Over the last several months, we've looked at more than a dozen gaming headsets. In almost every case, it's a tradeoff to get two devices in one. If the sound is great, the microphone is usually lacking. If the mic is great, the sound probably leaves something to be desired. We decided to fix that by making our own. Today, we're taking a close look at the Massdrop x AKG K7XX Audiophile Headphones, paired with their own Minimic and Creative's Sound BlasterX E5 gaming amp, to build our very own "no sacrifices" gaming headset. Let's dive in.
- MSRP: $199.99
- Configured by Massdrop, manufactured by AKG
- Open-back construction
- Preselected dynamic transducers
- Flat-wire voice coil
- Varimotion 2-layer diaphragm
- Genuine leather headband
- Memory-foam ear pads with velour covering
- Individually tested and numbered
- Detachable 9.8 ft (3 m) straight cable with ? in (3.5 mm) jack
- Frequency response: 10-39,800 Hz
- Sensitivity: 105 dB/V
- Maximum input power: 200 mW
- Rated impedance: 62 ohm
- Weight: 8.3 oz (235 g)
- Body material: Aluminum
- Detachable microphone
- 3M dual lock fasteners
- Toggle mute switch
- Sensitivity: -56 dB
- Response: 20Hz - 20KHz
- Signal-to-noise ratio: 58 dB
- Impedance: 2.2 Kohms
- Operating voltage: 3V
- Cable length: 10 feet (3 m)
- Boom length: 7.5 in (19.1 cm)
If you've investigated the world of audio at all, the name AKG should be familiar. They've been a mainstay in the audiophile community for decades. Massdrop's K7XX audiophile headphone is based on the incredibly popular AKG K702 65th Anniversary Edition, one of the most beloved versions of the K702s. The K702, and subsequently, the K7XX, are reference headphones which means they feature a neutral audio profile and hone in on the kind of clarity audio enthusiasts demand. Comparing them to most gaming headsets, you'll hear more right out of the box without having to tweak EQ profiles.
Massdrop x AKG K7XX Audiophile Headphones
Massdrop is rarely content to re-release a product without tweaking it to the preferences of their community. The K7XX is no exception. Their version directly addresses the most common complaint facing the originals by boosting the bass response by 3dB. This really fills out the low-end without overwhelming the other frequencies and makes them a great fit for gaming. They've also boosted the both the mids and highs, the latter with a flat-wire voice coil, and paired them with individually tested transducers for a distinctive, immersive sound signature. It's safe to say that Massdrop may have the best sounding version of the K702s available, which is incredibly appealing to audiophiles.
When it comes to unboxing, you'll find simple packaging including a felt tray meant to display them in the Limited Edition box. Behind the tray is the detachable 9.8ft cable which connects to the cans with a mini-XLR connector and to the audio source with a ?" or ¼" headphone jack with the included screw-on adapter. The cable is long, and I would have liked to have seen a shorter alternative in the box, but for PC gaming this gives you a lot of play to get up and move around without taking off the headset.
The K7XX is lightweight but durable. The headset features a wire frame with a self-adjusting headband made of real leather. There's a good amount of branding with with the AKG logo stamped into the leather and it's left and right buttons, but it's not garrish and blends well with the overall design. On the inside of the frame, you'll find the Massdrop logo and serial for your Limited Edition. On the outside of each earcup, "K7XX" and "Limited Edition" are stamped in an act of pure showiness. I would have prefered less plastic in the build, but the tradeoff in weight, comfort and price are worthwhile.
The earcups are the stars of the show. They're big and circular, easily enveloping my ears, and incredibly comfortable. The cushions are velour-covered memory foam that feel like pillows around your ears. The cutouts are deep so you're never pressing against the drivers, and the frame gives just the right amount of grip to groove along to your music without worrying about them falling off. The only downside is that the black velour really shows stray hairs and dust, so pet owners be prepared to clean (h/t to my cats for making this super clear).
Now these are open-back headphones, and on the rear you'll find a grill instead of a solid back allowing sound to escape as well as enter in. My computer is in the family room, and everyone was fully aware of Demon Hunter's murderous ways in World of Warcraft. This gives you a wide open soundstage, which is excellent for games and music, and combined with a touch of the E5's surround sound can really take your audio to the next level.
