Quincy Jones is a musical legend! If he puts his name on a product, one can expect this product to be of the highest quality.
In my search for the best headphones for the bucks,I was looking into buying a headphone from AKG to see what that famous brand has to offer. What decided me for this model was the endorsement by Quincy, alongside with the nicely discounted price.
I have had the phone since just about a week. I have already started to take it through a burn-in phase but right out of the box, the set impressed me and also my colleagues. They have had a few occasions to try the headphones I buy (I own more than a dozen) and they told me this set impressed them the most.
So what's to like?
Let's start by the first impression when putting them on. They feel extra light. The cups are huge, so is the set; yet the weight is not really felt. The pressure is not on the ears but around it and it is highly bearable. I almost feel that my medium head and ears are too small for this headphone.
It is still a bit early to judge the quality of the sound but yet, the first impression was of detail, clarity and more specifically of a large soundstage.
I have read on some other models that the bass is lacking; not here... Fans of exagerated bass should keep on searching, actually, I could advise them the Ultrasone HFI-780S which has a powerful and still clean bass. In any case, the Q701 do provide a nice bass which I believe will get better with time.
I rejected previously the Sennheiser HD-595 because of the lack of bass and the open design and yet, the Q701 are very reminiscent of this model. Same amazing comfort, same leaking sound but better bass, much better bass...
Right now, I put them in competition with the ATH-A900 for first place in my collection.
- Excellent sound overall. I will leave it to the audiophiles to expand on that.
- Very nice soundstage.
- Very natural sound.
- Very comfortable.
- Two detachable cables.
- Not meant for portable systems, unless you have a headphone amp.
- Leak sound quite a lot in both directions. Better use alone and indoor.
- Almost impossible to wear large frame glasses in the same time.
- May need up to 400 hours for burn-in.
- Bulky (but still light)
- Audio Technica ATH-A900 (both as comfortable, similar sound qualities and performance, open design). Not portable outside.
- Ultrasone HFI-780S(much less comfortable, more bass, more sibilant,more portable, less soundstage, closed design)is more oriented for DJ.
- Sennheiser HD-595 (As comfortable, worse bass, open)
- Sony MDR-V6 (comfortable, sound quality excellent but still one notch below, very easy to drive with Iphone but coil cable make it better indoor, closed design).
A very good buy for indoor use and with a good amplifier. I have to push my amp significantly higher to get the same sound level as the other headphones I own. As others users said, beware of the 68 Ohms, this set feels like a 250 Ohms maybe.
While listening to music with some other models, I can have the feeling that the singer is singing inside my head. With the AKG-Q701, it feels like the singer is in the room with me. There is a feeling of lack of agressivity coming from these headphones, making them maybe less tiring. In any case, it provides for an excellent listening experience.
Yet, for the moment (prior to a serious burn-in) the ATH-A900, for 2/3rd of the price is delivering better and is a closed design. I am expecting the AKG to start shining soon and surpass the ATH-A900. I will definitely post some updates after the burn-in.
As a final note, it is always important to remember that the perceived quality will be of the weakest link. People who listen to MP3 on a phone or small music player should not expect high end headphones to perform as good as they are advertised.
It is actually a waste of money to go for high end headphones for use with highly compressed mp3 and no amp. The results may even be worse than with cheap headphones because all the defects and artifacts in the recording will appear with good phones.
That's it, I think I have burned them in well enough. I must be around 120 hours of use with them. These headphones have become the best of my collection.
I would still describe them as demanding and rewarding in the same time. Demanding because of the amplification needed to power these cans but rewarding because they sound simply marvelous. I was listening to the Pink Floyd Pulse concert, then some Vivaldi yesterday and the precision was simply overwhelming. Perfect rendition of the recordings, excellent soundstage.
Some may find them too analytical or lacking emotions but not me.
I am using them all the time. To listen to music, to play video games (excellent localization) and watch movies...
One huge drawback for someone who owns many headphones... After using the AKG Q701 for a while (and after burn-in); even the ATH-A900 sounds muddy in comparison... My Ultrasone HFI-780S seem harsh and without any finesse...
