AKG K 702 REFERENCE OPEN BACK HEADPHONES
Recommend this product?
AKG has been a trusted name in the field of consumer and professional electronics since 1947. They have been making fine electronic equipment since longer than most people who are reading this review have been alive. I like many of the products that AKG makes, and I have owned a number of AKG Microphones and headphones over the years, as well as having firsthand experience with using many their products. The first really good microphone that I ever owned was an AKG. Today I am going to be reviewing a set of AKG Headphones. There are literally thousands of different headphones on the market today. Each has its own strengths and weakness, depending on the specific use and job that the headphones in question are being called upon to perform. Today I am going to be reviewing a set of headphones that are certainly good enough to please even the most discriminating audiophile, and they can truly be called "reference" headphones. The headphones that I am talking about are the AKG K 702 Reference Open Back Headphones. Read on and see if these headphones have some of the sonic characteristics that you might be interested in looking into the next time that you are auditioning a set of headphones for yourself.
The AKG K 702 Headphones have a retail list price of $539.00, but they can easily be found selling at a discount for as little as $266.00 at some of the large national musical instrument chain stores or better Internet electronics dealers. If you are patient, and willing to wait for a sale, you might be able to find them selling for a lower price, but I have not found that to be the case with these particular headphones. In an effort to help the process of making a purchasing decision a bit easier, I should now like to get into a description of some of the characteristics and specifications of the AKG K 702 Headphones, as well as discussing some of their strengths and weaknesses.
The AKG K 702 Headphones have a circumaural, open back design. O.K., so what that that mean? Circumaural headphones have ear pads that encompass or surround the ears and form a tight seal, and they typically have a closed back design. However, the AKG K 702 Headphones have an open back design, similar to supra-aural headphones. I hope this is not confusing. It simply means that the ear cups do not form the typically tight seal that one would usually expect with a pair of circumaural headphones. Open back headphones tend to have slats or holes in them, so that they are not fully closed to sounds leaking in or out. This can be both good and bad depending on the purpose for which a set of headphones is being used. For example, in a recording situation where a singer may be using a highly sensitive condenser microphone and is singing a song which requires close up microphone techniques, there is always the chance for leakage from the headphones into the microphone, and this can be very problematic. On the other hand, if you are not going to be wearing the AKG K 702 Headphones in close proximity to an open microphone while singing a recorded passage, there should not be too much problem. For example, if you are using these headphones as you are laying down a live electric guitar track, and the microphone that is recording the sound coming from the guitar cabinet is not near you, there should be not problem whatsoever to speak of. On the other hand, a pair of great quality headphones like these should not be in the room where people are recording and the like, as they could be subject to damage. I prefer to use less expensive headphones for people to monitor their performances as they are playing, and I reserve headphones like the AKG K 702 Headphones for reference and playback at mix down time.
I should now like to discuss some of the specs of the AKG K 702 Headphones in greater deatail. The AKG K 702 Headphones have a Frequency Response of 10 Hz. to 39,800 Hz. This means that these headphones are able to handle frequencies between 10 Hz. to 39,800 Hz. without distorting at normal volume levels. Of course any pair of headphones can distort if they are pushed to volume levels beyond normal listening levels, but if you want to preserve your hearing you should refrain from doing so. This extended frequency response may seem a bit odd to some of the readers of this review, since the range of hearing for a healthy young adult is usually between 20 Hz. and 20,000 Hz., and most musical instruments do not come anywhere near producing sounds above or below the range of human hearing. So why would anyone want or need a set of headphones that has such an extended frequency response, unless of course they are planning to let their pet porpoise listen to their favorite recording of a chorus of dolphin's vocalizing.