When it comes to sound, the K7XXs are fantastic. As reference headphones, they're more neutral than your average gaming headset and deliver a well-rounded sound that is clear as a bell. The bass can dig into the meat of big explosions, and the mids and highs deliver excellent gun cracks and footsteps. The wide soundstage is great, and their positional imaging is spot on. For music, it's even better with audiophile-level clarity which allows you to hear individual instruments with the sparkle and separation gaming headsets often let fall by the wayside.
Creative Labs Sound Blaster E5 Portable Headphone DAC/AMP
To take things up even further, we paired the AKG K7XXs with Creative Lab's Sound Blaster E5 Portable Headphone DAC and Amp. This is absolutely an optional addition as it adds nearly an additional $200 to the DIY cost. We went with it to take our audio to the next level, and knowing that this amp is up to drive virtually any headphone with enough juice for cans up to 600 ohms and high resolution audio up to 24-bit/192kHz. Just as importantly, it's designed with gamers in mind. Built in "SBX" effects allow you to drive virtual 7.1 channel surround sound that's a cut above those built into gaming headsets' sound cards, exploding the soundstage. It also features the wonderful Crystalizer effect that delivers on its promises to make music sound cleaner, even on lossy files.
The build quality is good, featuring a sturdy plastic body and well engineer controls that are easy to identify without taking your eyes off the game. It also features a rubberized bottom to keep it from sliding around on your desk.
Feature-wise, the E5 features dual built in microphones, two headphone outputs, optical and analog line in and line out connections, as well as the ability to act as a USB host and NFC compatibility for wireless communication. On PC and Mac, you can download the easy-to-use E-Series Control Panel software to adjust SBX settings and EQ profiles, but if you're on the go, you can also control the device via bluetooth and Creative's free smartphone app. Oddly, to control these settings, the E5 has to be connected for "media output," which cuts off the headphone and the benefit of using a wired amplifier. Thankfully, it remembers your changes on the device, so you can quickly disconnect with your settings saved.
With sound out of the way, we can move onto the mic. We kept things in-house with the Massdrop Minimic. It's a modular microphone, very similar to the ModMic 4 we reviewed last month, except it comes in at just over half the price. The Minimic is a directional microphone mounted on a gooseneck. On the rear of the neck is a clasp where the 3M dual lock strip is mounted. It comes with a pop filter to cut down on plosives, and also includes a 10-foot cable (!) with a built-in volume slider and mute. It's a little more barebones affair than the ModMic, as there's no case or proprietary magnet-clasp, but if you're not planning on traveling with your mic, this likely won't be an issue, and since the Minimic uses common dual lock circles as fasteners, you can make your own extra mounts for any headphones you buy in the future (though there is an extra set included in the box).
Attaching the mic is extremely easy. You'll want it on the same side as your headphone cable for easier cable management, but then it's as easy as cleaning your mount area, removing the protective film and pressing it into place. The dual lock is a kind of plastic velcro, so a quick press and a twist locks arm into place. The gooseneck is versatile and doesn't have a memory, so you can adjust and re-adjust without it changing place.
A quick note though: Take the time to clasp together your two cords to keep things neat and tidy.
For $25, it sounds far better than your average headset mic. Have a listen:
With that set, we now have our very own ultra-premium gaming headset able to take on even the more expensive gaming branded headsets. It's ready to join you on the go just by popping the Minimic off and the little black dual lock tab is almost invisible without the mic attached. For the cost of $225 (and $425 if you really want to kick things up with the Sound Blaster E5), the AKG K7XX offers amazing sound, exceptional comfort, and a mic ready for just about anything.
- Amazing sound: exceptional clarity, enhanced frequency response
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Easily beats same priced gaming headsets
- Affordable, exceptional microphone
- Cords are a bit overlong
- Must mind cable management
Do you want to build your own headset, just like ours? In preparation for Christmas, Massdrop is making 20 of their most popular drops available to ship in 2-3 days, so they can be in your hands before the big day. One of those drops is for the AKG K7XX. Use our link here to let them know MMORPG sent you.
The product discussed in this review was provided by Massdrop. No editorial direction was received in exchange for our review.