K601 vs AD900 Review
Nov 18, 2008 at 9:34 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 32

Kernmac

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I love my AD900s. They are great all rounders IMO, mid-range centric, very smooth and sweeeeet, with plenty of detail and yet very involving. They are well balanced accross the entire sound spectrum as well, good trebble and bass impact. And that airy soundstage signature that sets them apart from so many other fons I have had/listened to and liked.

So my head-fi journey is focussed on finding a better AD900, with the Sony SA5000 and the ATH AD2000 at the top of my list as possibilities. However, a fellow Aussie Head-fier was unloading his AKG K601 and after some quick research, I came to the conclusion that they may have many of the attributes I am looking for. So therefore I got side tracked and will have the black AKG's in my possesion soon.

So if the question on how the AD900 and the K601 might fair against each other is one that could interest you, revist this thread in a few days time to read my opinion on whether the K601 is a better AD900 or not.

The AD900 is a very efficient fon, where as the K601 will require some juice, so I will adjust volume to even the comparrison to a level(ish) playing field.
I will only be using my Porta Corda III (plugged in, so using DC 12 volts instead of 9v battery) so the AKG might not be anywhere near its optimum, however that's my system, and I am not spending dollars on a dedicated desk top amp any time soon.
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Nov 23, 2008 at 9:34 AM Post #2 of 32

Kernmac

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k601.jpg


This is essentially a K601 review, however I will reference it to my AD900, as I am currently looking to find a “better” AD900. My review, my rules.

Design
First off these two could be brothers (or sisters) from a design point of view. They both are large open circumaural headphones with the variation of the two manufacturers wire support wings/headband combo. Both are very comfortable. The AKG feels slightly heavier, albeit it isn’t. I think this is because in clamps against the side of the head whereas the Audio Technica does not (it floats), well at least not on my head. Having said it clamps, not like a closed fon that is trying to sandwich your brain, more simply clamping for a secure fit. You can head-bang wearing the AKGs, whereas the ATH would probably fly across the room. Both fons are big with very large circumferences, although they are almost identical in size the K601’s feel smaller as they don’t come down as far as my lower jaw, as do the AD900s. All up the K601s are very comfortable and I can wear them all day without a whimper. The build quality has been questioned in some reviews of the AKG’s, being criticized for being too plastic and feeling fragile, I do not agree with this perception. They are primarily plastic, however it feels and looks like quality to me, and there is no impression of fragility to my mind. Finish is exceptional.
Ok so they are comfy and I like the look and feel of them, how do they sound?

My opinions are based on my system- Sony DAP mostly with 320 bit rate tracks with a couple of more compressed files thrown in for comparison, running through a Meier Corda Move with 12V power supply using high gain. Volume adjusted up to compensate for the AKGs less efficient 120 ohms.

Sound
The K601 are somewhat midrange centric but are fairly well balanced, even sounding, they don't exhibit any one aspect at the expense of the balance of the audio spectrum.
Everything seems part of a whole. Frequency response seems fairly flat. They are coloured but lean toward neutral, probably more neutral than the AD900.
The K601 is a midrange specialist (so to is the AD900) vocals are especially noteworthy, particularly male vocals (whereas I prefer female vocals projected by the AD900, although it is a close call). Sound is very open with natural timbre and dynamics. Bass is controlled and tight.

K601s are detailed without sounding analytical. The K601 is a bit less energetic than the AD900, slightly more laid back at times, but is smooth and sweet like the Audio Technica and also has an ability to keep instruments and voices separate in complex music. The K601s have a great soundstage that comes close to providing that “speaker like” feeling which is a neat trick for any headphone.
Although I wouldn’t describe them as so laid back as to be “boring” or “forgettable” they are not “exciting” or “fun” headphones either. They are very comfortable, easy listening, non-fatiguing headphones, and ideal for acoustic music with vocal emphasis; folk and ballad type music. Guitar strumming sounds sweet on these as well. They may also make good classical fons, however that is not my genre so I shouldn’t speculate. They are not ideal for rock or electronica, lacking the dynamics and fun factor IMO.

Treble
The treble isn't as extended as other higher end headphones, but they still manage to reproduce the upper range with a clean, clear sound, cymbals still sound great. Though the highs remain quite clear and simple sounding without being overly harsh, they are slightly recessed. The highs and treble in general are delivered well enough without distinction, with the bonus of being devoid of sharp, grainy scratchiness in the mid and upper treble frequencies, most of the time.

Midrange

The midrange is all one could ask for - vocals, both male and female come across as real and instrumentals are handled with style, preserving the natural timbre in instruments.

The AD900 has a sweet, sweet midrange, detailed and silky and there aren't any dips or peaks. Vocals are excellent, clear, precise, and realistic, with a “live” sound to them. The AKG K601 has similar sweet midrange properties, however with a more studio sound to my ears. Voices and the midrange in general are just fabulous with excellent detail retrieval.

