Dynamic over-ear headphones for both studio and home listening that give a balanced sound with very high quality for the price.
You have to admit, sometimes you find yourself thinking, “Hey, these headphones are expensive!” You can get to the point where you think that the phrase “audiophile on a budget” is an inherent contradiction.
Maybe the best thing about updated, modern headphones is that they lower the price of older models. Electronics, in general, have gotten less expensive over the years, unlike everything else, and manufacturers have had to reduce the prices of vintage products that are no longer newsworthy.
Some of these classics have become great deals.
It is also notable that producers in recording studios are often found to be using headphones that cost far less than audiophiles are used to paying.
Which brings us to the AKG K701.
The K701 have been around for a while, fifteen years or so, but they still hold up with their straightforward approach to fidelity. The overall sound is neutral without emphasis on any part of the spectrum.
Since 2014 they have been manufactured in China instead of Austria. This has not seemed to cause much of a stir in the headphone community, indicating that there has not been a reduction in quality.
Although often classified as a pair of studio headphones, they are not called that on the AKG website, unlike the K702 and their other close relative, the K712 Pro. They do provide excellent listening outside of a studio environment.
You can pretty much have it all with the AKG K701 without going broke.
These are known as the go-to headphones for soundstage in their price range. They only consistently come in second to the Sennheiser HD 800 (discontinued) and HD 800S which are over USD $1000 purchased new.
While their sound quality and price make the K701 very attractive, all is not perfect. The K701 are not convenient for portable use. Unlike the similar K702, the K701 do not have a detachable cable, and its length makes them unwieldy for easy transport.
As open-back headphones, the sound is somewhat leaky for use around other people if you are on public transport or working in an office.
AKG is owned by Harman International Industries, a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics. As a part of Samsung, AKG is one of the larger headphone manufacturers. They also produce microphones. Samsung also makes earbuds under its own name.
- Form: Open over-ear wired headphones
- Drivers: Dynamic 50 mm
- Impedance (Ohm): 62 Ohms
- Sensitivity (dB): 105 dB
- Frequency Response (Hz): 10 Hz- 39800 Hz
- Removable Cable: N
- Source Jack 3.5 mm with 6.3 screw-on adapter
- Contact: 3 pin
- Maximum Input Power: 200 mW
- Mic: N
- Weight (g): 235
- Cable Length: 3m
The AKG K701 come in a large, nondescript black box with a transparent lettered cover. The headphones rest in a plastic cutout sheet. Both box and sheet are very solid. There is no headphone case included.
In the box
- 1 X K701 Headphones
- 1 X Headphone stand
- 1 X 6.3 mm (¼”) to 3.5 mm (⅛”) adapter
These are good looking headphones that are white with a gray outer headband and pads. The white color makes them stand out in a headphone collection. The spacious amount of metal grid with white trim gives them a retro science-fiction look.
They are stylish, but rather large. They are more designed to look good behind a mixing board rather than for working out or walking. It is difficult to figure out what to do with the long 3m cable if you are not stationary.
They feature large gray pads with a black foam interior. You can see the drivers through the black covering. The left and right sides are indicated with large capital letters on the headband.
The cable is not foldable, but it is fairly thin and flexible, with a rubbery coating. Unfortunately, it is not detachable. It can be replaced by rewiring, but since the retail price of these phones is so low, that option might not be worthwhile for many users.
For their size, the AKG K701 are light. The foam ear pads, covered with velour, won’t cause any friction, but they may make you sweat a bit if you are in a hot room. The K701 have a padded leather headband that is supported by an outer thin plastic structure to hold it in place.
The metal band is very flexible, does not cause uncomfortable clamping, and should be large enough to fit over any sized ears. Their bulk might make them slip a bit with physical activity, so they are better suited for home or studio use.
Despite the bulk and flexibility, the build is solid, using quality materials.
AKG K701 Sound
The soundstage is quite spacious without loss of detail. Using an amp is not absolutely necessary, but it helps to bring out the fullness of sound that the AKG K701 can provide. They are smooth without a lot of warmth, but the accuracy of the presentation should compensate for that for most people.
Due to the neutral sound and high wearing comfort, they can be used for long sessions without listening fatigue.
The company’s website says, “AKG is the first manufacturer in the world to use revolutionary flat-wire technology in headphones, namely the K701.” It also mentions the “patented Varimotion two-layer diaphragm for sparkling highs and accurate bass response.”
Because these headphones have been around so long, these features are not that revolutionary anymore, but it shows that a lot of thought went into the design, and the listening experience supports that impression.
The bass is not powerful, but it is clear and fairly well-defined. There is a certain lack of crispness and punch, but it is more than adequate for this price range.
These will appeal more to listeners of jazz and classical music than those who like boom in the bottom end or amplified or processed bass. You might not hear as much punch, but you can easily hear an acoustic bassist moving his fingers up and down the fretboard.
The AKG K701 gives you an upfront midrange with prominent vocals. The neutrality brings out the midrange without any distraction from the bass or treble. Individual instruments can be easily distinguished. They are designed for hearing everything in a recording. On vocals, that includes subtle differences in breathing and enunciation.
On classical recordings, you can hear the players in the back of the orchestra. Other headphones do a better job with these features, but they will cost at least twice as much.
There is no pronounced sparkle in the highs, but they are clean and clear. There is a sharp, upfront feel to the treble that does not dominate the overall sound.
Some listeners might be looking for excitement with immediate power to the highs. These are not the headphones for that, having balance without any artificial compensation at either end of the range.
Where to Buy
At the time this review was written, the AKG K701 were selling for well under USD $200 new, which makes them an extraordinarily good buy. They used to be priced over twice as much.
The AKG K702 are almost the same price, however, from third-party vendors. The two sound almost exactly the same, which makes the K702 a better buy because they have a detachable, replaceable cable.
Strangely, on the AKG website, the K701 are selling for nearly twice as much as the K702. That may indicate that the K701 will eventually be discontinued, and it has been suggested that the newer K702 were originally introduced to solve the problem of the long, non-detachable cable.
The longevity of the AKG K701 is no surprise. They are more of a bargain than ever. The combination of a wide soundstage and detailed presentation make them one of the best choices in their price range.