AKG K701 Studio Headphones

  1. metalsonata
    AKG K701: A Review
    Written by metalsonata
    Published Aug 12, 2011
    Pros - Striking looks, striking sound, striking packaging, wonderful earpad design, superb value for the money
    Cons - Bass-heads need not apply, extra wide sound-stage seems a bit artificial, not terribly comfortable, bulky, difficult to drive, build quality concerns
    Honestly, I probably can't say a whole lot of these that hasn't already been said before. Still, I figure it's worth putting my two cents out there, so here goes!
    The Great:
    -While the looks are certainly not to everyone's taste, I think they look fantastic. Easily one of the most attention-grabbing pair of headphones I've ever seen--even people who scoff at you when they hear you remark upon the sexiness of this or that pair of headphones can be stopped short in their tracks by the K701.
    -The sound. It's not perfect--indeed, I do have a couple of moderate-to-severe nagging issues with it. But, on the whole, I find that these cans play extremely well with most of the music I throw at them. I especially find that jazz and chamber music that has been recorded live suits the K701 marvelously--the amount of detail that these headphones present to you is superb, especially considering that they manage to somehow not detract from the music itself. I also really enjoy them with thickly-layered pop albums where the K701's excellent instrument separation can work its magic, albums like Sufjan Stevens's Age of Adz and Talk Talk's The Colour of Spring. And if you're looking for a quasi-religious experience, give these cans William Basinski's Disintegration Loops to chew on. The sound of decay has never been more beautiful.
    The Good:
    -The packaging. Sure, you don't get a sturdy and pretty box to store them away with, but un-boxing these is a superior treat--and the cheapie little stand they come with is actually pretty handy.
    -Boy, I love how easy the velour ear pads are to remove and clean. After hearing horror stories about trying to put Hifiman cans back together without breaking something, or feeling like I'm destroying the DT 1350s when trying to peel the pads off, I'm afraid to try and remove the pads on any cans period... except for the 701s. They come off easy, they go on easy, and they stay secure. Everyone should ape AKG's design here.
    -Good value for the money, in my opinion. I'm eager to try out phones that are a bit pricier just to see how they compare. (Comparing this with the HD 650 as I type this now.)
    The Nitpicks:
    -The bass. Now, I think the bass is suitable for most of what I listen to, and it's present enough and extended enough for you to not miss anything... but those who like their bass to have a visceral presence should really look elsewhere. That said, some amping and equalization can really bring the K701's bass to life, but it's still not going to touch that of other quality full-sized cans.
    -The sound stage is another possible hiccup with regards to the K701's sound--it may be, of all things, just a little too wide. It can make some music feel a tad artificial or tinny, and genres that depend upon aural blunt force trauma, like lots of metal, really suffer on these. The K701s will spread whatever you're listening to out by a pretty fair amount, and while doing so can yield great results, spreading out anything that's loud and heavy, or immediate and intimate, can really hurt the overall effect.
    -Some people report that they find the K701s to be very comfortable--while I can tolerate them longer than, say, my DT 1350s, they don't at all approach the weightless sensation of something like the Denon AHD2000s. The bumps along the bottom of the headband which help to give the headphones some of their aesthetic appeal really have a way of drilling into your skull after a long listening period. And while the clamping force is pretty moderate, I find that the pads really push on my glasses.
    -Speaking of glasses, just moving my head around while listening results in my frames and the velour ear pads squeaking up against one another rather loudly. (Despite the fact that they grip tighter and have similar pads, I don't have this problem on the HD650s.)
    -While the headphones look fantastic, once you get them in your hands they feel pretty cheap and flimsy, and aesthetic flaws are easy to find, whether they came with the phones or rather you put them there. Which is all too easy to do, given just how white these things are, and how easily the silver can and will attract fingerprints. Also, all of that white can chip very easily. Be careful when putting these things down on a hard surface.
    -I have concerns about how long the elastic strings which allow the headphones to self-adjust on your head can last, especially on a big head like mine.
    -No detachable cables, no way to fold these things up, no way to wear them around your neck without looking like a dope. The K701s are big and bulky, and they are going to stay big and bulky.
    The Bad:
    -The K701s are hard to drive. They need an amp, and a fairly good one, to be worth listening to. Plugging them into an iPod won't get you much in the way of volume, and will make the K701s sound paper-thin and wispy. Plugging them into the headphone jack on your computer will result in slightly better sound, but still nothing to write home about. In fact, your cheapie headphones plugged into your computer will probably sound better. Don't even consider these without having an amp that can power them, or if you don't have room in your budget for an amp.
    So, there you have it. I really like these headphones. I'm not great at describing sound, so if you found those portions of my review a bit lacking, you'll find plenty of better listeners and writers describing the sound of these on the forums if you do a quick search. Thanks for reading!
  2. JamesHuntington
    Space Phones
    Written by JamesHuntington
    Published Aug 7, 2011
