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Hallmarked upon their initial release as an incredible feat of Austrian engineering, the AKG K701 headphones have been a frequent point of discussion in the hi-fi community. So just how would they compare with other masters of the industry? I was excited to jump right in when I first heard about them. Initial Impressions If you are relatively new to the audiophile scene, the size of most high-end headphones will demand notice. These headphones are certainly no exception there. They are openback headphones, with the body composed mostly of plastic for light weight. The stark white color is probably a love or hate sort of thing. The plug is 1/4 inch by default, but comes with an 1/8 inch adapter. They also come with a stand consisting of a plastic frame and foam floor cut out to allow the headphones to stand on it perfectly. They even cut out the back left side for the cord. Their Sound In a word: detail. These headphones are amazingly clear and precise. Voices are incredibly present, snare drums are a slap in the face, and highs make themselves brazenly open. Well-recorded vocal tracks will seemingly put you right in front of the singer, and the impressive sound stage will allow you to close your eyes and envision the entire band. These headphones are on the bright side, however. Some will find this a boon, but others may find this fatiguing for extended listening. Their ruthlessly honest character can also make them sound a little flat or mechanical rather than warm. Probably the one real area I found any flaws is that the K701s are pretty light on the bass. I'm certainly not a bass-head listener concerned only with muddy thump, but the sheer lack of presence I found with kick drums and bass guitars was disengaging. I could listen and appreciate the music for its artistic merits, but I couldn't jam to it. When you examine frequency graphs at sites such as headphone.com, you will see that objectively there is indeed quite a roll off in the lower end compared to other headphones of this caliber. I couldn't call this review complete without mentioning another of the most notable things you'll read about these headphones just about anywhere: the extensive burn-in. Many say that a standard usage of 20-80 hours breaks in the driver to its maximum audio capacity. Most
users agree these headphones require a few hundred hours, likely due to their flat coil design that makes them, well, tighter. Out of the box they sounded a bit harsh on the upper end to me, which loosened up with time. I kept waiting for the bass to become more prominent, but alas, that stayed pretty even. Comfort The cloth ear pads feel nice against the head without getting too hot during extended use. Their plastic frame makes them light, which you'd think would make them comfy on the top of the head. The headband bears surprisingly little padding, consisting of a bubbly-rivet shaped pattern across it. It's not nearly soft enough, and seems to focus a lot of the wearing pressure on the crown of the head. This caused me a lot of uncomfortable late night listening sessions. I did find that bending and twisting the headband helped a bit, making it slightly more 'V' shaped. This distributed the weight better, but still fell short of what I would call comfortable especially at this price point. Thoughts and Conclusion For the price these are a solid choice, especially for the entry-level audiophile. They are a bit less pricey than the other "big boys", but you'll pay for that in comfort and bass impact. The K701s, not unlike other top-end contenders, will need proper amplification. These are not intended for iPod listening or to be run straight out of a jack on a PC, for example. The standard 1/4 inch plug isn't ideal for this, either. If you have a rounder head you may find these more comfortable than I did, but beware that they are an open design. This means they'll leak sound and can potentially bother anyone nearby. Outside noise is also allowed in, which can be a plus or an annoyance depending on your situation. Are these headphones decent for what they are? Yes. They're a good headphonedon't get me wrong. I do think that if you've got the wallet for this level of audio, however, you'd be best served to spend a little more and get yourself another brand with a warmer and more involving sound.
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