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AKG Q 701 review: AKG Q 701

The AKG Q 701 headphones deliver superb sound quality with a high-end clarity that's all too rare. But we were slightly underwhelmed by their bass response.

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Andrew Lanxon
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Andrew Lanxon

Lead Editor, CNET Advice, Europe; Lead Photographer, Europe

Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.

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8.3

AKG Q 701

The Good

Superb sound quality; comfortable; detachable cable and a spare in the box.

The Bad

Slightly underwhelming bass performance.

The Bottom Line

The AKG Q 701 headphones deliver superb sound quality with a high-end clarity that's all too rare. But we were slightly underwhelmed by their bass response.

Nobody in full possession of their mental faculties would expect a pair of headphones with Justin Bieber's face on the box to be any good. But Quincy Jones, the producer of Michael Jackson's Thriller album, is a different matter. As he's championing AKG's high-end Q 701 headphones, we expected these cans to sound pretty special. You can pick them up in a white, black or eyeball-melting lime version for around £400 online.

AK-Gee, these feel nice

The 701s look similar to their K 702 siblings, which we reviewed in 2009. The large earcups may not be quite as comfortable as those of the Audio Technica ATH-W1000s -- those earcups are as comfy as having two puppies sleeping on your face -- but they're still wearable for hours at a time. The metal and leather headband also fights for the cause of comfort, adjusting smoothly to accommodate even the largest and most balloon-like of heads.

The 701s are open-back headphones -- the outside of the earcups is made from a plastic mesh that allows the sound to come through. As such, you probably won't want to use these headphones when surrounded by co-workers, unless you enjoy being punched in the face. While the plastic mesh feels fairly sturdy, it also feels disappointingly cheap.

The earcups proudly proclaim the headphones' Austrian provenance.

The 701s come with a detachable cable. AKG also supplies a spare, which is a lovely touch, since cables can wear out far quicker than the headphones themselves.

Sounds like love

The 701s claim to be premium reference headphones, so we expected some serious audio delights to ripple through our brains. Thankfully, we weren't disappointed. Vanessa Carlton's beautiful Home was reproduced with such excellent clarity that we came over all romantic and proposed marriage to her via email. She hasn't replied yet.

Similarly, we were delighted by the details we could pick out in Sigur Ros' Staralfur. Closing our peepers, we almost felt we were listening to the string sections being played live in a concert hall. Even at high volumes, there was minimal distortion.

The headband slides into place smoothly, making these a comfortable set of cans.

The 701s don't perform quite as well with bass-heavy music. The deep bass of the Prodigy's Take Me to the Hospital didn't cause our skulls to rumble in quite the same way as it did when played through the Sennheiser HD 650s, for example. While bass is still punchy and clear, we wouldn't recommend these headphones for fans of deep, pounding dance tracks. Rather, the 701s are a great option for listening to classical or acoustic music, as they handle mid and high frequencies with aplomb.

Note that you also probably shouldn't consider these headphones if you only listen to low-bit-rate MP3s via an iPod. These headphones are built to reproduce high-quality audio at a minimum of 320Kbps or, ideally, in a lossless format.

Conclusion

The AKG Q 701s are a fine set of headphones, and Quincy Jones has made a sound decision in associating himself with them. Bass isn't their forte, but their crystal-clear mid and high frequencies make most music a delight to listen to, and they're comfortable enough so that you won't have to give your noggin a rest every half an hour.

Edited by Charles Kloet