AKG K 701 Headphone Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 1 Old 02-27-15, 10:56 AM Thread Starter
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Wayne Myers
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AKG K 701 Headphone Review

AKG K 701 Headphone Review

AKG K 701 (MSRP/Street): $539 / $231

by Wayne Myers


The AKG K 701 Headphone, AKG's flagship headphone until being replaced by the K 812, is well-known for its flat frequency response. In some circles it is considered the flattest headphone available for mixing and mastering or as a portable frequency response reference.

AKG Reference Family

Following is a comparison chart of the current AKG Reference line, including the obsolete K601. Bass response is very flat (thank you, AKG) except for the latest additions, the K 712 and K 812, where AKG appears to have buckled to market pressure, while also extending the response to deeper limits. The K 601 had a midrange peak that was flattened for some models and changed to a dipped midrange response for others. Transient response is best for the K 7xx models, very ringy for the K601 and K812. Distortion was notoriously high for the earlier K 7xx models at higher listening levels, however. This was improved with the K 712 and K 812. Some models offer a detachable 3-wire cable, others a non-detachable 4-wire cable down to the 3-conductor termination plug, a slight advantage for soundstage and imaging performance. Some models make use of a hadband with supposedly padded ridges which I found a bit uncomfortable with extended use. The flat headband designated as "soft" seems more comfortable.

Comparison Table
Model Street Price Bass Midrange Transient Distortion Impedance Cable Headband
K 601 Obsolete Flat, 50Hz Peak Med Low 120 4-wire Soft
K 701 $239 Flat, 50Hz Flat Fast Med 62 4-wire Med
Q 701 $200 Flat, 50Hz Dip Fast Med 62 4-wire Med
K 702 $250 Flat, 50Hz Flat Fast Med 62 3-wire detachable Soft
K 712 $370 +3dB, 30Hz Dip Fast Low 62 3-wire detachable Soft
K 812 $1200 +3dB, 30Hz Flat Med Low 36 3-wire detachable Soft

AKG K 701 Website


The K 701 is a true reference-class headphone, an open design with frequency response about as flat as one will find in a headphone. This will sound bright to those used to the laid-back high end more commonly found in 'phones. But for those interested in a truthful headphone sound, it is one of a few reference headphones one can turn to with confidence.

The K 701 ear pieces are as comfortable as you will find. They completely surround the ear with no pressure on the ear itself, barely touching it in a few spots. The headband has padded ridges which could have been a lot softer. The contact points on top of my head become uncomfortable after awhile.

Transient response with the K 701 is quite good, with a bit of overshoot and some ringing dampening out in 1 ms or less. If there is a performance weakness in the design is probably the harmonic distortion at very high listening levels (above 90 dB average), which approaches 5% and can be heard on some vocals. This is not a big negative; they have to be driven pretty hard to get to audible levels of distortion.

The straight cable is not detachable, and contains 4 wires allowing complete electronic separation until the common wires are joined at the ground of the termination plug. This improves channel separation slightly, giving better imaging and soundstage, which are very good with the K 701.

Associated Review Equipment

Measurement Methods
  • Asus G74SX Laptop, Intel I7-2670QM @ 2.2 GHz, 16 GB DDR3 Memory, Room EQ Wizard, foobar2000
  • Roland Quad-Capture Audio Interface
  • 3Dio Freespace Binaural Microphone, modified, custom HRTF correction curve
  • Mackie 402-VLZ3 Preamp/Mixer
  • American Recorder SPL-8810 Sound Level Meter
  • AKG K 601 Headphones
  • Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium 250-Ohm Headphones
  • OPPO PM-1 Planar-Magnetic Headphones, Courtesy OPPO, Home Theater Shack Sponsor
  • Sennherser HD 600 Headphones
  • Sony MDR-V6 Headphones
  • FiiO X3 Portable DAC/Headphone Amplifier/Media Player
  • OPPO HA-1 DAC/Headphone Amplifier, Courtesy OPPO, Home Theater Shack Sponsor

Listening Scores

Frequency response for the K 701 is as close to flat as you will find in a headphone, other than the K 812 (score=10.0/10). There is some peakiness at high frequencies that draws complaints among users, but I had a hard time even finding a track that drew it out. Those who shy away from brightness, and the majority of listeners will call flat response "bright," might shy away from the sound as being aggressive or pushy, but it is smooth and clean and I like it.

