Austrian Audio Hi-X55 review

Is there more to Austrian Audio than simply the sound of Austria? We deliver the verdict on the East Alpine sound…

What is it?

Hi-X55 is the slightly larger and slightly more expensive (£249) of Austrian Audio’s brief range of closed-back headphones. 

What’s great?

Open, forensically detailed audio reproduction. Light and comfortable enough for extended use. 

What’s not?

Somehow a shorter cable is a cost option. Earpads eventually return body-heat with interest.

The bottom line

If you want to hear the finest details of a mix but don’t want to be bored rigid as you do so, the Austrian Audio Hi-X55 are what you need.


Rising from the ashes of AKG’s abandonment of its Vienna facility, Austrian Audio opened for business in the middle of 2017 with a couple of dozen former AKG personnel as its core team. Mindful of its heritage but with a determination to produce products that advance the art of recording and monitoring, Austrian Audio is deploying over 350 years of engineering experience.

So far, the Austrian Audio range extends to two pairs of headphones and two microphones. So the word we’re applying here is ‘judicious’.

Austrian Audio Hi-X55: Build quality

The solidity of the construction, the quality of the materials used and the miniscule tolerances in the way the Hi-X55 are put together seems somewhat at odds with the asking price. Combining metal, plastic and memory foam-filled faux leather so prudently make these headphones look, feel and (let’s not be coy) smell quite a lot more expensive than the £249 that Austrian Audio is demanding. 

Clear-headed, shrewd thinking and engineering is apparent throughout. The headband design, for example, uses all of those materials to produce something that’s comfortable even over the long haul, that adjusts with positivity, and that feels ready to withstand thousands of hours of manipulation. The hinged earcups articulate smoothly. Even the exposed bolt-heads in the arms give an impression of robust longevity rather than (as they so easily could have) making the Hi-X55 seem built down to a price.

The earpads themselves are comfortable at first and stay comfortable no matter how long your listening session. Obviously there’s nothing miraculous about them – they’ll gather the heat of your head and give it back to you eventually – but they resist the temptation to do so much longer than some alternative designs can manage.

In fact, even the ‘Austrian Audio’ logo on the earcups and on the plug at the business end of the 3 metre-long cable seems sturdy and reliable. The knowledge that a shorter (1.2m) cable is a cost option is a clanging bum note, mind you. At least the 3m cable that’s supplied as standard terminates in a 3.5mm jack and comes with a 6.3mm adapter.  

Austrian Audio Hi-X55: Sound

Obviously there’s a bit more to it than straightforward analysis, but be in no doubt: the Austrian Audio Hi-X55 are a profoundly analytical tool. If you want to peer deep into a mix, identify and isolate the elements you’re interested in and hear precisely what they’re up to, you will need to spend quite a lot more money to make a worthwhile improvement on these headphones.

In the most simple terms, the Hi-X55 lay a recording out for inspection. They serve up low-frequency information with straight-edged fanaticism, giving bass sounds proper weight and momentum but controlling them with something approaching fastidiousness. Their midrange resolution, too, allows you a direct and uncoloured view of what’s going on – and, in the case of vocalists, the sort of insight into technique that’s virtually forensic.

At the top of the frequency range the AAs stay just the right side of clinical. Treble sounds have substance and bite, and – if the recording is mastered this way – quite a lot of shine too. But the Hi-X55 resist hardening at the top end, even if you really decide to wind the volume up.

But for all their powers of insight and analysis, there’s nothing dispassionate about the sound these headphones make. They are more than happy to track the dynamic peaks and troughs of a recording, they unify the occupants of the soundstage into a whole, into a performance, rather than making them sound like a number of discrete elements like so many near-field monitors are prone to do. They muster decent rhythmic expression, too, which is more than can be said for a whole lot of competing designs. 

They’re not the most out-and-out exciting listen this sort of money can buy, it’s true, but that’s to miss the point somewhat. The Austrian Audio Hi-X55 will tell you everything you want to know about a recording, without getting all Laboratory Assistant about it. Which is a talent in and of itself.

Austrian Audio Hi-X55: Price and availability
The Austrian Audio Hi-X55 are available now, priced at £249.