I have also written an informative article on the AKG Q701 vs. K701, if you were looking for that comparison, but clicked on this out of curiosity. If you were looking for the AKG K702 vs. K712, I have that one too!
Now with that, grab a snack, sit back and relax friend,
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
Given that both of these headphones have very similar sound signatures, I’m going to review the K701 and then compare it to the K702 towards the end. 🙂
Both of these models have been around for a while and both have gotten generally favorable reviews. As of late, however, the AKG brand is now being designed in Austria and assembled in China. Please keep this in mind before purchase. Both sets still get very good reviews to this day, but there are some people who have noticed a slight difference in build quality since they made the switch to China. Even with that said, the headband bump issue has been resolved, and no longer will the headphone leave you with a lumpy dome! It was a serious problem, lol.
Generally speaking, the K701 and K702 are still to this day highly regarded in the category of mid-tier audiophile reference headphones. The best audiophile headphones! In my estimation, the HD600 comes in first, the DT880 second, and the K701/K702 third. The main differences are that the K701/702 and HD600 have a darker treble than the brighter sounding 880 with its fairly standard peak of around 10k.
The K701/702 have a much wider Soundstage than the HD600 and DT880. Some people have called it “unnatural” but for Gaming it’s absolutely ideal. The Best Headphones for Gaming!
The 880 also has a very good Soundstage, but it won’t provide you with that out of your head sound where you can hear stuff happening behind you like the K701/702.
Lastly, the HD600 provides the narrowest imaging and Soundstage out of these 3. It’s instrument separation and general imaging capabilities are tremendous, but the image itself is fairly small with regard to width. Learn more:Sennheiser HD600 Review!
These babies will provide you with a flat, close to neutral reference sound conducive to mixing in the studio. The bass is somewhat lacking, but the mid-range is really their strong suit. Some bullet points:
The Soundstage on them is exceptionally wide, but some say so wide that they may start to sound a bit unnatural. Others love the 3-D like presentation that the K701 supplies. What is Soundstage?
They are very even sounding across the spectrum, with no frequencies overpowering each other.
They will require a good amp but aren’t as power-hungry as some people claim.
They aren’t really plug and play type headphones, even at a modest 62 Ohm impedance.
They also won’t sound too good playing back low-quality audio, being that they are so honest.
The sound is pleasant from your mobile devices, albeit a bit on the weak side. One thing to note is that there are two different models of the K701: The Austrian made, and now the Chinese made. A lot of people are saying that the overall quality has suffered, but some including Metal571 on YouTube said he didn’t see much difference. Still some things to keep in mind:
The early 2008 Austrian model (as seen in Metal571’s review)
The cable terminates into a 1/4″ adapter rather than the standard 3.5mm.
Has a 7 bump headband. The later models had 8 bumps. The newer models don’t have any bumps, which I found interesting.
What about the good and bad?
Very comfortable. You may forget you’re wearing them. The ear cups are also very large and fit all sizes.
Voices sound true to life. The treble is rendered beautifully.
The headband is made of leather, and self adjust to the size of any melon, big or small.
Very even sounding across the spectrum.
Particularly great mid-range. There is a 5dB bump at 2khz (just a spike if you will), but it gives the 701’s a certain energy that makes the music sound really enjoyable to an otherwise very flat headphone.
The bass is very light and lean. Lacks impact. The quality and extension are there, but there just isn’t a lot of it.
The sound may have a “tinny” quality until they are burned in for a certain amount of hours (upwards of 100). There is a spike in the treble range which can be off-putting to some. Others say this makes it sound more detailed, extended, and quite gorgeous.
If you’re looking for a wide, expansive Soundstage, these are among the best for that specific purpose. They would make a fantastic gaming headphone as well. They are also pretty darn good for mixing and will give you a fairly balanced and even response. The bass is a bit more rolled off than some would like and could prove a bit more difficult to compensate for if you’re trying to mix Hip-Hop or something with a greater emphasis on the low end.
The mid-range on these is particularly good as well, as they render acoustic instrumentation with startling realism. They are also great for FPS gaming as they have that 3D Soundstage. Learn more:The Best Headphones for Gaming
This is a headphone that will do well with a variety of genres. Some notables include:
As you can well guess, the K701 does well for nearly any genre, as it’s resolution, clarity, and strict attention to detail becomes apparent the moment you put them on.
The K701 excels in providing a flat, even sound conducive to mixing, but some may find that they will have to overcompensate due to lack of bass impact. Even so, they have a great Soundstage, mid-range, as well as good clarity and instrument separation as well.
The Austrian model does lack comfort as far as the bumpy quality of the headband. The newer Chinese models don’t have any bumps on them. They also may be a bit awkward-sounding, since they will expose tiny human flaws in musicianship that other headphones gloss over. In a nutshell, they are about as revealing as it gets in this general price range.
So what is the best headphone amp for the AKG K701 and K702?
I did an exhaustive amount of research on this matter, and I will continue to do so until I’m satisfied. You can find links to my sources at the bottom!
With a low impedance and low Sensitivity rating by mW (Around 91dB), the K701 and K702 both need some power from an amp to reach peak loudness (around 110dB is the standard). Neither are very efficient at all. Related:What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
Even though they both need quite a bit of power, they aren’t really amp picky like a lot of people will tell you. You should have no problems with an entry-level desktop Amp like the Atom or Objective 2. Both provide plenty of power and sound fantastic with all headphones.
You can also opt for an Amp/DAC combo; something like an E10K, or Audioengine D1. More on these in a jiffy!
Note: This section is still in progress, but let’s get into it!
Sources: Tidal (FLAC & MQA), Spotify Premium.
JDS Labs ATOM/Objective 2
The Objective 2 has long since been a staple in the beginning audiophile diet. Fortunately for us, JDS Labs has recently released their next-generation update in the fantastic Atom.
