I figured this headphone deserves it's own thread. To me it's too different than the K701 and K702 to post comments in any of those threads. It just feels wrong.
Well, first off, I've had a love/hate thing for the K701/K702 for YEARS. I've owned the K702 or K701 at least four times. I always had something to complain about with it. I kept trying to deal with it's problems but just could not do it. It had more positives than negatives for sure.
First complaint I had with the K702 was that it had very fatiguing treble. Some strange peak in there that drove my ears crazy. This was on any amp. I've tried about four different amps and even a receiver. Even gave it about 100 hours of burn-in. This wasn't a case of garbage tracks and only occurred maybe 10-15% of the time.
Second complaint was that it often felt as if the soundstage was sometimes abnormally huge and not always as accurate as it could be. At random, music would sound too distant when it really shouldn't be. It's not a case of it being recorded that way. Vocals were especially a problem. Sometimes female vocals that are recorded to be very up-front are not always that way on the K702. They are, but could be a little more accurate.
Sometimes it also felt as if there was a slight recession in the mids somewhere and often the mids were a bit lacking. Strange I know. Again, this was with many different amps. I would say the K702 is slightly thin with a touch of warmth. I still think it's warmer than the K550, Koss A/250, SR-225 and DT-880 though.
Ok...so I did my research and found the Q701 SHOULD be identical to the K702 in sound. I believe someone found that use the same driver. This doesn't matter one bit and means nothing. Any tiny internal change could change the sound. It's not hard to do.
Took a risk and got the Q701 to try. It immediately sounds a lot warmer than the old K702 I had. No, there is no huge bass boost, but somehow the mids sound much fuller. Seems like there may be a tiny bit more mid-bass. The treble is most definitely 100% NOT fatiguing. This is coming from someone who found the K702's treble painful at times. (updated 4/7/12): If the treble on the Q701 is ever fatiguing, it's due to the recording. I can verify this with other accurate headphones. Some of my songs sound as if they have the mids and treble cranked up at the studio. For example, some of U2's stuff or from a singer from Japan named Hitomi. Well mastered CDs are NEVER fatiguing for me on the q701. It could also be due to poor amp/dac synergy, but this is rare.
The soundstage also seems a little smaller. It just seems more accurate and not like you're listening to music in an airplane hangar. My only idea is that the button has caused this effect. I have my doubts if AKG just slapped a button on there for no reason without thinking about the resulting sound. Same with the foam behind the button.
Based on what people have said before, AKG likes to improve models very slightly with different revisions. They did this with the K702 and now possibly the Q701. It's just the same headphone, but much improved I think. Very, very minor differences. No, there is no massive bass boost.
The bass on the K702 kind of makes me sad, but with the Q701 I'm really quite surprised. Perfectly acceptable for me and not bass light IMO. That's more like the SA3000, Ad700 or K400 (stock).
Previously I ranked the K501 and K601 over the K702. The Q701 most definitely is ranked higher than those for me. Q701 seems almost as warm sounding with my setup as the K601. OK, not quite, but close. Not like say the HD-598 or HD-600! To me, the Q701 with my setup seems to be a mix between the HD-598 and the K702. Strange huh?
As much as I love the HD-598, after switching from the Q701, everything seems so..muffled. The HD-598 really isn't though and I still love it.
Here's another interesting thing. I previously used the K702 for gaming and it was stupid annoying. Everything felt abnormally too distant. I'd have a person holding a torch right next to me without 2 feet on screen and it felt like they were twice as far away. Kind of ruined the experience. I've played through 30 hours of Skyrim and have not experienced this once.
The soundstage is large, but not massive. Just about perfect.
Some people say a headphone can't be "boring" if it's neutral and it's just my music, but I don't know about this. I think with the Q701 this is definitely the case. I can be listening to specific music and it bores me to death. Sometimes it's easy to blame the headphone, but with the Q701 it's most definitely the music and not the headphone. Some tracks make me think the Q701 is a snore fest, but on other tracks I'm impressed. I noticed this with my bass light DT-770 600 and now the Q701. BTW I do think the Q701 is fairly forgiving compared to the DT-880 and my KRK KNS-8400. Still needs good music to be at it's best. Well recorded lower bitrate files (not 128kbps mp3!) can still sound good. Sometimes.
When I listen to the Q701 though it feels as if it's the most well balanced headphone I've ever heard or close to it. K501 has the edge though. You think the HD-598 is one smooth sounding headphone? The Q701 is just like that, but even more so. I'd never ever say that about the K702. (update: 4/7/12) This isn't quite the case after further testing since the HD-598 can make very harsh and fatiguing tracks sound a bit easier on the ears. Very slightly. On well mastered CDs, they're about equal in terms of how smooth they sound.
The Q701 is supposed to have foward upper mids, but somehow it doesn't appear to make the headphone sound less balanced. They're not that forward at all. To me, the Q701 doesn't really sound like it has really forward mids. Just fuller sounding than the K702. I'd call this headphone very balanced sounding. Yes, really. I won't say neutral or someone will call me crazy.
People who own the K702 and love it would be best not upgrading because it might not be worth it. If you're one who had several issues with the K702 like me, it's worth a try. The old K701 haters should at least give the Q701 a chance at a meet if they can. Bassheads should still avoid the Q701, but that's obvious!
Right now I'd say the Q701 is one of my favorites for sure. Audio Technica ATH-AD2000 is another that'd rank very high for me, but I just could not deal with it's comfort. If I found alternative pads for it I'd buy it again in a second. When I get rich I want to try the W1000X or W1000.
Some say there is absolutely zero difference between the two. This is not what my ears hear and none of my gear has changed. I think sometimes it will often taken quite a long time to figure out the differences. For example, it took me forever to find out the differences between the KRK KNS-6400 and 8400. Even after selling the 8400 I had missed hearing some of the differences some people had pointed out! If you were running the Q701 and K702 from portable amps and no DAC, then the difference MIGHT be even smaller. I don't know since I never tried it. The difference between them is mostly the same as long as it's from a decent desktop amp. For me it's very obvious and I feel the Q701 is a 10-15% improvement over the K702.
One other idea I had is that maybe AKG improved the Q701 cable. Highly unlikely, but maybe it's a tad better than the K702 cable. This could alter the sound a very tiny bit. It seems like the Q701 cable is a bit thicker, but probably not.
Again...very small differences but enough to make me like the Q701. I've used these non-stop for about a month without any complaints. With the K702 that'd be impossible for me.
4/7/12 UPDATE: I've used these since October 2011 without a single complaint. I've made a Canare cable for $5 to slightly take the edge off the treble on poor recordings. It adds even more warmth to the Q701's sound. It's my primary gaming headphone and i've used it for at least 100+ hours in Skyrim. For $235 this headphone is a steal!
Edited by tdockweiler - 4/7/12 at 9:25am