AKG K712 Pro Headphone


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Hand-crafted in Austria
Ear coddling comfort
User-replaceable cable
Minus
Expensive
Lacks mike or inline remote

THE VERDICT
The AKG K712 Pro’s winning combination of comfort, build quality, and superlative sound puts it in the top tier of headphones in its price class.

Headphone shoppers should never forget that sound quality should always be balanced with comfort. Sure, sound is the thing, but you’d be unwise to assume all headphones are equally comfy. I wish. The majority of full-size headphones on the market—including a lot of very expensive ones—can be a chore to wear for more than an hour or so. AKGs have no such problem; the company nailed big headphone comfort with their K701 that debuted in the U.S. in 2006, and this new model, the K712 Pro, looks and feels much the same (the less expensive K701 remains in the line). Both models feature similar drivers, but the K712 Pro’s two-layer Varimotion driver has been redesigned to increase bass output.

Unboxing the K712 Pro, I was greeted by a few surprises. The 9.5-foot-long straight headphone cable is user replaceable and connects to the left ear cup via a locking, mini-XLR plug (you also get a coiled cable). Both cables are terminated with 3.5mm plugs; a screw-on 6.3 adapter is provided. Since this headphone was designed for the pro market, the cables lack microphones or inline controls for phones. But that’s not to say the K712 Pro can’t sound great plugged into a phone—it does. A soft, black velour carry pouch is included. Most of the K712 Pro’s parts, including the drivers, are made by AKG in Austria.

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My listening tests commenced with the 2012 remaster of the Beach Boys’ "Do It Again," and it sounded like a breath of fresh air. The soaring harmonies and the band’s funky groove never sounded better. The K712 Pro’s neutrality just lets the music speak for itself, which is a surprisingly rare commodity in headphones. Most of them hype bass or add a little extra zing, but the K712 Pro just lets the music be, which also makes it ideal for home theater. The Iceman is a chilling movie about a stone-cold hit man who killed more than 100 people for the mob, and the no-frills sound mix was you-are-there realistic. From inner-city streets to crappy hotels and cramped prison cells, I felt like I was in the movie. Headphone sound doesn’t get better than that. Oh, and the K712 Pro was so comfortable, it was easy to forget I had it on.

For comparison’s sake, I switched over to Sennheiser HD 700 headphone ($1,000) and popped on U2’s Achtung Baby CD. This is a densely mixed recording, and the HD 700’s transparency outpaced the K712 Pro’s, but Adam Clayton’s meaty bass lines sounded a little lean on the HD 700. The K712 Pro restored the thunder. Still, I’d give the nod to the HD 700 for its superior overall sound—but to be fair, it’s a much more expensive headphone.

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Back with the K712 Pro and listening to the HDtracks high-resolution 192-kilohertz/24-bit download of Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” the thing that struck me was how “live” the feel was. This music wasn’t assembled out of bits and pieces of sound; the band and Van dug deep and played their asses off. The K712 Pro brought it all back home.

As good as it is, the K712 Pro isn’t AKG’s top-of-the-line headphone. The flagship K812 Pro (expected price is $1,600) looks like a near twin, but it shares very few parts with the K712 Pro. I heard it briefly at a hi-fi show and loved the sound, but I didn’t have it at home to compare with the K712 Pro. The K712 Pro’s MSRP is $699, and I’ve seen it selling for $499 on the Web and in brick-and-mortar shops.

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