Review: Massdrop AKG K7XX Limited Red Edition – The Dark Side

Mids are usually exceptional with AKG’s. This is also a very good headphone for instruments and vocals, but they’re not totally natural, instead they’re a little dark and thick by a notch then, say Q701. This is not a bad thing after all, and it’s actually welcomed by me, but there are also deep points in the spectrum which make it a little stressed and congested sometimes because that creates a contrast presentation to the upper mids for example, which are a little boosted. So mids are not fully flat or consistent as a whole, they are still mostly effortless and musical and it is simply a joy to listen Jazz recordings but when things get busy it doesn’t have a top notch separation, clarity or coherence. You feel the lack of these things with certain scenarios but let’s not be harsh here. Remember the price of these cans, all the time!

Vocals are generally forward which makes it suitable for vocal centered types but they’re not assisted with a high-end resolution, they’re slightly veiled instead. Overall the tone is darker and thicker than the classic AKG headphones to me. So K7XX is not a Jedi anymore, instead we see the force of the dark side. Don’t underestimate the power of the dark side folks.

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The treble is the worst part of the headphone in my opinion. It’s not bad for me as I like the soft and laid back treble, but the lower treble region is a little thick and depressed, which takes away the clarity and liveliness of instruments like strings etc. So basically the treble is colored in K7XX, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but strikes a blow on clarity and energy required by some genres. In addition, this specialty of the headphone is not suitable for the lovers of razor sharp presentation and sparkle. Lower treble region is problematic and definitely doesn’t sound reference. Also, I found the extension slightly lacking, but only slightly. It’s not a problem like the lower treble part, it’s understandable for a 200$ headphone.

TECHNICAL SIDE

Aside from the frequency performance let’s look upon other things: Soundstage is stellar in K7XX. AKG has good reputation regarding soundstage in their headphones and this is just another incarnation of the consensus. Stage is wide and long, width being more impressive than depth and the stage addicts would love this model. It feels so nice to be in that kind of a stage in a headphone. Well, this is one of the joys we always look for isn’t it? Like listening it live in a hall.

It’s not the fastest headphone around of course. If you seek something like that you should go for pricier options such as planar magnetics. This one is for the people who are looking for the maximum performance for what they give and I think it manages to fulfill that expectation. Resolution-wise things are OK here as I found no obvious problem for the price, except the lower treble which I mentioned above. The resolution would’ve been nice with a better lower treble response. Just imagine that this is an AKG with 1 or 2 veils, so you can’t see the elements of the music in an amazing resolution. But what you can do is sit back and relax, enjoy that sweet presentation and harmony across the range.

K7XX is not so easy to drive. It will benefit from a good desktop amp and that way it would reach it’s potential. I drove it with my Fostex HPA-4 desktop DAC/AMP, and I liked the performance I got from it, but unfortunately I couldn’t find a dedicated amplifier to try. You don’t have to have amazing power to drive it but you do need some to get the desired response. You definitely can’t reach the optimum with a plain DAP.

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CUSTOM CABLE

I also want to mention a custom copper cable that I had a chance to try with K7XX. This is a cable manufactured by a local guy here in Istanbul, so it’s not something related to a brand.

I think copper works really well with K7XX, especially with the bass response, which is an area most copper cables affect positively as you know. The bass hits better with the copper and actually has better control and texture overall. In addition, the other frequencies are also better, it makes the headphone sound more coherent. The ups and downs that I’ve described across the mid and high ranges are no longer there with the custom cable. So it sounds the way it should have in the first place in my opinion. The custom copper cable is definitely better than the stock one, so hands down, I recommend a copper cable with the K7XX.

There’s always a but: This cable costs almost as much as the headphones… So the decision is up to you.

SUMMARY

K7XX is such a nice headphone and maybe the best one in it’s price, as I can’t think of a better headphone in this range. Maybe there are a bunch out there but in terms of my experience, there’s no better headphone for 200$.

I also took this shift about the sound presentation positively, which is a better experience in my book than the former AKG headphones. It’s smoother and it has more body and it’s much more enjoyable and easier to listen to. Maybe on technical parts it’s not the most amazing one, but I always look for the equipment that offers a relaxing approach to music, therefore I really liked the K7XX as a desktop headphone.

I comfortably recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a bassier AKG with a smoother sound overall, with a really competitive value.

Editor’s note (Lieven)

I bought the AKG K7XX the first time it was on Massdrop, since then this headphone and some special versions such as the one Berkhan reviewed  have been “sold” several other times on Massdrop. I have never been a fan of the original 701 but I have to admit that this headphone, using a desktop amp (preferably tubes), sounds pretty darn good for the money. It has excellent bass body which is something I didn’t expect right away and for the rest reading Berkhans review, I’m pretty sure the Red and Black edition sound identical. The only reason I don’t ever use the K7XX is because I really don’t like the headband system. The K7XX sit way too loose on my head and there just isn’t enough pressure and grip to keep it on my head.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see another version of this headphone on Massdrop soon. I personally hope they’ll have a better headband system (not going to happen) and that it’s an improved version that got rid of the complaints Berkhan beautifully described. One can dream, no? Seriously though, for the price this is a good headphone, way better than the original, but to me it can still be improved substantially. If you want all the details do read the comprehensive thread on Head-fi.

 

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Review: Massdrop AKG K7XX Limited Red Edition – The Dark Side
4.2 (84.86%) 37 vote[s]

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A lover of personal audio from Turkey, Berkhan always seeks the perfection. He chooses a simplistic expression of sound at all times, and tries to keep his photography enthusiasm at the same level with audio. Sometimes photography wins, and sometimes his love for music takes him over and he puts that camera aside.