Well the answer to this question is deceivingly simple. If a set of headphones has a frequency response that is greater than the range of the musical source that is being listened to, then the likelihood of the headphones distorting in response to frequency overload borders on being nil. Further, although most musical instruments do not produce frequencies or sounds above or below 20 to 20,000 Hz., it is extremely important to be using a set of headphones that will not distort when one is trying to listen to musical passages over extended periods of time, as listening to distorted sounds can very easily fatigue a listener. Thus, a set of headphones with an extended frequency response, such as is the case with the AKG K 702 Headphones, are less likely to be subject to distortions from musical notes or their high or low overtones. This is very important in a studio monitoring situation, as one does not want to erroneously think that a track was recorded with distortion, when in actuality it is the headphones themselves that are causing the distortion that is being heard.
The AKG K 702 Headphones have a relatively flat versus sweetened frequency response. Headphones or speaker systems that are used for home music listening often sound different from one set to another. The reason for this is that many of these headphones or speaker systems are "sweetened" to make the music sound better or in some way more exciting to the listener. This is achieved via an emphasis in the equalization of the bass and treble response, which makes the music sound fuller or brighter, depending on what type of music is being played. However, the AKG K 702 Headphones are flat and unsweetened, and they deliver a highly accurate sound. Why is this so important for studio situations? The answer is very simple. If you have been working to achieve a certain sound on the instrument you are recording, you will want to be able to hear that exact sound during playback of the recording, and not be fooled into thinking it sounds somehow different.
Thus, a pair of headphones that are flat and unsweetened are crucial in certain listening situations. Obviously, a pair of headphones that are unsweetened is important in a studio listening situation, as a flat frequency response permits a more accurate and precise comparison of sounds and levels between and among various musical instruments and vocal performances. Of course no serious professional would ever really consider completely mixing a tune using a pair of headphones alone regardless of how good the headphones might actually be. On the other hand, there are other situations where it is important to use a good pair of headphones in certain circumstances so as to get an idea of the balance and blend among different musical instruments and the vocals on a track that are being mixed. It is in situations such as this that using a set of headphones that have a flat response is very important.
Using a set of headphones with a flat response is especially important to people who are making home recordings. The listening environments in many home studio's are not ideal, and if a listening environment is not set up correctly, the sound one is hearing from even a good set of studio monitors can be misleading, specifically because of the acoustical environment that the sound is being played in is not ideal. For example, a reasonable distance for setting up speaker monitors for accurate listening is to have them about 5 feet from any wall, and to avoid placing them in corners at all costs, as proximity to walls and especially corners artificially accentuates the bass frequencies and can result in a mix that is inaccurate. Just how many home based recording studios have a mixing room with that much space? Very few I would guess, and I am sorry to report that my personal home studio monitoring and recording set up is not as ideal as I would like it to be precisely because of space limitations. As such, using a good set of headphones with a flat response can help to pickup on potential problems that might exist in a mix due to poor or inadequate listening room acoustics. The AKG K 702 Headphones are very accurate, and can definitely be used for studio reference purposes, and for highly analytical listening.
The AKG K 702 Headphones have a Sensitivity of 105 dB/mW. O.K., so what does that mean? Headphone sensitivity is measured using 1/1000 of a Watt of power (1mW), and then measuring the sound pressure level (SPL) in dB at the earpiece of the headphones. The AKG K 702 Headphones have an above average degree or level of sensitivity for headphones in this category. The AKG K 702 Headphones have an Impedance of 62 Ohms. This means that they would be considered to be low impedance headphones. People who may be considering using the AKG K 702 Headphones with an MP3 Player may be upset that the volume is not as loud in these headphones as it is apt to be in some of the less expensive headphones that they may be used to using for such listening purposes. The reason for this is that many inexpensive headphones that are designed to be used with portable listening devices have an impedance rating of 16 Ohms, and in some cases less, and as such they will appear to be meaningfully louder. Unfortunately, some inexperienced people associate loudness with somehow being better, which is certainly not the case. When I was first starting out in the music business, many of the better brands of headphones had a meaningfully higher impedance rating. For example, the older AKG K141 that I used in a studio many years ago had a rating of 600 Ohms, and they were industry standards years ago, but the times they are a changing. Lower impedance headphones appear to be more popular today. Clearly, even with that being the case, the audio engineers at AKG were probably not thinking that most users of the AKG K 702 Headphones were going to be using them with an MP3 Player, as these headphones are designed for more serious listening applications. That being said, these headphones will still obviously work fine with an MP3 Player or the like, they just will not be as loud as some listeners are used to expecting with very low impedance headphones.
