After a long trip to London and back I decided my old Sony noise cancelling headphones had reached the end of the road. Not that they don´t work anymore but to be honest the sound they produce is awful. I actually used to use them with the noise cancelling on and no music. This would significantly lower the plane noises and let me douse off until lunch time.
My quest to seek a worthy replacement proved to be quite a challenge as nearly all major brands have an in ear monitor type noise cancelling headphone. Out of all the available brands the one that arouse my interest was the one that had the least number of online reviews if any at all.
I purchased the AKG K391 from an ebay sellar at 190US. The internet price is 199U$ and its hard to find them cheaper anywhere. I guess I lucked out. My main objective with these was to get good digital noise cancelling technology and marginally better sound than my old headphones.
The box is quite elegant although not quite as elegant as higher tier standard phones. Here is what is included:
Headphones attached to processor/battery charger
Two Cables with stereo type male connectors wired for different brand smartphones
Three pairs of rubber ear plugs, small, medium and large in a cool looking transparent grey color
USB Male to micro b type male to connect battery/processor to a charger or USB out connector
Airplane dual prong type connector
Cloth Carrying bag and instructions.
The build quality is top notch. The headphones are made of aluminum with an outside facing filter with the letter AKG at the center. The rubber tips are transparent grey and really cool looking. (I see a trend here. We will soon see multi colored ones to mix and match). The battery and processor are housed in a small box about 5 x 2.5 x 1cm. It is very light and has the top face covered by an aluminum plate with lettering. The cables are quite thick . Infact, thicker than the Vsonic GR07 BE that are quite thick for a stock unit. The small processing/battery box has three outlets . One lead is the cables to the headphones, the other a micro usb and the other a stereo mini plug. You get two cables with stereo male mini and mic control for smartphones and below the left headphones cable you have a small on off switch for the microphone to receive calls.
I purchased these together with a set of Vsonic GR07BE that we all know are a heck of good set of IEMs. So, upon plugging the AKG to my portable CD player my expectations were very low. I used track 3 of Joe Jacksons The Duke album and pressed play. As expected sound was horrendous and muffled. Then I saw the little on/off switch on the processor. I hit the switch and I had to look at what phones I was using because I could not believe my ears. Holy Cow, WTF, Holy Cow again! For a set a noise cancelling headphones these ones are a killer set.
Treble. These phones are by no means bright but highs are clear and well defined. They do not extend as high a my GRO7BE or MDR7550 but are by no means overshadowed. All instruments are well defined without any coloration or artificially added artifacts. I would rate the sound quite warm in this respect. I have not seen the frequency response curve but I am sure it rolls off at the top a tad.
Mids. Midrange is full bodied although I don’t find vocals to be as forward as with other top tier units. Nevertheless, instruments sound true without any noticeable intrusion from what I consider the prime strength of these in ear units….Bass.
Bass. The bass produced by these babies is fantastic. OK they are not the AKG3003 but let me tell you they put up a fight to my GR07BE and on certain tracks actually extend way below. I am guessing that the reason the bass is so good is the size of the housing and inner driver. Also, keep in mind they have an open ended firing housing where the NC mics are placed. Soundstage. Here is where both the GR07 and MDR 7550 excel above the AKG. Soundstage is a bit compressed and you don´t get the clarity that the GR07 puts out or the precision that the 7550 has in placing vocals and instruments in the space between your head. I will not fault the AKG in this area either because limited as it is, its soundstage is way better than any of my sons teen beats, skull candy or other stock cell phone headsets. I would define the soundstage of these units as more than adequate considering that you are getting a digitally processed soundstage that is most likely being influenced by the processing itself. Thus this is a fair tradeoff.
Noise Cancellation. I have no way of testing this at this time so I will leave this section open until I take a flight next week and report back.
For a digitally noise cancelling processed sound this unit is a definite winner. It produces clear well defined sound with fantastic bass. Bass heads with frequent flyer miles to spend will be handed a treat. I would not hesitate to use this as a regular set of on the go phones any time. I am sure that after some decent burn in they will do even better but until then, I leave you with a smile on my face and glad to have invested in them.