AKG Quincy Jones Q701 Sound and Measurements

The Sound
It's pretty easy to take for granted a headphone that's been around for six years, so I'm very glad the folks at AKG sent me the Quincy Jones Q701 to re-experience. The sound of these cans is very good, and I'd forgotten just how good. No, these are not headphones for bass lovers; though the bass is well extended, it is not emphatic in the least. I'd say the Q701 is well balanced with a slightly less present bass than perfect. The low notes are, however, tight and nicely textured, and well integrated into the whole.

The treble has been the troublesome spot with these cans, being slightly too fast to my ears. The overall impression of the highs is open and clear. These cans image surprisingly well, and the sound is coherent and deep.

The mid-range is very good in the Q701, and is integrated quite well with the extremes of the spectrum. With the slightly emphatic treble, the mids do seem a bit lean in comparison, but only a bit. Overall, I find the Q701 to portray the music as a well integrated whole, and deliver an open and satisfying listening experience. These are very good headphones at their price point, I strongly recommend them.

Other directions to look for a similar can are: the Sennheiser HD650 is substantially more expensive, but has a more laid back sound; the Beyerdynamic DT800 600 Ohm is roughly the same price for a slightly airier presentation.

A Note: Break-in
The AKG K701 has long been considered by hobbyists to be a headphone that needs a lot of break-in time to sound its best. Numbers like 300 and 400 hours are commonly mentioned. I've been working on the measurability of break-in in articles here and here with the Q701 to see if there are measurable artifacts to back up this claim. So far, I can report that while there seems to be some evidence that the break-in phenomena does exist, it is small in terms of its measurable effect. I do think I've heard it on the K 701 previously, and recommend that if you get a pair, give them time to show you their stuff. Break-in your pair by playing music (or pink noise, if you have it) through them continuously at moderately loud levels for at least 100 hours (200 is better) before making a final decision on your purchase. Though they will sound fundamentally the same, my experience is that the "edginess" is markedly lessened with long break-in on these headphones.

I've seen some questions and comments about the Q701 being voiced differently than the K 701, I've done some comparison measurements here and they look virtually identical to me.

Frequency Response

Fig. 1 Shows the frequency response of the AKG Q701 (top) and the AKG K 701 (bottom).

The graph above shows that the K 701 and Q701 are very similar in frequency response. The only artifacts of note are the slight differences in lumpiness between 900Hz and 2000Hz, and about 3-4dB lower energy above 10kHz on the Q701.

300Hz Squarewave Response

Fig. 2 Shows the 300Hz square wave response of the AKG Q701 and the AKG K 701 superimposed.

The 300 square wave response of both headphones is virtually identical. The leading edge spike may be somewhat higher than ideal, and likely leads to the subjective impression of these headphones as fast and detailed. The fact that they settle down quickly to a fairly noiseless top indicates goos control and likely contributes to the excellent imaging and clarity of these cans. The somewhat downward sloping tilt is indicative of headphones that are somewhat lean sounding, an observation that is born out in subjective listening tests as well.

Impulse Response

Fig. 3 Shows the impulse response of the AKG Q701 and the AKG K 701 superimposed.

Here we can see the Q701 initial impulse spike is slightly lower, and settles into zero very slightly quicker, and with slightly less noise. This would indicate a slightly better controlled headphone, though I heard both headphones as essentially identical. The impulse response shown here is very good.

After seeing the measurement data I would say that other than the cosmetic differences, both headphones are identical. The slight differences observed could possibly be accounted for by the added "Q" badge on the outside of the earcup behind the driver, and improved manufacturing processes over time.

Here are the full measurement sheets for the Q701 and K 701. Resources after the video!

Wes Philips' review of the AKG K 701.
"Everything it Takes to Become a Classic" press release from AKG.
YouTubes on the Q701 by Quincy Jones, and totally weird, but quite good xtranormal K701 review.
Headphone purchasing study by NPD Group.
Recabling services for AKG cans by Moon Audio.

Harman International Industries, Incorporated.
400 Atlantic Street
Stamford, CT 06901, USA

dalethorn's picture

"It's green" - Commander Scott, Star Trek.

inarc's picture

"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."

