AKG K 702 review: AKG K 702

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.

During testing, we plugged the K 702 into an Onkyo TX-SR805 for most of our home listening tests and compared the cans with our reference Grado RS1 headphones ($695). Both are excellent, but it was readily apparent that the K 702 sounded more speaker-like. Norah Jones' vocal and piano on her "Come Away With Me" CD seemed to come from outside the headphones--we even had to check to make sure the speakers weren't accidentally turned on. The RS1 sounded closer and more immediate, and the piano's transient attack was more life-like; by contrast, the K702 put the piano farther away. The clarity was extraordinarily good, and never aggressive or thin. AKG engineers gave the K 702 the perfect balance of resolution and smoothness. (Also, the K 702's pillowy ear cushions were far more comfortable than the RS1's harder foam cushions that rested directly on our ears.)

Next, we watched a few movies and the K 702's spatial qualities came to the fore. On the "Mad Men: Season 1" Blu-ray, the sound of the large offices, with dozens of IBM typewriters clacking in the distance, was especially convincing. We could even hear murmured conversations of executives behind closed office doors. The Grado RS1's bass went a little deeper and was more impactful on the "House of Flying Daggers" DVD's circle of drums scene. That is, the drums were more realistic sounding with the RS1, though the K 702's bass and dynamics were still quite good. Again, we preferred the K 702 for its open, spacious sound, which was even more evident with movies than it was with music.

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