These headphones must have now more than 300 hours of use and they are shining better than ever. When I want to carry them around to give a demo to someone, I have to use a headphone amplifier. I am currently using a FiiO E-11 which works well enough with it.
When I give a demo, using a binaural recording coming from the Ultrasone Demo CD, the listeners never fail to turn their head in the direction of the sound. Almost every one is bluffed by the quality of this headphone and its head stage.
At this stage, the only headphone I found capable of rivaling this one in this price range is the Beyer Dynamic DT880 Premium. It is slightly more expensive though.
I wanted to add something after reading some reviews on the subject. I am what you could call a careless user. I mean that I leave the kids use these headphones when playing on their computer. Age 8 and 12. So far, the headphones are as good as new. I carry them often in my backpack when travelling and I have no issue with their build quality whatsoever.
Also, I would not recommend their use in a plane because they leak sound, specifically when amped up. So by consideration to my neighbors, I would rather use an in-ear set.
To this day, the Q701 are still my best headset.
I am still using the AKG Q701 on a daily basis. These headphones still sound fantastic. I can be playing video games, watching movies or listening to music, nothing seems to phase them out. I also happen to have noticed an increase in the price as compared to when I did buy them. So the value is really not going down at all.
These headphones are still going strong. However, I have to report that I found their better in the AKG K702 65th anniversary edition. The latter are almost identical to the Q701 but have more bass. I am amazed to admit it but the overall result is even better. I actually cried while listening to Vivaldi the 4 seasons and Frank Sinatra (How insensitive) when I first tested them without any burn-in. I have not reviewed the K702 yet but I plan to do it soon and the point of comparison will be the Q701.
If you do not have almost $400 to spend, the Q701 are still my best recommendation...
It has been almost a year since my last update. The Q701 are still unchanged. I have to say that with the time, I realize that they are not "inferior" per say to the 65th anniversary edition, just different. In some ways, I think they may even give a larger head stage than the 65th. In conclusion, these are still worth every star they get.
on February 6, 2012
[UPDATE 02/2014]: It's confirmed on Head-fi that some (all?) copies of these headphones are now manufactured in China instead of Austria and there is a noticeable difference in sound quality. There are similar reports on here as well. Personally, that would have deterred me from buying them. Do your research and consider that a factor in shopping around if it's important to you.[/UPDATE]
So everyone around me is getting Beats by Dre. I tried a pair and thought "Well, this sounds nice." Thus I began my hunt for my first set of stylish 'cans' that sound great. After tirelessly picking through reviews on every corner of the internet, my search led me to the Q701's. (And led me to stay far away from the Beats.) And I am very glad it did! They're less expensive, and sound better for my preference! I purposely waited a few months to write a review so make sure I could thoroughly experience them. I'm no audiophile (yet?) but I've learned some things. So take this as a detailed, "not quite yet an audiophile" review. :) If anything is inaccurate, please let me know!
Get these if:
You listen to all genre's of music. Not just bass.
Are willing to buy/carry around an external amplifier.
Have room on your hard drive/mp3 player for high quality music (300mb to 700mb per album.)
Want stylish headphones.
DON'T get these if:
You intend on using them with 128k bitrate mp3's or youtube.
If you want 'hella bass' in your headphones.
If you want high portability.
AMPLIFIER: Now I ordered a HeadRoom Total Bithead Amp with mine, but I DO NOT recommend you do the same unless you intend on using the DAC a lot (Digital Analog Converter, USB connectivity to a computer, saves batteries, improves sound quality.) I highly recommend getting/making a cmoy amplifier if these are entry headphones for you, as they were for me. A cmoy amp is around $40 on a certain auction site that starts with an 'e' and ends with 'bay.' Unlike the HeadRoom which is $100 more than a cmoy. Personally, I stay away from FiiO products. These headphones will work without an amplifier, but will not be loud enough to be enjoyable. Be sure to be aware of the dangers on Tinnitus with loud music!