Do you personally think that the flat-wire voice coil has other benefits than just an increased efficiency and lower impedance as AKG claims? Or is it merely a marketing gimmick?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
.. it's a commonly used method for improving driver performance. Not a marketing gimmick, as far as I can tell.
svyr's picture

isn't the proper test for bs advertising also whether other manufacturers use the same technique and the vendor in question is the only one shouting about it in the spec/brochure?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
... I don't think so. The test for bs is if something isn't true. I'm not sure how you "shout" on a spec sheet. I like it when manufacturers state the various technologies in their product and wish all of them would be more complete in the technical descriptions.
svyr's picture

missing the point there? if everyone else does it (uses the same tech), but you're the only one putting it in a brochure doesn't make you HP any more special. Makes sense?

The question is, is the voice coil technique used by just about everyone else?

dalethorn's picture

Flat-wound voice coil doesn't sound all that bad as an ad header. Imagine if they used "Dynamic Sound" instead. Wouldn't that make you cringe? I did a Google search for 'dynamic sound', and after half a page of references to businesses with that name, I got to honest-to-gosh products that advertise, you guessed it, "Dynamic sound". You young fellers won't remember all those ads in the 1960's for transistor radios with 'superheterodyne' circuits. And it was far worse in the 1950's with 'console' stereos. Those things set the hi-fi industry back at least 10 years.

donunus's picture

I don't know if was due to burn in but someone on our local headphone hifi community (www.headphiles.org) actually also found differences in sound between two different pairs of k701s when he compared them side by side. I wonder if this inconsistency and variation between headphones of the same model still exist with these newer Q models.

Despite the majority of headfiers making fun of them, I actually like the new colors hehehe :)

dalethorn's picture

I've had several headphone models where I purchased one set, then another set a couple of years later. They sounded very different, but it was obvious they were making improvements in the sound. You should hear the difference between the Senn HD-414 from the mid-1970's compared to the anniversary edition they issued in the late 1990's. An amazing difference. In fact, the mfrs. tell you right up front that the specs are subject to change without notice.

jherbert's picture

While I did like the sound of the K701 I was not able to wear it for more than an hour due to the headband. This would be a really great headphone if AKG would use the headband of little brother K601.

svyr's picture

had the same problem with comfort with K702. The middle bump dug into my head.

svyr's picture

fluro lime....

DigitalFreak's picture

Pardon the dumb question but I figured you gentlemen were the people to ask. Considering many reviewers and head fiers have described the 701 as harsh in the treble with anemic bass I was wondering if pairing it up with a good tube amp like a Woo Audio or maybe Eddie Current could possibly tame the highs and cause a more musical lusher sound and maybe add a little more emphasis on the bass end of things. What I'm asking in essence is is there a way to add a little more warmth to the sound using different gear without sacrificing the sound stage or to much of the detail?

CarlSeibert's picture

I have a Woo WA6SE and I listen to the 701s on it a lot, probably more than any of my other headphones. So, yes, I think they play very nicely together.

AS Tyll said, everybody struggles to find adjectives to describe their impressions. I think I hear pretty much the same thing Tyll does in the treble but my description is that I hear a slightly forward but perhaps "glassy" quality in the low treble. Since that effect obscures detail, I think of it as "slow" rather than "fast". The low treble calls attention to itself a bit. I certainly wouldn't go so far as to say "harsh". I find that I perceive less resolution in the high treble than I hear with some other cans.

To put this in context I r-e-a-l-l-y hate brightness. So when I say the low trebles calls attention to itself a little, I really mean a little, I really enjoy my 701s.

I hope I'm adding context and not just noise here. I think it's important to be able to "tune in" a reviewer, to learn their own vocabulary and try to correlate it to your own perceptions and prejudices.


Tyll Hertsens's picture

... as a dumb question. Dumb questions are the ones not bothered to be asked.

Two things:

1) I think a lot of times adjectives cause the group think to move too hard in one direction. There are a lot of good listeners on the forums that try to use their adjectives carefully ... but, unfortunately, there are more that aren't so careful. When I decided to review the Q701, I was predisposed to thinking they were "harsh" with "anemic" bass --- I've read the threads and had already fallen in and out of love with the K 701. They are a bit too fast for me, and I might say that there's an edge to their sound, but when I put them on to listen critically I found they weren't nearly as bad as I remembered. "Remembered" is the key word here. My memory of them is mixed in with listening to many cans and cans that cost much more. I think a lot of hobbyists compare headphone regardless of price. I have a hard time thinking of a headphone that sounds much better at the $300 price point. The DT880 is even faster sounding to my ears; the HD600 I prefer, but it's going out of production; the other Sennheisers at this price point seem a bit too warm and lack the control and depth of the Q701; the Audio Technicas also seem to lack bass and are too airy. Sure I like the LCD-2 lots better ... but it's three times the price. At any rate, I was surprised at how good the Q701 sounded given my memory and history with them.

