Before we get into the AKG K550 vs. Q701 comparison, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
I will outline the Similarities & Differences between the 550 and Q701 and then give a recommendation towards the end. 🙂
Similarities & Differences
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!
This comparison is rather interesting because these headphones share similar characteristics even despite the fact that one is a closed back and the other is open. Closed back vs. Open back headphones.
It’s cool because making a headphone that sounds somewhat open even if it’s not is no easy task. I believe the K550 has a lot of qualities than an open back has, without actually being open. There’s also things about each that differ as well.
So what’s the skinny? Let’s find out..
Similarities & Differences
Both are considered reference/monitor headphones.
Both have very detailed signatures, but aren’t bass heavy in the slightest. Both have a tight bass with impact, but neither headphones are for bass-heads specifically. Very important to keep in mind. So yeah if you’re primarily interested in bass heavy genres, I would probably steer clear of these because they’re not going to provide the slam that you’re looking for.
Mid-range. The mid-range on both is extremely detail oriented with a lot of clarity.
Treble. The treble on each is very similar, although the peak at around 9k is similar on both, it’s more subtle on the Q701 than it is for the 550. Neither of these headphones are particularly bright, but with the K550 you’re going to get a bit more sparkle.
Type. The K550 is a closed back while the Q701 is open.
Fit. The K550 has a traditional headband mechanism with numbered adjustments, while the Q701 is self adjusting. It utilizes that hammock style fit. It’s also more difficult to get a good seal with the 550. I got a chance to demo one at my local Guitar Center, and it was a tad cumbersome trying to keep it on. Once you do get a good fit, it’s all gravy. It’s just that initial phase that throws you off. By contrast, the Q701 is easier to put on, and stays on nicely because of the self-adjusting homie. I kind of wish all headphones would employ this style.
Rotation. The K550’s ear-cups do rotate and lay flat, while the Q701’s don’t. In fact, the Q is very limited in this regard, as it doesn’t fold or adjust in any kind of way.
Cable. The Q701 terminates in a mini XLR cable and it’s detachable. What is XLR? The K550’s cable is not detachable.
Ear-pads. The Q701’s have that plush velour padding, while the K550’s sport protein leather.
Headband. The padding on the Q701 comes in the form of bumps, while the K550 sports the traditional padding.
Origin. The Q701’s are made in Austria while the K550 is made in China.
Soundstage. The Q701 has a wider Soundstage than the K550. With the K701, many complained that it was unnaturally large, with a center image that was lacking. They remedied this issue with the Q701 however. The K550’s have a pretty open and spacious sound for a closed back, but aren’t quite as expansive sounding as the Q. What is Soundstage?
Bass. While neither are particularly bass heavy, the K550 has a lot less roll off than the Q701, and generally there’s more of it in the sub-bass regions. The Q701 is very bass lean by contrast. There’s just not a whole lot of it, and you can see from the graph where it kind of gradually drops off. Neither has a low end response that’s exaggerated by any means either.
Genre. Despite the fact that these two buddies are very similar, the K550 works for a wider variety of genres due to it’s slightly more elevated frequency response, and added bass depth.
Isolation. With the K550, as long as you have a good seal they will isolate better than the Q701.
Amp. The Q701’s absolutely need a good amp to sound their best, while the K550’s do not need one at all. They will sound fine straight out of your phone, but could benefit from an Amp/DAC. How to choose a Headphone Amp!
Detail. The K550’s provide a little more detail than the Q701.
It’s been said that the K550 is the closed back version of the Q701, which is actually pretty accurate. While the Q701 is more open sounding with a wider Soundstage, it has a hollower center image. The K550 has more bass and a smaller Soundstage, but it’s still quite expansive considering it’s closed. The bass on the 550 is also deeper, but it’s still by no means a bass-head affair.
So what do I recommend?
I would absolutely recommend both, but you may choose one or the other depending on your specific needs.
If you’re looking for a closed back reference headphone with more bass, and a slightly more detailed signature, the K550 is what you’re after. It’s really one of the crispier sounds I’ve had the pleasure of hearing, and sounds extremely natural and open. For a closed back, this is pretty amazing considering that often times you’re getting a somewhat boxed in sounding can. The 550 puts all those busters to shame!
If you’re looking for an open back headphone that has a similar sound signature, but you also plan on purchasing an amp, the Q701 is a solid buy. It’s bass is somewhat lean, but the mid-range is phenomenal and the treble gets the job done.
However, I think there is something better out there, and it comes in the form of the Sennheiser HD 600. This baby has been around since 1997 and still somehow beats out the competition. It’s the Gold Standard for headphones, and provides everything you could ever want in an open back or otherwise. Called the benchmark for which all cans should be compared, it serves as the quintessential studio solution, and gets my highest endorsement. Interested in learning more?
Stu is determined to provide the truth about all things audio, and strives to deliver excellent content to you the reader! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel, but it can be both a blessing and a hindrance at times.