Price (RRP): $499
Manufacturer: AKG (Samsung)
AKG is well known in audio circles for professional headphones, microphones and integrated audio systems. The company started back in 1947, and soon after, its microphones were being used in radio stations, theatres and jazz clubs.
Skip forward to today and AKG is a Samsung-owned company, which it acquired with the purchase of parent brand, Harman. In addition to pro-gear, AKG sells a range of consumer products including the new AKG N700 Noise Cancelling Headphones.
Given its Australian price of $499, the N700s are in-line with two very well-established competitors: the Bose Quiet Comfort QC35 II, and Sony’s WH-1000MX3. Just a glance around an airplane cabin, train or bus and it’s obvious how popular these two models are. The real question is if AKGs can offer enough to sway people away from these two very solid choices.
AGK N700 features
The AKG N700s are the ‘over-ear’ type of noise cancelling headphones. This means that the ear cups fit around your ears, rather than on them. This design creates a passive form of noise cancellation, as they block out some outside sounds. Then there’s active noise cancelling technology, which uses a series of microphones to detect surrounding noise and then ‘cancels’ it out by playing opposite waveforms to your ears.
In addition to the AKG-tuned adaptive noise cancelling, there are ‘Talk-Thru’ and ‘Ambient Aware’ modes. Talk-Thru drops the music levels down and turns on the speech optimised microphones so you can talk to people without removing your headphones.
Adaptive Aware mixes ambient noise with what you’re listening to, so you can be ‘aware’ of your surroundings. This is a good mode for wandering around a city where you can listen to your tunes or make calls, while still hearing traffic noise or a bicycle on the path behind you.
You can assign either the Talk Thru or Ambient Aware modes to a dedicated button on the right-hand ear-cup for easy access. Otherwise, they can be selected through the AKG app.
As with its competitors, you can make voice calls without taking the N700s off. The system uses dual mics and applies noise cancellation to reduce background noise. There’s also a ‘remote’ button on the removable audio cable that you can press to make or answer calls.
The N700s connect wirelessly to your devices using low-energy Bluetooth version 4.2 or a standard audio cable connection. When using Bluetooth, the headphones are rated to last 23 hours with active noise cancellation enabled, or 32 hours using the audio cable. Charging to a full battery takes just 3 hours.
Comfort and design
The N700s are made with premium materials such as a metal headband and sliders, aluminium accents and memory foam ear cushions. There’s not as much metal as the Bose QC35 IIs, but enough to feel like they’re worth the money.
Physical controls are uncomplicated; the right ear cup houses the power/pair toggle and a dedicated ‘audio mode’ button. The left has volume up / down and play / pause buttons. There’s a removable audio cable connector on the left cup, and USB-C charge cable on the right. I’m so happy to see that AKG chose the modern, practical USB-C type connector over the antiquated and fiddly micro-USB!
Ergonomics are good, with a padded headband, and the ear cups are hinged both horizontally and vertically so they fit most head shapes. There’s certainly no problem with finding a good fit, however, I discovered that after wearing them for about 8 hours continuously, that the ear cups started to hurt my head, and I could feel the inner rim beneath the cushions.
Perhaps there’s just a little too much ‘squeeze’ pressure for my liking from the headband. However, I’ve used both the Sony and Bose models for international travel and their cushions feel ‘plusher’ and more comfortable when wearing for a long time.
N700 App control
The AKG App is fairly straightforward to use. It’s where you go for finer audio adjustments and assigning the noise cancelling mode to the customisable ear cup button.
Compared to the Sony WH-1000MX3’s app, a few notable things are missing. First, while you can set your own audio profiles via the EQ function, it would be nice to see some pre-set modes to get you started such as dynamic, theatre, movie, stadium, etc.