I’ll be honest, I don’t have all that much experience with headphones that come with active noise cancellation. I tend to favor in-ear phones and whatever passive noise reduction they provide. Another reason is because I just don’t like wearing over-the-ear headphones; I can’t shake the feeling that I look like Mickey Mouse or Princess Leia from Star Wars.
One look at the handsome AKG K495 headphones though, and I was prepared to change my mind. They have a really appealing, expensive and solid heft to them and the black and silver trim is elegant and understated. Even the (faux) leather carrying case felt refined and upscale. Let’s put it this way, these are the first pair of headphones I’ve tested that would look just as appropriate with an Audi or Mercedes Benz logo on them instead of the AKG one.
As I lifted the headset out of the box and no cable dangled from the earcups, I got excited and thought “Hey cool! It’s wireless too?” Turns out the cable is detachable and you have to plug it into one of the earcups. Speaking of earpieces, there are prominent “L” and R” markings emblazoned right there where your ear is supposed to make contact with the pad, so it’s pretty darn obvious which ear goes where. I like it.
On the negative side, I wasn’t overly fond of the way you activate the noise reduction. It basically involves grabbing and twisting the silver rim of the earcup, much as you would open a jam jar. It’s easier described than executed, but I assume with practice it gets easier. The first few times, I had to take the headset off and look at it closely to figure out what I was doing. A simple on/off thumb switch would have been much simpler, but I can see how it would detract from the whole design.
The best place to try the AKG out would have been on an airplane (where most active noise cancelling headphones really earn their weight in gold) but since I didn’t have any trips planned for the near future, I tested it out by standing next to a noisy air conditioner unit in my office. Activating the noise reduction does make a very pronounced difference in the sound. I had fun switching it on and off and marvelling at how it sounded like someone just turned off the air conditioner. Very cool.
Of course the noise reduction algorithm can’t help but affect the sonic character of the music. While the AKG sounds full bodied and pleasingly robust both with and without the NR enabled, on most songs, enabling it also seemed to bump up the bass level a bit, or at least change its quality. It’s a little subjective as to which sounds better – I tended to prefer the music without the noise reduction. Fortunately, you can use the K495s to listen to your music even if the battery goes dead on the noise reduction processor. I believe some other brands of active noise reduction headphone only work for as long as the battery is charged.
The AKG charges via a USB cable, which makes it a good partner for a laptop. Then again, everything charges via USB nowadays, doesn’t it. It also folds away for easy stashing in your laptop bag or knapsack – though the earcups and headband swivel in so many directions that it took me a while to figure out how to put everything back into a headphone shape!
I liked the sound of the K495 NC a lot and if you’re in the market for a product like this, I can definitely recommend it.
Philippine Release: September 2012
Projected Retail Price: P19,990
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