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The K-702s are snails playing endless ketchup with the faint goal post of full break-in. Geezus! From my bunch, they're also the most demanding on amplification before they sound their best. High maintenance. Which is counter-productive considering they're a lot cheaper than the audio-technica W-5000s, Grado PS1000s and Sennheiser HD800s. They're not that likely to end up on fabulous dedicated amps with massive drive.

For my size head, they're also a tad short. They max out the elastic cord suspension of the ribbed head band to pull up the ear cups against my ear lobes. Granted, my earrings make more of this than it otherwise would. Lastly, the tight seal of the plush cushions turns these into minor ear muffs. At least my pink bits get toasty fast. I briefly flashed on Sennheiser's dreaded and long sold HD650s. But the AKGs don't duplicate their vise grip on my skull. They're comfortable enough yet neither on the same suave level as Sennheiser's new flagship nor the true chief of luxuriant coziness, the audio-technica Raffinatos.

Run these off Ken Ball's quad-braid silver/copper leash and a dedicated amp like Burson Audio's mighty HA-160 or Red Wine Audio's Isabellina HPA. You'll notice right off how their volume pots will sit in wildly higher positions than they did over my other three 'phones. This demonstrates significantly greater thirst for power and current. So forget the lime-green Korean from the previous page. Not a chance. Sudden death. Next disregard ultimate wear comfort as well as tactile and material bling on par with the Germans and Japanese (on that score, Grado fails it too).
Now comes the kicker. These Austrians are sonically up there with their far dearer peers - certainly not identical and distinct in their own ways but on the level. That's why they're the uncontested best buy of this group. Essentially a studio monitoring device that snorts neutrality and resolution for a living, the AKG-702s can seem ho-hum boring, flat and pale if not properly cooked and served up. I assume that many who view them that way haven't accumulated enough hours and not the right amp. Something on the level of an RWA, Burson or Trafomatic is required. Then everything fills out. The stage widens its embrace, tone gets a tan and bass actually turns really impressive. The following comments only apply if the above demands were met. Otherwise all bets are off and you're held hostage by Boredom.

The K-702s are more linear than the Grado PS1000s and audio-technica W5000. And they're not as lit up and broad shouldered as the Sennheiser HD800s. They excel on beat fidelity and accuracy. They actually also ace tone and don't require valves to make it so. While the Isabellina HPA's batteries clearly are current champs and its NOS DAC a bit soft on the leading edge to become a warm yet gutsy proposition, the Aussie HA-160 is an AC-powered 'straight ahead' class A transistor affair assembled of fully discrete quality parts. Yet the latter hangs flesh on the bones every bit as well as Vinnie Rossi without rounding over the attacks for a minor bull nose effect.


Because they're so neutral to apparently excel at nothing in particular—we usually notice 'excel' because it stands out—the K-702s are easily misunderstood by home users who approach the hifi experience as something one seasons to taste. To the mastering engineer for whom this design was made, it's a tool, a magnifier to inspect a job with. As a home audio enthusiast, I believe that we need not and should not be analytic but holistic. It's not the constituent parts in their discrete sound booths or e-mailed in from another studio we're assessing. It's the context of the final mix coherence and its embedded message.

It's not about objectivity, abstraction and remaining aloof. It's about involvement and immersion. That's highly subjective. It's why everyone on this audiophile trip applies seasoning to be triggered. For most, flatness of any sort won't exactly do. That's where the K-702s can fall on the face. They need an upstream infusion of tone. Amps of the caliber mentioned provide just that. Given that transistors here did as well as valves, I think the main requirement really is current drive, not THD.

Where the Grado PS1000s have more raw bass mass and amplitude, their bass gestalt is ringier and more resonant. The K-702 is drier and more damped but surprisingly capable of growl and slam when asked for. Articulation and pitch definition on walking bass lines of Jazz Manouche guitar trios were tautly sprung, slap effects snappy and brisk. Synth beats on Sevara Nazarkhan's Sen release had the proper prominence known to be recorded from full-range speakers.  

Where Grado's bass is nicely goosed, Denon's plain over the top and Sennheiser's not quite on par with the remainder of their otherwise stunning flagships, the AKGs are in fact just right. But again, it needs a muscular amp to think so. Midrange and treble fall right in line. Nothing stands out, seems pronounced or recessed. Fully extended, the treble doesn't bite. Think neutrality and you've got it pegged.

In general, the core values the K-702s circle are PRaT, tautness, articulation and precision, i.e. time domain traits, proper damping and resolution. Possibly connected to the more ambitious drive requirements, the only quibble is that the AKGs sound better somewhat cranked and not as perky at low volumes. That's generally true for anything but some designs carry more into the hooded realms before they drop stuff by the wayside. The AKG K-70s are not really one of those.

Given the prevailing mystery of what AKG will do to replace its discontinued K-1000s; and extrapolating from this Pro Series model - I'd ask for higher effective voltage sensitivity (definitely a lot higher than the 1000s); greater wear comfort; wider headstaging; and a tad more overall silkiness or texture. Given the $450 sell price however, it's actually cheeky to ask for anything. It's also why anyone shopping the luxury reference leagues will pass these right - um, buy. On appearance alone, it's perhaps justified. Snob appeal isn't fully with the 702s. On sheer performance however, they're a lot closer to the reference status of competing offerings than expected. Surprising but true. It's not all depression and gloom then, is it?
Quality of packing: Basic but effective.
Reusability of packing: A few times.
Condition of component received: Flawless.
Completeness of delivery: Perfect.
Wear comfort: 90%.
Website comments: Very corporate.
Human interactions: None, the review pair was purchased outright.
Pricing: A steal..
Final comments & suggestions: Demands top quality amplification with drive and painfully long break-in. Essentially a studio monitor spoon-fed on neutrality and resolution, not an editorializing home hifi design. Properly driven, it is not however a flat, dull, uninvolving sound at all. It simply needs muscular amplification of high caliber. The €499 Burson Audio HA-160 is just perfect.

ALO Audio website