SOUND: I put on a playlist of different genre's cranked the amp up, and put them in my t-shirt drawer at night. During the day I listened to them. After the 'burn in' process (look this up if you're considering buying these) there is a significant difference. I noticed a difference after a couple weeks of nightly burning in. Before burn in, I can only describe it as sounding flat. Wearing in the drivers gives them more depth. There isn't a more pleasurable experience than these headphones immersing you in music. The term "Music, how it's meant to be heard." would be more appropriate in regards to these headphones. In my case it's Pink Floyd, Ultimate Chillout, Deathcab for Cutie, Arve Henriksen, Beethoven, The Shins, and Nick Drake to name a few. You will hear many imperfections of mp3's files and youtube videos (even 720p and "HD".) The frequency response is 10Hz to 40KHz, which means may hear many small and insignificant sounds you have never heard before in music that you've probably listened to for years. I'll admit, they do not offer great bass. These are "reference class" headphones meant to replicate sounds as they were recorded, not over-saturate any bass in a track. The only format of mp3 that is somewhat bearable with these phones is 320kbps. But you wouldn't want to settle with anything other than lossless, in my biased opinion.
PORTABILITY: These headphones aren't exactly portable. They don't fold up or have a fancy carrying case. They're designed more with a studio setting in mind. You can travel with them. But they are HUGE. And as with all good headphones, they're NOT noise canceling. With this said, don't let that be intimidating. You can "clamp" them on your temples comfortably and they're relatively out of the way while on-the-go. As for noise canceling, given a good amplifier, they are definitely loud enough to reduce outside noise. (Once again, research Tinnitus!) [UPDATE!] I got a chance to wear them on a flight from Eastern Asia to Europe to the west coast of the US. It was a very long flight. I wasn't near a turbine, but they did a decent job drowning out the ambient noise of the plane. I can say that though they're not noise canceling, that shouldn't be an issue on flights.
On a side note, the cables are pretty long! It comes with two cables, a long (6 meters) and short (3 meters) cable. Even the shorter cable can get in the way if you're walking around with them. Also the cable is a "mini-XLR" cable, which I believe is somewhat proprietary. Therefore if you were to break a cable, it wouldn't be easy or inexpensive to replace.
COMFORTABLENESS: The ear pads are extremely comfy, and sometimes I swear they even keep my ears warm :) At extended periods, however, I get a small pain on the top of my head. I can reposition them and it goes away. But this is about the only discomfort I get with extended usage.
BUILD: I'll admit that these seem a bit fragile. They're lightweight, and seem like they'd break after being sat on even once. I definitely treat them delicately. Don't want to push my luck. The innovative pulley system makes them effortlessly adjustable to different head sizes. It also seems like it could break easily if neglected. Lastly, I like the green stylish color. It's part of the reason I got them. You'll definitely get noticed if you're walking through the mall with these- more so than with Beats. :^P
Tip: If you're new to all this and will be using these with an iPod, then open itunes, and look around in preferences and set it to import with "Apple Lossless." AAC or Mp3 generally won't cut it with these cans. I prefer FLAC, but Apple Lossless (ALAC) works with iPods and Apple devices if that's your fancy. Don't convert mp3 to ALAC, you have to rip all of your CDs again.
**Not trying to completely bash on Beats by Dre, they're great headphones if you want heavy bass and emphasized low's. These headphones aren't rich in bass, but the all around sound is replicated as it's meant to be heard. Primarily the mid's and high's.**
This is all I have for now, I'll edit it if I have more to add.
[UPDATE 08/2014] Just popping in to brag a bit. With getting on Spotify, I have to say I have completely rediscovered these phones. I'm big into ambient and downtempo stuff, personally, and these cans have definitely delivered! I don't use them portable at all anymore and just stick to home use and use in-ear phones out and about. I still use them with my Total Bithead amp but also hooked up my old Creative Sound Blaster Live 24-bit External - Sound card - external - USB, which delivers a beautiful, full sound. Now, more than ever, I can't recommend them more!
on July 16, 2012
I'm addicted to audio and did have a pair of Sennheiser HD555 prior to purchasing AKG Q701.
The Sennheiser was OK, but didn't quite cut it for a lot of music I'm listening to.
I've compared Sennheiser HD555, HD600, HD650, Beyerdynamics DT880 and AKG Q701 on a wide range of tracks, from classical to jazz to rock to blues.
