AKG N60NC noise cancelling headphones: When you want some peace & quiet

 

I have to admit that until I was offered a set of AKG’s N60NC wireless noise cancelling headphones for review, I hadn’t heard of the Austrian manufacturer before. Now, I’m a convert.

Thanks to Mr Google, I now know that AKG is an Austrian acoustics company and manufacturer founded in 1927 by Dr. Rudolf Görike and Ernest Plass, has its headquartered in Vienna, Austria and is now owned by Samsung Electronics through its Harman division (lightbulb moment: Now I know why the earbuds that come with the Samsung Galaxy S9 are “tuned by AKG”)

Comfort is important to me when it comes to headphones (hell, I’m sure I’m not alone in that) and the on-ear N60NCs are comfortable, thanks to a nice amount of foam on the ear cups. They really do cancel out noise, too, handy for when you want to listen to something and not hear the family chattering in the background, or you want to block out office noise (which it does brilliantly).

Pairing to a Bluetooth device, be it laptop or phone, is quick enough thanks to the switch on the right ear cup, and they paired to my MacBook Pro and Samsung’s Galaxy S9 easily. The N60NC build quality oozes quality, right down to the chrome edging around the ear cups and the nice braided 3.5mm audio cable if you like to go old-school and go for wired headphones. There’s also a nice braided USB charge cable.

The N60s folds in on itself to create a tight package and there’s a nice foam carry bag that also houses the USB cable and the audio cable. I think I only used the 3.5mm audio cable once as the headset offers hours of battery life on one charge.

But what is the sound like? Do the AKG N60NCs deliver incredible sound? According to my ears, yes they do. I tested the N60s watching movies off Netflix, playing Yakuza 6 and listening to my Hits of the 80s playlist on Spotify, and the N60NCs delivered every time, throwing back strong bass notes, while handling the mid range with aplomb. Everything just sounded crisp and was a delight. Look, I tried to find something wrong with them but I just couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

In New Zealand, the AKG N60NCs go for between $420 and $499 which, for a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones, doesn’t seem too bad to me, after all you get what you pay for – and with the N60NCs your’re getting top-notch sound and great noise cancelling properties.

Just the ticket for when you want to drown out the world, eh?

Jaybird X3 earbuds: Bluetooth sports buddies

Jaybird’s X3s are probably the first set of earbuds that didn’t feel uncomfortable in my ears.

The beauty of the X3 earbuds is that you can wear them either over the ear (with the cable running behind your ear) or under the ear, just like normal ear buds. I tended to wear them under the ear, using a fin, mainly because that’s how I’m used to wearing earbuds. I can see the over ear method ideal for sports like mountain bike or running.

Unlike many other ear buds that I’ve tried, the X3s managed to fit snugly into my ears without falling out. The ear buds come with a variety of ear tips and ear fins (as well as cord clips so things don’t get tangled up) so you can get the perfect fit. That said, I did manage to “misplace” one of the silicon ear fins while I was out riding my bike. I have no idea how that happened.

Like all modern pieces of tech these days, there is also a smartphone app for the X3s which lets you set custom sound scapes and the like, and they connected first time, every time when I turned them on, unlike some other Bluetooth headphones I’ve tried in the past. A female voice tells you how much battery life you have left, which is a nice touch. The control module is about 3cm from the right earbud, and it was the perfect spot for me to access.

The X3s worked flawlessly at the gym: I’d put my phone in one of the cubicles in the gym area and the connection would be sweet. The music dropped out occasionally but generally, it was as solid as a rock. On the bike, though, things weren’t so simple. For some reason, whenever I used the X3s on my bike, the music would cut in and out, often for multiple seconds at a time, even though my phone was in my cycling jersey’s back pocket that was 2 feet away, at most. I couldn’t fathom it: Often the first couple of minutes were punctuated by songs cutting in an out.

My son, who bought a pair of X3s a few months earlier, wondered whether it could be to do with the Bluetooth version on my phone, and I suppose he could be right. Any technophiles smarter than me think he might be right? The X3s use Bluetooth 4.1 while my Samsung Galaxy S7 apparently uses Bluetooth 4.2.

The sound from the X3s seemed great to my ears, delivering consistent tones whether it was the Smashing Pumpkins and Jeff Buckley or The Prodigy or Disturbed. Of course, I tested the sound purely unscientifically.

Jaybird’s X3 earbuds will set you back anything between $197 to $229 in New Zealand, depending on the retailer, but given how well they perform, especially when used at the gym, I don’t think that’s too bad. These are my earbuds of choice right now – and will be for a while, I reckon. There’s no way I’ll go back to those budget ones I used to use.