The AKG K 702 Headphones come with a detachable cable that 3 meters in length (approximately 9 feet, 8 inches). The cable is single sided and 99.9% oxygen free. The cable plugs in or attaches via a mini-XLR connector. The other end of the cable has a gold platted stereo jack mini-plug, which also comes with an adapter which converts the input jack to a quarter inch stereo plug which makes these phones suitable for studio applications as well as home use, such as with a home stereo system, computer, or a portable listening device.
The AKG K 702 Headphones are light in weight, and very comfortable to wear. Headphones that have an open back design, such as the AKG K 702 Headphones do, are great for those situations where one listening to music for prolonged periods of time. They are comfortable and not overly confining or constricting, and they let just enough sound in from the outside world so that you are aware of your surroundings, but not overly so. The design of these headphones allow for music to sound as if it is "big." For that reason, I love the way a big orchestra sounds in these phones. Also because they are so precise and accurate, and have such an unusually large frequency range, one can hear subtle nuances in a recording that would other wise be missed. The AKG K 702 Headphones have very comfortable ear pads, and these are replaceable. The self-adjustable headband conforms to the size and shape of the average person's head very well, and the gimbal suspended earcups feel comfortable against the ears without pinching or exerting too much pressure. The headband is made of real leather, and is nicely cushioned. Taken together, these features are all contributing factors to the comfort of the AKG K 702 Headphones. The AKG K 702 Headphones are also very light in weight, and weigh a mere 8.3 ounces without the cable. Of course they are not very useful without the cable.
In listening to music with these headphones, I found that the AKG K 702 Headphones made for a very enjoyable listening experience. As I mentioned earlier in the review, I was able to hear things on certain recordings that I did not notice before. Classical music sounded exceptionally good in these phones, as they added a sense of spaciousness to the sound of the music. If a person wants to enjoy the listening experience of what a truly great stereo system sounds like, they can save the thousands of Dollars that it would cost to have a great system, and just simply listen to their music through the AKG K 702 Headphones. The AKG K 702 Headphones were light in weight, and did not feel as if they were constricting my head or putting any undue pressure on my ears. Further, although they were not closed back headphones, they still did a reasonably good job of isolating the music I was listening to from any other noises that were going on in the room. Yes, there was some sound that was able to both get in from the outside and out from the headphones. However, this did not appear to be a big problem for the most part at all. The bass was punchy and clear, the highs were clear and undistorted, and the midrange frequencies were exceptionally accurate and well balanced. Audiophiles might also be very interested in knowing that the musical sounds that are being heard in the AKG K 702 Headphones are very likely to be very similar to the sounds that the performers, studio engineer, and recording producers had in mind when they were mixing the original tunes in their respective studios in the first place. To me, this is a very exciting and desirable bit of information, as these headphones are clearly capable of being used for studio reference purposes.
So who are the AKG K 702 Headphones best suited for? If you are a person who wants to listen to recordings of music which are not colored or sweetened, then these phones are worthy of your consideration. These headphones are also worthy of consideration for a person who has a home studio, semi-professional, and even professional recording set up. The flat response, and highly accurate sonic reproduction of the AKG K 702 Headphones, make them a very desirable piece of audio equipment for certain professional, semi-professional, and private uses, such as for listening to music at home. These headphones are certainly something that even a highly discriminating and critical audiophile would find it hard to find fault with.
Well I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my review, but now if you will excuse me, I must get back to my practicing my guitar.