    Pros - light, not made in china, conversation piece, nice sound
    Cons - look like star wars gear, feels like a vise on my head
    I thought they sounded good out of the box, but I'll wait some hundred hours for burn in to see for sure. They look expensive but I can't help thinking I will break them because there's so much plastic on them. I would never wear them around anyone, but they're prettier IMO than the Sennheiser HD800 anyhow. They are very uncomfortable and squeeze my head "very" hard. Make sure to shower every time before using them so you can resale them easier. They are the ones you wish you had until you have them, then you'll wish you had tested them on your head before you ordered them. I give overall 4 stars because they can't help that my head is big.  
    Flak is only partly deserved
    Published Jun 19, 2011
    Pros - Comfort, beauty, crystal clear sound, so light they almost feel fake, open design.
    Cons - Weak without amp, can't rest around the neck, the bars that run on the top feel flimsy. NEEDS MOAR POWAH
    First impressions - Upon first opening the box of these (lightly used) cans, the very first thing I noticed how light they were! In all honesty I was freaking out for about an hour, then went to a local used electronics shop where they had the same model a couple weeks back. Apparently they are SUPPOSED TO BE that light, so the relief swept over me. 
    Sound - I do not have an amp yet, so talking like I know anything would be out of line. Straight lined to a computer the bass is just enough for classical piano. Listening to the album the is in the picture, the experience is amazing. If you close your eyes, you feel like you are sitting in an amphitheater as each composition is being executed. Unfortunately there is fatigue to be dealt with but it isn't so much that it cannot be handled. As others have stated the mids aren't very good, but hopefully that will be fixed with an amp. The word you might have noticed was "executed." A friend told me the K701's suck the life and soul from music. From what I can sense he means, there is a certain coldness to the sound being created. Music isn't as much played as is projected from an instrument
    Final thoughts - Written reviews are not a strong suit of mine, so hopefully you at least know what I'm trying to say.
    EDIT - While listening to pre-viking Bathory there is the PERFECT amount of bass! While listening to the Mountain Goats last night I noticed it made John sound even BETTER than normal. I'm still not too hot on these headphones but they are definitely growing on me!
    1. Sordel
      These are the same headphones that I use, and even with an amp you are not going to get plentiful bass; although the extension is fine, they are too neutral to boom flatteringly. On the other hand, you shouldn't be hearing "coldness" ... the sound should be pleasantly dynamic and responsive. Make sure that you fiddle with the position on the head to ensure that the drivers are firing into your ears: positioning makes a massive difference.
      Sordel, Jun 20, 2011
    2. livewire
      Get a powerful amp like a Burson. The K701's need this to come alive.
      For less "coldness", a powerful hybrid-tube amp like a Lyr will help take the clinical edge off
      and help them sound more "musical". I am currently using a souped-up LDIII tube amp with my K702's
      and they sound great. A little more distortion, but much improved musicality.
      Bass is also much improved, but not stellar. Fine for me, I dont desire boomy bass anyway.
      livewire, Jun 20, 2011
    3. anetode
      No need for an expensive amp. Those amps make it sound "better" through distortion and/or uneven freq. response. Want more bass? Try an eq. Feel like you need an amp? Ebay "cmoy"
      anetode, Jun 22, 2011
  4. Ceja-Blu
    AKG701's the black sheep of classical headphones
    Written by Ceja-Blu
    Published Apr 16, 2011
    Pros - Noticeable detail and placement definition
    Cons - Midrange shy and bass shy when driving rock & metal
    Out of contrarian rage, I ended up getting another  pair of 701s just to see why everyone is so intent on bashing these cans.  All my silver-haired classical mastering guys love these cans and go on about their ability to open the soundstage and layer it with subtle and rich detail .  Indeed, Vocal, jazz groups , piano solo, acoustic jazz, Guitar and plucked instruments, and ethnic music sounds exemplary through these cans.  They are noticeably cleaner and better defined when generously amped.
    The build quality is above average for this pricepoint.  The design feels solid, well balanced and well thought-out. It's a relatively "big" assembly but never gets gets in the way once they're on your head.
    The velour earcups are comfortable and fun to wear and the leather band an excellent stabilizer.  It  clamps less noticeably than the Sennies.  The Wires  connecting the headband and cups  give it a distinctive AKG design feel.
    Sonically, These phones are "airy".  They provide details about the recording space and the high spectrum sonic tail coming from vocals, breathing, diction and vowels.  I hear  instrumental details concerning the string bindings, bowed strings and and tone color of upper partials of the trebles in certain recordings that are unusually revealing.  Instrumental placement and movement is as accurate as a Senn HD600, but perhaps lacks the "speed" and presence in some imaging mixes.
    They don't work well with maisntream electric Rock n' Roll, metallica, or Pink Floyd. The richness in the middle is missing as is bass depth and speed  The only time I changed my mind about this is when I ran the 701 through a Audio Gd Fun, or C1 SE amp/NFB7.  Even so, I would probably reach for a different headphone if was going to head-bang through Primus' Sailing the Sea of Cheese.
    This is a beautiful headphone at its current price. 
      ChardonnayLogic likes this.
    1. jazx
      They are Studio Reference Headphones.
      jazx, Apr 17, 2011
    2. Sylarr

