AKG is one of the pioneers in high performance headphones but they are currently in a very crowded market. While the company definitely has its dedicated fanbase, there are a handful of other companies releasing products for different audiences. Some pairs of headphones have distinct styles while others focus on things that millennials desire like heavy bass. But judging from products like the AKG K490NC, it doesn’t look like AKG is fazed by the competition. The K490NC stays true to its heritage and it isn’t a bad thing because continuing to do what they are best at is necessary to keep the fans loyal. It isn’t exactly a new product though so it is worth revisiting to see if a discounted price is enough to give this pair of headphones an easy recommendation.
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About the AKG K490NC
AKG announced the K490NC along with the more expensive K495NC way back in CES 2012. It is a pair of on-ear headphones with active noise-cancellation making it more recommended towards people that want to listen to music while blocking the ambient noise. Like other noise-cancelling headphones, the AKG K490NC won’t give you the best bang for the buck if you are primarily after audio quality. Still, this pair of AKG headphones boasts the “AKG signature sound” so there are music professionals out there that approve the K490NC.
As for the looks, the AKG K490NC takes a pretty classic approach. The headband and earcups are black and have some silver metal highlights and matte silver caps on both ends. The more expensive K495NC has similar looks and even similar features but the K490NC lacks the extra-long 3.5mm cable. Still, the 1.4m cable that is included in the package has a nice felt feel and can be detached from the headphones so you can always buy a longer cable if necessary.
The AKG K-490NC feels comfortable enough for lengthy sessions. The headband is well-cushioned and the ear cups are padded with pliable leather. It takes a bit of effort to adjust the headband but once adjusted properly, it should clamp just enough to prevent it from sliding off.
You should have no problems traveling with the K-490NC because the headphones feel very lightweight and the build quality is top notch. It also has a unique folding mechanism called “3D-Axis”. The ear cups basically swivel left or right resulting to a flatter profile. That’s all there is to it and you can then fit it right in the included carrying case.
The AKG K-490NC might not be a leader in noise cancellation, but the overall experience is still pretty nice. You can easily turn the active noise cancellation feature on by flicking the switch on the rear of the left ear cup. If you do this while listening to music, you will notice a small interruption but shortly after, the music slowly fades back in a pleasant manner. With active noise cancellation enabled, you should notice a considerable decrease in ambient noise from moving fan blades to idling engines. High-pitched sounds still remain but never towards annoying levels.
Battery life is rated for around 40 hours but it really isn’t a big deal. First of all, the headphones can easily be charged using a standard USB cable so there is no worrying about buying separate batteries or rechargeable ones. Plus, even if the battery does run out, the K-490NC will continue to play back audio in passive mode where the noise cancellation is still pretty decent compared to headphones that don’t focus on noise cancellation.
On the audio quality side of things, the AKG K-490NC specializes in clarity from the very low notes to the highest pitches. It isn’t particularly good at bass so those modern pop music and heavy bass tracks might leave an underwhelming impression. Still, musical tastes can vary so it is best to try test your favorite tracks with and without active noise cancellation. Classical genre fans will definitely love listening with the K-490NC.
• Active noise-cancelling works well.
• Passive noise-cancelling is a nice extra.
• Rechargeable without depending on separate batteries.
• Great build quality and portability.
• Currently in the $160 to $200 price range.
• Bass leaves a little to be desired.
• Headband adjusting could use some improvement.
• Only comes in black.
The AKG K-490NC started off pretty expensive when it launched in 2012 with a $299 price tag. Now that the price is below the $200 mark, the value proposition looks a lot greener. As long as you can deal with the lackluster bass, the K-490NC is a solid performer and the active noise-cancelling simply works. It is also the better buy if you are fine with the cable as the K-495NC is priced a bit more but doesn’t offer any noticeable advantages in comfort and audio quality.