AKG N700NC Wireless headphone review: Finally, noise-cancelling headphones an audiophile can love

I’ve longed to find a pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones worthy of audiophiles, and I’ve found them in AKG’s new N700NC Wireless. These headphones deliver a solid array of noise-cancelling features, but they really shine at reproducing music and engaging the listener.

At first glance, the AKG N700NC don’t call much attention to themselves. Think of them as a superhero hiding behind the guise of an ordinary citizen. These headphones sport a clean and functional design with a sharp gray-and-black color scheme, but I can’t say the look is all that impressive. The exterior is plastic with a metal click-adjustable band, but they nevertheless feel solid and well-built.

And while they’re comfortable to wear, I can think of several competitors that I’d put ahead of them in that department. Depending on the shape of your head, you might find that the N700NC exerts a bit of pressure at the top of your head—at times I did.

akg n700nc earcup detail Theo Nicolakis / IDG

A detailed view of the N700NC’s thick ear pads.

Outstanding battery life

The AKG N700NC boasts a battery life of 20 hours with both Bluetooth and active noise cancellation (ANC) turned on. You’ll get a whopping 36 hours using them as wired headphones with ANC on. The N700NC charges via Micro-USB on the bottom of the right ear cup. Should the battery run out, the N700NC can be used as a traditional wired headphone.

I used the AKG N700NC on a transatlantic flight to Rome. Using both wireless and wired mode during the round trip, I didn’t need to recharge the battery once—and it could have gone longer.

Controls split between the ear cups

The N700NC distributes controls along the back of both the right and left ear cups. The right ear cup has a slide-lock button that handles on/off and Bluetooth pairing. Just below that is a button that toggles the headphone’s ambient-aware functionality (more on that later). The left ear cup has two pill-shaped volume-up and volume-down buttons flanking a middle play/pause that will also activate a smartphone’s digital assistant. If the headphone is turned on, then the volume buttons work. The play/pause works only when the headphones are paired via Bluetooth.

Detail view of the right ear cup’s controls Theo Nicolakis / IDG

A detailed view of the right ear cup’s controls.

Unlike my experience with AKG’s N60NC, which have an outstanding design, I found the button layout on the N700NC took some getting used to. The buttons on the right ear cup were easy enough; the volume-control buttons on the left, however, felt too close to each other. I had to rub my thumb up and down along the buttons before I felt confident enough that I’d push the right one.

Advanced Bluetooth codecs are MIA

Surprisingly, the AKG N700NC doesn’t support any advanced wireless codecs, not aptX, aptX HD, or LDAC—only SBC is supported. These headphones nevertheless had a remarkably similar timbral response in both wired and wireless modes. You’d be amazed how different some headphones can sound in their different modes! I preferred the N700NC’s wired mode, which I felt exhibited more detail, refinement, and control over the music—even with ANC engaged.