AKG’s Q701 headphones, endorsed by Quincy Jones, are a slightly modified version of the K701 headphones they have been making for years. Fortunately for those of us who aren’t used to paying $300-400 for a pair of headphones, they have recently come down in price. Mine cost $169 from Amazon, compared to the $450 you can still pay for the K701 at some music retailers. In this review I’ll explain why you might want to pay this much for headphones, and see how they measure up to the price.
The first thing you notice about the Q701 headphones is their retro look. They have very large earpieces connected by a plastic frame and a headband that moves up and down with elastics. This allows them to automatically adjust to fit your head. Despite being made in China they feel very solid and high-quality.
While these are nearly identical to the K701 headphones in appearance, the distinctive Quincy Jones features include green stitching on the faux-leather headband, Quincy’s signature on top of the headband, and a green audio cable that is detachable using a mini-XLR connector. In fact, two green cables are included. One is long, about 10 feet, and the other is ridiculously long, about 20 feet.
The Q701 headphones are available in three colors. I got the understated black version. There is also a black-and-white version, and one in a unique bright green that matches the audio cables.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: If you’re used to cheap headphones, or even expensive consumer headphones like Beats, these will be a surprise, and possibly a disappointment. This is because these are studio headphones, and they have a flat frequency response–this means that, as much as possible, they play low sounds and high sounds at equal volume. Depending on what kind of music you listen to, this may not be flattering–Beats headphones, for example, make most Rock and Hip-Hop music sound better by exaggerating the bass.
These, on the other hand, are meant for use in recording studios. If you listen to them while making music, they will give you an honest picture of what it sounds like–exactly what you need. If you can make music sound good on these, chances are it will sound great on other headphones, stereos, or car systems.
Another thing that makes these different is their open design. There are holes on the outside of the earpieces, allowing the sound of the headphones to escape into the room and the sounds in the room to reach your ears. This makes them sound more like listening to speakers–the music sounds like it is playing in the room, not playing in your head as with closed headphones.
Along with musicians and engineers, serious gamers should enjoy these headphones–because they’re so clear at all frequencies, they’ll make it very obvious if something is sneaking up behind your character. They would also be great for fans of less bass-heavy music genres, like Classical or Jazz. Personally I think techno and dance music sound great on them too.
Comfort and Ergonomics
As far as anyone has been able to determine, the Q701 headphones use the same audio components as their more expensive siblings, although they are made in China instead of Austria. Along with the audio quality, the construction of the headphones is very good. The plastic bands that connect the earpieces seem fragile at first, but they have survived being dropped a few times with no trouble.
Some people find the fit of these headphones annoying, and I can see why–while they don’t press against your ears like normal headphones, they do press against the top of your head. This is due to the elastic that adjusts the fit, and I’m sure it will press less after being used for a while. But if you are bald or have a sensitive scalp, you might find them uncomfortable at first. The good news for me is that they do fit–I have an unusually large head, so most hats and many headphones don’t fit very well.
The one thing I don’t like is the 10-foot-long green audio cable. While it works fine, I find a long straight cable is always getting under things. I’ve rolled over it with my desk chair several times. Fortunately, the cable is detachable and AKG sells a nice black, coiled cable for $39 that should solve this problem.
If you’re looking for a good quality pair of open-backed headphones for a studio, or if you’re a fan of Classical music or Jazz, or if you spend lots of time playing games on headphones, these are a great choice, and they’re far better than others in their price range. While you can get decent headphones for a much lower price, the Q701s are well worth the extra money.