2) Sure, there's a lot that can happen in assembling gear to make a musical system, and yes, matching the Q701 up with a tube amp may be a good direction to head. I don't have any specific recommendations, but I would say that going to meets and listening to a variety of gear is a great way to begin to investigate gear that may suite your listening preferences.

xenos's picture

Now I'm feeling dumb as I've been using K702 a long time in a way that the thicker area of earpads is pointing upwards and the thinner area downwards. This made the soundstage slightly smaller, weakened imaging and made the sound a bit more edgy when compared to the default orientation (thick area pointing backwards and thin area forwards). Shows how small things on headphones really do matter to how they will sound.

I'd be really interested to see how Q701/K70x would measure up on the balanced equipment. I've heard great things especially about the improvement on bass impact, but haven't seen too many graphs around.

std5501's picture

I have the skullcandy aviators right now and im looking to upgrade, how do these sound in comparison? Would the bass be similar or would it have more? I listrn to a little of everything and i really like these. Thanks

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I think you might feel there's bass missing, the 701 is a bit thin. I like the Skullcandy Mix Masters for a full size sealed can. I love the V-Moda M-80 and Sennheiser Amperior as well.
13mh13's picture

Still not clear on "fast" as there seem to be multiple defs of it floating around. How does "fast" relate to PRAT (pace, rhythm, accel., timing)?

Is it related to "speed"? See JGH's def here:

[[speed===The apparent rapidity with which a reproducing system responds to steep wavefronts and overall musical pace. See "fast," "slow."]]
Of the dynamic non-IEM cans, Grados are "fastest", IMO/IME.

I have DT880-250, HD650, K701. And the K701 is my LEAST "fave". Hard (=pronounced+UNrefined!) upper mids with some sibilance is possibly their main sonic flaw. In a way, this spectral balance is like Grados.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
For me, it generally means that the headphones can deliver a fairly clean leading edge and image fairly well, but fail a somewhat at supporting it with a heft of mids and bass.
13mh13's picture

Thx for your fdbck ... can one tie in "fast" with measurements? I was thinking impulse response, but may be square waves, too.
Would you call Grados "fast"?

EDIT: Just pulled out my 701s for a re-listen. I have <100hrs total timeage on them, so maybe they'll "bloom" later. IAC (and this may not be new for some).... they are hard to drive with headphone amp (I use 120ohm out on a Meier Corda II; std 0-ohm helps with volume but SQ is worse). Speaking of volume or "loudness," that's ONE way to characterize their mids -- LOUD (pejoratively speaking, of course!). Also noticed: bass slam is poor, but bass tone (timbre) seems well-defined. Impactful dynamic range is also piss POOR -- e.g, taiko drum, kettle/tympani drum.

13mh13's picture

I can't quite figure out the type of "____ field" response these cans are designed for. The FR curves seem to indicate DF. But they don't sound like other DF cans in this aspect. So which "____ field" response did AKG engineers opt for?

Speaking of DF vs FF vs ... uh ... WTFF ... an extensive article would be cool in the tradit. Tyll-Hertsens manner of near-exhaustive analysis.

BTW, a belated CONGRATS ... You escaped from the corporate-political zoo of hi-fi marketing and merchandising and politicizing ... as I see it, for more laudable/noble pursuit of improving headphone science. Flattery will get me an article, perhaps ?

Oh, and CONGRATS, dude, on keeping the kids (your headphone-test system). Hopefully, the divorce lawyers didn't rip you off too much ;)


"Be of Sound Mind" -- noted some whacky Stereophile ad in the early '90s ... depicted with a total NUT with a NON-Pb-free HeadRoom amp in his mouth and a bunch of headphones on his kopf ... Dummkopf!!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
That's some ancient history there.

I will have to do an article on DF FF ect sometime. I get lots of questions about it.

Thanks for the chuckle!

