AKG N60 NC review: A top on-ear active noise-canceling headphone

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The Good The AKG N60 NC is a compact, comfortable, well-designed on-ear headphone that sounds really good for a model with active noise cancellation. The rechargeable battery offers 30 hours of listening time.

The Bad Charging cable isn't the standard Micro-USB variety; single-button remote lacks volume controls.

The Bottom Line Despite a few small downsides, AKG's $250 on-ear active noise-canceling headphone sounds great and is a worthy alternative to Bose's top-selling QuietComfort 25.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

If you're in the market for a premium noise-canceling headphone, chances are you're looking at one of the Bose models, the QuietComfort 25 (around-ear) or QuietComfort 20. We gave high ratings to those products and -- in terms of noise-canceling headphones -- they're leaders in the category.

So why get the AKG N60 NC over the Bose QC25? Well, for starters it takes up a little less room in your bag. This is a smaller, on-ear headphone (it's better suited to smaller heads) and folds up and flat to fit in an included neoprene carrying case, weighing 6.3 ounces or 179 grams without the cord connected. Also, at $250 (£220, AU$350), it's a little less expensive.

The compact headphones fold flat to fit in an included carrying neoprene pouch.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While it may not be quite as comfortable as the Bose, it's very comfortable for an on-ear headphone, with soft leather-covered earcups, and well built-in, too. It even has a bit of aluminum accenting its design.

But really the main reason is that it sounds better than the Bose. It's a cleaner-sounding headphone with more detail and tighter bass and decent openness for an on-ear headphone.

Small downsides

The Bose QC25 is powered by a single AAA battery. This AKG has an integrated rechargeable battery that offers a solid 30 hours of active noise canceling and -- if the battery runs out -- you can listen in passive mode without the headphone being powered.

To be sure, the noise canceling isn't quite as effective as Bose's and there's a very faint hiss when it's engaged. That said, I thought it was quite good overall (relatively speaking) and worked well muffling sound in CNET's New York office, on a plane, the subway, and walking the streets of New York. And remember: this, like those Bose models, is a wired headphone. There is no Bluetooth.

Unfortunately, the charging cable is not a standard Micro-USB charging cable.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The cons are small, but they are cons. Instead of the standard micro USB charger you'd use to charge your phone, you have to charge the battery via the headphone jack with a 2.5mm sub-mini plug to USB cable. Lose that charging cord and you can't charge the headphone anymore and will have to seek a replacement. I'd be less concerned about that if there was an interior storage poach inside the carrying case to stow the cord, but the carrying case is very basic; you basically have to shove everything inside, headphones plus the two cables.

It's also worth pointing out that there are no volume controls on the headphone cord, which has a fabric cover to reduce cord noise (that's good). It's a one-button universal remote that allows you to pause and play tracks, answer and end calls, and to skip tracks forward and back. Call quality was decent.

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