More power, more options, and in my opinion a slightly better sound but it’s kind of marginal. The add on features of the Atom is what makes it better. We’ve now got a pair of RCA outputs as well as RCA inputs on the back, enabling it to output audio to a pair of studio monitors. You can also use the inputs to connect a separate DAC. The familiar 3.5mm input makes another return as well, proving to be most useful with a myriad of different DAC options.
In the picture above I have it paired up with a K3 for the DAC portion of the rig. An all-around fantastic investment and head bangin’ good time!
After spending a lot of time with the E10K/K3 and various headphones like the HD600, 650, Aeon Flow, K702, Black Mage, SHP9500, etc. I can say without a doubt that there really isn’t a reason not to own one of these. They work as a desktop solution as well as a portable Amp/DAC solution. With a gain switch and bass boost, there really isn’t anything more you could ask for. The gain switch helps out tremendously with more power-hungry headphones, and the bass boost is cool if you want to get all hardcore and rebellious.
I would call the sound very crisp, neutral, and clean, which will work with the majority of headphones without issue. Build on both is excellent for an Amp/DAC in this price category, and the K3 only improved on that. It’s a bit more robust and modern looking, with the inclusion of the more rugged Type-C USB cable vs. the E10K’s micro. The only complaint I had on the E10K was the jiggly jack on the back. It wiggled and piggled a little too much for my tastes.
That said: If you only have about $100 or less to spend, take a look at these first!
This is perhaps my favorite all-around combo Amp/DAC because it’s really small and convenient. Just plug it into a USB slot and go! I’m finding the combo of K702 + DF Red to be quite fantastic as well.
Every time I listen with the Red, the Soundstage opens up and everything sounds more smooth and expansive. There’s a liquid effortlessness to the sound overall, with instruments sounding more lush and clean too.
You’re not getting any onboard features here, but the DAC does light up different colors according to the source file and sounds fantastic with Tidal MQA tracks specifically.
My Video Comparison/Shootout
Here I did an in-depth A/B comparison of the Black & Red version, as well as a Shootout between the FiiO E10K, DragonFly Red, and HA-2! Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. Any support is much appreciated!
Another often overlooked choice, the Presonus HP4 has a ton of headroom, and a clean, crisp signal and plenty of power to drive a K701. Many users report this one pairing very well if you’re looking for an entry-level Amp.
You can plug up to 4 different headphones so it’s cool for movie sharing or demoing headphones as well. Like the Audioengine D1, you can use this with your studio monitors too, so it becomes versatile in that regard. What are studio monitors?
This is an amp that will not only work with a K701 but a lot of other headphones as well. If you’re familiar with the original AKG K240, it was notorious for being extremely hard to drive. Not so with the HP4. A sound investment indeed (no pun intended).
The Bravo Ocean is a great first foray into the world of Tubes if you want to get your feet wet. It’s a class A Tube Hybrid, and sounds wonderful with the DragonFly Red as the DAC fed into a K702. I’m only using the gain at around 7 ‘o clock so you won’t have to worry about power at all.
The Ocean is versatile in that it has a pair of RCA Outputs and Inputs, as well as a Line Input. This essentially means that you can pair it up to almost any DAC. I used the E10K and DragonFly Red and I found that I liked the DF Red pairing a little more.
With Jazz specifically, I’m noticing better resolution and clarity through the Ocean. I listened to a Master of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” through Tidal, and I started hearing subtle details that I have not heard before. Little voices in the background became more apparent and easily distinguishable from what was going on in the forefront.
Part of this surely has to do with the K702 itself; there’s much better Soundstage depth and width when you have this headphone on, and that’s really not debatable. Even so, I was finding the album to come through with a much greater degree of immediacy and pinpoint accuracy than I remember out of other setups.
There’s a smooth sense of detail apparent, with bass notes sounding less hazy and wooly, and the overall sound is more enjoyable. I personally have always had a hard time with Jazz. It’s one of the most difficult genres to reproduce accurately and realistically. A lot of the time stuff gets muddied up quite easily, but with the Ocean I found the opposite to be true: there’s a crisp rumble to the tracks that now have plenty of room to breathe and pulsate without sounding muddy.
This little beast pairs extremely well with a Topping D3 DAC, and has RCA outputs on the back for some added flexibility. You can use it as a preamp to power some studio monitors or you can hook it up to your Turntable for some fresh Vinyl snacks! Like the Darkvoice, this Little Dot also benefits from some tube rolling but the stock tubes sound fine too if you don’t want to upgrade right away. This will do very well with the K701 because like the WA6, it tends to smooth out the rough edges in that 2k area. The Dot has a rock-solid build and lots of power as well. If you’re coming from a cheaper solid-state amp, get ready to have your mind blown!
As mentioned above, I did a lot of research on this. Here I will list out everything I came across, with the amps towards the top getting the most mention followed by the ones toward the bottom with the least amount of mention.
Heed Can Amp. This seems to be one of the most recommended pairings with the K701, but it’s much harder to find nowadays.
Both are open back, and people will be able to hear what you’re listening to. This also means that your mixes will be better, because the music has room to breathe and doesn’t get trapped inside your head. This is also a big reason why mixing on closed back cans can get very tiring in a hurry.
Do keep in mind that these sound signature differences are kind of subtle.
I would say if you desire a bit more bass and warmth with your headphone experience, the K702 may be the better fit (no pun intended). The 702 is my current go-to all-around headphone; for gaming, film, music, etc.
Stu is determined to help you make sound decisions, and strives to deliver the best and most in depth content on the internet! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, pray, rap, make beats, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His sense of humour, coupled with a knack for excellence and strict attention to detail are what allow him to stand out in an crowded industry.