I love headphones. Over the years I’ve auditioned numerous makes and models in search of a well-balanced set of headphones which work well for both music and gaming, and of course, which were budget friendly. For the past 7 years I’ve settled with using a pair of Sennheiser HD595’s as my go to cans; however, this is all about to change.
Recently, Massdrop kind enough to send me a pair of their popular AKG K7XX headphones for review. As both a gamer and music enthusiast, I was eager to put these headphones through their paces. These K7XX massdrop edition headphones are inspired by the AKG K702 65th anniversary edition headphones. While the K702’s originally retailed for $500, the massdrop drop edition K7XX are selling at $200 which brings to the table a significant value for potential customers looking at getting an audiophile grade pair of headphones. Subtle differences between the K7XX and the K702s is the bass response has been increased by +3db and the build quality has been slightly downgraded. The original K702 headphones are made in Austria, while the Massdrop editions are made in China. The savings in manufacturing costs; Massdrop are able to turn around to consumers. More on the build quality later. Before auditioning these headphones, I let them burn-in for 50 hours and I only tested using lossless digital audio or vinyl.
First let’s talk comfort. As I talked about in a previous post, for me comfort is the most important aspect of a headphone. You can have the most amazing sounding headphone in the world, but if they are uncomfortable, you’re not going to use them which make them worthless.
As mentioned, I’ve been using Sennheiser HD595 headphones for the past 7 years and for me, they are the gold standard in comfort. I have dumbo ears and find the shape of the HD595’s perfect for my ears. If I were to rate the HD595’s a 10/10 in comfort, the AKG K7XX are a 9/10.
The K7XX feature large velour ear cups made of memory foam which is extremely soft to the touch. The cups encompass my entire ear and is an ideal fit. The only flaw I found with the K7XX’s is that the driver of the headphone rubs the top corner of my ear, which is something my Sennheiser’s don’t do. As I mentioned, I have dumbo ears, this this likely won’t be an issue for most people. I was able to wear the K7XX’s for hours without them getting too hot and the clapping force of the headphone was just enough where the stayed securely in place without creating pressure points around my ears after extended listening or gaming sessions.
The only negative with the design of these headphones is the overall plastic build. They do feel sturdy, but I’d be very uncomfortable throwing these in my backpack without a case and expecting them to come back out in one piece. With that said, I’d say the build quality is superior than that of the Sennheiser HD598’s, so if you’re not too rough with them, you shouldn’t have any problems with the build quality.
Next, let’s talk about how these headphones sound. First off, let me say, these headphones sound amazing. The clarity of these cans is phenomenal for a $200 headphone. The price to performance ratio Massdrop is providing with these headphones is going to be hard to beat. My only caveat to this is these headphones need proper amplification to reach their full potential. Due to the higher impedance of these cans, I recommend using a headphone amplifier. When I’m running these cans from a PC, I use a Micca OriGen G2 dac/amp combo. While the K7XX have an impedance of 62 ohms and aren’t excessively hard to drive, they still do benefit from amplification. With that said, I was able to run these headphones with no problems from my audio interface. They did slightly struggle if I ran them off my Nexus 5X cell phone. My HD598’s.
While listening to music, I was surprised with how well balanced the sound of the K7XX’s were when compared to my HD598’s. While both headphones are reference headphones, meaning the sound isn’t colored by any kind of manufacturer equalization; the K7XX sound was more neutral than the HD598’s. The HD598’s has a more pronounced tremble response while the K7XX balanced the treble and mid-range bands more evenly. Bass response on the K7XX was pleasing to my ears. It was not boomy or over powering to my ears which was pleasant to hear. The increase in the bottom end of these ear muffs still provided a very musical sounding experience and did not muddy up sound quality. With that said, these headphones are not for bassheads, so if you’re looking for a bass heavy experience, these headphones are not for you.
Now let’s talk gaming with these headphones. Due to these headphones using an open driver design, they inherently have a larger soundstage than that of closed headphones. Combine with a wide soundstage and the clarity of these drivers, a heightened sense of positional awareness is achieved.
Enemy gun fire and footsteps are easily pinpointed with these headphones which aids in a totally immersive gaming experience. Playing Counter Strike with these headphones almost feels like I have an unfair advantage against opponents…or at least bots in my case. Although these headphones are more bass heavy than their K702 counterparts, the bass isn’t overpowering and distracting while gaming. Explosions and gunshots still have impact.
Anyone in the market for headphones in the $200 range is doing themselves a huge injustice if they don’t consider these headphones in their buying decision. Massdrop are offering a huge value with these headphones which shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’re budget is in the $100 dollar range, I still recommend the Sennheiser HD598s, but if you’re able to double you budget, the K7XX will not disappoint, but again, to get the best experience from these ear muffs, I’d recommend getting a good headphone amp. These are excellent headphones for both music and gaming, they’re so excellent, I’m retiring my Sennheiser HD595s in place of the Massdrop AKG K7XX edition.