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It may seem like our praise is a bit on the effusive side, but look at it this way: these are the first headphones that hit our theoretical maximum on frequency response, as well as having some solid durability features that prolong the lives of these already wonderful headphones. It's no wonder why the Q-man was willing to put his name on them.

So if you've got money burning a hole in your pocket, and you're looking to buy a set of fantastic over-ear cans that are not only easy on the ears but also stunning looking, the s are the dude- er, cans. As it sits right now, they're the cream of the crop.

The s offer you about as wide a range of connectivity options as you're going to find for the home hifi setup, as it includes two cables (10 feet and 20 feet) with 1/8th inch plugs that are threaded to lock a 1/4th inch adapter on there.

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While the band is a bit unusual, the self-adjusting nature of it makes the a very comfortable set of cans. Able to fit large and small heads alike, these headphones should be able to accommodate just about anyone.

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While many of you are aware that open-backed headphones are not meant to isolate you from the outside world, we're obligated to point out that the s have terrible isolation as a result of their design. If you're diligent about taking care of your cans, you're unlikely to be taking these outside anyways, so they're most likely in a quiet room to begin with.

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Isolation Graph
[Click here for more information on our isolation test.](/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Isolation) Though it's a little bit erratic, those ranges of underemphasis actually downplay some of the harsher noises (cymbal splash and some of the more piercing notes) while keeping everything within our ideal limits. Though there aren't a ton of people out there who are big fans of a flat response, these cans are just about begging to be equalized, as they can handle it very well. Damned impressive performance here.
Frequency Response Graph
[Click here for more information on our frequency response test.](/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Frequency_Response) Gain an intimate knowledge of the AKG Q701s.
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Wow. The re-brand of the AKG K701s nets another fantastic set of headphones, endorsed by none other than Quincy Jones himself. If you're prone to writing off cans that come with a household name attached, that's a mistake: the Q701s are stone cold takers, they're piggy bank shakers, and don't waste their time reproducing trash.

Due to the open backs, no carrying case, and the fact that you're going to be annoying everyone within a 6 foot radius with your music, we strongly suggest you reconsider taking these cans with you outside. Sure, they're not that portable, but keeping them at home is worth it.

Another setback inherent to their design, the s also leak a ton of noise. If you're looking to keep some of your listening habits a secret from others, it might be best to make sure you're home alone first.

Click here for more information on our leakage test.

The s aren't perfect, as they have a relatively small amount of general distortion.

Distortion Graph
[Click here for more information on our frequency response test.](/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Distortion) Scantily clad in a thin mesh, there isn't much to impede normal function of the unit. It does, however, serve as an effective prophylactic against any biological discharge. Additionally, the ear pads are real velour.
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Over time, there isn't much heat buildup, nor is there any sort of fatigue caused by the weight of the units, so identical marks here.

Aside from swapping out cables, there really isn't much one can do to customize their cans, as any tomfoolery with the backs will result in poorer audio performance. Chances are good that there really isn't a whole lot that you'll want to do to these cans, however.

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If you like listening to your music at an insane volume, you will be dismayed to hear that the s can only go as high as 99.12dB before hitting a 3% level of distortion, becoming quite annoying. It's a blessing in disguise, we think, as you will be less likely to damage your hearing by using lower volumes.

Click here for more on our maximum usable volume test

For speaker elements, slipping into something more comfortable means having an open back, and the s have just that, and a notably seductive one.

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Here too the s stray a little away from where they should be, as they have some minor channel preference errors. Due to their relatively minimal severity, you're very unlikely to hear them, even if you know what you're looking for. If you can, you are probably a robot.

Tracking Graph
[Click here for more information on our frequency response test.](/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Tracking) Should anything happen to these cans, the most common breakage problems are actually quite easy to fix: you can replace cables, and you can easily clean the mesh over the speaker elements, as you can twist off the ear pads easily. Should you short your cans from taking them outside in the rain, however, that's a different story. Tried and true, the 's band is unusual, but very comfortable as far as self-adjusting bands go. Definitely a draw for leather enthusiasts, as the entire contact surface between these cans and your head is made of the stuff.
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For those who don't like to have strings attached to their headphone relationships, the s have got you covered, as they offer very well-insulated removable cables in 10 and 20 feet.

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Capping off those rather long cables is a 1/8th inch plug, threaded for the pleasure of a 1/4th inch adapter.

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The cord guards on the s aren't too fragile, as they can handle a little rough treatment from time to time. Worst-case scenario: the cable comes out, and you can plug it in again ad infinitum.

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While it is quite unfortunate that Quincy Jones himself is not included, the packaging for the s contains your headphones, two cables, 1/4th inch adapter, and assorted documentation.

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Unlike their predecessors, the s are surprisingly durable... for open-backed headphones. We still recommend keeping them indoors, as even a little errant moisture can ruin their sensitive insides. Practice safe listening.

If you haven't come to the conclusion by now, the point we've been so indelicately dancing around is that these headphones are sexy. Like a Soul Bossa Nova for the eyes, these cans exude a classic feel, with just the right amount of funk. If white headphones don't tickle your fancy, these also come in jet black or lime green.

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Meet the tester

Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas

Staff Writer, Imaging


A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.

See all of Chris Thomas's reviews

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