Many high-end headphone manufacturers like to portray their designs as 'professional' models, but that's exactly what the AKG K 702 headphones are. These new pro headphones bear a striking resemblance to the company's K 701 consumer headphones, except the new model sports 'features demanded by recording and broadcast engineers in a deluxe professional package'.
The 702 headphones are available for around £260.
The 702s are nearly identical to the 701s, differing only in finish and the headphone cable. The 701s are glossy white, while the 702s offer a dark blue finish (although it looks black to us) that's said to be more durable. Also, in the case of the 702s, the 3m cable is detachable, which is a good idea, mostly because it eases the service problems that often arise from pro headphones being knocked around more than consumer models. The cable attaches to the headphone via a locking, three-pin connector. The other end terminates in a gold-plated 3.5mm stereo plug (a gold-plated, screw-on 6.3mm adaptor is also included).
Far from portable, the 702s are very large over-the-ear headphones, with extra-soft velour-covered cushions. The leather and metal wire headband distributes the weight of the 'phones evenly across your head, which means you can wear these headphones for hours at a time and they'll remain comfortable. The 702s are hand-assembled and tested in Austria, which shows in that build quality, fit, finish and durability are all first-rate. But AKG doesn't include a storage case in the package -- an oversight in this price range.
On the technical side, the 702s feature flat-wire voice coils to maintain low distortion levels, even during high-volume listening. AKG claims its patented Laminate Varimotion diaphragms allow the 702s to produce out-of-head imaging, and we agree. These headphones really deliver on that front: depending on the quality of the recording you're listening to, the sound appears to come from further away than it does with most headphones.
We plugged the 702s into an Onkyo TX-SR805 for most of our home-listening tests and compared the cans with our Grado Reference RS1 headphones. Both are excellent, but it was readily apparent that the 702s sounded more speaker-like. Norah Jones' vocal and piano on her Come Away With Me CD seemed to come from outside the headphones -- we even had to check to make sure the speakers weren't accidentally turned on. The RS1s sounded closer and more immediate, and the piano's transient attack was more life-like. By contrast, the K702s put the piano further away. The clarity was extraordinarily good, and never aggressive or thin.
AKG engineers have given the 702s the perfect balance of resolution and smoothness. The 702s' pillowy ear cushions are also far more comfortable than the RS1s' harder foam cushions, which rest directly on the ears.
Next, we watched a few movies, and the 702s' spatial qualities came to the fore. On the Mad Men: Season 1 Blu-ray, the sound of the large offices, with dozens of IBM typewriters clacking in the distance, was especially convincing. We could even hear the murmured conversations of executives behind closed office doors.
The RS1s' bass went a little deeper and made more impact in the House of Flying Daggers DVD's circle of drums scene. That is, the drums were more realistic sounding with the RS1s, although the 702s' bass and dynamics were still quite good. Again, we preferred the 702s for their open, spacious sound, which is even more evident with movies than it is with music.