CES 2017: AKG N90Q Auto-Calibrating Noise Canceling Headphones
I really had to go out of my way to hear this one. Harman had a completely separate exhibit from CES at the Hard Rock Cafe. It was one of those big, swanky, "invite only" sort of things that don't typically deal with walk-ups very well. Some internet headphone writer in a Hawaiian shirt is looked at with quite a bit of skepticism usually. None the less, after a chat with the reception folks, a PR rep for JBL headphones came to usher me around.
She showed me the JBL line-up for a little while and then, just about willing to burst, I said, "Look, I'm really a high-end dude, and I'm curious about the new AKG N90Q." She walked me over to a glassed-off showcase and pointed to the headphone and its box.
"Any chance I could get a listen?"
She raised her shoulders and eyebrows and said she'd have to find someone. Shortly an AKG rep appeared with keys and got it out, set it up, and I had a short listen. Then I started asking questions. Pretty quick the guy says, "Um...man, I'm going to have to find someone more technical." And of he went. I continued to listen, and found the cans fairly good...certainly good enough to peak my interest.
Finally, Dorothee Debacker, who has a position in headphone product management at AKG, arrived to help. She knew who I was. It's weird...when I go to any of the big companies at CES none of the normal PR and sales folks have any idea who I am, but if I can find an engineer, they'll know. Most of them will thank me for all the headphone measurements. It's very satisfying to know the people who are at the heart of headphone development know of my work. I'm grateful.
At any rate, this new $1499 active noise canceling headphone has a number of cool things up its sleeves: digital operation over USB or Lightning; a continuously variable EQ circuit; and, I kid you not, voice prompts by Quincy Jones himself! The coolest thing of all is TruNote auto-calibration for individual listeners. When you push the TruNote button, the music stops, and you hear little chirps from first the left ear and then the right. The reflections from these chirps are heard by the internal ANC feedback mics, and are somehow interpreted in order to develop a DSP algorithm solution for your exact ear shape to improve listening fidelity. It's quite a trick, and I'll try to learn more before the review sample arrives.
Lots more on this interesting headphone in the video and its product page.