After a few weeks wait, my AKG Q701 open backed headphones finally arrived from BargainMusic.com. I thought I’d post my initial thoughts on these, as although I paid £200 for them, the RRP is nearer the £500 mark, therefore I was surprised by certain aspects of my experience. Please note, this isn’t a full review – I want to listen to these for more than 30 minutes before I publish so I can offer some genuine insight as to the value these do/do not represent.
First & foremost, as anyone whose looked these up before will know, ‘understated’ is not a word you can use to describe the aesthetics:
You’d better hope you’re as ‘gangsta’ as me to pull these off.
That said, I knew what I was getting into when I brought these, but I can but warn you they are even more intense in the flesh.
In terms of the ‘purchase experience’ – I was truly disappointed at how shoddy the packaging was. Firstly, the box although covered in appealing Quincy Jones themed graphic, was toilet paper thin, and secured with sellotape (albeit green sellotape). Once one blew on the box, causing it fall apart (some exaggeration on my part there), the next money-saving strategy was apparent. The headphones were wedged into some strange black sueded plastic moulded tray insert that covered the (strangely cheap feeling) green plastic earphone casing in disconcerting black smears. Luckily, these did rub off with a bit of furniture polish, so no foul. On a positive note, the Q701’s do ship with two sets of headphone cable, so kudos there. No kudos for securing said cables with black wire cable ties which damage the cable. Finally, to me highly surprising at this price point (£500 or £200) – no carry bag shipped with the headphones! Now, I appreciate that open backed headphones are not typically used on the move, but this strikes me as a bit miserly.
Some advise for the boys & girls at AKG HQ – head-hunt one of the packaging juniors at Apple so they can advise you on packaging, be it the appropriate grade of cardboard to use on something at this price point, or how to avoid using yards of sellotape. In terms of carry sacks, just pay attention to what the rest of the industry does – lose £1 on your margins for some cruddy carry sack, and if a purchaser wants something better, he may come to you for that overpriced accessory. It goes along way to enhancing the customer experience, and as such retaining custom/ & increasing custom through positive word of mouth
In terms of the appearance, it’s the Marmite scenario; You’re either going to love them or hate them (unless you buy them in black, in which case, why are you bothering). The actual design is pretty solid, gripping the head well whilst not squeezing my spectacles into my skull casing like some designs do. The materials however are at odd with the price, using AV remote controller grade plastics. This is a real shame, as the aluminium inserts and leader used is all quite nice.
That said, all these quibbles could pale into insignificance if the SQ is mustard…
Well, my first piece of advice is if you’re planning to listen to these, make sure your source pushes out a few watts. These were so quiet with my Nokia Lumia 800 on maximum volume as to make me think they could be fakes. When I listen to my Senheiser and B&W headphones, maximum volume blows my mind, therefore I knew it was the headphones. Following this, I took them upstairs for testing with my headphone output on my MiniDisc player (don’t laugh – it’s an OK DAC), and it was a completely different experience. Volume levels I couldn’t tolerate, an open listening experience, decent levels of detail, punchy midrange.
So, to reiterate, the headphones need to be driven by a high output source. They will not be for you if you are only planning to stick them in your iPod Nano. In a suit.
My next purchase will definitely be a mobile headphone amplifier so I can use them away from the house/my HiFi stack. I’ll let you know how that goes…