All Sennheisers sounded similar, progressively better from model to model, but not drastically better.
DT880 lacked mid range, leaving the sound lifeless.
AKG Q701 hit the sweet spot - it has the widest sound stage amongs them all, crisp and clear, have good base (not overly bassy though) and are very comfortable.
It shines with blues, jazz, classical music, but I did find that I prefer Sennheiser sound for music like Placebo.
That's why I decided to buy AKG and keep my Sennheiser HD555. Amazon price for Q701 was a nice bonus - amazing ~$240, while HD650 would cost nearly twice as much and it doesn't even sound as good.
A highly recommended purchase if you like your music.
- These headphones are for proper stereo or headphone amplifiers. Don't buy them to be driven by an iPhod
- These headphones leak sound and you will hear noises from outside. Home use only, next to your good stereo. I use them to enjoy music while the family is asleep.
on March 18, 2015
They're like speakers on your head, in the sense that everything is so clear I often confuse sounds from the headphones from sounds coming within my home. While a bit airy, these cans have the best sound stage I have heard and coming from the Sennheiser PC360s, these are a huge upgrade. Just what I wanted for gaming and movies.
The wire is very long, but I braided the cable which has contributed to its look and has an actual function. Overall build quality isn't as great as the Sennheisers, but it's not a negative considering Sennheiser build quality is fantastic. These will be used for a very long time, especially since I find it very hard to find suitable upgrades from these (for my purpose) in all my research.
Word of the wise-you'll need a decent amp to drive these. I use the Asus Xonar DGX, but it doesn't do them justice. Will most likely upgrade to a Schiit stack or FiiO here soon.
on January 21, 2013
I have listened to many headphones over the last 15 years, and the Q701 is perhaps my favorite. I have owned the Grado RS-2 and RS-1, the Sennheiser HD580, HD595, HD600, and HD650. Recently, I have also purchased the AKG K701. Overall, I liked the Grados the least. These headphones were unbelievably uncomfortable. They left sores on my ears. The Senns and AKGs I have mentioned are all nice, but have various strengths and sonic characteristics. Of the Senns, the set I miss the most is probably the HD595--the original, made in Ireland, 120-ohm version. I should have never parted with the HD595. They are very comfortable, and have a smooth, engaging sound. I have thought of buying the newer, made in China 595, but I avoid Chinese-made products (for a number of reasons). With regard to comfort, the 580, 600, and 650 are decent, but for me there was still a bit too much pressure on the sides of my head.
And so I have come to the AKGs. Simply put, both the Q701 and K701 are excellent, perhaps the best I have heard. The Q701 offers a fuller, lusher sound, while the K701 is more articulate and precise. The Q701 is more musical, while the K701 cleaner and perhaps more transparent. Both the Q701 and K701 exhibit a wide, airy soundstage. Thus far, I have a slight overall preference for the Q701. In either case, one cannot go wrong with these AKGs. They are very comfortable and are nicely crafted, too (made in Austria). The Q701 and K701 offer a similar sonic signature, but with the above distinctions. Both are natural and non-fatiguing.
Paired with a well-designed headphone amplifier or amplifier section (i.e. in an integrated amp), the AKGs will deliver hours of good listening. Both my Schiit Asgard and my Yamaha A-S700 provide solid amplification. These units feature excellent design. The Asgard is a discrete class A design, and the Yamaha's headphone section offers a classic approach wherein the headphone section is fed right from the power amp. Of course, your is source is at least as important...no, probably even more important.
on July 30, 2014
First off I will tell you that I currently own, Beats Pros, Audio-Technica ATH-50X, Senn HD-600, and of course the AKG q701.. Having spent 20yr as a recording engineer and musician I can assure you, my high frequency response isn't what it once was! Hence, what I hear as neutral may be bright for younger more pristine ears. With that said, IMHO the AKGs are simply second to none! The sound stage is amung the best that I have ever heard! Highs are pristeen without being harsh. Mids are sitting right were they're suppose to be! Voices sound as if u were in the room. Nice and crisp yet with plenty of warmth! Contrary to what others have said, the bottom of the q701s is right where it should be! There is no loose boom or false bass! Being a bass player I am very sensitive to false bottom. The Q701s are producing a nice extended range of deep bass sans booming!
