches (which would make it a major pain to use). The switches it does come with are nearly all on the wired remote, and they work exactly as they should.
 
Final words
The AKG Y40 isn’t head and shoulders above other on-ear headphone sets. Its small earphone cups limit its ability to block out extraneous background noise. That said, in the areas where it’s good, it’s a standout – it’s hard to match, let alone beat, thanks to its excellent design and build quality.
 
We recommend you give the Y40 a try if and when you’ll be shopping for a new headset. Its strong qualities are appealing enough to win even the more jaded music experts over. It’s well worthy of your time and consideration.