NC turned off
With the noise cancelling mode turned off, the sound is decent (or average). The bass is quite tight but not well-extended. It doesn’t have that much impact which is typical of the K550 or K701. The bass is still good but not nearly as ‘fast’ as the two.
The midrange is not recessed but is not as resolving as I would like it to be. It’s a step or two below what I would classify as having warm midrange but nonetheless, it’s listenable. Another term that I could think of is ‘veiled’. It’s not a big of a problem and the overall bass to midrange transition is still fairly decent. Do note that the lower mids are a bit forward but it goes lower going towards the upper mids, lower treble area.
Treble is not articulate and is recessed. The “presence region” is laid back and going towards the 6-10Khz, it is not crisp sounding. Obviously noise cancellers don’t do well in this area so it’s more of the limitations rather than a disadvantage, Still, I wish the higher frequencies are more clearer and articulate here.
NC turned on
Again, the noise cancelling feature of this is very good in my opinion. A quick test of yawning (or fake coughing) while wearing this with the feature turned on would quickly reveal how it eliminates those static low frequency noises.
On to sound, the bass gets turned up a bit when NC is turned on. Sadly, it does some bass bleed as well. I won’t classify it as getting more bloated or muddy but the overall tonality becomes much darker. The mids going up gets more sucked out as a result of the bleed. The overall bass to midrange transition is quite the same still but the tilt towards the bass and lower midrange makes it more dark-sounding.
Treble likewise is the same and I did not subjectively hear any difference on it when compared to the NC feature turned off
The headphone sounds closed and instrument separation can easily become confused. The lack of ‘air’ is also apparent but that is asking too much for a noise cancelling headphone (or even a sealed headphone).
Another thing is the floor noise which is already given but I thought I have to mention still. Basically if you turn on the noise-cancelling and you are on a quiet environment, then you would hear some floor noise or humming that comes from the headphone itself. It’s not hugely annoying (well maybe it is) but at the same time, you don’t really want to activate the noise cancelling feature if there’s no noise to cancel. :-p
I mentioned earlier about the headphone being able to fold flat both ways. I find it unique but interestingly, it has its flaws. Since it folds flat on either direction, if you tilt your head by leaning on your back (think of attempting to sleep on a bus), then the headphone could ‘un-seal’ on your ears and possibly even fall down. It’s not a major problem but it can vary depending on the size of your head or how great the clamp is for your headphone. I personally find it annoying as I’m OC about getting a proper headphone seal on my head and any movement really gets my attention which then prompts me to quickly readjust it.
Here’s the video review of the headphone.
Sound-wise, I think this headphone is way too expensive for what you are getting. But that’s the case for all noise-cancelling headphones isn’t it?
If you frequently fly and travel and you have this amount of money to spare, then I DO recommend these headphones as they do the job well in terms of cancelling out noise. I should mention that being able to use it in passive mode is a big plus as most headphones of this type won’t allow you to use them when the batteries run out.
Another thing to add is my recommendation of this headphone might change over time as I personally don’t have that much experience with headphones of this type. We will see if my recommendations hold up.
For alternatives that don’t have any active noise cancellation feature, you can use an in-ear model ala Etymotic HF5 or ER4PT for maximum noise isolation. Other recommendations based on experience is my beloved Beyerdynamic DT1350, the K518LE from AKG, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 and Sennheiser HD-25-1 II.
I would like to thank AKG Philippines for sending us this handsome headphone for review!