      Quote:The only time I changed my mind about this is when I ran the 701 through a Audio Gd Fun, or C1 SE amp/NFB7.

      Can you clarify this? What changed when using these amps?
      Sylarr, Apr 17, 2011
    3. Ceja-Blu
      What changed was the bass. The soundstage deepened and the three-dimensional qualities of certain things like brushes, cymbals, embrochures of horns were detailed and compelling, like I was right next to the horn player's head. Piano sounded round, intense and clean in the right hand's 2nd octave range. The 701s have a lot of details concerning air and upper treble details in the tails of cymbals, air details of horn, and sticks on the cymbals as they break up after impact.
      The piano remains solid, focused and and fully dimensional
      Ceja-Blu, May 7, 2011
  5. TDL-speakers
    Good headphones. Can be too revealing for some people.
    Written by TDL-speakers
    Published Jan 20, 2011
    Pros - Very Revealing. Detailed, Fast and Neutral.
    Cons - If you want a euphonic sound, look elsewhere.
    The AKG K701s are very good headphones. The information retrieval these headphones show up is very, very good! Vocals are also very good with the K701s in my opinion, and you can hear how good and badly recorded the songs are with the K701s. These AKGs really do show up on things in the music and your set up.

    In my opinion, these headphones don't do euphony. They are neutral and revealing!! If you play a song that is badly recorded, these headphones will sound shockingly bad. So be warned!
  6. BigEar
    Balanced AKG701
    Written by BigEar
    Published Dec 24, 2010
    Pros - Dynamic, musical sounding, revealing
    Cons - Deep bass could be somewhat better defined
    Modified these to balance with silver/gold wiring and Furatec XLR plugs.
    After a fairly long burn-in (>100hr) of the cabling and used on the Rudistor RPX-100 dual mono balanced solid state amp these sound very musical and dynamic. Much micro detail comes out and there is a good 3d stage imaging. The sound is very involving and intimate, providing foot-tapping and sometimes goose-bumps. Eargasm?
    Definitely a step forward compared to the standard non-balanced version which did not impress me much.
  7. akhnaten
    great sound, shoddy construction
    Written by akhnaten
    Published Dec 22, 2010
    Pros - sounds great
    Cons - impossible to diy repair, poor construction quality thus requiring diy repair after only 2 years
    I have had this set of cans around two years and it is already failing.  I delicately tried to take the unit apart to repair it (I am very handy with a soldering iron) and I failed to get the unit disassembled.  Fortunately for me, the act of trying to disassemble the unit fixed the problem.  This leads me to believe it was a bad solder joint.  Others have complained about this problem.  For ~$500 I expect the cans to last at least 10 years, like my much cheaper Sennheisers.  Also, the plastic parts of the headband broke within a year although this had no significant effect.
    Update: After finally getting them apart, and having to cosmetically damage them to do it, it turns out to be a bad driver.  The solder connections were good.  This is completely unacceptable for a pair of headphones that is only 2 years old.  I will NEVER BUY AKG again!
    Einstein would love these headphones.
    Written by GOLDENZEAL
    Published Dec 9, 2010
    Pros - Stormtrooper white color, High's clear and detailed, Mid's just as recorded, Tight controlled bass
    Cons - Leather pad causes discomfort until you break them in, very power hungry, wish cable was detachable like K702
    I purchased these secondhand for $80 so they were already broken in and the sweetest deal ever, I always wanted to try them out because I read that they were more detailed than the HD650. 