Bass

Bass is good, deep enough and solid and integrates smoothly with those wonderful mids. Similar to the AD900 the lows do extend, but don’t give the impression of power and depth, you do not get the rumble and weight of the lowest bass. The lower end isn't a very powerful or impactful part of the K601s sound. However, mid bass is tight, with good impact, speed and accuracy, not boomy in any way.

Overall

The K601 is a great headphone, well controlled, smooth, and very evenly balanced with a nice sense of transparency and spaciousness in the presentation, with super sweet and detailed mids. Great for easy listening all day to your favourite acoustic tunes, detailed, clear, precise and with a lovely sound stage. The K601 is not an exciting, dynamic, fun headphone, with gradoish attack. Although the K601 has many similarities with the AD900, and I am sure some may prefer it to the open ATH fon, to my ears, with my gear, playing my tunes, it is not a better AD900.

AD2000 or SA5000 are still on my horizon.

K601-01.jpg
 
Nov 23, 2008 at 10:51 AM Post #3 of 32

Tiemen

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Great review.
I concur with your findings on the K601 completely.
 
Nov 23, 2008 at 2:20 PM Post #4 of 32

shamu144

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Thank you Kernmac for this very nice review and comparison.

Indeed, I have just ordered an AD900, as I was expecting it to share many similarities with the sound of my AKG K501, based on comments I read. I don't know how close are K501 and K601, but it seems that my guess was spot on.

K501 or K601 are just not suitable for portable rigs or Ipod (needs much more power/current), so I would use the AD900 instead. You are probably right when you say that you haven't heard K601 at its best though.

In fact, I am currently having my K501 recabled and balanced, to get the best out of them with my current balanced amp. However, I understand from your review that you do not consider upgrading the rest of your gear, so that would not be an option for you.

Thank you,
 
Nov 23, 2008 at 3:28 PM Post #5 of 32

JMCIII

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While agree with many of your findings - owning K601s and K701s along with ATH AD700s - the lack of a good headphone amp to drive the AKGs does them a serious dis-service. The Audio Technicas can, as you point out, be driven quite nicely without a headphone amp. The AKGs cannot, at least not if you want to hear them at their best. But given your equipment and guidelines for your test, I found your results to be very close to the mark. (However, the K701s are a much better headphone and a more even match $$$ wise for your AD900s. But you'd want a good amp to run each through, along with uncompressed music.) Thanks for you insights.
 
Nov 23, 2008 at 8:08 PM Post #6 of 32

Kernmac

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Cheers Tiemen, shamu144 and JMCIII,

I have little doubt that if I had a decent dedicated desk top amp and superior source, the AKG would probably pull away in SQ. I like my AD900s and I like the portability of my amp/DAP combination (even though it is portability within my home rather than street portability). I believe that an AD2000 and/or SA5000 should give me superior sound without upgrading my rig, so that is the path I will likely take. Or maybe I will invest in a Little Dot MK V or Meier Cantate and drive my K601s through a better set up. To all accounts from what I have read there is no doubt in my mind that a suitably powered K701/K702 would yeild very different results to my underpowered K601, which does lead me to conclude that the AKGs must represent considerable bang for your buck. Happy listening.

Just for some relativity, (average) price comparrisons below are AUD for the following fons in my world (Australia).
AD900=$350
K601=$430
K701=$500
K702=$690
HD600=$500
HD650=$650
 
Nov 25, 2008 at 10:16 AM Post #8 of 32

shamu144

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I received my AD900 yesterday, and got them cooking for 2 hours before actally listening to them for a short hour.
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If it is ok with you Kernmac, I will share in this thread my first impresions. Please feel free to kick me out if I disturb
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.

It is very early for solid impresions, but they are not as similar to my K501 as I was expecting (and maybe K601).

Bass in both headphones are rather thin, but punchy and fast, with good details. Nowhere near balanced HD650, and some could argue they are too lean. the AD900 could improve though with more burning.

As for the rest, I find they do not share similar sound at all...

Highs are very sweet, refined and extended in AD900, while apparently more rolled off in K501. I would say the overall sound of K501 is more balanced, while AD900 highs are more apparent (though very nice).
It has been said before but the mid coloration in AD900 is obvious, and mids are creamy/buttery, which means smooth and rich, organic, but still remain clear and detailed. Very different from K501 mids, that are also very clear and detailed, but do not convey this organic feeling, and feel closer to the recording (ie if bad, mids will sound harsh or grainy, on SACD, mids are phenomenal). IMO, K501 benefits a lot from tube amplification.
As for soundstage, K501 wins hands down. AD900 soundstage at the moment sounds weird (I read that many times), much more forward and small than K501, with little instruments separation and air. I think it is the characteristic of the phones I will struggle most to get used to.

Overall a very pleasant experience. I need more time now to get to know them better.

