- May 3, 2008
AKG Q701 Vs. AKG K702 65th Anniversary | Comparison & Review
- Q701: Faster sounding, lighter/thinner, clearer, airier, more open. Soundstage is a bit more distant and laid-back with greater separation and smaller sounding instruments.
- K702 65th Anniversary: Warmer, lusher, more body, smoother, darker, less air, blacker background, "more semi-open." Soundstage is a bit more intimate and forward with larger sounding instruments.
From my testing I've determined that the sound differences between the two headphones can be attributed to the pads. The actual sound of the underlying headphones and drivers themselves are the same. If you compare both the Q701 and K702 anniversary while they are both wearing the same type of pads, they essentially sound identical. So this review is mainly a review of the two sets of pads, and how they modify the sound...
- Essentially the build is identical to the Q701 and other K70x. The main differences are the newly redesigned bump-less headband and the velour wrapped memory foam pads. The cable is also slightly thinner, surprisingly (try not to roll over it with your chair!). The rest are aesthetic color schemes differences. The "R", "L" and "AKG" buttons are also a little different in design.
- The smooth headband definitely improves the comfort over the old bump-band. Its simple math: 8 bumps are less comfortable than 0 bumps. If you don’t' have a lot of hair you may still want to add a pad for extra cushioning, but it's not as necessary as it was for the bump headband. Another potential benefit of the new headband is that it allows the headband to extend farther giving more space for larger heads.
- The new pads are quite soft - noticeably softer than the firmer standard foam. They are also quicker to compress, so they should help for people that felt uneven pressure on their jawline from the firmer regular foam pads. They are definitely shallower than the standard pads, and they are NOT angled. The thinnest part of the angled pads is nearly the same thickness as the whole anniversary pad. I would personally prefer them slightly thicker, since they're already thinner than the standard pads and are simultaneously quicker to compress. A little bit thicker and they'd be perfect. Still I've worn them for extended listening sessions with no complaints and very minimal shifting/repositioning of the headphones during the sessions. Either AKG is still the most comfortable headphone I've personally worn.
- The Anniversary bass is fuller, weightier, has more body, and is more forward.
- While entire sound spectrum of the anniversaries gets a shift towards the warmer, I think the memory foam does seal in the bass some and perhaps give it a little extra warm boost over the other frequencies.
- The bass stays a little stronger into the lower sub-bass frequencies. It traps more of that bass and rumbles a little longer and deeper as a result than the Q701s. On the Q701, more of that lower bass escapes out of the pads I think and they decay quicker.
- The difference between the bass isn't huge, and certain frequencies of the bass (mid-bass) share much in common with the Q701s.
- K702 anniversary mids are (again) smoother, weightier, warmer, and have more body.
- The Q701 definitely has more forward upper mids. I think this is because the Anniversaries are fuller in the other frequencies, so the upper mids don't stand out as much. When you go back to listen to the Q701, the upper mids are a more isolated (and thus emphasized-sounding) in comparison.
- The anniversary treble is more smooth, polite, and forgiving - on the Q701 you can hear the breath of a voice or the bite of bow on a violin more clearly than with the anniversaries.
- If you’re somebody who finds the Q701 treble a little bothersome and a little too bright, the anniversaries may be the perfect choice as they are slightly darker but not too much. If you’re someone who finds the Q701 treble perfect, you might find the anniversaries slightly darker than you'd prefer.
- Q701s have more air, Anniversaries have a blacker background.
- I mentioned that the entire sound spectrum is shifted towards being warmer, and this is true for the treble too. In other words, the warmer lower frequencies aren't causing the treble to sound warmer - the warmer treble itself is doing that! If you're listening to a purely airy passage just by itself, you will notice the same darker sound - whether or not there is any bass or anything going on.
- The Anniversary is a bit more intimate, and more panned to the sides. The Q701 is more distant and laid back with greater separation.
- The actual soundstage size itself is often similar between the two. The main differences between them are: the size of the individual sounds, the weight of those sounds, and the amount of separation in-between those individual sounds. These things end up affecting your impressions of the soundstage. Initially the weightier sound of the Anniversary pads can throw off your judgment of the soundstage size. Once you get more acclimated to the anniversary sound, you can listen "through" the weight a little better to the sound positions behind them, and they often sound like they are actually coming from a similar place in the soundstage as the Qs. The individual sounds themselves sound bigger and more grounded, and they take up a little bit more space inside the soundstage. Because of this, the Q701 still gives off the impression of having a little roomier soundstage - the sounds themselves are a little smaller and have more "personal space" around them in the soundstage. This extra space around the sounds gives them more distinct separation from each other. Smaller sounds themselves tend to sound farther away too. The anniversary sounds are bigger so less free space in-between the sounds. Having bigger sounds in the same space (soundstage size) means you don't quite get as clear a separation with them as on the Q701- sounds might start bumping into to each other sometimes.