21 Comments

  • Reply October 27, 2016

    KBaum

    So in terms of a amp, would a dragonfly black do, or would more power bring the 7xx to life

  • Reply October 28, 2016

    Berkhan

    I think it will drive it to some extent, but to get the full performance you need a desktop amp.

    • Reply October 29, 2016

      Alan kirschbaum

      Thanks Berkhan. I’m using my dragonfly with amperiors. Plenty of power. Would the dragonfly do for a dac with a desktop amp? Oh Yaxi eapads work well on amperiors

      • Reply October 29, 2016

        dale thorn

        The DF does well as a DAC to most amps, but the best amps would like a better DAC. It’s trial and error unless you follow a specific recommendation, since the number of combinations is huge.

        • Reply October 29, 2016

          Alan Kirschbaum

          Thanks Dale. When you add a DAC combo to th picture, more expensive, but also more efficient products like the 400s look more attractive. And I can audition the 400s…

  • Reply October 28, 2016

    Woz

    Surprised you didn’t review the AKG 712 pro way back when it was released 2 years ago. The differences might be subtle to some but imo it does have better build quality, upper extension, greater definition, image is more stable, airier mids. Background detail is rendered better where as its slightly smeared on the K7XX in comparison. The 712 pro seems more precise and addresses some of the issues you have with the K7XX. Granted the 712 pro is 1.5x the price of the K7XX. The 712 is one of the best AKG phones ever made IMO. The K812 is also very good but can’t really compete with other flagships at its price point.

    • Reply October 28, 2016

      Berkhan

      I would love to hear that model but I never did. Thanks for the good info.

    • Reply October 28, 2016

      dale thorn

      Agree!

  • Reply October 28, 2016

    Ozkan

    Thank you for the review. Actually the custom cable is from Bocuraudio and I’ve been using their custom cables for several years. They are very well made and good quality. ????

    • Reply October 28, 2016

      Berkhan

      No mate it’s not Bocur Audio. It’s a different guy.

      Thank you too.

  • Reply November 17, 2016

    Yağız

    I made this cable.

    Cheers

    Yağız, from Bocur Audio

  • Reply March 29, 2017

    Jeff

    any chance you’d wanna sell yours? 🙂

    • Reply March 31, 2017

      Berkhan

      It wasn’t mine. Borrowed from a friend to review it.

  • Reply November 26, 2017

    Theo Kamp

    I bought the red 7xx after hearing all the positive reviews and wanting an alternative to my HD600. I was looking for better bass, imaging and more sparkle on the high than HD600.

    After putting 30 hours on it here is my impression, comparing to HD600. My DAC is Arcam rDAC, amp is a discontinued Hagerman HA-10 that works very well with HD600.

    The good…
    – Imaging is excellent. Sound stage is deep and very wide.
    – Treble on these are just right; providing the extra sparkle I am looking for, without causing fatigue.

    The not so good…
    – Midrange is quite noticeably thinner than the HD600, comparably lacking texture and naturalness, though vocal imaging appear accurate, not laidback nor forward.
    – Bass is not extended nor deep and it’s lacking integration with the midrange. I feel bass is the weakest part of the frequency on these cans despite the claim of 3dB boost. HD600 is not known for deep and extended bass, but it is well integrated with he midrange.

    On Schonherz and Scott’s “Wishing Well”, instrumental placement is excellent and easy to locate and pick out; soundstage stretches to far edges. The bass does not extend as low as the HD600. I found the upper bass and lower mid very much missing on this track. This is what I call the lacking of bass and mid integration.

    • Reply November 26, 2017

      dale thorn

      The deep bass drum hits on Wishing Well have a strong impact. I can’t be sure if they’re real drums or synthetic, but I never would have guessed that the HD600 would beat the K7xx. Have you tried the HD650?

  • Reply November 27, 2017

    Theo Kamp

    I have a HD650 as well. I used HD600, a known neutral can, for base comparison, because I wanted to convey how much the 7xx derailed from neutrality. Compare with HD650, the bass performance difference is even more pronounced. HD650 shows very extended and very deep bass and bass integrates very nicely with midrange, that dwarfs the 7xx, which evidently left a hole between bass and mid.
    Could this be a matter of amp and headphone mismatching?

    • Reply November 27, 2017

      dale thorn

      If you have a mismatch, then the K7xx will sound very different with whatever you plug it into. So probably not. The K7xx should be much easier to drive than the Sennheisers, especially in the bass. I have found that there are many good choices in closed headphones in these price ranges, but there’s not much to choose from in open headphones until you go much higher in price.

  • Reply November 27, 2017

    Theo Kamp

    It could be down to a matter of preference for sound between AKG and Sennheiser, though I can’t imagine someone would like both.

    • Reply November 27, 2017

      dale thorn

      I’ve liked both, but what happens with me is, I have so much music that after using one of these for a few weeks to a few months, I find that I’m listening mostly to the music that sounds the best on that particular headphone.

      Equalizing can help salvage a real problem like a thin lower midrange, but it doesn’t help enough in my experience to make an AKG sound as good as a Sennheiser on the music that the Sennheiser sounds best on, or vice-versa.

      I think that’s why most audiophiles end up with several headphones, since the long-time experience with each one reveals where they work the best.

  • Reply October 19, 2018

    Sammy

    This is a limited edition product and I got a chance to check it from one of my colleague. Needless to say, it feel like a premium AKG headphone as always. Other than the audio quality, I loved the nice comfortable light weight feel. Pretty good to have !

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