Friday, November 11, 2011
AKG Q 350 Review
This AKG series of posts is dedicated to my hubby without whose support this blog would not exist. He loves music (playing, composing and recording) as much as I do food, so I knew I had to get him this fabulous listening gear. It's from him that I learned seriously good earphones/headphones can make a difference. We've tried so many brands, and initially, my eyes popped out at some of the prices. I had a friend recently complain that her S$38 earphones were lousy. She's right. Gizmodo explains why you can't get decent earphones for less than US$100.
Well, thanks to Omy.sg, AKG and IMS Marketing, we have three AKG headsets to test, and one grand K3003 to visit in-store. AKG is owned by Harman, which also owns JBL, Mark Levinson and many other audio brands.
First up, the Q350 in-ear buds from the Quincy Jones Signature line. Quincy Jones, man! I'm sold on the endorsement alone! But it's also nice to know that part of the proceeds from every headphone sold goes to the Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium for educating kids about music.
So here it goes - hubby's take on the Q 350...
With great earphones come great responsibility - to ROCK!
Starting a shootout of AKG headphones to take with me on the morning commute. The winner will obviously be making many trips with me for the next few years.
What I look for in "commute ears":
- Good sound that shuts out the noise of traffic, trains and people but not to the point that I can only hear my breathing and swallowing!
- Handles the wide variety of music and styles that I enjoy
- MUST have good bass response, I'm a bassist in a rock band. Yes, I'm biased. Bass in your face!!!
- Must not get in the way or snag on bag straps, pockets, train doors, other passengers and so on
- I'm 1.85m tall, so the cord should be of the right length to connect with my iPhone in my pocket. I've had bad luck with many Japanese brands that often come with both a short cord as well as one that's several metres in length - too long for use without having to loop or wrap it up.
- Comfort: because a long commute can sometimes become an even longer one, thanks to perennial "slight delays" on the MRT, and overloaded SBS buses. The phones will have to sit well in my ears for the duration of my rides.
- A remote is a major bonus!
This morning, it's the Q 350.
- Super-light. Initially uncomfortable in the ear, but they grew on me, and I did not experience any discomfort at all after getting used to having them in my ears.
- That signature lime green cord is not for everyone, but today, with so many colours and varieties for earphones, it's not a big issue.
- Had the "new cord" effect, where it was kinked from being in the packaging. This should wear out after more use. At 1m, it was the right length.
My first commute with it:
I plugged the Q 350s into my iPhone, on both a quiet bus as well as a long MRT ride, which was much noisier. The journey took about one hour. I prefer to listen to tracks with no equaliser setting on, as I enjoy getting a more "true" feel of the recording.
Getting the "seal" in the ears just right is crucial, and once I managed this, I was able to retreat to my "private sound chamber" but it left me able to hear a bit of what was happening around me, which is important for safety. I've used in-ears which sealed my ears so tight I could hear the echo of my "breathing, which is a little unsettling.
The black remote. A little small if you have big hands, and it took some getting used to, but I got the hang of it mid-way through the ride. Double-tap to forward track, triple-click to back up to the previous track, and volume controls at either end. Meant I could keep my phone in its pocket, which is a blessing because the "sardine can" MRT can be unforgiving to a big guy who likes to explore around his playlists. Also, it means I can pick up calls when they come through (works brilliantly).
Well, I'm a bassist so a good solid bass fundamental is important to me. This is probably the best bass response I've had with in-ear pieces for the longest time. The bass does not sound "coloured" or "beefed up", so I was able to enjoy a range of bass tones from the bassists on the track I was listening to, from James Jamerson on Motown tracks, to Sting, Stuart Zehnder of Jamiroquai and Mark King of Level 42.
Curiously, I could really pick up the individual tone differences of basses on the recordings because the sound was reproduced very faithfully - I could for example, tell the difference in tone if a bassist was using a Fender Jazz, Precision or a bass of another make, because the sound was really clear. If you're a techno or trancehead, I don't think you'll be disappointed either if you want that eardrum tickling bass. Listening to Jamiroquai's "Love Foolosophy" and the Michael Jackson/Quincy Jones-produced "Billie Jean", it was like being in my own private dance club, with a good solid thump coming through.
The earphones also standout on turning out vocals and discerning guitar tracks. I checked out a range of tunes on the commute, from acoustic guitar-based songs by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (e.g. Guinevere) to Crosses by Jose Gonzalez as well as more Nashville/country-inflected numbers, such as Shimmer by Shawn Mullins. On these tracks, I was hearing overtones, vocal effects and other artifacts I have not heard before when listening to the SAME tunes on some other entry- to mid-level earphones I've used in the past.
Would I buy this:
Well, earphones are like Forrest Gump's cocoa-based boxed confectionery - you never know what you're gonna get. At S$159.90, it is on the pricey side but, well, having used it, I would say that it is worth the price. It blows many similarly-priced phones out of the water, and a couple of more expensive ones, as well.