Review: Harman Audio AKG K495 NC

If you demand near-absolute silence from your noise-canceling headphones, these are the ones for you. The AKG K495 NCs get closer to dead silence than any other pair I tried.

In a nice design touch, you activate the noise-canceling feature by twisting the metal ring that runs around the left earcup. And when you turn it on, it’s actually shocking because all the noise around you just completely shuts off.

The sound overall is excellent — full and rich with surprisingly good bass. I noticed the AKGs provide tight, crisp details, so I found myself listening to a lot of classical music, acoustic rock and modern jazz while wearing them. This is where they really excel. Surprisingly, there’s almost no crunchiness or hiss present with the noise-canceling switched on.

Keep in mind these aren’t wireless — they have a cable that plugs into your phone with an in-line remote for adjusting the volume and answering calls. You also get a USB cable for charging them up. When the battery runs out, you can keep listening with the noise-canceling turned off, and they still sound great without it.

The pads are an on-the-ear design, not over-the-ear, so they aren’t quite as comfortable as the other headphones I tested. Also, the metal headband has some sharp corners, and my hair tended to get snagged in the angular hinges. But the pads are made of really nice, soft leather, and the clamping force isn’t too tight, so they aren’t torture machines or anything.

Here’s the kicker — they’re only $350. Yes, I know, “ONLY $350?” But that’s actually a very good price for noise-canceling travel headphones this nice. It’s the same price as the mega-popular Bose QuietComfort 3s, but these sound better and have a sturdier build.

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