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AKG K 702: Headphones that don't sound like headphones?

AKG's new super headphone, the K 702, has a remarkably spacious sound.

The K 702's oversize ear cushions are super comfy. AKG

Let's face it, headphones always sound like headphones--that is--they never really sound like speakers.

Headphones "squirt" sound directly into your ears, but the new AKG K 702's much-larger-than-average earcups allow the drivers to be placed farther away from your ears, so the sound seems less direct. This headphone was designed for recording engineers and studio use, and the sound quality is right up there with some of the best headphones ever made. Priced at $540, it's not cheap, but it's not at all out of line for what you get. This blog is a preview of my upcoming full CNET review.

I found the K 702's expansive sound hugely appealing; that's why it sounds less like a headphone and more like speakers in a room. Not the same as, but less headphone-like than most.

The AKG K 702 is, in fact, the professional version of the consumer K 701 model that came out a couple of years ago. That one received raves from the audiophile press, including me, so naturally I had even higher hopes for the K 702, but it's essentially the same design as the K 701. The K 702 is matte dark blue (looks black to me) instead of gloss white and features a detachable cable.

Thanks to the way the K 702's real leather/metal wire headband distributes the weight of the 'phones evenly across your head, and those large, extra soft velour covered cushions, you can wear these headphones for hours at a time and they'll remain nice and comfy. Build quality, durability, fit and finish are all first rate.

I've made the point in previous blogs, but to get the best sound from high-end headphones plug them into a high-quality headphone amplifier. Sure, the K 702 sounded fine plugged into my Onkyo SR-TX 805 AV receiver, but the headphone was sweeter and prettier sounding with my Woo Audio WA6 SE tube amp ($1,050). Then again, the K 702's sound over my ancient 15GB iPod wasn't too shabby.

Listening over the Woo amplifier to "Tumbling Dice" from the Rolling Stones Shine A Light concert Blu-ray, the K 702 keyed into the sound of each instrument with remarkable clarity. That is, each of the two guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, Mick Jagger, and the background singers were each heard as distinct sound sources. The crowd's cheers were farther away, coming from outside the headphones.

To hear this sort of detail from speakers you'd need to buy very high-end models, and that would cost many, many times more than the K 702's $540 retail price.

My upcoming CNET review will have more detailed info on the K 702.