AKG Quincy Jones Q701

This story originally appeared at InnerFidelity.com

According to a February 2011 NPD Group study, celebrity endorsements are extremely/very important to nearly 30 percent of consumers when deciding what headphones to buy. Moreover, there was a 75% increase in sales of headphones over $100 from 2009 to 2010 ... in a bad economy, no less. Headphones are a hopping commodity.

So sure, why not nab a big name like Quincy Jones and extend the life into an aging, but still very good headphone.

The AKG Quincy Jones Q701 (MSRP $479.99, $299 street)
In late-2010 AKG decided to go the way of the world and add a bit of celebrity to the well regarded AKG K 701, and re-introduce it as the Quincy Jones Q701. Also in the new Quincy Jones line are the Q460 on-ear portable headphone ($MSRP $189.99), and the Q350 in-ear headphone (MSRP $129.99).

The Q701 is a full-size open headphone --- so they don't isolate you from outside noise --- and are intended for high-fidelity listening in the quite of your home or office. Though it is efficient enough to get acceptably loud on a portable player, these really sound best with, and deserve, a good source and headphone amplifier.

At 235 grams, the Q701 is quite light for a headphone of this size. The large circular velour earpads are very comfortable, and are easily removed with a quick counter-clockwise twist for replacement when needed. Just remember that the pads are thicker towards the rear so orientation is important during replacement.

Unlike most headphones, the headband automatically adjusted with small elastic bands connected between the earcup and headband. I've always been somewhat leery of this arrangement, but found in practice that it works quite well. The elastic bands have been known to wear out over a number of years; hobbyists have discovered they can be replaced with a properly sized elastic band used by women to tie up their pony tails.

Two lime-green cables come with the headphones: a long ten foot cable; and an even longer 20 footer. I've really enjoyed the longer one as I roll around my office unencumbered; I can't think of another headphone that comes stock with such a long cable and think it's really a nice touch. The cables attach to the left ear with a 3-pin mini-XLR connector, and are 99.9999% oxygen-free copper. Both cables are terminated in an 1/8' mini-plug, and a screw-on 1/8" to 1/4" adaptor is included.

With it's clean circular ear pieces and arching wire-frame and leather headband, I've always felt the K 701 was a good looking headphone. I find the Q701's darker accents in the earpads, headband, and central grill with black and chrome "Q" logo to be a nice improvement over the already elegant design of the K 701. The Q701 is available in three colors: white, black, and bright green. The two cables are always green.

Build Quality
AKG is a leader in headphone design, and the Q701 inherits numerous excellent technical features from the K 701. Coining the term "Varimotion" for their two-layer diaphragm, AKG has varied the thickness of the material such that it's stiffer in the middle and more pliant at the edges, which provides better pistoning action without modal break-up. Additionally, my understanding from discussions with Sennheiser engineers of their similar "Duofoil" diaphragm material, is that the two-layered plastic reduces viscosity changes with heating of the material at the flexure creases, which can change the torsional characteristics of the hinge action, and cause variances of performance when driven at different levels by the program material. In other words, the diaphragm performance changes with changes in the music, and these bi-layered materials can help reduce the problem.

The Q701 also employs flat-wound, aluminum voice coil windings. This improves the packing density of the winding coils, and permits higher magnetic coupling for a more efficient motor. Aluminum is used instead of copper as it is significantly lighter and allows the diaphragm to be more responsive.

The general build quality of these cans is very good, with the only consistent complaint I've heard being the elastics on the headband wearing out over some time.

So, how do they sound?

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