The AKG K390 noise-canceling earphones, scheduled to debut in the United States in October of this year, are yet another of the many tops of the line headphones produced by AKG, who has been mastering personal and professional audio equipment since the 1940s. The in-ear AKG K390’s are a mixture of passive sound isolation and active noise cancellation. Such features are attractive to commuters and frequent fliers, and anyone else who often has to tune out their surroundings. The one issue with in-ear earphones is their tendency to be ill fit, which is a point to be wary of with the AKG K390’s retail price of $249.
All three main pieces- the cable, noise cancellation module, and the earpieces- are in dark plastic with a glossy, matte finish. Slightly larger than its peers, the AKG K390 has an external port meant to increase airflow to your ears, plus a reinforced connection to enhance durability. Despite trying every ear tip, we couldn’t find one that fits quite comfortably, as the sound apertures are large in keeping with the rest of the design. You’ll find the integrated microphone for music phone users halfway down the right cord. The cord travels about eighteen inches before joining the noise canceling unit.
As for the noise cancellation unit itself, it’s a little larger and weighs more than we would like. The AKG K390’s come with a shirt clip to ensure that this weight doesn’t pull on your earbuds, which could be something of an inconvenience to many. Measuring 3 inches across by 1 inch tall by 0.5 inches deep, the noise cancellation module on the AKG K390 is quite a lot to have displayed on your shirtfront. The top has the on/off switch and a mute button for quick checks of your surroundings. It’s powered by a single AAA battery under a flap on the underside, where you can also connect an audio device, such as an MP3 player. The cord is detachable, allowing you to use the noise cancellation module of the AKG K390 for other purposes as well.
We weren’t expecting any disappointments when we began testing the AKG K390- AKG has been in the audio industry too long to make any major mistakes- and we didn’t find anything momentous. The sound on the AKG K390’s was pretty consistent, whether we used the noise cancellation or not. Crispness characterized the AKG K390’s on all levels, without tinny higher scales. The midscale, however, wasn’t as warm and vibrant as we would’ve liked. The base was best without noise cancellation, as this feature took away a little of its depth. A picky music lover might not be delighted with the AKG K390’s performance.
The performance of the noise cancellation unit left something to be desired. When there was something to cover up, they were fine, but in a relatively silent room, we could discern a lot of unwelcome feedback. We don’t see how white noise is better than something loud, like a jet engine. It’s all depends on the individual as to whether this is noticeable.
For $249, we think the AKG K390’s could have done a better job, particularly by improving the noise cancellation unit.