The AKG K495 on-ear headphones offer good sound and excellent noise cancellation in a refined package that looks great and is as comfortable as any pair of on-ear headphones I have used. At $349.95 the USB rechargeable headphones are, however, a bit pricey. Then again, quality doesn’t come cheap. Check them out here.
I’m on the Amtrak Acela headed from Jersey to DC for a few hours. I like these one day trips, so long as I get to take the train rather than fly. It is easy, rather comfortable and, at least compared to travel by air, quiet. Still, the car I am in is packed, and there is a fair amount of noise around me. It seemed like a perfect time to test the AKG K495 NC on-ear noise canceling headphones I received for review. I pulled them out of my bag, turned on the noise cancellation and connected them to my iPhone. Three seconds later the rest of the world disappeared. Chalk one up for the noise cancellation on the K495 NC’s!
I then fired up an instrumental remix of Ghosts n Stuff by Deadmau5. Its got some pounding bass and some sharp, clear highs, both of which came through clearly. Chalk two up for the K 495 NC’s audio.
In other words, the K 495 NC’s are the whole package. Still, at an MSRP of $349.95 they are a pricey pair of headphones. Are they worth shelling out that kind of money? Read on and then decide for yourself.
- State-of-the art, active noise-cancelling technology (closed -loop technology)
- Unparalleled AKG sound quality
- Continuous sound for listening with empty battery
- USB chargeable (adapter included; no batteries)
- Detachable cables in two different lengths
- Brushed-metal parts for increased durability
- Supersoft headband and ear cups for long-wearing comfort
- Unique 3d-axis2 folding mechanism for easy transport and storage
- Flight adapter and premium carrying case included
As you might expect, the K495 NC on-ear headphones come with a full assortment of accessories. In the package you’ll find the headphones themselves, two cables of different lengths (both are straight and lack and sort of inline control or microphone), a USB cable for recharging the headphones, a flight adapter, a US wall adapter, and three travel plugs so you can use the K495 NCs pretty much anywhere in the world, a premium leather case. The leather case is just about as luxurious as I have seen included with headphones, and it speaks to the high-end market to which these headphones are targeted.
I did find that it took a bit of experimenting to figure out how to properly stow the headphones in the case. They fold, but not quite as much as I initially expected them to. This image shows what I mean. The two earcups don’t both fold into the headband the way some collapsible headphones do. AKG describes this aspect of the headphone by noting they have a “unique 3d-axis2 folding mechanism for easy transport and storage”.
Like the case, the headphones themselves are luxurious, with a look, feel and finish that speaks to their high price. Premium leather, brushed metal and just a bit of plastic are used in the construction. This results in a pair of headphones that are anything but cheap looking or feeling.
For example, just look at one of the earcups. The main portion of it is leather that is inset into a metal ring. The AKG name sits in the middle of the leather circle and breaks up what might otherwise be a bit visually boring. As you move closer to the earpads you’ll find plastic used in the rest of the construction. This isn’t shiny, cheap plastic but, instead, looks and feels substantial.
The earpads themselves are made of leather and have a good bit of padding. This is important for both comfort and passive noise cancellation. A prominent “L” or “R” on the inside lets you know that these aren’t ambidextrous headphones, and there is a correct orientation when putting them on.
On the left earcup is a small plug into which the headphone cable or charging cable goes. A tiny indicator light lets you know the headphones take 5V/0.5A to charge. I really wish the headphones used a ubiquitous 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable instead of this 3.5mm to 2.5mm cable.
Since the headphones ship with two audio cables, I’m not worried about losing one or it ceasing to function, but the headphones only come with one charging cable. Forget it when you head out on a trip and you’ll lose the noise cancellation aspect of the headphones once the battery is depleted. That is especially so since the rechargeable battery is permanently sealed inside and is not user-replaceable.
Fortunately the headphones are quoted to have up to 40 hours of noise cancellation per charge. In addition, unlike many noise cancelling headphones, you can use the K495 NC’s without the cancellation turned on. They do sound better with the NC on however … much much better.
The metal ring on the left earcup rotates to turn on the active noise cancellation. This is a cool way to control the power, and it results in the lines of the headphones remaining clean and unbroken by a toggle switch. The downside of this approach is that you will need to hold the earcup with one hand and turn the ring with the other. It is a bit cumbersome, and it would not work for someone (like my father) who does not have complete use of both hands. A light indicates when the noise cancellation is active.
The hinges on the K495 NCs are made of metal, and they look and feel substantial. The do connect to the headband using plastic, but it too feels sturdy, and I expect them to put up with serious use and a bit of abuse without issue. The leather headband is soft and comfortable and rides on a combination of metal and plastic that allows you to adjust the size.
Overall I find the K495 NCs quite comfortable as far as on-ear headphones go. I qualify my statement on comfort because all on-ear headphones put pressure on your ears and, after a time, can become a bit less comfortable than you might like. These are as comfortable as I have worn but, two hours into my train ride I did find that I needed to move them a bit so they could start putting pressure on different parts of my ears. That is not a complaint, and I would have no hesitation about taking these headphones on any trip. These just might be the NC headphones I bring with me when I go to Israel in December. It is a long flight that gets exponentially longer if you can’t block out the noise.
As previously mentioned, the K 495 NC headphones work as a standard pair of plug-and-listen headphones. They sound okay, but would likely not be your go-to headphones if you had a choice. They have no controls or microphone on either the cable or the headphones themselves, so you would likely be better served by headphones with controls, a microphone and amazing sound if you are looking for a standard pair of on-ear headphones.
When you turn on the noise cancellation however things change — a lot! The audio gets far better, and the cancellation works exceptionally well. These aren’t tuned to offer bone-rattling bass the way headphones from Monster or Beats will, but that isn’t what AKG is all about anyway. They don’t GO for booming bass but, instead, try to give a well-rounded sound. They succeeded.
The K495 NC on-ear noise cancelling headphones offer striking good looks, high-end fit and finish, great noise cancellation and good sound. The don’t have the booming bass some have come to expect from headphones, but I see that as a positive since too much bass can be fatiguing over an extended period of time. If you travel a lot, like on-ear headphones, and are comfortable dropping $350 on a pair of headphones, you’ll want to check these out. If you prefer over-the-ear headphones you might want to check out the Harman NCs we reviewed. The design is entirely different, but they have the same level of fit, finish, noise cancellation and sound. That’s no surprise since AKG and Harman (along with JBL) are part of Harman International. Check out the AGK K495 NC headphones here on the product page.
What I Like: Excellent noise cancellation; Striking looks and good build-quality; Case is luxurious; Up to 40 hours of noise cancellation; Work when NC is off or battery depleted; Comfortable and great sounding
What Needs Improvement: Don’t fold up as small as I expected; No inline or on-ear controls or microphone; Sound when NC is off is just okay; No user-replaceable battery; Smaller than 3.5mm jack connects to the headphones
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample