Celebrity Headphone Deathmatch - AKG and Koss
Old folks need headphones, too.
The NPD report "Celebrity Endorsements Do Indeed Sell Headphones" claims "... [celebrity] endorsements are extremely/very important to nearly 30 percent of consumers when deciding what headphones to buy." With about 27% of the population over age 50, and the stiff competition in rapper can market, it's not surprising to see companies looking to lure the aging baby boomers into buying headphones with old school celebrity endorsements.
AKG and Quincy Jones
AKG has a long and laudable history making headphones, and have been a staple in recording studios for decades. AKG, now a part of Harmon International, manufactures a complete line of headphones from inexpensive ear buds, to studio quality full-sized headphones and pretty much everything in between.
With the headphone market moving very fast, it comes as no surprise that AKG took the speedy route of doing some cosmetic upgrades of existing products for Quincy Jones to endorse.
Quincy Jones Q701 ($399)|
The AKG K701 was introduced in 2006 and was quickly recognized as a world class headphone at that time. The K702 with removable cable was introduced a few years after. The Q701 is fundamentally a K702 with cosmetic changes.
This headphone is notorious among headphone enthusiasts as needing a long time to break-in, but once settled, it's a terrific sounding headphone. The Q701 has a quick, articulate, and open sound, though it tends to lack some oomph in the bass. This is a handsome, well-made, and comfortable headphone.
I think Quincy Jones did well endorsing these headphones. I can recommend alternatives like the Sennheiser HD 650 (for a more laid back sound), or the Beyerdynamic DT880 (for a brighter sound), but they would be side-steps with different, but not necessarily better, sound.
Quincy Jones Q460 ($169)|
This small, on-ear, sealed headphone is a cosmetically upgraded AKG K450, which is a headphone I don't like very much. The mids sound boxy and congested, and the treble significantly recessed. The combined result for me was a bit of a muffled and honky mess.
I think AKG and Quincy Jones missed a great opportunity here. The AKG K81DJ is only slightly larger and it's a great sounding headphone in its category. The K518LE is a varient of the K81DJ and come in a variety of colors ... including Quincy Jones green. All they would have had to do was change to a green cable, and poof, they'd have had another great headphone for Mr. Jones. Oh well.
Alternate recommendations would be the above mentioned and somewhat larger AKG K81DJ; and the terrific sounding and significantly smaller Sennheiser PX 200-II.
Koss and Tony Bennett
Koss traveled a path similar to AKG and decided to appeal to the older generations with a cosmetic upgrade to an existing headphone --- this time endorsed by octogenarian crooner Tony Bennett.
Like AKG, Koss has been around for a long time, but the major focus of their business has been relatively inexpensive consumer headphones. Many of the Radio Shack headphones, for example, have been made by Koss.
Koss TBSE1 ($149)|
The Tony Bennett Special Edition is an upgraded Koss DJ100. The TBSE1 is different in that it has a detachable cable, a sturdy carrying case, a code to download Tony Bennett's album "Duets," and it has Tony Bennett's signature embossed on the headband and the outside of the earpieces. Other than that, I think the two headphones are identicle. (I'll be measuring some DJ100s soon to verify.)
The TBSE1 is a somewhat dry sounding headphone (opposite direction of liquid or lush), and has a sort of old school, mids-forward sound. I liked them once I got accustom to the sound --- they're good, but not great.
A better sounding alternative celebrity headphone of the same type and price would be the Skullcandy Roc Nation Aviator.
Next Sennheiser has a celebrity headphone ... of sorts ...