For 2012 AKG has two new pairs of stylish noise-canceling headphones, the $349.95 K495 NC and $249.95 K490 NC.
Both are on-ear models that fold flat and have built-in rechargeable batteries that charge via USB. Unlike a lot of noise-canceling models, including those from Bose, these can play sound when the battery dies or if you simply want to turn off the active noise cancellation.
The marketing line on the higher-end K495 NCs reviewed here is that they "deliver high-quality audio defined by a clarity of sound across all ranges, from crisp highs to deep lows."
The big question, of course, is whether they're better than the Bose QuietComfort 15s, which cost $300. In terms of build quality, they arguably are. And their noise-canceling capabilities are also very good, too. But the K495s' overall comfort level and sound quality just doesn't quite measure up to that of the QC 15s. Read on to find out why.
The K 495s are certainly an attractive pair of headphones that fold flat for transport and have a high-end look and feel. They feature brushed-metal parts, leather earcups, and an adjustable leather headband, and ship with a nice carrying case, two audio cables (the cloth-covered cord headphone cable is detachable from the headphones), a USB charging adapter, and a flight adapter.
The fit and finish on these guys is really good, and we liked that the earpads are marked on the inside with "L" and "R" in big letters, which leaves no doubt which is left and right.
To activate the noise-canceling feature, you turn a ring on the left earpiece rather than flip a switch. That's fine, though we did find it a little difficult to turn the ring (it's not as difficult as opening the lid on a tightly shut jar but it takes a little bit of effort).
The headphones overall are comfortable, but the Bose headphones are slightly lighter and more comfortable. As I said, this is an on-ear model, while the Bose QC 15s are an over-the-ear model. That on-ear design can put more pressure on your ear (because the pad literally sits on your ear) and I just found the over-the-ear design of the Bose more comfortable. (Note: Bose also makes the $350 QuietComfort 3s, an on-ear model that also happens to be more comfortable than these AKGs).
Aside from the active noise cancellation, the other noteworthy feature is the NC 495's built-in rechargeable battery, which you juice up via USB, which is nice. The Bose QC 15s use a single AA battery and offer a rechargeable battery option, though no USB charging.