AKG has the most expensive noise cancelling headphone on the market! The AKG N90Q is inspired by Quincy Jones and aims to merge an audiophile-level sound quality to a pair of noise cancelling headphones. I’m a curious skeptic, so I’m excited to give these a listen and see if they’re up to the task. Are they work $1499.99? Today I’ll find out with this AKG N90Q noise cancelling headphones review.
AKG N90Q Noise Cancelling Headphones Review
In the Box
-AKG N90Q headphones
-3 m straight cable (3.5mm)
-1.2 m MFI audio cable with microphone and 3-button remote
-1.2 m audio cable with mic and remote for android/windows
-Microfiber cleaning cloth
Design – AKG N90Q Noise Cancelling Headphones Review
Wow! Opening the box of the AKG N90Q headphones is an experience. The first thing I noticed lifting out the hard-shell carrying case is that this package is heavy! The case has an aluminum coating and inside the box are headphones and all the cables and accessories. I love the flashy black and gold color scheme. I feel fancy just taking them out of the box. Let’s take a closer look.
The headband of the AKG N90Q feels strong and durable. It is made of aluminum along the sides. As the headband reaches the top, it’s padding begins. I think the inside of this might be plastic? It is super flexible and bends easily which makes me think these headphones will fit just about any size head. However, the headband padding, which is coated in sheep leather, isn’t very cushiony. As I place the headphones on my head, they’re weight culminates in this point on the headband and I wish there was a bit more cushion there. Otherwise, the headband is beautiful, complete with heavy-duty metal yolks where the earcups can swivel freely.
The large, oval shaped earcups have a flashy and edgy look, featuring the gold and black scheme. The outside of the cups are made of aluminum and house a number of controls including mechanical wheels for volume control and tone control. There is also a power button, a stage control/auto-calibration button (more on this later). Additionally, there are the 2.5mm audio cable port and micro USB port. As the earcup gets closer to the earpad, it switches to be coated with sheep leather on top of its aluminum shell. Classy!
At first glance, I thought the earpads of the AKG N90Q headphones were sort of average plushy earpads. They’re relatively thick and soft with a sheep leather coating. However, after investigating further I realized they’re actually pretty unique. They have dual densities: the surface foam is squishier and less firm than the foam that is deeper. As a result, the cushions feel soft while absorbing high frequency reflections inside the earcup and blocking out sound. In fact, once I tried the headphones on their noise isolation really impressed me. One negative aspect of the earpads is that their a little big for my ears. As a result, my ear falls through the hole and touches the inside which makes me wonder how comfortable the headphones would be for long duration use. However, folks with bigger ears would probably find them a bit more comfortable.
The AKG N90Q must have battery life in order to playback music. This is a little bit of a bummer, but AKG did their best to make amends. While the battery lasts for 11-12 hours of playback, there is a power bank provided in the box with the headphones. There isn’t much information on the AKG site or in the manual about how much battery life this pack can supply the headphones, but I imagine it will fully charge them once again.
The headphones take 4 hours to charge fully.
Noise Cancellation – AKG N90Q Noise Cancelling Headphones Review
I was very impressed with the noise cancellation in the AKG N90Q. It is strong, especially cancelling out low and mid frequencies. The noise cancellation was even good at cancelling out voices. It was less successful in cancelling out transient sounds like typing or foot steps, but that is the case for all other noise cancellation I’ve heard. The most impressive quality of this noise cancellation was its natural feel. I’m not quite sure how else to explain it, but it was strong without being distracting.
To keep this review a reasonable length, I won’t go into detail about each of these features but I’ll just make a few notes with my opinions of their quality. For more information about these features, visit AKG’s product page for the AKG N90Q.
Built in DAC
-works only for PC and Android when listening via the micro USB port
-holding the Stage Control button for five seconds will activate auto-calibration
-two microphones inside the earcup measure how the sound bounces and reflects in the earcup based on your ear shape, and adjusts the frequency response accordingly
-works as described, and for me, made the low frequency response tighter and more detailed
-controlled via the left earcup wheel
-changes the balanced of treble and bass response
-sound differences are subtle and musical which makes them sound really good actually
-switches sound between Standard mode, Studio 2.1 mode, and Surround 5.1 mode.
-subtle changes that sound really musical as well! Not overdone!
-My only critique is the lack of mode indication
USB and HD Audio
-listening via the USB port plays back HD audio, activates updates for the headphones, and rapid charges the headphones
Sound – AKG N90Q Noise Cancelling Headphones Review
The low frequencies are a bit moldable in the AKG N90Q. However, their general signature is healthily thick and reactive. Sometimes they’re clearer or cloudier than others depending on the Tone Control mode, ranging from emphasis on 60 Hz to 100 Hz approximately. Regardless, it has nice low frequency extension and spaciousness.
The AKG N90Q noise cancelling headphones’ mid range has wonderful detail. The low-mids are full, although sometimes feel cloudy depending on how the Tone Control mode is set. There is a frequency cut at 600 Hz, however electric guitars still feel full in many mixes because of the energy in the low mids. They feel a little bit thinner in others depending on the mix. Additionally, the 1 kHz and 4 kHz are accented which gives bite to drums and plucky instruments like acoustic guitars, horns, and percussion. Vocals sit at an appropriate level in the mix although sometimes feel somewhat unnatural because of frequency cuts at 2 kHz and 5 kHz. The high mids/low treble feel a little bit discrete as well because of another cut at 6 kHz. Therefore, cymbal harmonics aren’t as complex as they might otherwise.
Finally, the high frequencies of the AKG N90Q have nice extension, although boosts from 9 kHz to 13 kHz overpower the detail of that extension at times. Regardless, this extra high frequency energy contributes to vocal air and string details. Sometimes the very bottom of that boost at 9 kHz causes vocal sibilance.
I was very impressed with the AKG N90Q’s soundstage because, well, there was a soundstage. This is the first pair of noise cancelling headphones with any sort of soundstage at all! It has a wonderful sense of width. The Stage Control button is subtle but contributes positively to the sense of depth of the headphones. Lastly, the high frequency and low frequency extension provides an accurate sense of height. Wow!
Overview – AKG N90Q Noise Cancelling Headphones Review
The AKG N90Q is a high end noise cancelling headphone! The noise cancelling technology is one of the best I’ve ever heard, and the sound quality is outstanding and wonderfully customizable. All the sound alterations might bum out some audiophile purists, but in my opinion, they are not distracting from the musical experience. However, one downside is that the durable, metal body is a bit heavy, so be sure to get your neck exercises in gear before you buy the AKG N90Q.
The AKG N90Q is available for the best price here:
-Impedance: 32 ohms
-Frequency response: 10 Hz-25 kHz
-Sensitivity: 110 dB SPL at 1 kHz /100 mV
-Max input power: 100 mW