The AKG N60 are headphones firmly aimed at those who are out and about. They're portable, light and also feature active noise cancellation, which helps to drown out ambient noise such as annoyingly loud conversations on the tube or the rumbling of a plane engine.
At £220, the closed-back on-ears are by no means an impulse purchase. Having tested them on a transatlantic flight and for a couple of weeks of underground and overground commuting, however, we can comfortably say that they're well worth the money.
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The first thing you'll notice when picking the N60 headphones out of the box is just how light they are. Weighing 150g, they're considerably less bulky than the Bose QuietComfort 25 noise-cancelling headphones. They're small as well, which means they will comfortably fit inside the front pocket of a rucksack or weekend bag.
For £220, you also get a very good-looking pair of headphones. The N60s are the successor to the AKG K 495 NC headphones, albeit with a far sleeker, high-end design. From the the leather-covered headband to the aluminium metal trim and black metal on the ear cups, it's the kind of understated, minimalist look that will stand out a lot less than a pair of Beats headphones.
The most impressive part of the design is how compact the headphones can become. You can fold the ear cups and hinges inside of the body, shrinking them to the same size as a small bottle of water. They easily slip into the small, zip-up pouch that's included, with plenty of room remaining for the bundled flight adapter, woven detachable cable with built-in mic and 3.5mm to USB charging cable.
The N60s are comfortable to wear as well. The supremely light yet solid frame means they don't slide around, although we wouldn't suggest taking them out on a sweaty run. The memory-foam cushions sit snug against the ear, without pushing up too firmly, offering plenty of grip. Even with the headband extended, we'd say the N60s are better suited to smaller heads, but there's no sign of any pressure on the top of the head to make them uncomfortable to wear for long periods.
The headphone jack and charging port are hidden away to help maintain that sleek profile. Both are situated around the left ear cup, where you'll also find the detachable headphone cable and the noise-cancelling switch. The headphone jack doubles as the port to charge the built-in battery that powers the active noise cancelling.
This brings us to one of the very few criticisms we have about the N60 headphones: the choice of the USB port. This design doesn't always click satisfyingly into place and so we'd have preferred AKG opted for a more traditional-style USB connector.
Sound quality on closed-back, on ear headphones can vary immensely, even at this price. However, this isn't something you need to worry about with the N60s.
These are headphones that deliver full-bodied sound. Bass is the key characteristic here, which excels in the mid-bass region. This is complemented by the surprisingly smooth treble, which ensures vocals aren't overpowered. While you could certainly find better clarity for the price elsewhere, the N60s display enough finesse to ensure this won't be an issue.
The sound stage is surprisingly wide for headphones of this size. Plug the N60s into a tablet or phablet to watch a film, and you'll find them well suited for giving you that added sense of immersion. We played a few films on Netflix through an iPhone and an iPad Mini, and the results were very enjoyable.
But what about the noise-cancelling feature? Well, it's pretty fantastic. AKG employs active noise cancellation, applying its own proprietary technology to block out ambient noise. Thankfully, this is powered by USB, so even when the battery goes flat, you'll still be able to enjoy your music in passive mode. Inevitably you'll lose the noise cancelling, but the sound quality remains satisfyingly good.
We were fortunate enough to get a hold of a pair of the N60 headphones just in time for a long-haul flight from the US to the UK, giving us the perfect opportunity to see what they were made off. We're please to say they passed with flying colours. Whether inside the departure lounge or in the plane cabin, the N60s impressively managed to cut out conversations and other mid-frequency noise – such as the purring of the plane engine – to deliver great sound quality.
Next we took them on our daily commute, and here too they performed superbly. Flicking on the ANC switch results in blocking out all the unnecessary chatter around you, but not to a level where you miss any important announcements.
Even with the noise cancelling turned off – in passive listening mode – in an environment where there's just a little ambient noise, the N60s still perform well. There is slight issue with sound leakage, but with few people around you this shouldn't really be a problem.
The AKG N60s offer everything you could want from a set of headphones to take on your travels. The noise-cancelling feature is impressive, and importantly, works without affecting audio performance. They benefit from a compact design and are comfortable for use on longer journeys.
At £220, its closest rival on the price front is probably the Philips Fidelio NC1 (£184.99), whose noise cancellation we weren't too impressed by when we reviewed them earlier earlier this year. The closest Bose headphones are the QuietComfort 25, which are still expensive at £270, while the Parrot Zik 2.0 are also £30 more expensive.
The N60s will be an expensive purchase for most, but when compared to their closest competitors, the price is fair. If you don't have the funds for a set of Bose noise-cancelling headphones then you definitely won't be disappointed if you opt for the N60s instead.
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The portable design and the impressive noise cancellation make these great-sounding on-ears a commuter's best friend.