The Unlikely Long Life of My AKG-Y50s

2 Years and 10 Months ago I was gifted a pair of AKG Y50s by my father for Christmas. I love these headphones. I’ve worn them daily, sometimes for hours at a time. I can say for certain:They were not meant to last this long. Yet, thanks to a lifetime of fixing things, they’re still going strong: To this date I have:

  1. Bought a carrying case for the headphones
  2. Replaced the cable
  3. Replaced the cable
  4. Replaced the cable
  5. Repaired the right ear cup (it fell off).
  6. Repaired the left ear cup (it fell off).
  7. Repaired the right ear cup again (the screw loosened and it fell off).
  8. Replaced both ear pads. 

The first thing I noted about half a year into the ownership of these headphones is that the nice neoprene carrying case that came with them was completely incapable of protecting them properly. So I bought a hard shell headphone box from Amazon, which, as a bonus, had a perfect slot to carry my graphing calculator. What can I say? I have specific needs.

Next, the cable that it came with was no longer working. So I contacted AKG. My first shock was that, for a 100 dollar pair of headphones, they wanted 30 dollars + another 12.00 for shipping to send me a replacement cable. This was unacceptable:

So I did what any self-respecting modern person would do. I searched Amazon for a replacement cable. They had one! and for $12.00, shipping included. The off-brand cable worked just as well as the Y50’s original, and no one could tell the difference in the microphone quality.Then,half a year later I replaced the cable again. This third one has continued to work.

Then I had a new problem. The ear cup fell off! It would just forlornly dangle from its cord. I tried to fix it a few times by carefully rerouting the wire the way AKG intended and re-tightening the screw. However, despite loctite and other measures, it would inevitably work its way loose. It ends up the threads themselves wore from regular use. So I broke out a drill and a soldering iron. I routed the wire through the top of the ear cup and put a new self-tapping screw in the side which held much better.

This worked for a while and then the left ear cup had the same issue. Fortunately my fix/redesign has held up. So far the screw has only come loose once, but I was able to simply tighten it and it returned to normal operation. I suppose there is a chance I messed with the tuning of the headphones this way, but as far as my untrained ear goes, they still sound like a mid-range-decently-good-but-not-amazing-you-won’t-be-disappointed set of headphones. 

Most recently, after nearly three years the ear pads had started to wear down and the foam was poking through. Much to my surprise I could get another set on eBay for 13 dollars. They even had the silk printing on the inside of the cups for left and right!

Conclusion:

  1. Brand Name and Popularity: If I had purchased a less popular set of headphones from a different brand I might not have had access to the same level of repair parts. Simply typing in Y50 got me access to all the replacement cables and ear pads I could want.
  2. Protect your items: Honestly, I should have had a hard case for these from the beginning. I think there’s a chance that I could have at least made it to year two without the cups falling off had I done that.
  3. If it’s already broke, how bad can you fuck it up? Last is just a general rule of repair. Take your time, think through it, but if it’s between a new one and fixing it: Don’t be afraid to bust out the soldering iron and drill. 

All in all these were a great pair of headphones. If it wasn’t for the ear cups falling off, I’d rate this an extremely durable pair of headphones. I consider ear pads and cables to be reasonable wear items; though I was disappointed at the high cost of ordering replacement wear items from AKG. I think this is a failure on their part.  

The thing that bothers me about the ear cups falling off is that it really seemed to be something that could show up in testing. Everything else worked great and is still working within a reasonable lifespan. The headband adjusts. The joints tilt and move like they’re supposed to. It’s just this one joint that failed, and it failed the same way multiple times in a row. I’d have felt really betrayed if I’d had to order a new set of headphones a year into ownership. We shouldn’t be making trash to fill our planet with garbage.

I think it should, at some point, become the ethical and moral obligation of engineers and hardware companies to not produce trash. I also think it’s our responsibility as consumers of objects which consume vast supply chains, enterprises, and companies to try and maintain and repair these miracles for as long as we can. 

Anyway, if you’re handy, buy these headphones. They’re not bad. Though, since my Pixel 2 needs a dongle, I think my next pair will be wireless

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