PART 1 - DAY 2
I have taken delivery of a used pair of AKG K701's, which are in mint condition and have possibly therefore not had much of the recommended breaking in. I bought these to replace a pair of Grado SR80s. I have had the Grados for about 4 years, and they are therefore the model before the SR80i.
The reason I swayed towards the AKGs was that the best I could afford to replace my SR80s with from the Grado range, would be the SR225i. At a time when funds are tight (certainly for me), spending the extra on the SR225i's which LOOK very much like the SR80's is something I was struggling to justify... especially to my wife! The AKGs had been given plenty of good reviews, and just standing them next to my SR80s would make the choice a no brainer if looks, quality of build, and comfort were to be the key factors. Comfort is certainly a big thing for me, and also the fact that I can now sit on my sofa with the longer lead of the AKGs being able to reach my headphone amp, instead of having to sit on the floor on cushions, as I have had to do with my Grado's shorter lead. This is a real bonus for me now I have the AKGs.
First listenings, switching between the two sets of headphones over a 2-3 hour period currently has be wondering which pair I really want to keep. Most of this listening was through my Musical Fidelity XCan 2 tube amp, fed by an Arcam CD92 CD player. For convenience, I also use what I consider to be a really good MP3 player (Sony NWZ-A728 which knocks spots off any other MP3 player I have ever heard).
As soon as I put the AKGs on and fired up Sloe Gin by Joe Bonamassa, I thought WOW.... I got this choice right! 5 mins later I put on my Grados just to prove the point to myself that my money had been well spent on the AKGs. However, the first words which went through my mind on putting the Grados back on was "Ah, that's more like it!"
Simply put, the Grados had more body and were less brittle than the AKGs. This feeling was echoed as I moved through a selection of other tracks by artists ranging from Billy Joel, Elvis Costello, Deep Purple, Eagles, Katie Melua, and some Paganini. Right now the Grados still float my boat, even with them being 'just' the SR80's. They have certainly seen a heck of a lot more use than the AKGs, but I'm not about the throw in the towel and sell the AKGs. I'm hoping that a few more days with my MP3 players running 24/7 through them will break them in a little more and help me hear more of what I expected to hear from them when I plugged them into my X-Can amp.
Perhaps I'll end up feeling that Grados are for me, and may end up going for the SR225i's in the coming months. If only Grado had done a little more with the 225's to at least make them look like they're worth more than twice the price of the SR80s. Even if it was something as simple as a better headband like the 325is has, I might not have had so much of a challenge in justifying the cost to myself or my wife.
I'll write more and will let you know how it goes.
PART 2 - 5 DAYS LATER
A few days on from my previous posting, and my AKG K701's now have between 70 and 80 hours burn since I received them, on top of whatever use the previous owner gave them (not much, as far as I'm aware)
They're great, and sounding better (I think).... but not for everything I listen to.
Last night I listened to a number of tracks from Eva Cassidy and Joe Bonamassa through my Musical Fidelity XCan 2 tube amp. On the whole I was stunned at the clarity and detail, as well as being happier than I previously was with the bass response. I couldn't have want more from a set of headphones.
I listen to a lot of rock, as well as other stuff. Even on Joe Bonammasa's album where the acoustic/vocal tracks "Around the bend" and "Richmond" sounded amazing, I then moved onto the title track, "Sloe Gin"
This starts with some slow keyboards, bass with a nice depth to it, and then the vocals come in. So far so good (actually, so far so great!). But when I'm expecting a punch in the ears when the band comes in fully, and Joe does his stuff on the guitar, I still feel wanting for more. Switching over to my Grado SR80's (they're not even the SR80i's), I'm hearing more of what I want... More body, more life, and more excitement.
It sounds to me that the AKG's aren't too happy with busy stuff, whereas the Grados just get on with it. I think the AKGs are winning on detail on some of the acoustic and less busy jazz and blues tracks, and that perhaps the recoding quality of busy rock music is not as good as is typical for other genres.... after all, rock can be very much about impact and not detail.
So the question for me remains, what do I prefer listening to my most favourite music on the most... AKG K701 or Grado SR80. The answer is currently still the Grados.
Another factor is (sorry to all you audiophiles for saying this), that for convenience, listening to tracks on my MP3 player (a really good sounding unit from Sony... the NWZ-A728) is a reality. In most cases both headphones work great. However, as I live in the UK, some of the things we buy have to meet with the approval of the EU law makers. I purchased a Sony NWZ-A845 a while ago, which I expected to be at least as good as my other Sony unit, but with the capacity to hold more tracks. To my disappointment, it doesn't go very loud.
The reason Sony explained to me is that the EU law placed a limit on the volume these things can produce. So Sony needed to oblige, and there is no way this can be bypassed. What this means as far as my Grado and AKG listening goes, is that my Grados as perfectly happy humming along at a volume level of 22-25 out of 30. However, as the AKG need more juice than the Grado, even with that MP3 player set to max (30), the AKGs are about as loud as the Grados are at 22. However, there is no headroom for sudden dymamics in the music, as they're already running at maximum, and therefore sounds a little compressed at times. Damn!
So, if like, me you also use MP3 players, you might want to consider my comments on how these two pairs of cans behave. Also, if you have the need to pack your cans and MP3 player into an overnight bag, the Grado's present no problem, even in their own case. But the AKGs take up a LOT more space, so that option for me is going to be a little more cumbersome in the future.
I'll persist with burning in the AKGs in the hope that there is more to come from them. If that happens, I hope it's a lot more body and openness. If not, I'm likely to remain a Grado man, and will consider upgrading to something like the SR225i's (I just wish Grado made them at least "look" they were worth the money, as I really could so without the comments I'm bound to get over their appearance when compared to my SR80's!)