AKG N60 NC review: Classy headphones that look (and sound) the part
Active noise cancelling headphones like the AKG N60 NC are a must for music fans who find in-ear headphones uncomfortable. By monitoring their surroundings using built-in microphones, this type of headphone can counter ambient noise by playing a sound wave that’s 180-degrees out of phase with it.
It can’t block out all noise, but this technique can be remarkably effective in creating a quiet cocoon for you to enjoy whatever it is you’re listening to, without having to crank the volume up to unhealthy levels.
The AKG N60 NC isn’t quite as good as the Bose QuietComfort 35 at blocking out the outside world; while I was sat at my desk, higher pitched noises like the clattering of fingers on a keyboard, a desk phone ringing a couple of feet away, and the rush of air from a nearby tower fan all made it through the noise-cancelling barrier and were clearly audible in the background of a leisurely jazz track.
However, the N60 NC does cut out just enough of mid-range and lower end noise on a clattering London Tube train that I didn’t have to turn up the volume to maximum to listen to my favourite podcasts and music.
Features, design and sound quality
The AKG headphones aren’t wireless and noise-cancelling, unfortunately, so you’ll have to put up with a trailing cable running from the left earpiece to your phone or tablet. That’s a shame given the £200 (on Amazon UK or Amazon US for $249) price tag.
This does benefit battery life, however, with AKG claiming 30 hours of use in noise-cancelling mode per charge, and the headphones also hit plenty of the right notes when it comes to style, comfort and portability. No two ways about it, the N60 NC look great and feel wonderful: the aluminium earpieces backed in perforated black aluminium and trimmed in silver are stunning and have a solid heft that inspires confidence; the leather and memory-foam earpieces feel comfortable for long periods of time.
And when the time comes to take off the headphones and stow them away, you’ll be surprised at how compact a package they make, with the earpieces folding in on each other to fit in the supplied, 18.5cm-wide half-moon-shaped neoprene case.
The only criticisms I have is that when you have noise cancelling enabled, you have to remember to switch it off when you remove the headphones – if you don’t, your battery life will slowly but surely slip away. There’s no automatic timeout. The charging connection, too, is proprietary, with a USB-A connector on one end, but a 2.5mm plug on the other. I’d prefer a separate micro-USB charging port, since it’s far more likely that you’ll have one of these hanging around if you happen to have left the official cable back at home.[gallery:4] [gallery:3]
Hooked up to my MacBook Pro 13, I found treble to be a little thin compared with the QC35. Brad Mehldau’s solo piano on “Blackbird” had a slightly hard edge that I didn’t experience on the Bose QC35.
With most other audio material, however, performance was superb. Vocals sound warm and rich, with good body and balance, no matter what material you feed the headphones. Bass is excellent, with a solidity and power to it that’s hugely enjoyable but not overblown. Here, at least, is one area where the AKG N60 NC outdoes Bose’s flagship headphones which, while perfectly listenable, tend to overdo the low-end notes.
Instrument separation is exceptional, too, even with complex orchestral and choral pieces such as Mozart’s Requiem. These headphones are comfortable with any type of music, it seems, and they get even better if you feed them a decent-quality signal from a good DAC, such as the AudioQuest DragonFly Black or the Chord Mojo.[gallery:6]
Generally, the AKG N60 NC are fantastic headphones. They sound great. They feel great. They’re effective at cancelling out all but the worst of ambient noise.
They’re not particularly cheap, costing around the same price these days as the Bose QuietComfort 25 (the wired version of the QuietComfort 35), but although noise cancellation isn’t as good, sound quality is comparable. For this reason, I’d urge you to have a listen to both pairs to see which you prefer.
However, if you have around £200 to spend on a pair of headphones, these should be at the top of your list. They’re very, very good.