13mh13's picture

TH ...

The early 90s HeadRoom ads were AWESOME.

Then, they sank and stank ... no color, no character ... no crazy poses ...

Somewhere I have the print catalogs with those "ancient" pix of you. HR's site does not have them (PDF) and I can't find them in our basement/attic ... thus far.

Change your avatar pic to the one with the amp-in-the-mouth. That one's got class and is memorable ... with so many headphone sites, you really wanna stick out. Uh... no charge for the FREE!! marketing advice. "For more info, give us a call ... 1-800-828-8184 ... we'll send you our 8-page White Paper FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"
Seriously, tho', you/HR had nice glossy and didactic catalogs, not the usual fluff.

MalteseHeadphoneLover's picture

Hi Tyll! I really appreciate your headphone reviews! I own, amongst other headphones, an Audio Technica AD700 which I suspect has some very similar characteristics to the AKG 701. I am considering upgrading to AKG Q701 and would really appreciate any suggestions from you. The AD700 have been criticised as being slightly anemic as regards to its bass output, but personally I find that (probably like the AKG) the AD700 does have a punchy bass when listening to albums like Harvest by Neil Young and some raggae disks I have on my Sandisk Sansa via a portable amp (Electric Avenue PA2v2 and Fiio e11). I would really appreciate your opinion as to whether I should upgrade, and would also really love a review of the Audio Technica AD700! Keep well and keep on reviewing headphones for people like me who love listening to their music through headphones. I also love listening to music on my hi-fi (consisting basically of a fantastic Rotel amplifier, Monitor Audio speakers, Yamaha semi-professional equaliser, Pioneer S703 CD player, and Yamaha subwoofer), but in late hours I have to listen through headphones not to disturb family or neighbours. Am also tempted with the Audio Technica ATH-M50, but I think I prefer the more open sound and sound stage in open headphones. Please advise. Many thanks in advance,

Meshail's picture

Dear tyll

how do they compare in detailes & instrument separation to the K701 & 702

I'm a musician & i listen to Baroque ,classics & Romantic works mainly including full orchestra and i like to hear every detail in there and every line without feeling that some lines aren't clear or got lost in the whole music ... so are the Q s for me or shall i get the Ks  ... i also care about neutral sound as i hear it on stage ... another thing will some average amp like fiio e11 will drive those to a good level ( not to the max of course) .. if not then what portable amplifier would be best ?

akgforme's picture

Hi Tyll,

Many Thanks for your excellent articles and reviews which I have found invaluable in making informed decisions,

A quick question for you...any idea why Headroom's comparison of frequency response between the Q701 and K702 produces larger differences than your measurements ? If I am interpreting your review correctly, you put the almost negligible difference between the Q701 and the K702 down to the effect of the Q badge on the back screen of the headphone.

Headroom's analysis shows a significantly higher low to mid range response which I thought would result in a warmer presentation than the 702's.

Your thoughts ? (and sorry if I'm retreading old ground here), but I am strongly considering buying the Q701's but as always will take your opinion into consideration

Many Thanks

AKGforme !

intown's picture

I just picked up a pair from Amazon.
Amazon had a lightning deal and the shipped price was $159.00

For $159 it seemed like a pretty good way to get a nice pair for an inexpensive price.
Would you agree?

Thanks! -- Steven

MarcoGV's picture

Dear Tyll,

I enjoyed reading about your summer vacation---nice photos! I guess you rode your KLR 650 on this trip.

I wonder whether you have looked into the AKG Q701 (and sibling headphones) bass mod: see http://www.head-fi.org/t/660408/reversible-akg-k701-bass-mod and the OP of the head-fi Q701 impression thread (http://www.head-fi.org/t/582276/q701-impressions-thread). There is a post today (http://www.head-fi.org/t/660408/reversible-akg-k701-bass-mod/180#post_10...) with measurements that confirm the subjective evaluation of many head-fiers and the measurements at http://www.head-fi.org/t/582276/q701-impressions-thread/6120#post_10398093. I personally have done the mod and like the result; I am ready to admit that it may be placebo, however, and would like to hear your opinion.

johnmathews's picture

AKG Q701 is one of the best headphones that I have used. So I am very happy to read about this headphone on this website. If you are impressed on this headphone, just experience the real sound effect. beverly diamonds reviews