Originally Posted by bedlam inside
AKG K701 (£ 200) – Quincy’s signature missing?
So, AKG decided to rebrand the K701 as Q701 (after Music Producer Quincy Jones – who has produced more grammy winning albums than most people own CD’s) and change the colours, but otherwise they still are the K701 and let me tell you, that is a good thing, given my experience with the K701 here.
These headphones share some of the looks and ergonomics with the Audio Technica W-1000 and are also essentially self adjusting. Lacking the solid wood of the AT’s drivers they substitute shiny white plastic (shades of Apple here?). Ear pads are velvety and there is a more or less self adjusting padded head comfort strap made from real (apparently) leather in addition to the wire frame. Weight is neither Durex (I mean featherlight) so you don’t feel cheated, nor so heavy that you fear for yer noggin.
There is a lot of attention to detail, fit and finish is first rate, as you would expect from a Teutonic manufacturer. Despite having clearly been boshed around a bit, there are no obvious signs of wear on them. The cable is fixed and while seeming not bad, appears a bit generic, I wonder how much an upgrade is going to raise the game, I should have liked to see something more upmarket or replaceable. The looks overall are more “Princess Leia” with a 70’s DJ look, with very large drivers covering all around even large ears, maybe not a set of ‘can’s to wear out for a coffee in Soho.
Putting them on reminds me strongly of the Sennheiser HD-800, they feel light and free, yet sit securely enough to not fall off should you feel like a spot of headbanging (which you will). These ‘can’s prove to me again that headphones can be engineered to have good ergonomics if attention is paid, even on a modest budget. I feel incredibly comfy with them and adjusting them is easy peasy, put them on and slightly push against the head strap.
Initially, the sound is clean, balanced and resolved, quite natural, in many ways these ‘can’s sound like how they feel on your head. They do not have the sound staging of the HD-800, nor the rockin bass or ultra light touch with music as the HiFiman HE-500 planar drivers. After I kicked the bass boot (aka XBass) on the iCAN headamp up one notch and put 3D Sound on 3 much of these limitations are remedied. These Phones clearly sound more open and natural than my own Audio Technica’s and the bass, once brought up in level to match the mid’s has more impact than my AT’s. The treble is a touch brighter, not in a way that I ‘can’t get outta my head’ though.
All told, these are great dynamic headphones. To these ears what they miss is that absurdly non-mechanical, natural presentation that both electrostatic and planar headphones (and speakers with ribbon tweeters like my own) do so well. These are 60 Ohm headphones and are pretty efficient, needing settings of around 12 - 1 o’Clock for my preferred listening levels. Actually for me at least these ‘can’s invite me to turn up the wick and give it some extra welly, on some tracks I was up to around 2 o’Clock, like one track I added to the main audition list, namely “Rocket” from Allison Goldfrapp’s 2010 Album, which gave this Hi-NRG track extra push and energy – as if it needs it…
In theory I think you could run them quite successfully with portable gear, if it was not for the 70’s looks, that makes you look like a BBC Radio 2 DJ and the 6.3mm only plug, which would need a bulky adapter. Not having one, I left things on the iCAN Headamp only, remember, this amp sounds comparably warm and smooth, with a touch of dark swiss chocolaty goodness that makes Thorntons seem like supermarket sweets.
One sonic highlight is the way the bass punches (with XBass on to 1st position) and puts especially electronic and classical music on a foundation that seems to elude many open back headphones. Where the Sennheiser HD-800 convinces with space, the AKG K701 convince with scale, a neat trick for a headphone, considering that many speakers are totally sheeeite when it comes to “scale”. The organ notes on Saint Säens #3 have a degree of wallop and the kettle drums have bang that is not easy with headphones. On Light my Fire the picked guitar strings and slaps on the guitar body are rendered really well, focusing on the Vocals they are probably not quite as breathy and open as on the HD-800, but they are smooth and realistic. Overall, I would class the HD-800 as more of a “Noggin decision” headphone, while the K701 targets yer nether regions, with more a “ballsy” presentation, projecting emotion in the music really well. They make listening real good fun, the longer I kept listening, the less critical I was of the sound and the more I was just getting ‘jiggy with it’ with the music. Can’t say fairer than that.
Putting on another addition to the main audition track list, Hugh Masekela’s “Coaltrain (Stimela)” specifically for the live recording and the audience shows the limitations of even these headphones and iFi’s 3D Sound. There is no way to render the scale of this recording it has via speakers on headphones, even the HD-800 with 3D sound fails miserably, as do most speaker based HiFi systems. But, the sound is involving, the handling of scale makes me turn up the volume a bit more, the Sax is as creamy and luscious as Vanilla Häagen Dazs, so who really cares? Well at least up to the end of the song, where the coal train does not pull up and come to rest between the speakers almost real-sized as it does on a good speaker based HiFi System… BTW, the K701 do leak a lot of sound, being open back, and given their balance which makes me turn it up more did catch me some furrowed brows at the office…when you end up looking a twit to people around you, it seems you have passed the test of getting into the music.
Sonically well above average, decent build quality and excellent ergonomics AND a real world price that is not mad price, these ‘can’s are ‘bad’, but in a good way. In absolute terms they are no match for the best Headphones I have come across, but they do so much right for relative sane money and are so much fun to listen to, these go for now to the top of my shopping list. Jack Wolfskin coat or these headphones? I’m gonna say sorry Jack, hello Quincy. I’d still like a pair of ‘can’s with ergonomics like these but with planar drivers and for less than a monkey, (<£500) please, but that failing, these I can live with on all fronts… Let me see if I can keep the loaner pair for a bit while longer, here’s to hoping John forgets I have them.
The Headroom site gives the frequency response of the K701 as follows:
We can see that the bass is attenuated but above maybe 70Hz these headphones are impressively flat for headphones, high treble is a bit AWOL, but overall I think these Phones are most like Speakers in the whole lineup. Correct the missing bass using XBass and no wonder I liked these so much.
Ergonomics: 4.5 out of 5
Build Quality: 4 out of 5
Sound Quality: 4 out of 5
Practicability: 4 out of 5