Regards,
 
Nov 25, 2008 at 11:23 AM Post #9 of 32

Kernmac

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shamu144,
They (K601 and AD900) have different sound signatures, no doubt about that to my ears, however I think they have quite a few similarities. My AD900s do have leather W5000 ear pads, which has altered the stock sound and I would not describe them as bass lean, certainly more bass and impact than the K601 on my system. To put that into perspective, I have had Proline550 (huge bass), and own ESW9 and both these have more bass than AD900. I agree that AD900 are more forward than K601, however I would not describe the sound stage as small, and I certainly think they are "airy". Now the K601 might have an even bigger sound stage on a properly amped system, however I can not comment on that. Not sure I find the sound stage "wierd" but I suppose airy and forward ain't the norm. I also would agree that mids are coloured and "creamy/buttery, which means smooth and rich, organic, but still remain clear and detailed" isn't going to get an argument from me. I like the sound sig of the AD900 very much, for me they are nearly perfect, however I will still look for a better AD900 and maybe I won't get there unless I upgrade amp and source.
I hope your AD900s give you what you seek from your portable applications.
 
Nov 25, 2008 at 12:49 PM Post #10 of 32

shamu144

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Kernmac /img/forum/go_quote.gif
My AD900s do have leather W5000 ear pads, which has altered the stock sound and I would not describe them as bass lean, certainly more bass and impact than the K601 on my system.


This could be due to the lack of power/current needed to make K601 shine. On top of that, the W5000 pad seems to increase the bass response. However, I agree with you when you say AD900 are not bass lean, but it will also depend on individual preferences.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kernmac /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I agree that AD900 are more forward than K601, however I would not describe the sound stage as small, and I certainly think they are "airy". Now the K601 might have an even bigger sound stage on a properly amped system, however I can not comment on that. Not sure I find the sound stage "wierd" but I suppose airy and forward ain't the norm.


Yes, I was comparing them to my K501, which are known to have an enormous soundstage. However, we seem to differ in our impression since I found the soundstage of AD900 to lack air and beeing relatively small (at least compared to the headphones I owned in the past, like DT880, Stax SR-303, and currently K501 and HD650). But please consider my AD900 are new and not burnt in so it might improve with time. I am looking forward to hearing these improvements.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kernmac /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I like the sound sig of the AD900 very much, for me they are nearly perfect, however I will still look for a better AD900 and maybe I won't get there unless I upgrade amp and source.
I hope your AD900s give you what you seek from your portable applications.



That's a difficult one, because from what one can read, there are not too many headphones similar to AD900 out there... If you enjoy so much the signature of your AD900, why not try to set up a nice rig around them (especially the amp section), instead of looking for another fiancee
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Regards,
 
Nov 27, 2008 at 1:31 PM Post #11 of 32

shamu144

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Hi there,

I am following up with some additionnal comments about the AD900.

I have been using it these past 2 days, and it must have now around 10 hours break in.

My impressions are slighlty changing now, and it might be either because of real break-in of the drivers or because of my brain getting used to this new presentation of the music.
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First, the apparent treble emphasis I noticed at the very beginning appears much more balanced now. Bass also seem to extend lower and with more punch. I am using at times the same tracks to compare the evolution and the difference in the bass line is quite noticeable (I mean you really feel it). They are still not bass monsters by any mean, but the bass extends fairly well and you can listen to your favorite tracks without frustrations. So that's a very good point to me.

I am still struggling with the artificial soundstage presentation, though I believe my brain is now able to identify a pattern for its structure. Still very forward mids (voices especially, as if they were coming from your nose), but also much bigger soudstage than I can recall during my first listening sesions. In fact, soundstage seems to extend all the way from the right ear to the left ear, and gives a sensation of "air". However, it still totally lacks depth. It is a very 2D presentation. Symphonic orchestra seem to be all playing together on one line, and instruments separation is very average. Combined with the forward mids, it gives you what I would call an artifical sounstage. If you get used to this presentation, then those headphones can be quite enjoyable.

Lastly, I feel the AD900 is lacking micro dynamic details (but nothing abnormal considering the price). Texture and inflexion of voices/instruments offer less details that I am used to and make the music to me emotionnally less involving.

Overall, and considering their price, they can really be fun headphones if you get used to their unusuall soundstage. Kernmac, maybe you should give a second chance to your K601 with proper amplification. I feel the K601 (at least K501) can offer a better soundstage presentation and improved micro dynamic details, while still retaining a similarly smooth midrange if properly powered with tubes.

regards,
 
Nov 27, 2008 at 3:51 PM Post #12 of 32

hoodlum

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Considering you can get the K601 for less than $100 shipped now from HR, the K601 looks amazing.
 
Nov 27, 2008 at 7:25 PM Post #13 of 32

WiredBrain

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Quote:

Originally Posted by hoodlum /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Considering you can get the K601 for less than $100 shipped now from HR, the K601 looks amazing.


I just checked at HR and it's indeed less than USD100!
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Unfortunately, I ordered AD900 a few days ago at USD230(after currency conversion)...
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