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When Samsung first announced their new Galaxy Note 9 they had a promo where if you pre ordered their new phone they would throw in a free pair of AKG N60 NC On ear headphones, a $300 value… or you could get 15,000 V-Bucks. And for those who don’t know, AKG is to Samsung like Beats is to Apple. But now we have the AKG N700NC’s, a pair of Over Ear ANC headphones that competes directly against the Beats Studio 3, Bose QC35’s and Sony 1000XM3. But after getting to use the new AKG N700NC’s I would honestly prefer to take the V-Bucks, over these ANC headphones.
The AKG N700NC’s were announced at IFA 2018, some how managed to win a “Best Product Award” and retails for $350. And just to let you know right off the bat, these headphones rank pretty low compared to all of the other $350 ANC headphones I’ve reviewed so far. And I don’t want to come off as some Sony fan boy, or that im secretly sponsored by Sony, but if youre in the market for a pair premium ANC headphones, I highly recommend the Sony 1000XM3’s over these headphones. Links too these will be in description below, and if you use the links it really helps out the channel.
First, I want to address the carrying case cause I never thought I would out right dislike a something as simple as a carrying case. It huge compared to most other carrying cases you see these days. You can also only store the headphones inside in a specific way which always takes me a few tries to get right. And I also hate how the netting inside always lets the accessories get loose so everytime I go to take these headphones out of their case the cables fall out. Now the cables that come included with these headphones are pretty decent. They’re both braided and you even get an airplane adapter. But AKG decided to use a 2.5 millimeter audio jack on their headphones instead of a 3.5 millimeter audio jack… now this isn’t a BIG problem, but what is a big problem is that AKG decided to use a Micro USB port for charging instead of a USB-C port. Now like I’ve said in the past, if your product is coming out in late 2018 we want to see USB C charging. Especially since Samsung owns AKG, If I had a galaxy device (but I don’t cause of Touch Wiz) I would want to be able to charge my Phone and Headphones with the same charging cable. This is one of the reasons I like my AirPods so much And its the same criticism a lot of other people had when the Beats Studio 3’s were released.
But now let's talk about something more important, and thats the design and build quality of these headphones. Design wise, I think these headphones look very bad. Everybody thats releasing headphones these days like Sony, Skullcandy, and Microsoft are aiming for a thin and low profile headband and ear cup design. But AKG decided to do the complete opposite. The headband it self is thick and wide and when you wear these headphones it makes your head look huge. Which over all just make these headphones look extremely dated compared to its sleeker counterparts. Now I know design is subjective and im willing to bet someone watching might actually like the industrial look these headphones are rocking. But I just find it very weird that the N700NC’s don’t share the same design language found on the AKG N60NC’s which were released at the same time.
And when it comes to these headphone’s build quality, im not impressed what so ever. First I want to address the media controls on the left ear cup. Now besides being on the left ear cup, their layout is very good. They’re very easy to find and very easy to tell apart. The volume up and center buttons have very good tactile feed back but for some reason the volume down button is complete mush. But my quality control issues don’t end there. Even though these ear cups are supposed to swivel… the left ear cups has a lot of friction where as the right ear cup feels a little loose. And if you look closely you can even see that the body panels are beginning to chafe. Now when it comes to adjusting the headband you’ll notice its also very loose and there’s even a lot of wiggling going on between the top portion of the headband and the portion that holds on to the ear cup. The only redeeming qualities I like about these headphones is that I do like the hit of Alcantara underneath the headband, the faux leather on the ear cups feels very nice and over all these headphones fit very well. Their ear cups are more spacious than the Sony 1000XM3, but not as spacious as the Bose QC35’s and these headphones also don’t have a lot of clamping force, making them Big Head Approved. But the design and build quality of these headphones alone would make me not consider getting these headphones.
Now when it comes to tech specs, these headphones have an advertised battery life of 23 hours with ANC turned on. And thats not bad, anywhere around 25 hours is average. Cause for comparison, the surface headphones only have a 15 hour battery life. But unfortunately these headphones don’t have fast charging which is quickly becoming a standard feature on ANC headphones these days.
When it comes to wireless connectivity, these headphones are using bluetooth 4.2, which I feel is little wired since AKG is now a Samsung company they would be trying to use bluetooth 5.0. these headphones can also only be connected to one device at a time which sucks if you’re a power user and if you’re an iPhone user these headphones have a considerable amount of latency making them not the best for watching videos on your phone.
And now let's talk about the active noise cancelation on these headphones. In short, it does a whole lot of nothing. Now there is a calibration process for the ANC on these headphones but unfortunately I didn’t see any noticeable improvements after doing the ANC Calibration. Now the ANC on these headphones is the adaptive kind meaning that you cant specify how much ANC you want, they just adjust it on their own… very similar to the beats studio 3.
In general, the ANC on the N700NC’s does a very average job of blocking out constant low frequency sounds like road noise. And in general, ANC headphones are designed to block out constant low frequency sounds. But what separate good ANC headphones from great ANC headphones is how they handle random high frequency sounds like chatter. From the ANC test you can clearly hear that the N700NC’s have a really hard time blocking out chatter. And when it comes to cabin pressure of the ANC on these headphones, its not as bad as the Bose QC35’s but it is noticeable. You just never forget it's there.
Like most other ANC headphones these days, the AKG N700NC’s also have an Ambient mode and a method for talking to people without having to take your headphones off which you can toggle with this button found under the power button. The only catch is that you can only have one of these features turn on on these headphones. Ambient aware will pump in all of the sounds around you while you’re playing music giving the headphones an open back effect.
And this feature is good if you’re walking around in the city. My only problem with this feature is that it pumps in EVERYTHING. Both the Sony 1000XM3 and Microsoft Surface Headphones have this type of feature, but they’re smart enough so that if a loud random sound happens… like say a police siren rolls by, a dog starts barking, or a car back fires they’ll turn off the Ambient feature and shield you from that jump scare. But not the AKG’s, which I feel is kind of sloppy. Theres also the talkthru feature which will lower the volume of your music and pump in the ambient sound so you can talk to someone without taking off your headphones
And I like that these headphones has both of these features, I just wish I didn’t have to choose between the two features. Cause depending on your situation or environment you're going to want to use one over the other. And like I mentioned earlier, I wish the Ambient Mode on the AKG’s was implemented better… and theres a chance AKG could address that in a future software update.
And finally lets talk about these headphone’s sound quality. These headphones are made for people who prefer a neutral sound signature. If you’re looking for bass and want something to rattle your head these aint it. But still, the bass does get deep and sputtering hasn’t been an issue with these headphones, which is good. The soundstage and instrument separation on these headphones is also good and distortion is almost none existent. And through the AKG app you can go in and adjust the EQ on these headphones as well. But just keep in mind, even if you raise the bass on these headphones all the way up you’re not going to be getting that kick you’re looking for. These headphones are made for a neutral listening experience. And even after all of the negative things I’ve said about these headphones so far, I will admit they sound pretty good.
Now overall, even though the AKG N700NC’s do sound pretty good for neutral sounding headphones… I just find them very hard to recommend in this increasingly competitive ANC headphone market. From a design and build quality standpoint they look and feel like something from 2014… especially since they’re using a micro USB port when all of the Galaxy phones AKG headphones are advertised next to are using a USB C port. Even though they do fit well and I can see myself wearing them for hours without any problems on a commute, their Active Noise Cancelation is on par with other $200 ANC headphones I’ve tested, not the $350 ANC headphones that these headphones are competing against. And personally… I have no idea how these headphones won that EISA best product award.