Editors' note: The rating on this review has been raised because of changes in the competitive marketplace.
A lot of high-end headphone manufacturers like to portray their designs as "professional" models, but in the case of the AKG K 702 ($539 MSRP) that's exactly what it is. These new pro headphones bear a striking resemblance to the company's K 701 ($499 MSRP) consumer headphones, except the new model sports "features demanded by recording and broadcast engineers in a deluxe professional package." One thing is a given: we're impressed by the K 702's strikingly open sound and super comfy design.
In fact, the K 702 is nearly identical to the K 701, differing only in finish and headphone cable. The K 701 is glossy white, and the K 702 offers a dark blue finish (looks black to us) that's said to be more durable. Also, in the case of the K 702, the 10-foot-long cable is detachable--a good idea anyway, mostly because it eases service problems that often arise from pro headphones being knocked around more than consumer models. The cable attaches to the headphone via a locking, three-pin connector; the other end is terminated in a gold-plated 3.5mm stereo plug (a gold-plated screw-on 6.3mm adaptor is also included).
Far from portable, the K 702 is a very large over-the ear set of headphones, with extra soft velour covered cushions. The real leather/metal wire headband distributes the weight of the 'phones evenly across your head, which means you can wear these headphones for hours at a time and they'll remain nice and comfy. And the headband is clearly marked "L" and "R" so you'll never make a mistake when donning the headphone. The K 702 is hand assembled and tested in Austria, which shows in that build quality, fit, finish, and durability are all first-rate. However, AKG does not include a storage case in the package--a bit of an oversight in this price range.
On the technical side of things, the K 702 features flat-wire voice coils to maintain low distortion levels, even during high-volume listening. AKG claims its patented Laminate Varimotion diaphragms allow the K 702 to produce out-of-head imaging, and we agree. These headphones really deliver on that front: depending on the quality of the recording you're listening to, the sound appears to come from farther away than it does with most headphones.