Taking a closer look at the Galaxy S8’s AKG earphones

Accessories aren't usually the talk of the town, but when Samsung announced it will be bundling its latest flagship, the Galaxy S8, with a pair of AKG-branded earphones otherwise worth $100, my interest was piqued, so I decided to put them to the test. Are they really as high-quality as Samsung would like us to believe, or is this just an overblown marketing trick?

Well, a bit of both, really.

Earphones, at the most fundamental level, are a compromise – the minimal form factor which gives them their convenience is also their biggest problem, as more often than not it results in poor quality, both build- and sound-wise. Sure, there are exceptions, but they almost always cost a pretty penny, making them unsuitable for the basic consumer’s needs.

Which brings us back to the AKG pair of earphones – $100 may not exactly be premium territory when it comes to audio equipment, but it’s still more than what your average Joe is willing to spend on such a product, so it’s fair to say the price brings some bigger expectations to the table.

Unfortunately, a few days of testing have led to the conclusion that these earphones are not quite the high-quality product they’re advertised to be. Admittedly, they are a lot better than what is commonly bundled with other smartphones, but nonetheless never fully deliver on Samsung’s promise of premium quality.

As is the tradition with most earphones, Samsung/AKG opted to sweeten the sound by applying the so-called ‘smile’ curve, somewhat aggressively bumping up the lows and mid-highs at the expense of the mids. This won’t exactly be bad news to most listeners – such tuning often has the effect of making the sound appear both wider and louder than what a more neutral-sounding pair of earphones can deliver, but for people who prefer their sound as accurate as possible this pair will be far from ideal.

A few problems: to my ears, the low end was a bit more pronounced than it should be, and it often drowned out the rest of the audio when listening to more electronic, bass-heavy tracks, though rock tended to be improved by the pair's tuning. The sub bass and the very high end both suffered in terms of volume, resulting in a boxier sound and dulling drums’ punchiness. Treble, too, sounded a bit off, but was never as uncomfortably loud as it usually is on cheaper earphones.

In terms of design, the earphones are muted and unobtrusive, though I wouldn't go as far as calling them 'stylish'. They sport a braided fabric cable which does a good enough job of preventing pocket Tangelas, but fails in another, much more important department. This cable is noisy – even just a slight tug will result in an uncomfortable auditory assault which, if you’re like me, can be a major dealbreaker. Of course, this is an inescapable problem of wired 'phones of all kinds, but it’s particularly pronounced here due to the anti-tangling fabric. 

And this is a major issue, as earbuds are, by design, made to be used while on the move. The AKG pair’s build unfortunately punishes such use, so if you’re thinking of using them while working out, well, think again. It certainly doesn’t help that the connection between the earphones and the cable feels flimsy and twisty. For what it’s worth, however, the pair is a comfortable and snug fit, unlikely to slide out of your ears on its own.

Being bundled with a smartphone, it's only natural that the earphones also include an in-line microphone and music controls. My only gripe with those is that the buttons don't exactly feel clicky and satisfying, but are instead a bit too soft and don't provide good enough feedback.

Despite the aforementioned problems, however, the AKG earphones still offer the best possible value, being a free accessory and all. So if you’re not a sound purist, and the build quality issues don't seem like that big of a deal, then you should be good to go – these are earbuds, and they make sound – no more, no less.



30. aleant36

Posts: 71; Member since: Feb 03, 2015

My gf got her S8+ delivered today. I tried the AKG earbuds with my htc 10 and they sound great. I was really surprised and didn't expect them to be as good as they are since they were bundled with the phone. It could be the DAC in my 10, but I like them a lot and probably going to take them from her haha

23. nikhil23

Posts: 507; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

According to sound guys, they are not great but far better than the regular earphones that come bundled with phone and better than apple air pods.

24. RoboticEngi

Posts: 1251; Member since: Dec 03, 2014

Exactly. No one was expecting 300$ headphones, just decent ones.

28. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

right... the main point is "far better than the regular earphones that come bundled with phone"

21. hafini_27

Posts: 951; Member since: Oct 31, 2013

Go watch Pocketnow's videos since they do better reviews on sound quality.

13. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2282; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

Where is this writer from?

