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AKG N700NC review: Serious audio chops to compete with Sony and Bose

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The Good The AKG N700NC sounds excellent for a wireless noise-canceling headphone, is built sturdily and is comfortable to wear. Its noise-canceling is quite effective and there's an Ambient Aware feature that lets you hear the outside world. Battery life is decent.

The Bad Not quite as comfortable as competing models from Sony and Bose. Its case is a little big.

The Bottom Line This is an excellent noise-canceling headphone, but if Samsung-owned AKG wants to see it on more people's heads, it's going to have to lower its price to create some separation from top models from Bose and Sony.

8.1 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 9
  • Value 7

Here's some merger and acquisition news you may have missed: two years ago, Samsung bought audio brand Harman Kardon. Harman had previously bought AKG, the Austrian audio company known primarily for headphones and mics. That makes Samsung the parent company of AKG, which is part of the reason why Galaxy smartphones now ship with AKG earphones.

The AKG N700NC isn't a Samsung headphone per se, but it marks the company's entry into the highly competitive premium noise-canceling headphone arena. This is where you'll find such models as the Bose QuietComfort 35 IISony WH-1000XM3Beats Studio3 Wireless, Microsoft Surface Headphones and Sennheiser PXC 550. All these headphones, including the AKG N700NC, carry a list price of $350. (The N700NC costs £309 in the UK. It isn't yet available in Australia, where that would convert to about AU$540.)

The AKG N700NC costs the same as other premium noise-canceling headphones.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The N700NC is a worthy contender. For starters it sounds excellent. It's right up there with the Sony in terms of sound quality, which is saying a lot. With memory foam earcups, it's comfortable, although not quite as comfortable as the Sony or the Bose. It's also slightly heavier, weighing in at 9.2 ounces (261 grams; the Bose is the lightest at 235 grams).

Despite the fact that the headphone is mostly plastic, the build quality seems good. There's a metal hinge and the headphone both folds up and folds flat. I thought the way the headphones folded onto their side made the case a little too bulky.

There's adequate padding at the top of the headband, with a strip of Ultrasuede material that's similar to what you'll find on the Bose headband. The headphones don't put too much pressure on the crown of your head though they do fit a little snugly.

Some headphones, such as those from Sony and Microsoft, have touch controls. This AKG does not. The track and volume control are on the left earcup. Hold down the volume up to advance a track forward; hold down the volume down button to go back a track. The small pause/play button between the volume buttons also doubles as an answer/end button for calls and enables your voice assistant (Siri or Google Assistant) when you double tap it. 

My only complaint would be that that the buttons are a little small and sometimes I had to run my finger over them a couple of times to make sure I was pressing the right button.

On the right earcup is a power button along with the "Smart Ambient" button. Via the AKG app (for Android and iOS) you can assign the button to activate an "Ambient Aware" mode, which turns off noise canceling and lets sound into the headphones, or a "TalkThru" mode. The latter mode mutes whatever you're listening to, turns on Ambient Aware and lets you talk to someone while wearing the headphones. It would be useful if you were on a plane and wanted to talk to a flight attendant without taking your headphones off.

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