AKG N60NC On Ear Bluetooth Noise Canceling Headphones Page 2


Sound Quality
Sound quality in noise canceling mode, both wired and Bluetooth, is roughly the same. Tonal profile is quite good, but with a bit too much bass, which is somewhat loose in character, and with the mid-treble on up rolled-off by a few dB. The presence region in the upper-mids and low treble are just slightly low in level and a bit hard in character.

Because the treble is a little low, and the presence region a bit hard, it's hard to get too much of a read on the treble resolution other than to say it's rather non-descript. Take a real close listen though and it's a little hazy but pretty good otherwise. No annoyances here.

Imaging has little depth likely due to the slightly rolled off top end and hazy transient resolution. Dynamics are okay; but the loosish bass and a lack of coherence between the low-treble and the upper half of the treble just tends to leave things somewhat lack luster. Sounds should pop out of a dead black background; with these cans there's a slightly smooshed out mid-fi character the leaves things a little flat.

Now you might think those last two paragraphs are a hard knock on these cans, but when you consider they're noise cancelers and on-ear headphones I actually find these are as good or better than most ANC cans at this price. Noise cancelers can give really wonky tonality and weird vertigo-like feelings. The N60NC doesn't exhibit this at all, and the all-important neutrality of frequency response is significantly better than most.

Lot's of noise cancelers will do weird things like break into low frequency oscillation when partially covered by a hat or pillow; some ANC cans will click or make odd thumps when you walk and and the low frequency vibration from foot fall momentarily pressurizes the ear-cup and the ANC circuit clips with a thump. The N60NC didn't exhibit any of these oddities.

Now if I were to stop right here, I'd say it's a no brainer to save up the extra $50 and buy the Bose Quiet Comfort 35. Except there this one other thing...

In passive wired mode, these little headphones get a lot better sounding! Bass tightens up quite a bit and is pretty dead nuts on tonally and has great extension. Bass transitions really nicely into the mids. The modest hardness upper-mids/low-treble is significantly reduced and not really a problem at all. Dynamics and imaging improve modestly but remain lackluster. At this point the dominant character of the cans is a slightly muffled sound due to the slightly recessed presence area and rolled-off top end. It's still mid-fi for sure, just 2 or 3 notches up the food chain relative to when heard in the active noise canceling modes.

Okay, so my report on sound quality is not very exciting, but....

There are very few noise cancelers that actually sound even remotely decent when run passively on the wire. The fact that the N60NC sounds okay when active and pretty decent passively on the wire seems like a pretty big plus to me. I wouldn't call this a good traveler's headphone—the Bose reigns supreme there—but as an all-arounder for general portable use on the move and at use in the home and office it covers a lot of bases. Add the mic/remote on the wire and the fact that many noise cancelers won't operate as a phone headset when the batteries run out and it feels to me like it's ticked a whole lot of boxes.

The just okay sound, just okay noise canceling, and jinky Bluetooth pairing has me thinking the N60NC might be a bit overpriced, but factor in the lack of fatal flaws, tonal goodness, and markedly better performance when run passively on the wire and I start feeling like it would be hard to get as much value from most other wireless, noise canceling headphones. I started of this review wanting to know if the AKG N60NC was competitive. I found it was, not because of any one particular strength, but because it performs at a level of average or better in every way. This is a well rounded little headphone.

Boy there's a lot of crappy on-ear, sealed, wireless, noise canceling headphones out there, and the N60NC is not one of them. No, it's not going to wow audio enthusiasts with its great sound, but it will provide decent tonality and mid-fi performance in active modes, and even better, dare I say upper mid-fi, sound quality passively on the wire.

Bass is somewhat loose, mids a bit hard, and highs a bit rolled off in active modes—a decidedly middle of road sound. But sound quality gets significant better passively on the wire—a rarity among NC wireless cans! Simple decent tonality and consistency of performance in all modes should be the norm...but it's not. The AKG N60NC cheerfully delivers a satisfying listen in all modes, and ergonomically performs well on the head and in its pouch both in the home and office or portably on the road.

If you're a serious traveller and need a really good noise canceler in a plane or train, spend the extra $50 and go for the Bose QC35. But if you're just looking for a general purpose headphone to do anything and everything reasonable well, the N60NC may be just the ticket.

Boy, I struggled with this. There's no way this is a reference headphone in terms of sound quality. Thing is, it does everything reasonably well, and on that basis alone I need to keep it around to compare to other cans that come down the pipe. I don't expect to see these on the Wall of Fame for too terribly long, but in my experience, it may take a while to find a pair of headphones that performs as well on the whole.

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