Gadgets K391NC

Published on May 7th, 2013 | by Glenn


Silence The Noise With AKG K391NCs

When we were looking at some new audio gear, a few different models, types, and brands stood out. We’ve seen a lot of Bluetooth audio gear and smaller speakers recently, but it’s been a while since we checked out our last set of noise canceling headphones. And we’ve rarely touched on noise canceling earbuds, as the battery life and use case always made over-ears seem like more natural design. Today, we bring one of each, from two different brands- and a companion piece that looks at two other sets that might not be noise-cancelling but offer plenty of features on their own. We also put these in the hands of a new writer, a frequent traveler who had a few long-haul flights coming up and was looking for some relief from aircraft noise and poor headsets.

I have often wondered how effective in ear noise cancelling headphones could be and had a chance to try the AKG K391NC and Harman Kardon NCs on a couple of recent international flights.

At first glance, the AKG K391 NC earbuds seem well made, with metal earphones, extra rubber ear tips, and audio cables which are a bit thicker than most. The noise cancelling function is handled by a thumb sized module which is attached to the cable about 42 inches below the earphones. This is a rechargeable unit which can be turned on and off with a small switch which allows one to use the headphones without the noise cancelling feature if desired. There is also a one button remote which allows you to start and stop tracks and advance with multiple presses. This worked fine with my iPhone 5 but not at all with my older iPod. There is also an extra cable to connect the cancelling module to your phone or audio source, a USB charging cable, and a two prong airline adapter. There weren’t really instructions but the K391s proved quite simple to use and I quickly adapted to the one button remote.

The first thing I noticed after installing these in my head was that they are very comfortable and reasonably secure. The sound quality was noticeably louder and brighter with the noise cancelling turned on so I can’t imagine why anyone would want to use these without this feature. Noise reduction was noticeable but not great. It does make a difference with all of the background noise on an airplane but does not block it completely. Back on the ground, I tried these again in quiet surroundings and decided that listening without the noise-cancelling feature seems a bit flat and muffled by comparison, so I repeat: you will want to keep your battery charged in order to maximize your enjoyment. While I recognize that these are rather expensive earphones (available for around $200 online and in stores), I can say that the AKG K391 NCs are quite elegant looking and have excellent sound quality. You’re not likely to be disappointed.


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