Some things stand the test of time. Competitors come and go, but the true icons remain. In this review, we check out the AKG K701. A pair of reference headphones with a long history as one of the best. But does it still stack up in a more crowded market? Absolutely.
The AKG K701 is a fantastic pair of open-backed studio-grade headphones. With a host of great features, it is among the best reference cans you can buy today.
The word audiophile gets thrown around a lot. But when it comes to the AKG K701, these are undoubtedly a great mid-priced option for self-proclaimed audiophiles.
Let’s begin with the most crucial part of any pair of headphones. No amount of marketing hype and buzzwords can sway my thoughts. But I am happy to report that the marketing does hold up as the truth for once. Something that is often not the case.
The sound quality of the AKG K701 studio headphones is impeccable. The first thing to note is the exceptional accuracy these display. The listed frequency response of 10Hz-39.8kHz is generous and broad. But more importantly, highly neutral. There are minimal dips and spikes across the entire range.
The AKG K701 is a very neutral-sounding set of headphones.
The highs present excellent transparency and detail without a hint of aggression. Not tinny in any way and not overly sharp. One of the biggest gripes I have with studio headphones is a sharp top-end. So I’m happy to see more restraint here.
The mids are equally impressive. Rich tones from the lower end and high clarity as you move further up. Vocals and instrumental compositions are delivered with precise intent.
The lows are also neutral and accurate. There isn’t any hype in the low end. For reference purposes, this is precisely what you want. Even for casual listening, these are pleasant. But if you like hyped bass, these will be a disappointment.
Accuracy is the name of the game here. No overtly colored curves that, while pleasing, mask the actual details of the music you are listening to.
As with many open-backed headphones, the soundstage is wide. There is plenty of room for the audio to find its place within the stereo field. Imaging is also very consistent with a clean phase response.
With a sensitivity rating of 105dB, these are also quite loud. They offer ample headroom for both listening to music and studio work.
There is plenty to like about the sound profile of the AKG K701. Refined and accurate audio that doesn’t fatigue your ears. Ideal for detailed analytical listening. If you care about listening to audio in its purest form, these are among the best mid-priced headphones.
The comfort level of the AKG K701 is another impressive highlight. If you spend hours in the studio or enjoy long listening sessions, these are a good choice.
The clamping force is light, and there is minimal pressure on your ears. But stability is a little loose so I wouldn’t suggest aggressive movements.
The ear padding is soft and comfortable.
The 3-D Form ear pads are also fantastic. They envelop your ears with precision. Soft and durable. Likewise, the open-back design provides maximum airflow to keep your ears from sweating. This combines perfectly with the earpads for a relaxed feel. There is also ample room for your ears.
The leather headband doesn’t offer a lot of padding. But it does self-adjust. At no point do these dig in aggressively on the top of your head.
The original production run featured a padded surface with distinct bumps. And to be honest, it often felt unnecessary and led to discomfort. I’m glad AKG took the feedback from buyers on board and refined the headband. It’s a significant improvement.
These are a bit bulky in appearance, but thankfully the lightweight frame doesn’t make these feel bulky on your head. Comfortable headphones that are a joy to wear.
Take a look at any broad selection of studio headphones, and you’ll find one thing in common. A sea of black cans with little character.
The AKG K701 throws this convention out the window and opts for a bold and loud aesthetic. The white and silver color scheme instantly draws the eye. The light grey earpads are an excellent choice. However, I do wonder why they decided to keep the brown leather for the headband.
A slick-looking pair of headphones with good technology baked in.
While these headphones are appealing to look at, some functional elements could be an issue.
The first is that these are pretty large and don’t fold. If you have any intentions of using these for travel, you’ll need to ensure you have a bag. Unfortunately, these also don’t come with a pouch. This clearly indicates that these are best for home use and not for travel.
Further supporting this is the included dock. It matches the clean silver appearance of the headphones and complements them nicely. A perfect display piece in your studio when not in use.
The other main issue is the cable. This long 9.8 ft (3 m) straight cable feels decent, but it is not detachable. I expect detachable cables and potentially even an alternate coiled or shorter cable as an option at this price point.
