Be­yond the fold

AKG N60NC noise-can­celling head­phones

Sound+Image - - Test - JF

Head­phones that sit on your ears, rather than around them, have the in­her­ent merit of size on their side, and these AKGs fold up so very small that on sev­eral oc­ca­sions we found them for­got­ten in a cor­ner of the com­mute bag (which is not large, and into which some over-ear head­phones barely fit at all). For a noise-can­celling de­sign like the $349.95 N60NC, this is a huge bonus for trav­ellers, at 150g barely bit­ing into a 7kg hand-lug­gage al­lowance, their neat pro­tec­tive pouch slip­ping into teeny spa­ces.

These are ca­bled on-ear head­phones with noise-can­celling, though they can be used pas­sively. You can flip a switch on the left head­shell to in­voke noise can­celling, and in­evitably things are less com­pletely silent than is pos­si­ble with the best over-ear NC, but it proved ef­fec­tive and re­moved all the rumble from bus, train and plane back­ground. Low fre­quency can­cel­la­tion slightly favoured the left, but you’d never no­tice the im­bal­ance un­less when play­ing spo­ken word. And there is re­mark­ably lit­tle tonal change go­ing from pas­sive to ac­tive NC, a lit­tle sharp­en­ing and tight­en­ing, and the mids could just oc­ca­sion­ally poke you in the ears with a sud­den shout. The best mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence here is with NC off, and much joy they brought thus — Ja­nis Jo­plin’s Me & Bobby McGee com­ing through wide, rich and rous­ing; The Fall’s ver­sion of Lost in Mu­sic emerg­ing pow­er­ful and dy­namic, and they con­tin­ued their so­lid­ity of sound and en­joy­able mu­si­cal­ity across gen­res. So save the noise can­celling un­til you need it, thereby mak­ing the most of the quoted 30 hours bat­tery life — they charge via an in­cluded high-qual­ity USB ca­ble. (AKG has more re­cently re­leased the Blue­tooth N60NC Wire­less, at $449.95, but these fol­low what we con­sider a ques­tion­able trend in re­cent NC mod­els where there’s no way to stop the noise-can­celling when us­ing Blue­tooth mode.) A longer shank on the mini­jack would be handy to pass through our iPhone bumper case; that aside, we en­joyed the fine fun­da­men­tal mer­its of the N60 N60NC and their ef­fec­tive can­cel­la­tion of sur­round­ing noise when re­quired. Plus, of course, they won’t mess up your hair.

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