- The Q701s have more air in between sounds, where the anniversaries have a darker, blacker background. I think that air may give a little greater impression of space and distance in-between sounds than the blacker background does. Like the air gives you something to measure the distance between sounds more.
- The Q701 sounds are lighter and have more of that "floating" quality, which is something a lot of K70x owners love (myself included). People often say they enjoy how the AKGs make sounds feel like they are suspended out in front of you, floating. There is less of that with the Anniversary pads. They have a more of a grounded quality to the sounds. Weightier sounds just don't "float" as well! That's not necessarily a bad thing, just depends which you like more - Floating sounds or grounded sounds.
- With the Q701s you can hear the recording space a little better. You can hear the air and reverb in the room. This is mainly a factor when listening to classical music and other instrumental music in live spaces. For example, after a big orchestra hits and then goes silent, you can hear the sound reflections reverberate throughout the space and air, and you sort of get a shape of the music hall. The darker K702 cuts some of that out, and instruments fall into a blacker background.
Gaming (with Dolby Headphone)
- Both are great. Q701 would hold a small advantage for competitive, and 65s for fun.
- Dolby Headphone makes their soundstages behave more similarly to each other than they do in stereo. I was surprised to hear that the Q701s really weren't too much of an improvement in terms of soundstage and positioning. The actual soundstage itself is really essentially the same as on the anniversary pads - it really just comes down to the weight of the sounds. I was expecting the imaging and positioning to sharpen up more with the Q701s, but it didn't really. It was basically the same level of diffuseness as on the anniversaries. The difference was just that the sounds were lighter, sharper, clearer with a little more separation. That would be where the competitive advantage comes from.
- There's something about lighter airier sounds that gives the effect of making sounds sound farther away then weightier sounds. But like I said, once you adjust for that "effect", the sounds are still basically coming from a very similar location/distance in the soundstage. So the Q701s competitive advantage mainly just comes down to the lighter overall balance (think AD700) which emphasizes and makes things a bit clearer.
- The Q701's air can be lovely in surround, and sort of gives an airy connected-ness to some sounds. On the anniversaries, sounds tend to emerge out of a blacker background - which is also a cool effect and may be more similar to actual home-theater speakers.
- The 65s greater body throughout the spectrum which gives them a definitive edge in the "fun" department. They sound more home-theater-y. Gunshots/explosions will have more weight and body, and the individual sounds are bigger and taller which can immerse you more. The anniversaries are definitely more immersive sounding, and IMO a better choice for single player gaming. Not necessarily because of the bass, but because of the overall body/weight of all the frequencies. It just gives objects and characters more mass in game, and they feel more 3D and physically "there."
I think it's safe to say that the anniversary's balance is more general-purpose, where usually the x70x are recommended as being better at certain genres (usually instrumental stuff) than others. If you’re someone who digs the x70x but listens more outside of its usual recommended genres, then the anniversary may be a better choice. If you like the Q701s but wish they were a little warmer (closer to the Senneiser HD6x0), the anniversaries may be great.
If you mainly listen to the typical genres the K70x is often recommended for, the standard x70x might be better - that extra air and soundstage separation can be important to those genres. If you also think the x70x balance is perfect as-is, you might prefer them to the anniversaries.
Personally, I love the sound from both. I can see myself swapping out depending on what I'm listening to or which sound I'm in the mood for:
- One thing I love the most about the Q701 is how sounds can seem like they're floating out in front of your head, and you get less of that with the K702 Anniversary pads. That's BIG for me. I also really enjoy the greater sense of air on the Q701s, and I think the treble is about perfect.
- The Anniversaries have their own advantages though. I enjoy the weightier sounds and greater body coming from the anniversary pads. They can be pretty fun and immersive. Having that little extra presence from the lower bass is nice, and I found it harder to resist bobbing my head when using the anniversary pads.
Since they share the same base sound (and are essentially pad mod/variations on that sound) there's a good chance if you like one, you will also like the other.
If you do like both, the good news is that you don't have to own to different pairs to get both sounds. If you own both pads, you will "own" both sounds No need to keep two headphones around. You can mod a Q701 (and possibly some other recent AKG x70x) into having the anniversary sound by just getting a hold of their pads. I've fallen in love with both of their sounds. For those who feel the same way as me, there's nothing wrong with keeping a set of each pad around.
Because I was able to get the K702 anniversary at good price (and because I prefer the aesthetics and headband on it over the Q701), I decided to sell my beloved Q701s and keep the Anniversaries as my main headphone. That's saying something, because my Q701s have been my favorite headphone since the day I got them and have come out on top against a fair amount of other impressive headphones. So selling them was an emotional event for me
I wasn't about to give up their sound though, so I immediately went and ordered a pair of Q701 pads from AKGs. My Q701s will live on vicariously through the K702 Anniversaries