Pros: Wide soundstage, slightly forward midrange, decent bass extension, fairly detailed, airy presentation, clear sound, comfortable
Cons: Lacks bass impact, slight metallic sound, soundstage lacks depth, center imaging is a bit devoid
First and foremost, this is a review for the newer K 701 with 8 bumps on the headband (see photo below). The serial number is: 84XXX. Reviewers often disregard this statement, but from what I've learned about the K 701, it has gone through a few revisions and those revisions do affect the sound somewhat.
I ordered my pair from Headphones.com, which is an authorised retailer for AKG products.
I did a video review on YouTube if you are interested in a visual/audio review. The content of this written review is much more in-depth on the other hand and it contains information not mentioned in the video review.
What's in the Package?
I did an unboxing video on YouTube if you are interested in a complete unboxing.
Otherwise, the K 701's package comes with:
- AKG K 701
- 6.3 mm to 3.5 mm gold-plated adaptor
- Plastic/foam headphone display stand
- Warranty card
- Information booklet
Overall, there's not much in the package, but the headphone stand is a nice addition for those of you who don't own a stand (photos below). It's not significant, but I thought it was neat that the K 701's cardboard box is actually well-presented.
Of course the usual "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" statement is true, but I really like the overall look and design of the K 701. The brown/grey leather headband combined with the silver, white, and grey colour scheme looks quite attractive and unique to me (see photos below).
- The lack of a removable cable might be a bummer to some since the cable can get damaged over time and it won't be easy to fix.
- The elastic material used for the suspension headband is also a concern to me since I feel that it can become loose over time.
- The whole headphone has a kind of plastic feel to it, so I don't expect these to "wow" anyone in terms of raw build quality.
- There is no adjustable headband, so the auto-adjusting headband is a one-size-fits-al.
- The earcups can barely swivel so there is little wiggle room for adjustment.
- The connector at the end of the cable is huge, and much larger with the 3.5 mm adaptor used (see photos below).
- It does feel sturdy in my hands despite the all-plastic build quality.
- Supposedly the headband arcs are indestructible, but I do have to admit that they are very sturdy-feeling.
- The pads are very large and fairly deep, so they will likely accomodate all ear sizes.
- The pads are contoured such that they are thicker towards the back of the head and thinner towards the front.
- The earpads are removable and simple to install
- The cable is pretty substantially thick and it is long (3 m or 9 ft)
Despite all the cons, the K 701 feels pretty sturdy and solid as a whole. They definitely aren't the kind of headphones I would just throw in a backpack, but they feel fine for leaving around in the house. None of the cons are a major deal-breaker for me.
With the 8-bump headband, I don't find the headband to be a problem on my head. On the other hand, I do find the clamping force to be a bit too much so I placed a tissue box between the K 701's earcups to decrease the clamping force. It took me a while to get that fixed since the indestructible headband arcs are very stiff and non-compliant. Once I got it to work though, I can wear the K 701s for hours on-end without a problem. One thing that bugs me about the earpads is that they are velour, and when your ears/head get hot and sweaty, the velour gladly absorbs it. Consequently the pads have a smell to them just like any other velour pad I've tried. On a whole though, I find velour earpads to be more breathable and thus more comfortable to wear on hot summer days like it has been the past few days. :)
The K 701 has an interesting sound that isn't for everyone. I did let them break-in for ~200 hours while playing video games (Assassin's Creed III in particular), and probably triple that amount while listening to them over the last few months. At first the treble was really bright and grating to my ears, but after all this time, they seem to have calmed down. Whether it's driver break-in, earpad break-in, cable break-in, or my brain getting used to the sound, something did change.
- The bass is tight with decent, but not great, extension and It lacks punch. Drum pedals lack the gut-hitting thump for example.
- The midrange is slightly warm and they have a slightly forward presence that makes them engaging. I think the midrange is the strongest aspect of the K 701 despite having a slight metallic tone. By metallic I mean the upper-midrange's timbre sounds off to me. The upper-midrange doesn't quite sound realistic, but it still sound good to me. It's hard for me to describe, honestly, hahaha. Most music genres that feature real instruments, and especially female vocals, will sound pretty good with the K 701. Despite the bass response of the K 701, I actually enjoy listening to some electronic music because the midrange has an engaging quality to it.
- The treble has good extension but there does seem to be a slight emphasis on the frequency regions corresponding to where snare drums and hi-hat cymbals are, so the K 701 might be fatiguing to some. The K 701 is not sibilant though. Perhaps this area of emphasis is responsible for the slight metallic timbre of the midrange.
- The soundstage of the K 701 is very wide, but not very deep.
- Unfortunately because of this fairly linear soundstage, instruments don't quite sound very well-placed in my head even with binaural recordings. Relating to this imaging, the sounds seem to very stereo-like; as in the left and right channels have an emphasis and consequently leave the center imaging a bit lacking.
Overall I would say the K 701's sound is very good, but it does have its downfalls. The odd imaging, soundstage, and slight metallic sound are my only real complaints about the K 701, but they are quite tolerable if you're just sitting back and listening to the music. Apart from the metallic sound, the K 701 does has a very clear sound without any veiling and it does has an airy presentation that provides great instrument separation allowing instruments to be clearly identified.
I did most of my testing with my main desktop rig:
- MacBook Pro Retina Display
- CD-quality EAC-ripped albums and HD tracks
- Audirvana Plus music player
- Objective DAC
- Objective 2
I do have an iPhone 4S and despite numerous people claiming you NEED to have an external amplifier, the K 701 actually sounded pretty good straight out of it. The treble seems to get messier and grainy, and the bass does sound a bit wooly, but that is the nature of the iPhone itself since I heard similar results with my V-MODA Crossfade M-100.
I also have a JDS Labs C5 and since its sound quality is similar to that of the O2, but with a narrower soundstage, it actually pairs pretty well with the K 701 despite it being a tad bit brighter in comparison to the O2. The center imaging becomes a bit more natural-sounding to me as if a crossfeed feature has been turned on, and switching on the C5's bass boost makes the K 701 a really great-sounding headphone for movie watching. The bass boost also makes the K 701 more suitable for bassier music genres and I really do like the pairing since it sounds a bit more balanced bass-wise compared to having the bass boost off.
With the FiiO E12 the bass seems to lose a bit of extension, the upper-midrange becomes even brighter/more aggressive compared to the C5, the treble becomes a bit grainier, and the soundstage seems more closed-in compared to the C5 making the center imaging a bit better at the cost of losing instrument separation (the soundstage becomes deeper than wide, which still sounds unnatural to me). The bass boost does work, but it does bleed into the midrange a bit as well. I wouldn't say the E12 is the best amp for the K 701.
For $300 I really do think the K 701 is a great headphone if you prefer to have an open and airy-sounding headphone. Just like other headphones from this era of time (Beyerdynamic DT880 and Sennheiser HD600), there is a bass roll-off. The midrange of the K 701 is its strongest aspect of the sound, despite its slight metallic colouring, because it does have some warmth, it is engaging, all while maintaining a clear, well-defined sound. The treble as a whole is fairly detailed and the emphasis on the hi-hats/snare drum area does seem a bit unnatural to me and might be fatiguing to some. I definitely think the K 701 sounds fantastic with music genres that feature real instruments, and it is acceptable with some electronic and genres that feature synthesised sounds as well.
Thank you for taking the time to read or glance over my review. I hope this review helps you in some way or another. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.
Cheers, and happy listening!