    Audio Quality: 
    The AKG K701 has the most detailed highs I have ever heard, I am a fan of treble and prefer crisp detailed highs with a bit of sparkle.  They sound very similar to the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi.10's, especially in it's clarity and seperation.  Of course the K701's have a much bigger headstage and soundstage and also not as sparkly as the TF10's. 

    The mids sound exactly as they were recorded, the vocals are presented a bit further back, not as forward as the HD650 and not as warm either, I would say the vocals are a bit dry and airy (analytical). 

    The lows caught me offguard coming from the HD650, they sounded a bit thin and lacking punch but after several hours of getting my ears adjusted to the K701 sound sig, I tried on the HD650 and felt the bass was too heavy and muddy.  This could very well be because I don't have the BEST amp to work with the HD650 but the HD701 are definately much clearer and detailed in my setup.  Also the K701 sound quicker than the HD650 for some reason, less bloated.

    Comfort and Design
    I find the them a little less comfortable than the HD650, I can wear them for about an hour before the leather band on top gives me some discomfort.  I have been stretching and pinching the leather band and they seem to be getting more and more comfortable.  The cups on the other hand are perfect, just enough pressure and just enought softness from the velour pads.
    The design is a bit intimidating when you first look at them, they look heavy, big, and they have so many pieces and string everywhere, they look like a spaceship.  Once you touch them, you realize they are very light but yet well made.  I was surprised how much they don't weigh, they look very heavy.  I love the stormtrooper white color with the gray and chrome around it, as well as the red/brown leather headband.  It is a love or hate design I feel.   

    As I said I purchased them for $80 so I could never complain, I would not pay more than $300 for these headphones though.  I think price of $150-250 is fair for a used pair and $250-300 for a new one if you can find it.
  9. zooot
    Doing Many Things Well
    Written by zooot
    Published Dec 2, 2010
    Pros - Neutral, reasonably easy to drive, non-fatiguing
    Cons - Long term listening could be more comfortable
    One of the best headphone values out there.
  10. jeffreyfranz
    AKG 701 Studio
    Written by jeffreyfranz
    Published Nov 23, 2010
    Pros - Crystal clear, clean, beautifully made, detailed
    Cons - Thin, inefficient, where's the bass?
    I am new to this forum and to the high-end headphone arena. This is my first ever review and based only on my first afternoon of playing and listening. OK, these are brand new, and maybe they will break in, but will they break in that much? They appear to be beautifully made, almost jewel-like out of the box. If they hold up and retain this apparent quality with long use, I would have to judge them finely made. So far, I have only used them with my Yamaha P150 Electronic Piano, as I have no headphone amp yet. I don't know how fair a test this is--more or less valid than hi-fi music listening? 
    My comparison 'phones: 
    • Sennheiser Precision HD580: Clean, full sound with good ambience, bass, tidy treble and overall neutral balance.  As of this moment, better overall sound vs. AKG 701, but they have been used and broken in for years.
    • Grado SR80: In my humble opinion, Grado products are vastly overrated for both sound and construction quality. Mine came with the left and right ears reversed (or at least mislabeled, but you can't wear them as labeled and get the right stereo balance). They were grotesquely uncomfortable until I put another company's ear pads on them. Overall sound is warm but muffled. Not a true high fidelity product.
    I bought these because of rave reviews in Stereophile (I should know better by now--all these years). I sure hope the 701s gradually fill out and sound fuller, 'cause this is not my favorite kind of sound, as-is: thin and lean. I cannot afford $250 mistakes, if thats how they turn out. I'm hoping for the best! [​IMG]