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My review of the AKG Q701

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by kodhifi, Jan 13, 2013.
  1. Kodhifi
    I've been using Beyerdynamic DT880 in the 250ohm model for about 3 years and I almost wore them out from so much usage. At the time I bought those the only other headphone that came close was the K701. Fast forward a few years and AKG releases the Q701 Quincey Jones model with a detatchable cable, new accents, and updated design. I made the plunge and bought a pair to see if they could hold their own with the 880's. They do but there are some caveats.

    1. These are big. Like I thought the 880's had big ear pads, these are FU big. They are a monster truck to the Beyerdynamics Hummer combat vehicle. But that doesn't make them more comfortable. In fact I find that the cloth material and distance from my ear they touch my head, causes it to push against the grain of my hair causing me to have to adjust them a lot. People with longer hair may not have that problem. They cover half of my head.

    2. They absolutely require break in and like the weather in Texas, if you don't like the way they sound, wait 5 minutes.

    Out of the box I plugged these into my FiiO E9 desktop headphone amp and put on the first track Foobar picked, HIM 's "Pull off the wings of a butterfly". This hard rock track opens with a guitar riff and then a drum and bass hit, the guitar was loud but clear and I prayed "Please let the bass hit me hard" it didn't but it still wasn't bad. Then the vocals kicked in "Heaven ablaze in our eyes" and I suddenly wanted to cry. The vocals sounded like a little kid had come into my room, walked up to my equalizer and decided to make pretty shapes with it. These were by far the most colored and non transparent headphones I have EVER heard.......Crap, I got burned......

    I tried more neutral music and fired up some Arcade Fire The Suburbs, again an incredibly awful sound of peaks and valleys and narrow band resonances and distortions all through the midrange. It was so bad I couldn't even begin to listen to the highs, my ears couldn't get around the awful midrange coloration.

    On it went for close to 30 minutes. I connected my DT880's up to make sure I wasn't going crazy and instantly it was like my ears were wrapped in cool silk and angels massaged my ear drums with bliss. Back to the Q701's and I was following Dante back to his inferno. I did these back and forths for a bit when something started to change. At first it was a lessening of the coloration and a little bit of opening up. I went back and listened to the HIM track again and it was still harsh and dead sounding but the coloration was already fading. Then over the next 30 minutes they opened up even more and the mids started to balance out and lose even more of their coloration.

    These headphones literally went from a 2 out of 10 to a 6 out of 10 in just an hour of break in......I have NEVER heard headphones change their character so much in such a short period. Out of the box without having ever been used these were terrible but with just an hour of listening the character changed more than any other headphone had in 6 months of use. And over the next several hours they just kept opening up and getting flatter and warmer, and more transparent, and then the highs began to come out and the bass became present but not over powering, and the mids became beautiful.

    I started in with some mid friendly music and actually began to enjoy them. I put the 880's up and put on some Take Five, Angus and Julia Stone, Yo-Yo Ma's Vivaldi's Cello, Sarah Mclaughlin's Last Dance, another cello work and the cello had the room presence of a weathered old man speaking with his dry resonant gravelly voice, showing all of the experience and humor of a lifetime and I got goosebumps. The Cello is one of my favorite stringed instruments and the Q701 gives cello the way a hypo gives smack addicts relief..... I was in heaven and suddenly not feeling like I got burned, but like I got tested.

    I've been using them now for a few days and they are transparent and open enough that I don't feel cheated by not listening to my DT 880's. I played some Battlefield 3 last night with them and having a sniper shooting at my head actually had me ducking from the painful volume of SSSSwwwwwaaaaa CRACK SMACK you're dead.

    Musically I went through my entire FLAC collection which is a lot of Jazz and classical music and I was in heaven. I have heard these need a good 80 hours or so of break in to really open up and I'm maybe 20 hours into that, so I can't wait to see what the future holds.

    Thats enough about the sound . What do you get?

    2 removable cables in lime green.
    A threaded 3.5mm adapter, they are 3.5mm by default.
    That's it. No headphone case, no headphone stand, and a only a warranty card.

    A thing about the cables, one is long, and one is really long. The material is very flexible but unfortunately the bright color lends itself to getting scuffed and looking dirty and they already look dirty at the ends. I prefer black cables.

    The build quality is terrific. I really like the adjustment system, you just put them on, no adjustments necessary. I don't know how I feel about the ends of the headband being clear plastic, time will tell how they hold up. The headband itself is made of belt grade leather and is solid if a little spartan on the cushioning. The connector that goes into the headphone looks like a proprietary 3 pin xlr but unfortunately it sticks out of the bottom a good 2" or so and if I try to stretch my arms it digs into my shoulder. I'm worried that in the long run I might break something from smacking into the end of the cable so often.