Rarely do I put on a pair of headphones and play something from Steely Dan or maybe Sultans of Swing with out wanting to tweak something. Ex.. I'm always wanting to add highs to the HD-600s, or roll btm and low mids off the 50xs etc.. The q701s sound as if I mixed to them! They just sound right! And now, have become the only headphones that I can wear sans fidgeting with EQs!
On the neg side, these are not the most efficient phones. An IPhone will just barely drive them. Samsung Galaxy's will leave you wanting much more volume! An FIIO F18 Dac/Amp on ur Samsung will give you a much better expearance and keep you untethered.
To wrap it up, IMHO these headphones are not for bass heads, they are not fashion accessories, or party headphones! They 'are' open back headphones & hence they leak which voids them for tracking near an open mic. They ARE wonderfully accurate/neutral headphones the can wear the "reference" description proudly.
on December 1, 2015
Arrived with the black outer grille missing from one ear cup. I found it in the packaging but it won't lock into place like the one on the other side (I guess that's why it fell off in the first place). The Chinese model sounds the same as my old Austrian K701's (wonderful!), but the build quality is inferior.
on December 2, 2013
Summary & Update after 6 months - Jun 2014
This is a pair of excellent sounding headphones with its wide soundstage as its main advantage. Although it is more analytical than the Sennheisers I have compared with, I have still greatly enjoyed the music presentation. The headband notches which I have found uncomfortable (deducted a star for this) have been removed in the latest AKG headphone models. For classical music, I find the headphones lacking just slightly in bass. Adding 2dB to the bass can make the music more satisfying. Overall, for $200, this is a pair of premium headphones worth buying.
My first impression of the AKG headphones was that the ear pads are too stiff and the ear cup size is too big for my head! (I have a medium sized head) The ear pads apply pressure to the softer region beneath the ear lobe and cause my jaw area to feel sore. It felt very uncomfortable. After wearing for a few hours, the head band with their stiff notches made noticeable dents in my head! The sound quality of the headphones is fantastic, but it is so uncomfortable that the listening to the headphone makes it an unpleasant experience. I actually felt that it was a big mistake purchasing the AKG headphones.
My wife finds the open back headphones irritating because it disturbs her TV show as well as during her sleep. I thought an open backed headphone should improve husband and wife communication but in the end it only serves as an irritant to a non-music lover. The best solution for communicating to the wife is to sit next to her while using a closed back headphone.
Comparison with Sennheiser HD 419
I did another careful listening test the next morning. The instrument separation on the AKG is better than the Sennheiser HD 419 that I own, but the sound of all instruments in the AKG felt further away (airy as described by audiophiles) rather than the more intimate feeling of the HD 419 where I can feel the deep bass stirring up my emotions. To me, it seems that the AKG's faint advantage of instrument separation is not as pleasing and engaging to me as the strong bass/low end sound of the HD 419. I originally thought that the treble would sound better in the AKG which has a more balanced frequency response than HD 419 as shown in Headphone.com Graphs, but it actually sounded the same as that of HD 419. There are rare occasions when the bass in HD 419 would become overly loud and create distortion to the music, but that is not detrimental to the hearing experience.
Comparing songs on the AKG and the HD 419:
1. Time from Inception album: No detectable difference between both
2. At the Cross by Hillsong: The instruments and soundstage and most impressively the texture of the woman's voice can be heard clearly in the AKG. It's like I was standing right in front of her!
3. World of Heart from Dragonheart album: The musical instruments seem to be more distant in the AKG, making it less engaging.
4. Honor and Dark Knight by Hans Zimmer: The bass in the HD 419 makes listening a much more pleasant experience.
5. The Crimpson Gump: The bass in HD 419 trumps the AKG.
6. Classical music from Symphony Orchestra: AKG wins slightly with better instrument separation and soundstage, but these can be heard on the HD 419 as well but with a narrower soundstage.
