There are very few companies as capable of entering the competitive world of wireless noise-canceling headphones as AKG. The audio brand (now owned by Samsung) has a long history of making some of the best audio products on earth, so it stands to reason that its new N700NC headphones could stand with the best on the market.
After a few weeks of testing, we’re happy to report that they do. With great looks, comfortable earpads, and punchy sound, the N700NC go toe to toe with Sony’s excellent WH-1000xM3 and the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. That said, a few quirks keep AKG’s premium noise-canceling cans from topping of our list of the very best wireless noise-canceling headphones on earth.
Out of the box
One of the N700NC’s best features is how fantastic they look. AKG has a track record for making beautiful products, but the company’s designers really outdid themselves here. Shaped into a sleek, silver-and-black chassis, they are easily among the most beautiful wireless headphones we’ve laid eyes on. Large, leather-lined earcups are accented with a classy AKG logo on the exterior, and the headband tapers away from your ears to provide a beautiful, peanut-shaped line with a soft headband above it.
The headphones arrive inside a high-quality hard case that’s coated with durable grey fabric, and a pocket inside provides plenty of storage for the included micro USB charging cable, 3.5 mm audio cable, and instruction booklet. Another feature we like about the case is the molded sections for the earcups, allowing the headphones to fold down perfectly — ensuring they’re never bouncing around unnecessarily in your backpack or carry-on. These extras are very welcome on a pair of headphones designed explicitly for travelers.
Any pair of headphones designed for long trips should first and foremost be comfortable, and we’re happy to report that the N700NC fit that bill. The memory foam earpads are narrower than those of similar models from Bose and Sony, but they feel a bit deeper overall, providing a fluffy barrier between your ears and the outside world. The headband, too, is wonderfully padded, and we had no problem wearing the headphones for an entire workday, even over various baseball caps and winter hats during our commute.
Among the most beautiful wireless headphones we’ve ever laid eyes on.
Controls are located on each earpiece, with three buttons on the left side for volume and playing/pausing music, and two on the right — one for power/pairing, and a Smart Ambient button for mixing in sounds from the outside world. The latter button is assignable inside the AKG app for Android and iOS, allowing you to pick between “Ambient Aware” mode, which pipes in sound while you listen, or “TalkThru” mode, which lets you press it to temporarily mute what you’re listening to and pipe in outside sound, perfect for quick conversations with flight attendants without removing the headphones.
The only real gripe we have with the controls is that they’re thin and small, and also located in a somewhat awkward position on the headphones. We got used to them after some time, but most headphones we test have buttons in more convienient locations.
Whether you’re in a packed commuter train or meandering around downtown, the headphones create a whisper-quiet soundstage for your favorite music. AKG’s noise reduction tech is some of the best we’ve heard — narrowly missing the near-alien silence offered by Bose and Sony — and is more than adequate in all but the loudest environments. Frankly, if you need more silence than these cans provide, you should probably get fitted for some custom in-ears.
Battery life is also impressive: The N700NC will last for 23 hours when used wirelessly, and a full 36 hours when used in wired mode. That falls short of the 30 hours of wireless playback offered by Sony’s WH-1000xM3, but it remains impressive for any set of wireless headphones not from Sony.
Authoritative bass, crystal clear highs, and dynamic mids coalesce into a beautiful soundstage in the N700NC, offering every ounce of the impeccable sound we expected from such a storied audio brand. There are very few wireless headphones that sound this good, let alone those with great noise-canceling.
Create a whisper-quiet soundstage for your favorite music.
They N700NC easily best the somewhat flabby low end offered by the Bose QuietComfort 35 II when it comes to bringing lively energy to our favorite hip-hop and pop records of the year. Everything from Anderson .Paak’s Oxnard to Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour sounds crisp and dynamic. When put head-to-head with the WH-1000xM3, we have to give a slight edge in terms of high-end clarity and overall processing to the Sony model, but the AKG have are a bit more lively down low.
Which sound signature you prefer — whether slightly sculpted or clean and flat — is more personal than you might expect, especially considering the AKG N700NC lack the superior aptX and aptX HD Bluetooth codecs offered by Sony. We tend to go for more clinical, high-fidelity, headphones, but in this case, it really depended on the music. When listening to high-energy records like Ty Segall’s Freedom’s Goblin, we were on team AKG. When listening to folk, jazz, or classical music, we were staunch Sony Stans.
AKG covers the N700NC for one year from the date of retail purchase for defects in manufacturing, materials, and workmanship.Our Take
With stylish looks and great sound, the AKG N700NC are a solid entry in the world of wireless noise-canceling headphones that are well worth considering alongside more established options.
Is there a better alternative?
Unless we were after the best possible noise reduction on the market, we’d certainly take the AKG N700NC over the Bose QC35 II, largely because we prefer their sleeker design and less bass-heavy sound signature. That said, we still prefer the Sony WH1000xM3 overall, due to the headphones’ better battery life, cleaner audio processing, and improved noise reduction for the same list price.
How long will it last?
AKG has a history of making very high-quality products, and we haven’t seen that quality diminish since the Samsung purchase. These N700NC are made from high-quality materials, and we expect they’d last through years of steady use.
Should you buy it?
That depends. If you want a stylish pair of wireless noise-canceling headphones with great sound that stand out from the boring, business-class crowd, the N700NC are worth considering. But while we can easily recommend them as one of the top options to consider before you spend your hard-earned money, we’d still take a style hit and get a pair of the Sony WH1000xM3s if we were in the market — seeing as they’re our favorite pair of headphones, period.