Imaging is excellent with the K 701 (score=9.5/10). At high frequencies it is tight and sharp. At mid frequencies is widens slightly, but remains stable and very good. The soundstage is wide and spacious and easily moves out of the head, very natural and lifelike (score=10.0/10).

Clarity is very good in spite of the previous mention of harmonic distortion (score=9.5/10). The complex tones making up cymbals and bells lost a little of their crystaline character on occasion and vocals could gain a bit of a harmonic edge, but only at high volumes. At normal listening levels the K 701 remain very clean and clear.

The Speed test is done with special tracks of fast pulses and sequences. The K 701 is not the fastest headphone around, but kept up with everything I threw at it without getting muddy or messy (score=9.0/10).

For the Overall Listening Experience, the K 701 gets 9/10, having no significant detractors for me but not being as interesting as some headphones, and not being ideal for extended listening. The presentation is detailed and accurate, good for hearing "what is really going on," but can wear on you after awhile.

Non-Listening Scores

The K 701 gets 9/10 for Comfort and the same for Design. The only reason they do not get a perfect score for comfort is the headband's hard ridges. The earpieces are as comfortable as they can possibly be. They are light and stay on well. They are big, have no folding capability at all. They are a studio headphone, made for sound, not looks, yet are attractive anyway. While mine have lasted well with medium use over 4+ years, they have been babied, and the plastic loops and plastic stretch bands that tension the headband have always looked vulnerable to me.

Other Factors - not part of the Overall Performance Score
  • Reference headphone: Yes
  • Drivable with portable media devices: No, they do not reach 90 dB with a portable media player or smartphone.
  • Isolation (if closed design): n.a.

Specifications and Measurements

Measurement Graphs
  • Driver: Open-back headphones
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz - 39.8kHz
  • Maximum Input Power: 200 mW
  • Input Impedance: 62 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 105 dB SPL/V
  • Style: Over-ear
  • Sound: Reference sound
  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Smartphone control: No control option
  • Colour: White
  • Earpads: Replaceable 3D-Form
  • Headband: Exclusive leather self-adjusting
  • Cable: 3.00 m, straight
  • Connector: 3.5mm hard gold-plated jack plug and contacts
  • Weight: 235 g
  • Include Accessories: 6.3mm adapter
Frequency Response:

Distortion at 75 dB SPL - well below 1%.

Distortion at 85 dB SPL - approaching 1% at some frequencies, still very good.

Distortion at 95 dB SPL - above 1% at some frequencies, but well under control.

IM Distortion (DIN)
L @ 75 dB SPL = 0.29%
R @ 75 dB SPL = 0.30%
L @ 85 dB SPL = 0.35%
R @ 85 dB SPL = 0.40%
L @ 95 dB SPL = 0.64%
R @ 95 dB SPL = 1.1%

Impulse and Step Response: Very clean and fast for dynamic headphones.

Group delay:

Impedance: Driver matching is fair, impedance is consistent, easy to drive from any source impedance.


When it comes to headphones for accurate, straightforward listening or for mixing or mastering, there are few models that come out ahead of the AKG K 701. Their sound is flat and clean with terrific soundstage and imaging. No longer AKG's flagship model, they are available at street prices much lower than one would expect for the performance they deliver.

  • Imaging: 9.5
  • Soundstage: 10.0
  • Clarity: 9.0
  • Speed: 9.5
  • Frequency Response: 10.0 (Flat Profile)
  • Overall Listening Experience: 9
  • Comfort: 9
  • Design: 9
  • MSRP/Street: $539/$231
  • Overall Performance Score: 9.6 out of 10

Go to the AKG K 701 Headphone Review Discussion Thread.

Go to the Headphone Roundup Overview for scoring and comparison details.

AudiocRaver is offline  
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701 , akg , headphone , review

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