7. Raiders March by John Williams: AKG brings out the orchestra in the most perfect rendition I heard. The song was recorded professionally so the soundstage was very "visible".
Sennheiser HD 558 vs AKG Q701
My initial thoughts of the HD 558 was that it was neither very different from the HD 419 nor the AKG. The sound quality seems to be halfway between both of the headphones, and this was a reflected in its mid-way pricing as well. The HD 558 headphones without any burn-in had sufficient bass just like the HD 419 even though the frequency response graph show a flatter bass response than the AKG. There was no distortion to the bass unlike the HD 419 even though the punch is the same. The 558 seems to clamp tightly onto the frontal cheek bone of the ear lobe, but after one night of extending it on the desktop, it is way more comfortable to wear than the AKG. It is not as light as the HD 419, but it feels invisible after a while. The AKG on the other hand makes me constantly aware that the headphone is present by causing slight soreness to the tender areas.
Comparing in detail:
1. Resolution & Transparency:
Flaws in the audio can be heard easily in both headphones. Noise cannot be detected. This is more dependent on source rather than headphones.
2. Freq balance & distribution:
AKG: Bass was lacking initially but after burn-in/ear cushions softening, the bass is satisfactorily good. Upper and mid freq range look more like HD 800.
HD 558: Bass is good, mids seems to be more forward but resolution of a violin does not seem to be as clear as AKG.
This is more dependent on source rather than headphones. John Williams has good orchestra recordings while Hans Zimmer's music is created by combining multiple recordings which makes it sound stereo instead of 5.1. That said, instrument separation is very clear now in the AKG.
AKG: In the Hillsong recordings which are done well, the female voice texture can be clearly heard. The background singers seem to blend in and harmonize with the main singer.
HD 558: In the Hillsong recordings which are done well, the female voice texture can be clearly heard. The background singers can be distinguished more clearly in the HD 558.
AKG does not seem to color the recordings.
HD 558 seems to muffle some of the sounds.
AKG: Excellent soundstage in terms of depth and width, sounding worthy like a real orchestra. This excellent soundstage only appears in classical/orchestra music.
HD 558: Soundstage is smaller, like a band of musicians in a small room.
AKG: Distance to each instrument can truly be visualized. This might be due to ample space between speakers and the ears.
HD 558: Instruments seem to be sitting in a single line. The speakers may be closer to the ears.
While AKG might not win the value contest against HD558, it is still technically more superior to the HD 558. If I were to keep the AKG, how do I improve on its comfort? Which headphones can I listen more accurately at a lower volume for long listening periods? I know that each headphone is capable of producing strong emotions when played at a sufficiently high volume, but this can only last for 10 minutes at most without hurting the ears. Ultimately, the long term goal is the continuous journey of discovering on Spotify/iTunes good recordings that provide emotional impact at decent volumes, and I believe the AKG will do a better job in distinguishing these recordings. Even though HD 558 has won the price to performance ratio, it hurts me to know in future that I have given up a better headphone (AKG) just to save a 100 dollars. Also, the original selling price of the AKG is 2.5 times more than the HD 558. The AKG is obviously the more premium product here. It is a beautiful dilemma to have the AKG in my life.
on April 25, 2016
Not many reviewers mention their hearing capabilities before starting a review, I can hear up to 21kHz frequencies so I feel as if my ears are fit enough to make this comparison with some sort of authenticity. If you want to test your hearing I recommend you give yourself a test at: (edit: amazon doesn't allow links)
I understand that music and headphones are a highly subjective topic, so I will state my sound signature preferences beforehand to give the reader an insight of where my words are coming from in this review. I prefer a neutral bass response, forward mid range, and slightly elevated treble. I am also not a particularly treble sensitive person.
For over a month, I have used both the q701 and k551 with an external amp and DAC using 320 kbps and FLAC files. The music genres I listen to compose of metal, rock, classical, jazz, classical guitar, acoustic, and a little bit of indie. As you can see, I do not listen to music with tons of bass, so those looking for elevated bass should be warned beforehand that none of these offer exaggerated bass for modern EDM/pop/rap music. I chose specifically to review the q701 against the k551, as the k551 is often considered to be the closed alternative of the q701. I have yet to come across a full review between the two, so I though I'd give it a shot.