    Your ears will not get warm from the ear pads but they do tend to rub against the sides of my skull, well away from my ear, irritating my hair folicles and requiring a lot of adjusting. I think if they were velour like the Beyerdynamics they would be more comfortable and not grab at my hair quite so much.

    And lastly lets talk about power requirements. These are well known for being power hungry and needing a dedicated desktop amp. I disagree based on personal experience. I don't know what the ohm rating is but my DT880's are 250 ohm and these 701's are about 30% louder at a given volume than the 880's are. I found I could drive them to comfortable levels on both my Iphone and my Soundblaster Xfi without external amplification, at least on reasonably loud music. I could see quiet classical maybe needing a bit more gain.

    So in summary, if you don't like the way these sound, give them an hour or two to break in and if you still don't like it, give it a week or two because the sound will change BY THE MINUTE with these when they are new. The build quality is excellent, they are easy to wear but on the large side. The sound quality only gets better as they break in and while they are not super sensitive, they are easier to drive than some 250ohm headphones. They can benefit from an amp but they work pretty well without one as well. They are worth the money and are in the same class as the Beyerdynamic DT880, DT990, Sennheiser HD-600.

    Pros:
    Good build quality
    detachable cables
    includes 2 different lengths of cable
    very open design, good sound stage, can hear background sound, phone ringing etc
    reasonably easy to drive given the sound they produce
    will have to write more about sound quality when they have broken in longer

    Cons:
    headphone attachment at ear piece sticks out some poking my shoulder sometimes
    don't expect to get a consistent sound out of them without considerable break in. The sound will change DRASTICALLY in the first several hours of use, starting with awful, and going to allright, and then good.
    No headphone stand or storage box/bag.
    Cloth earpieces dig into my hair and make my scalp itch
    Ear pieces cover half my head, far away from my ear

     
  2. p a t r i c k
    Well thank you for the review :)
     
    I have not used the AKG Q701s however I do have the K702s.
     
    My experience of the K702s is very different from that you have had with the Q701s. When my K702s arrived two years ago on the first day the sound was open transparent and neutral. There was no change in sound at all that I would detect over the first few days.
     
    Two years on and the sound is the same as day one except that it is possible that the treble has softened slightly. This is a welcome trend as the biggest weakness of the K702s is the over edgy treble. I would not say with certainty that the treble has softened until I had done a double blind test but this is obviously impractical.
     
    The Q701s are indeed different headphones so maybe there is something very different about them in the construction.
     
    I will say the for the price the transparency of the K702s is really stunning. These are the least coloured headphones I have used, I haven't used the Sennheiser HD 800 which many say is even more transparent.
     
    The detail retrieval of my K702s is absolutely exquisite, really very excellent indeed. Detail is kept in context.
     
    My K702s are far from perfect, but they are amazing for the price.
     
  3. viralcow
    Nice review. I've only owned used pairs of the K701 so I wasn't able to experience the burn-in... although there is still plenty of controversy around that.
    So far, which do you prefer, the DT880 or the Q701?
     
  4. Kodhifi
    Quote:

    It's very difficult to say as the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. They sound different from the 880 and new is good so right now I've retired the 880s to my music studio for mixdown work, also to force me to use the 701's hehe.
     
    Subjective comparison with 20 hours of burnin:
     
    701, very detailed and forward mid range. Cello's, male singers, acoustic guitar, sound very detailed but not overly harsh or overly smooth. They are sounding more neutral and the sound is dynamic, punchy and fast. I don't detect any particular bumps or dips in the frequency response, they are grainy though. The bass is not as extended, but is punchier and more forward in the mix than the 880's. I've been listening to a LOT of Nina Simone, and The Dave Brubeck Quartet and the 701's are just brilliant. The soundstage is excellent but then again so is the 880's. They do let a lot more sound leak through and while I could wear the 880's while my wife slept, I can't do so with the 701's but that's partly because I am listening to them so loudly. On the plus side I am a singer and I can more clearly hear my own voice when singing along.
     
    The 880's are still the kings of high frequency, grain free, sonic angelic heights with a smoothness and transparency that gives you pontific ears. Their bass is more subdued compared to the 701's but extends very deep with a smooth rolloff. The midrange on the 880's is less forward in the mix but this is purely subjective, I doubt you would see much difference on a scope. These have had plenty of use though and it's been so long since they were new I don't remember what they sounded like out of the box.
     
    Both headphones sound absolutely brilliant, are similar in cost, and sound great without any EQ at all. The 880's give you a soft storage case and velour earpads but no detachable cable and a leatherette headband and the 701's give you 2 detachable cables and a fine grain leather headband but cloth ear pads.
     
     
    In a nutshell, different but equal.
     

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