Hardwired cables can lead to damage. The strain placed on connections is one thing. But these headphones will also go flying off your head if you catch the cord on something. And one too many yanks or drops, and you can kiss your headphones goodbye.
These headphones also have a reasonable impedance level at 62 ohms. I’d still recommend a headphone amp to get the most out of these. But at this level, you can get away with one that isn’t overly powerful. And in a pinch, these will perform decently when connected to a laptop or smartphone.
Despite these quibbles, the AKG K701 is a stylish pair of open-back headphones. With the distinct focus on at-home use, some of these issues may not be a big deal. But for others, they could be dealbreakers.
I’ve already highlighted my concerns around the cable. But beyond that, these headphones are pretty robust. Especially considering how light these are.
The lightweight design stems from the heavy use of plastic throughout the build. Plastic might not inspire confidence, but the execution here is on point. It doesn’t feel cheap, and the finish is smooth and appealing.
The plastic build is lightweight yet durable.
The component quality is also high. The drivers are great. They feature revolutionary flat-wire voice coil technology and a patented AKG Varimotion ultra-precision 2-layer diaphragm. The padding and leather headband are equally impressive.
While these might not be the most rock-solid pair of headphones, they will last. As always take reasonable care with them and you shouldn’t encounter any problems. The long 2-year warranty also adds peace of mind.
The AKG K701 is not a cheap pair of headphones. But equally, it doesn’t sport the super high price points of some other audiophile-focused headphones. It comfortably sits in the midrange of options.
The performance to dollar comparison is impressive. The sound quality is hard to resist and gives more expensive headphones a run for their money.
The AKG K701 comes with a storage cradle.
But it does lack some of the bells and whistles that other headphones offer. No extra cables, no extra ear pads, and no pouch. However, the storage cradle is a nice inclusion.
Budget buyers will have to look elsewhere. But if you can afford these, they offer a reasonable price when matched up against other comparable headphones.
These headphones have been on the market for over a decade. In that time, they have gathered plenty of positive reviews. But more impressively is that they continue to collect favorable reviews even today. A testament to how great these headphones are.
Peaks And Dips
One of the characteristics of a neutral sound profile is the lack of dips and peaks. This means that throughout the entire frequency range, the response stays as close to the baseline as possible.
A neutral response is critical for making music but equally great for casual listening.
This is a hallmark of accurate headphones that translate the source material as precisely as possible. Some manufacturers tend to keep this information under wraps. But you can find independent test results across the web for a range of headphones.
Headphones like the AKG K701 display a tight grip over the baseline. This neutral or flat profile is critical to effective mixing and mastering. But it is also essential for any lover of music. You want to hear it in its purest form to appreciate a track fully. And a response that doesn’t display peaks and dips will deliver just that.
If you are looking for a pair of open-backed headphones, some excellent choices are available. Below we take a quick look at three alternatives worth exploring.
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Review
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is an excellent alternative to the K701. It is at a similar price point but offers detachable cables and fantastic sound quality.
- An exceptionally natural and pleasing sound profile. Very accurate.
- Supreme comfort thanks to the super-soft ear padding.
- The connecting wires do stick out, and they could catch and lead to damage.
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
Sennheiser HD 600 Review
Sennheiser produces an excellent range of high-quality studio headphones, and the HD 600 is one of the most recommended ones in the range.
- An ultra-flat response that is ideal for serious studio work.
- High build quality with replaceable components.
- Not as attractive compared to the K701.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 600 review for more detailed information.
Sennheiser HD 600
Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Review
The open-backed ATH-R70x is another excellent pair of open-backed headphones. Great sound profile, along with a reasonable price point.
- Fantastic clarity and detail with a wide soundstage.
- The unique wing-based headband offers incredible comfort.
- The high impedance demands a good headphone amp.
Read our full Audio-Technica ATH-R70x review for more detailed information.
Should You Buy?
The AKG K701 has been around for a long time, yet it still keeps up with more modern options. An impressive feat and a testament to the superb team at AKG.
While it is not a perfect pair of headphones, the fantastic sound profile is hard to resist. Warm, detailed, and very accurate. Ideal for day-to-day listening but also a good choice for serious studio work. If you want a stylish and capable pair of open-backed headphones, these are a great buy.