Quick notes before I get started:
-q701 is essentially a k701/702 with a slightly toned down treble and more bass
-k550/k551 are essentially the same besides minor changes in the treble
Design and build quilty:
q701- The plastic/leather headband is extremely flexible and feels very durable. The glossy plastic design however, does look and feel kind of cheap in my opinion.
k551- Unlike the q701, the k551 is made of metal and non-glossy plastics. It looks and feels very sleek and premium, the earcups can also swivel which can help with proper positioning.
q701- The velour earpads are deep, firm, and soft, but comes with strong clamping force that causes discomfort after using for a few hours. The top of the headband has bumps that are extremely uncomfortable and digs into your skull, I alleviated this problem by cutting away the bumps with a scalpel and covering it with some padding.
k551- The earpads are leather and incredibly soft but very shallow (your ears will touch the driver). The clamping force is much lighter which prevents discomfort around the ears after hours of listening, but this does come at a cost of creating a pressure point on top of the head due to the extremely thin padding on the very hard metal headband.
Bass/ mid bass:
q701- Unlike what many people say, the q701 does NOT lack bass, this was only a problem on previous generations such as the k701. The bass is neutral and more than plentiful unless you are a basshead. The bass is very tight and quick with a very good mid bass to give fullness to the music.
k551- The sub bass of the k551 is excellent, but there is not much else good to say after that; the rest of the bass spectrum falls short. Despite being closed back, the k551 is matched or surpassed by the q701 in every aspect of bass quality and quantity aside from sub bass, and sounds somewhat "tinny" in comparison to the q701 due to the lack of (in my opinion, recessed) mid bass. Deeper male vocals for example do not have much body and sound slightly sibilant. I understand the k551 needs a good seal for it's bass, but no matter how I wore them, bass levels remained the same. On an individual instrument note, bass guitar is much more audible on the q701 and drums sound a lot fuller and true to life on the q701.
q701- The q701 has a neutral midrange with very good detail and no mid bass bleed. Vocals have no sibilancy, but sound a bit distant due to the large soundstage. The upper mids do however have a sparkle which makes these great for female vocals and electric guitar
k551- The k551 has a more forward but slightly sibilant vocals combined with a smaller soundstage which sounds more intimate for vocal centered music. Electric guitar is also more forward, but are higher in pitch and do not sound as pleasant as on the q701. Piano on the other hand sounds extremely pleasant on both headphones and I would have to call it a tie in that regard.
q701- Despite being classified as an "analytical" headphone, the treble is not overly emphasized and it reveals all the micro details while still sounding smooth in classical or electric guitar music. I do not get any treble fatigue after listening for hours.
k551- The k551 is known for having "artificial/metallic" treble, and while I didn't notice it during first impressions, after comparing it with the q701 I would have to agree that the treble sounds somewhat metallic due to the artificially enhanced treble. The cymbals for example, are extremely prominent and harsh in rock and metal tracks and the tonality of electric guitar seems a bit off. Because of the elevated treble, I do get treble fatigue in listening sessions over an hour.
q701- The q701 arguably has one of the largest soundstages in any headphone besides the likes of the hd800. The soundstage does has more width than depth, and the large soundstage can make vocals seem a bit distant at times. The huge soundstage makes classical music sound absolutely incredible on these; as if you were in a live performance.
k551- The k551 sounds more like an open back headphone due to the rather impressively large soundstage which is partly why I proceeded to compare the two. It has less soundstage than the q701 which helps for vocals, but the soundstage does not sound as natural as the q701. This is probably a limitation of being a closed back headphone. Classical music on the k551, while sounding superb, did not have the same level of immersion and "wow" factor as on the q701.
q701- The q701 has very good imaging but is somewhat hindered by the fact that the soundstage has more width than depth. This makes the imaging not as precise and slightly "confused" sounding, this is only noticeable while nitpicking.
k551- The k551 has a similarly good imaging as the q701, but has an edge where it is easier to distinguish because of the smaller soundstage and more treble.