19. Tech_fan

Posts: 94; Member since: Mar 28, 2017


9. zebraman

Posts: 68; Member since: Sep 11, 2013

Everyones ears are different I'm sure they sound OK. I've tried on a $250 pair of beats headphones and I thought they sounded like a $5 pair of headphones

14. Kaloyan.C

Posts: 22; Member since: Feb 25, 2017

Completely agree – while I found the pair far from perfect, other people may enjoy them much more than I did. Plus, they're okay for what they are, which is a free accessory bundled with a smartphone, but they most definitely don't deliver sound on a professional level, which is the basis against which I judged them.

15. RoboticEngi

Posts: 1251; Member since: Dec 03, 2014

Have samsung ever said you get professional audio? No! If you compare them against what other put in the package, how well do they do? My guess is, freaking much better. But ofcourse not as good as the icrap headphones, that fit 10% of all users, and sound empty beer cans...

16. kiko007

Posts: 7525; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

You Sammy snowflakes get triggered so easily... chill the f**k out.

18. Tech_fan

Posts: 94; Member since: Mar 28, 2017

you iboy triggered so easily so you replied him...so you "iSTUPID" chill the f**k out.

20. kiko007

Posts: 7525; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Are you mentally handicapped? You type as though you are...

22. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Samsung gives out free accessories? O.o Since when? There's no such thing as free. Everything in the box are all paid by you.

27. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

that's just because beats headphones is crap..

8. Karriope

Posts: 148; Member since: Jun 07, 2013

So I recall reading these contain a dual 8mm and 11mm driver layout. I take it they're some sort of peculiar dynamic layout? Or are they armature?

7. Tech_fan

Posts: 94; Member since: Mar 28, 2017

this ikid boy also reviews samsung products..go kid play your trash iheadphones..i think PA has no shame...

6. Mreveryphone

Posts: 1885; Member since: Apr 22, 2014

It's all personal preference... One person's ears will hear things differently than another's... The music preference is key as well... One person may like bass heavy tunes while another person might like mids and highs more... Just get what you want and take online reviews with grains of seasoning salt...

4. peace247 unregistered

Almost every other site is saying otherwise.

5. kobainez

Posts: 454; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

Well Michael fisher doesn't like the sound of it too so this article isn't biased

1. notfair

Posts: 785; Member since: Jan 30, 2017

Comme on !!! this was such a sad and biased article.. Finding excuses because Sammy put premium earphones with the S8 which are infinitely better than the 1$ earphones provided by apple and apple will never EVER do a similar thing. Guys, please don't buy the S8 because the earphones don't worth 100$.

2. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

You'll pay for a premium flagship phone and you'll get subpar "branded" earphones as accessories? At $1000 you'll expect more. Though I never used any stock earphone, but a low performing earphone can't justify the cost. What's the use of advanced DACs when you can't use it properly?

3. vincelongman

Posts: 5838; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Yea I'm not sure why people were hyped for these Just get $5-30 earphones from China They will sound just as good or better

10. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Soundmagic's price may fool you, but it's the best affordable out there. Xiaomi Pistons too.

11. vincelongman

Posts: 5838; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Yep, other great options include: 1More (owned by Xiaomi), Tennmak, KZ, VE, Boarseman, Zero Audio, K's, Vsonic, TY, ... Just search for Chi-fi (Chinese hi-fi) any you'll find more

26. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

oh, I have KZ ZS3.. it sounds great for $10 earphones lol.. (I get it out of curiosity, because this cheap earphone get great review on audio forum) the only problem is the cheap cable, and it's proprietary connector (it has removable cable)

29. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

I have KZ w1($7) lol, it sound decent and build quality is way better than my etymotic HF5($80).

17. Subie

Posts: 2467; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Beyerdynamic Byron's are pretty great too! https://www.whathifi.com/beyerdynamic/byron/review

12. Landon

Posts: 1249; Member since: May 07, 2015

Agreed. I bet this guy thinks the Apple Airpods are the best sounding headphones ever too.

25. bonsly16

Posts: 94; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

I don't see what the problem is with this review. Just because you don't agree with it does not mean it's biased. Come on now...

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