Massdrop X AKG K7XX Review

I bought this pair of K7XX from Massdrop as part of the initial release and have had it ever since.  Mine is a first edition with a serial number less than 300.

Pictures

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Background

Massdrop has quickly become a hub on the internet for headphone enthusiasts, especially with the introduction of exclusive products which they help create in cooperation with popular audiophile headphone brands.  Their latest collaboration is with Hifiman with a reissue of the HE-300, now the first of three dynamic full size headphones that have been offered by the company, the HE-350.  The AKG x Massdrop K7XX was the first of many such crossovers and its overwhelming popularity is probably at least partially responsible for Massdrop being able to negotiate deals with other headphone manufacturers for exclusive, collaborative product launches.  According to Massdrop, the K7XX is a reissue of the K702 Anniversary Edition, an AKG that became famous for deviating from the stereotypically brighter, thinner house sound of AKG.  The K702, when it was first introduced was already a headphone from AKG with enhanced bass response.  The biggest change between the K702 and the Anniversary Edition is the pads, which were responsible for the bass boost of 3dB that Massdrop and AKG have both touted in their marketing of the original and now the K7XX reissue versions.  The K702 Anniversary Edition was a limited edition product that was taken out of production, but because of its popularity and relatively positive reception, AKG added a similar but further refined version of the K702 to their lineup, the K712, a pair of headphones I also own.  The K702 was also rebranded by AKG at some point in its lifetime as the Quincy Jones Q701, at which point they added back the infamous headband bumps. So for people that hate the bumps of the Q701, but want an AKG headphone with more bass than their K701 at a very reasonable price of $200, the K7XX is a great option.

A note about this headphone’s seemingly very reasonable price.  The AKG K7-series headphones in general are deceiving with regard to their amping requirements unless you read the right specs.  The K7XX in particular have an impedance of 62 ohms, which certainly doesn’t seem like a lot when compared to the popular audiophile offerings of Sennheiser and BeyerDynamic which have impedances of several hundred ohms.   However, if you were to instead look at the efficiency or sensitivity rating, you would see that these headphones actually have a sensitivity rating that is at least a few dB lower than their competitors headphones.  This goes against the popular misconception of higher impedance headphones requiring amps vs lower impedance headphones.  This is also a more difficult load to drive, because by being a low impedance headphone that also has a lower sensitivity rating, its actual more demanding of an amp’s ability to deliver current as opposed to higher impedance designs which are just demanding of more voltage.  The point of this aside is two fold, to explain that this headphone is more demanding of current and therefore shouldn’t be paired with amps that don’t perform well in that area and because the $200 price tag is only $200 if you already have sufficient amplification for the headphone.  Like other low impedance and low sensitivity headphones, it will certainly get loud, but will noticeably suffer especially in the lower end.  Bass notes lose their presence and impact, making the headphone sound much thinner.

Fit and Comfort

The K7XX is a very lightweight and comfortable headphone.  The self adjusting leather strap omits the oft-maligned bumps of the K702 and Q701 and makes it a headphone that instantly just fits without any need for additional adjustments.  The suspension strap design distributes the weight of the headphone evenly across the head.  The headphone pads are thick and made of memory foam, conforming to the shape of your head to provide an excellent seal.  The velour covering on the pads is extremely soft and comfortable as well, making this an easy choice as a headphone to wear for very long sessions.  The overall build is plastic and in my almost year and a half of ownership, I have had no issues with build quality.

Sound Impressions

Probably the star of this headphone for me and what differentiates it from other headphones in it’s particular price range is the bass response of this headphone.  While not the cleanest, most textured bass in an open back dynamic headphone, I have had no success finding another open back headphone retailing for $200 with the linearity and extension of the K7XX in the bass (given sufficient amping).  While the midbass does sound somewhat boosted, it does not bleed into the higher ranges and seems relatively well controlled and punchy.  The Subbass is the real surprise of this headphone, extending deep with good impact, this is something not found in many open back headphones, let alone one at this price.  While the bass is pleasing and does a good job of evening out some of the characteristics of the mids, I still do get the sense sometimes that the headphone driver is struggling to produce those notes, as though it’s being pushed beyond its normal limits.  While bass response is pleasant, it suffers a slight lack of clarity.

The mids on AKGs have always been a bit different and the K7XX is no exception.  Like other AKGs, the K7XX has a upper mid bump that brings female vocals and some of the fundamentals of string instruments forward in a really pleasing and engaging way.  There are some slight dips in the middle and lower parts of the mids, but are generally not going to color the sound in the mids to quite the degree that the bump in the upper mids does.  Overall the mids are quite clean, with a good vocal presentation that’s very forward and doesn’t have a lot of depth.  Again in the mids, these headphones suffer from a slight lack of clarity that takes away some depth from the sound.

The treble on the K7XX is something of a mixed bag.  While I personally enjoy the treble presentation, there is a very significant dip in the low treble that can mess with the fundamentals of some string instruments.  I mostly hear some issues with violins and guitars based on my listening preferences.  A dip in this region also loses a lot of the natural harmonics you would normally hear on a violin playing its lower fundamentals.  I actually find this coloration somewhat pleasing, it makes the fundamental note stand out a lot more and gives it a “cleaner, clearer” sounding presentation because of how it makes the fundamentals stand out.  There is a peak in the mid treble which I find adds a good amount of excitement and engagement to the sound without really getting sibilant unless the sibilance is already present in the source recording.  While too much for some, I have really enjoyed the balance in the treble of these headphones and find them very fun to listen to.

Conclusion

I find the K7XX to be an overall well balanced headphone.  Considering its price position in the market both new and used, I certainly recommend trying this headphone to see if it fits with your preferences and musical taste.  I found that the headphone is balanced enough to work with most genres of music, having just enough response across the board to do even specialized genres like EDM or classical music justice.  I think that Massdrop really did an excellent job of hitting a sweet spot in terms of price/performance for headphones and feel that this headphone really reset the bar for price/performance for an open headphone at the $200 mark (ignoring the amplification caveat).  In fact the headphone is remarkably close sounding to its older brother, the K712, which is quite a feat considering the $100 to $150 price difference.  The K712 sounds more controlled and cleaner in the bass and mids, but only slightly and possibly not enough to justify over the K7XX.  I applaud Massdrop for their decision to work with AKG to bring this headphone to market at the price they were able to achieve, Massdrop seems to be setting a new bar for price/performance with their exclusive offerings in general and I look forward to them tieing up with other headphone manufacturers in the future to bring us great deals like this one.

  • Andres Cardeli

    Great review. I have these and always enjoy reading another person’s opinion of them.