AKG N700NC review: Noise cancelling king

AKG supplies the earbuds for the Samsung Galaxy S10 line, but it also has bigger products like the noise-cancelling AKG N700NC. When it comes to raw performance, the AKG N700NC reign as king of the hill. The headset made it into our Reader’s Choice list and is competitively priced, so let’s see how it squares up against the likes of Sony and Bose.

Read the in-depth review at SoundGuys.

What is the AKG N700NC like?

Tactile buttons are easy to operate but cause the headphones to creak when pressed.

Based on design alone, this is clearly intended to be a premium set of noise-cancelling headphones. Don’t let the predominantly plastic build fool you. Its handsome finish complements the synthetic leather ear pads and velour headband, which looks great but isn’t very comfortable. While the plastic exterior keeps them fairly lightweight (261g), it also serves as a source of creaking when buttons are pressed. The ear cups, though, are comfy for bespectacled listeners. However, the lack of pressure placed behind the ears means excess pressure is displaced at the crown of the head. This is where a major hot spot forms after about an hour of wear.

The premium design sacrifices comfort, and a hot sport forms at the crown of the head after an hour of listening.

Frequent flyers should strongly consider the AKG N700NC because of how well they attenuate low-end frequencies. Engines, A/C units, and distant traffic rumbles are no match for this headset. You’re afforded other travel-friendly features like the ability to fold them flat or up toward the headband, and a hard zippered carrying case.

Generally useful on-the-go features include Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes. Ambien Aware allows external noise in, so you remain aware of your surroundings. However, I didn’t find it supremely effective. TalkThru is a little different: it amplifies vocal frequencies and lets those pass through the noise-cancelling barrier. This allows listeners to hold conversations without removing the headphones, but doing so feels rude.

The AKG N700NC noise-cancelling headphones lying flat on a table.

Rotating the ear cups 90 degrees makes the headphones more compact and easy to stow into a bag.

It seems just about every headphone manufacturer has its own app these days, and AKG didn’t want to miss out on the data collection party. I shouldn’t be too harsh, however, as the app is useful for anyone looking to make EQ adjustments or benefit from firmware updates. It also lets listeners remap the Smart Ambient button, located on the right ear cup, to enable TalkThru capabilities instead. The multifunction button on the left ear cup allows for access to your virtual assistant access and can’t be remapped.

How well does the noise-cancelling work?

AKG N700NC headphones attenuation with noise cancelling turned on.
sony wh 1000x m3 isolation Chart
Bose 700 headphones Isolation

Extremely well. Compare bass-frequency attenuation between the AKG N700, Sony WH-1000XM3, and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones. Both Bose and Sony’s technologies are unable to combat frequencies below ~90Hz, but AKG’s ANC can hush 45Hz frequencies. Again the benefits are most noticeable during air travel. For day-to-day use, the Sony WH-1000XM3 does a better job at quieting conversational din.

Battery life and connectivity

The AKG N700NC noise-cancelling headphones lying flat with the Bluetooth switch in focus.

AKG’s decision to use a microUSB input, rather than USB-C, is perplexing.

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Battery life is good: with ANC turned on, SoundGuys recorded 22.65 hours of standalone playback. This is plenty for real-world use and never posed an issue during testing. Something I did take issue with is the microUSB charging input. For $349, I would’ve liked to see a USB-C input. Frankly, its absence is silly. A full charge cycle of the headset takes two hours, and unfortunately there’s no quick charging functionality.

Connectivity is reliable within a 10-meter range despite the outdated firmware, Bluetooth 4.1. What’s more, the headset only supports AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs. This is a disappointment for Android users as AAC performance varies across handsets. However, you can go the wired route with AKG’s provided cable, given your smartphone has a headphone jack.

How do they sound?

AKG N700NC headphones folded into the carrying case.

The velour headband of the AKG N700NC looks great but doesn’t provide enough cushioning for long listening sessions.

They sound great: bass notes are emphasized and give each kick drum a bit more presence without lessening the audibility of mid-range frequencies. I listened to Anderson Paak’s album Oxnard with these headphones and enjoyed every moment of it. Paak’s vocals remained prominent throughout each song without being quieted by the collection of bass drops. These headphones are strategically tuned to please a majority of consumers without verging near blasphemous bass emphasis. To get a detailed discussion of the sound signature, see SoundGuys’ full review.

Should you buy the AKG N700NC?

Yes, if you’re looking for something to help you sleep during your red-eye flight, the AKG N700NC headphones are it. True, design takes precedence over comfort, but this is made up for by the stellar ANC properties and sound quality. It remains difficult to overlook the lack of aptX support and microUSB charging, but if either of those are more important than low-frequency cancellation, checkout Sony and Bose’s flagship headsets instead.

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