They cost a pretty penny, but the AKG N5005 earphones sound sublime for those that can afford them.
Lots of customisation options
No active noise cancellation
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How much would you pay for sonic perfection? That’s the question poised by the AKG N5005 earphones. At $999.95 / £799.99 (around AU$1,115), they’re among the priciest buds you’ll ever pop inside your ears. But you get what you pay for, with a premium package delivering superb sound quality, perfect for pairing with high-resolution audio services.
The AKG N5005 oozes luxury from the moment you open up its box. Complete with a numbered steel engraved token to show just how exclusive a club you’re joining by buying them, the foam padded interior, housing the many included accessories, speaks to exactly the sort of high-end experience AKG wants you to enjoy. When you’ve dropped this much money on a tech item, you’re going to want it to feel special from the off, and the AKG N5005 presents itself well right out of the gate.
The headphones themselves, as you’d hope, are of an equally high quality. There’s only one shade available to buy, a gloss black, but they’re built using a durable, classy ceramic. Though you’re going to want to keep a careful eye on anything you spend this much money on, it’s reassuring to know they’re scratch resistant.
The buds sit on a comfortably-sized enclosure that sit comfortably in the inner ear, with rubberised corners that prevent too much chafing when inserting and removing them. Replaceable cables can be yanked out of the AKG N5005 buds with a satisfying clip, while the supplied cables (barring the wireless Bluetooth option) are braided, copper in color and of a high-quality.
Pull the eartips off, and you’ll find where the interchangeable sound filters live. We’ll talk about the performance of these tiny circular inserts later on, but for now know that they easily removed and attached, screwing into place to customise the sound of the AKG N5005 to your taste.
Once you’ve played around with the many multiple ear tip options to find the ones best suited to you, the AKG N5005 earphones are very comfortable. Weighing 114G, they’re a snug fit, and never felt as though they’d fall out thanks to a curve that helps to hook around the top outside of your ear.
System: Hybrid technology
Driver size: 9.2mm + Quad Balance Armature
Dynamic frequency response range: 10-40kHz
Sensitivity: 116dB SPL/V@1kHz
Impedance: 18 ohm
Bluetooth transmitted power: 0-4dbm
Bluetooth transmitted modulation: GFSK, π/4 DQPSK, 8DPSK
Bluetooth frequency: 2.402 - 2.480GHz
Bluetooth profiles: A2DP V1.2, AVRCP V1.4, HFP V1.6, HSP V1.2
Bluetooth version: V4.1
Battery type: Lithium-ion
Polymer rechargeable battery: 120mA/3.7V
Charging time: Around 2 hours
Music playtime with Bluetooth: 8 hours
Talk time with Bluetooth: 8 hours
We wouldn’t usually dedicate a section of a headphone review to accessories, but the ones included with the AKG N5005 are so integral to the package – and to the customisation of the fit and sound quality – that they deserve their own individual mention.
First up: the basics. In the the box is a palm-sized hard shell zip-up carry case for protecting your buds, finished in black leather with inner netting to keep cables from getting tangled. You’ve then also got a two-pronged flight adapter for use on a plane, and a cleaning tool for getting any grime out of the earphones without damaging them.
Then things start to get interesting. There are seven sets of ear tips in total – four regular ear tips and three spin tips. You may have to try a few different combinations to find the most snug fit for your ears, but the many options make finding the right pair for you very likely. And while there’s no Active Noise Cancellation built in here, they do a great job of blocking out exterior sound passively when cranked up a notch.
Three different cable options come in the box, starting with two standard wired sets (a 3.5mm one with in-line remote and an audiophile-friendly balanced 2.5mm one, each with braided cabling), and a wireless Bluetooth option. Each clips and unclips from the earbuds with ease, making swapping them out for the preferred listening session at hand easy. The Bluetooth set is particularly useful, giving you eight hours of playback from a 2 hour charge. The flat cable, designed to sit on the back of your neck, can be pulled comfortable taut with a sliding fastener, while there’s a three-button remote with mic about an inch from your left ear. Charging over an included micro USB cable, they’re comfortably weighted (an extra buttonless compartment sits on the right side, balancing the weight) and maintain the great sound of the wired options.
And then finally what’s perhaps the most interesting part of the package, the filters themselves.
For the record, we tended to stick with the Reference Sound filters for the majority of our time with the AKG N5005s, followed by the Bass Boost option. They all admirably work as their names suggest – the Reference filters are your baseline AKG sound model, with solid bass and smooth mid range, the Bass Boost filters dampen highs and mids, Mid High Boost push back the bass while High Boost focus on the treble and higher frequencies. You’ll likely find that you’ll land on a set of filters that suit your tastes best and mostly ignore the rest, but having the option alone is a welcome opportunity to customise your buds to your particular needs.
You’d hope for something heavenly-sounding from a pair of $1,000 headphones, and the AKG N5005 does not disappoint.
Supporting hi-resolution audio, the AKG N5005 make use of one dynamic (9.2mm) and quad balanced armature drivers for a hybrid five-way design, leading to a rich and detailed sound. Bass is powerful (once you’ve got a good seal from the tips) and midrange sounds are fantastically accurate, pulling out detail rarely heard with in-ears, avoiding distortion. Highs took a little getting used to, being incredibly crisp, but again it’s just a matter of being so true to the intentions of the original recording.
We were hugely impressed over a range of diverse genres on the AKG N5005s at reference filter level. Bjork’s All is Full of Love rumbled with its deep base notes and shimmered as its processed harps swept through its electro heartache. The Stone Roses’ wavy hypnotic guitars for I Wanna Be Adored sound clear and distinct from the dream-like swagger surrounding them, while the physical scratch of the strings can even be discerned still in the mix. Turn to beat-laden Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa and the slam of the drum machine lands with a snap, while the soulful vocals of Judee Sill on The Kiss lap warmly against its delicate piano line.
Elite earphones for the extremely wealthy, the AKG N5005 cost the world but sound like heaven. From the premium packaging to the premium sound, they ooze quality, and offer so many customisation and cabling options it’s almost like getting several pairs of headphones in one box. If you can afford them, they’ll make your ears quiver with pleasure.
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Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of iMore.com. Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.