(Update: We were contacted by AKG’s Distributor, Beyond Innov, to the change in price of the K390 NC. You can get the AKG K390 NC for PhP7,590.)
When it comes to sound, I tend to be on the snobby side. Although I may not call myself an acoustic expert by any stretch, I do notice the difference between music that has been encoded at a low quality MP3 format from FLAC. This goes for the hardware as well. I tend to be pretty picky when it comes to the equipment that goes over (or in) my ears.
The AKG brand isn’t as well-known commercially as say, Sony or Philips, but ask any audiophile or audio professional and they would praise the brand. For those still not familiar, you can go to their Facebook page to check out what they have to offer.
At home, I personally use a pair of AKG circumaural cans which I really like. I can spend hours on it playing PC games at night as not to disturb the family. So when I was sent the AKG K390 NC to review, how could I say no?
When travelling, I tend to bring along my MP3 player and a pair of in-earphones to listen to my favorite tunes and podcasts while shutting the outside world and leaving me to my own devices. For the longest time, I have used a pair of Panasonic in-ears which I had picked up while traveling in Japan. It has become my favorite pair as it provided great highs and mids as well as thumping bass. I had to switch to a pair of Philips when I found the Panasonics were getting worse from wear. The Philips offered better comfort as they went deeper in the ear but the sound quality wasn’t quite the same.
While the K390 NC will work as a normal pair of in-earphones, you can plug them in your mobile phone and use them as a headset. There is a microphone module with a button to answer calls so you won’t have to reach for your phone to answer it. My Blackberry 8520 worked great with the K390 NC and I able to answer calls and listen to my tunes stored on my phone.
To test the K390 NC, I used a number of music played from CDs and MP3s as well. The K390 NC performed pretty well. You can hear the distinction of the highs, mids, and lows. On a personal note, the lows were a bit softer than I was used to with my personal in-earphones but sufficient nevertheless.
Build quality was also good. The wire skin was thick and stiff so that they would still flex but not enough that they could break the wires inside as well as the rubber protecting the connections to the buds and jack.
One major gripe I have with the K390 NC is that the noise-cancelling module cannot be separated from the earphones. Normally this isn’t a problem but the module itself is bulky and can’t be clipped on the shirt without permanently damaging the shirt. It would have been better I could just remove the noise-canceling module and just used the K390 NC as a regular pair of in-earphones.
A great test of the K390 NC is on an airplane. Thank goodness that while I had the in-earphones, I had a scheduled trip abroad so I was able to use the K390 NC. Unfortunately, I was left underwhelmed. The passive noise-canceling part of the earphones (covering your ears to reduce outside noise) works pretty well, but the active noise-canceling part is a bit lacking. It was able to cancel out most of the engine low-end rumble of the engine noise but without any music through the earphones, I could still hear the higher end noise of the engine. Also, there is a noticeable amount of white noise from the earphones.
To be fair, the active noise-cancelling on the K390 NC does work and the white noise is unnoticeable when the music is on. However, if used solely to eliminate background noise, don’t expect it to dissipate all the noise.
A hazard on being on a plane with noise-cancelling earphones on is that you tend to miss out on what the pilot or flight attendant says that might be important. You could just remove the eaphones and just plug them in again but it’s always a hassle to do that a lot of times. Good thing the K390 NC has a mute button that not only turns off the active noise-cancelling but silences the audio from your music device. With a simple press of a button, I was able to listen to the announcements without removing the buds from my ears.
Aside from the lack-luster noise-cancelling, the K390 NC are a pretty good pair of in-earphones. The sound quality is excellent as well as the build quality. The mute button is really handy especially while travelling.
The AKG K390 NC is available at A-Shop, Beyond the Box, Digital Hub, Mobile One, Power Mac, iCampus in Ateneo and IS Manila, E-novations, Go Gadgets Boutique, Senco Link HQ, Technoholics, and JBL Stores for PhP7,590.
Plus: Clean sound quality; excellent build-quality
Minus: Doesn’t eliminate high-pitch background noise as much.
Bottomline: The K390 NC produces great sound quality but the noise-canceling leaves something to be desired.