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AKG N60NC Wireless review: A smaller alternative to Bose's QC35

AKG's excellent-sounding on-ear wireless noise-canceling headphones have one advantage over their full-size competitors: They're more compact.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

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I'm a fan of AKG's N60 NC, which may be the best on-ear noise-canceling headphones available, so I was pretty stoked when AKG put out a Bluetooth version called the N60NC Wireless. They cost $300 (£250, AU$400), which isn't cheap, but they're very good wireless headphones that not only sound excellent but are compact and fold up nicely into a travel-friendly neoprene carrying case.

AKG N60NC Wireless
7.8

AKG N60NC Wireless

The Good

The AKG N60NC Wireless on-ear headphones are compact, comfortable and well-designed, and sound excellent for a model with active noise cancellation and Bluetooth. They're smaller and lighter than competing full-size earphones and fold up nicely to fit in an included neoprene carrying case.

The Bad

Fairly pricey; headset performance when making calls isn't as good as it should be at this price.

The Bottom Line

Although they may not be quite as good as full-size offerings from Bose and Sony, the on-ear AKG N60NC are arguably the best compact wireless noise-canceling headphones.

On-ear models that sit on top of one's ears aren't everybody's cup of tea, but the 7-ounce (198g) AKG N60NC Wireless are about as comfortable as you get for this type of headphone. What's also noteworthy is that they have effective noise canceling with only a very faint hiss.

This new wireless model has some design improvements to the earcups, with a little bit thicker padding and a headband that doesn't clamp down on your head as tightly, which leads to a more comfortable fit. Battery life is rated at up to 15 hours with both Bluetooth and noise canceling engaged (that's good but not great) and up 30 hours if you use the noise canceling only in wired mode.

AKG N60NC Wireless
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AKG N60NC Wireless

The earpads are a little thicker on this new model.

Sarah Tew/CNET

My only design complaint was that I had a little trouble with the track forward/back button that's located on the right earcup (pressing it pauses or plays your music and answers or ends calls). It's kind of a rocker switch and when I went to advance a track it sometimes took a few tries to get the track to advance (I had no trouble getting tracks to skip back). Also, the power switch is a little too close to the track control and I sometimes accidentally turned the headphones off because I had my finger on the wrong rocker switch.

I was a little disappointed when using these headphones as a headset for making calls. I could hear callers well but several callers said I sounded a little muffled. It's also worth mentioning that there's no sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice in the headphones as you talk. At this price, I expect that feature.      

I said the wired AKG N60 NC sounded really good for noise-canceling headphones, with clean, well-balanced, expansive sound that featured tight bass. And that's what you'll get with the N60NC Wireless in wired mode (they come with a 51-inch cord with an inline single button remote/microphone). You may not use that included cord all that often, but it comes in handy when you need to tap into an in-flight entertainment system.

AKG N60NC Wireless
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AKG N60NC Wireless

The headphones fold flat into a compact half moon shape.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I found the headphones performed well in wireless mode, with reliable pairing and connectivity (they use Bluetooth 4.0). You do lose a little clarity and the headphones don't sound quite as dynamic when you go wireless. For instance, I listened to Diana Krall's "Don't Dream It's Over" and Prince's "Condition of the Heart" tracks while switching back and forth between wired and wireless modes, and there was a distinct difference in sound quality. In wireless mode everything sounded slightly recessed and less immediate than when I had the cord plugged in. There was a touch less sparkle in the treble and a touch less bass definition. (While active noise canceling generally has a negative impact on sound quality, Bluetooth has an even greater impact).  

All that said, despite that small drop-off in sound quality this model does sound impressive for wireless noise-canceling headphones. Full-size competitors such as the Bose QuietComfort 35 and Sony MDR-1000X are on par with this model or arguably offer slightly better sound. They're also just as comfortable, if not more so.

Ultimately these headphones' real competitive advantage is their compact size. I'm not sure that's quite enough to justify the $300 price for some people, but you'll be hard-pressed to find on-ear wireless noise-canceling headphones that are better.  

AKG N60NC Wireless
Enlarge Image
AKG N60NC Wireless

They fold up nicely into an included neoprene carrying case.

Sarah Tew/CNET
AKG N60NC Wireless
7.8

AKG N60NC Wireless

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 9Value 7
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