q701- The instrument separation on the q701 is simply amazing and combined with the large soundstage makes it one of the best headphones for classical music.
k551- Part of the reason why the treble is fatiguing on the k551 is because there is less layering and everything is just more forward. Although the k551 has a large soundstage, the instrument separation is not quite as good as the q701 and sounds slightly congested or less 3-dimensional in comparison. This is most noticeable in busy tracks with a lot of instruments such as metal, but the separation is still top tier for a closed back headphone.
q701- Because of the fully open design, the q701 does not isolate at all and leaks everything you listen to.
k551- The k551 does not leak sound due to the closed design, but the isolation is only decent at best compared to some of my iems, and because of the elevated treble it could cause fatigue when you turn up the volume in a loud environment
q701- Although the q701 does not require much voltage with only 62ohm, it does need a lot of current so an external amp is highly recommended.
k551- The k551 is only 32 ohm and can be driven by mobile devices easily. The cable is not removable, but it does have volume controls which makes it a good choice for portable usage.
q701- The huge soundstage combined with the hyper revealing treble makes the q701 excellent for gaming and gives you an advantage in shooter games. The mid bass adds a nice fullness without bloating the other frequencies, but the treble does cause some fatigue over a few hours of gaming when there is a lot of gun action going on.
k551- The k551's smaller soundstage with better imaging helps to pinpoint directions more precisely than the q701, but the elevated treble will cause fatigue much quicker than on the q701.
Despite the k551 being considered a closed version of the q701, in my experience the two sound different enough to be two entirely different headphones for different sound preferences. The q701 generally has an edge over the k551 in most categories, but if you like very bright headphones and desire more intimate mids, then the k551 could be the better option along with it's portability benefits. I generally prefer the q701 for classical, jazz, metal, and electric guitar music. While I end up preferring the k551 for vocal centric music after I EQ down the upper trebles by 2-3dB.
on December 12, 2013
Mine were made in Austria and are light yet solid. No problems with build quality here - while the general lack of metals is slightly disappointing, the stress-bearing parts (arches) are made of metal and the plastics are very high quality.
Comfort & Design:
The suspended pad design of these headphones is brilliant. While their lightweight "perch" on your head may result in a feeling of insecurity when looking straight up or down, they've yet to fall off. The earpads are molded to the shape of most people's skulls. The green cables that come with the headphones are quite long and I've ended up buying AKG's coiled cable.
Unfortunately, these leak a LOT of sound. When I'm listening at normal (medium-high) volumes, people say that I might as well be listening through MacBook speakers.
For portable use, a comfortable listening volume was achieved at 90% volume on my iPhone 5 and Google Nexus 5. However, the sound leakage, bulk (not weight), and impedance (non-amped sources are quiet and offer recessed sound quality) prevent these from being a practical portable headset.
I'm about 100 hours into break-in, and I can say this about the K701's (they're getting better and better):
The easiest way to compare these is to the Sennheiser HD650. It's slightly less clear (like, very slightly less so) than the HD650's, but for a lot less money and a much more comfortable fit.
The bass is defined and punchy, but not overbearing. It does not muddy the mids or highs in any way. The mids are definitely forward and the treble "sparkles." The sound stage is incredibly open (as indicated by the incredible sound leakage) and there is no noticeable coloration of the sound.
I used a Fiio E17 DAC/amp, and they were more than sufficient to drive these cans.
I listen to mostly everything except for pure country. Classical sounds beautiful through these headphones, but their quick response time is best noticed when playing fast-paced bands, such as Fall Out Boy, twenty one pilots, M.I.A., etc. Slower tracks made me truly appreciate the quality of the audio - Short Change Hero's vocals came across crystal clear and natural, backed up by powerful bass. The K701's do Jason Mraz and Nate Ruess' vocals justice, with a wonderfully natural and open presentation. These are sufficiently bassy for me to enjoy EDM - Hardwell, Nicky Romero, and Aviccii were incredibly enjoyable to listen to.
Yes, these aren't the best headphones on the market (just look at their price!) But for their price, they're pretty close to the best in the $650-700 price range, especially considering Amazon's huge discount. For non-portable applications, these are wonderful headphones.