I’ve never been the greatest fan of AKG headphones. It’s mostly a brand loyalty thing – I’d usually just go for Sennheiser or Sony in something equivalent. That may now all change thanks to the AKG K490 Noise Cancelling headphones which we recently had a chance to test. They’re solid little headphones and for the price point, I don’t know that there’s an alternative that I like more.
They’re compact and built well. They feel solid in the hands and there’s definitely something ‘premium’ about them. They are the on-ear style rather than over-ear like the Bose and Sony alternatives. Overall though, they’re not actually that heavy, so I don’t see your ears getting sore too quickly as some other on-ear models can do.
The sound quality is very good – I wasn’t expecting it actually. I don’t get any hints of muddiness and the bass is smooth, deep and honestly, ‘just right’, which is most surprising given the size of the headphones. The sound stage is very reasonable. I don’t feel like they draw you in as much as some but the separation is natural and balanced. The mids are clean which I like, and often they’re either scooped or boosted too much in compact headphones this size so again a big thumbs up. The highs are really nice and crisp. Being just slightly too bright on some tracks is really my only gripe, but it’s definitely a minor thing. I like the sound of these more than the QC15’s, maybe even the QC25’s.
Another note – you can still use the headphones when the battery runs out, the noise cancelling obviously just doesn’t work. The Bose QC25’s for example change dramatically in sound quality when the noise cancelling is turned off as there is a lot of digital enhancement to the sound. These K490NC’s however are almost identical whether the noise cancelling is on or off. This was probably one of the things that surprised me the most and it points to high quality components and construction.
On the noise cancelling side of things, it’s ok. It’s impossible to cancel out 100% of noise with on-ear headphones so keeping that in mind they do a good job – definitely sufficient for commuters. Most voices will disappear and consistent background noise is well suppressed, but I found that it was mostly either very loud or transient noises it struggled with.
These are really great value for money headphones and well worth a look in if you’re up for an upgrade or change.
Check out our unboxing video below: