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    Table of Contents
  1. Intro
  2. Design
    1. Style
    2. Comfort
    3. Controls
    4. Stability
    5. Portability
    6. Case
    7. Build Quality
    8. Cable
    9. Front
    10. Angled
    11. Side
    12. Rear
    13. Top
  3. Sound
    1. Bass
    2. Mid
    3. Treble
    4. Total Harmonic Distortion
  4. Isolation
    1. Noise Isolation
    2. Leakage
  5. Active Features
    1. Wireless
    2. Latency
    3. Battery
    4. App Support
  6. In the box
  7. Conclusion
  8. Q&A
Reviewed on Feb 26, 2016 , Marc Henney

AKG K490-NC
HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings
6.6Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
7.3Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
6.4Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
6.2Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
6.4Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:
6.9Home Theater
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Score components:
Type : On-ear
Enclosure : Closed-Back
Wireless : No
Noise-Cancelling : Yes
Mic : No
Transducer : Dynamic

The AKG K490-NC are decent-sounding but mediocre noise cancelling headphones. They feel comfortable, for an "on ear" design, but the many potentially weak joints lessen their build quality. They leak very little sound but do not cancel ambient noise effectively.

Test Results
Design 6.7
Sound 7.3
Isolation 7.2
Active Features 5.0
Pros
  • Lightweight build.
  • Comfortable "On Ear" design.
  • Decent sound quality.
Cons
  • Many potentially weak joints.
  • Poor noise isolation.
  • Significant lack of bass.

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6.7

Design

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Score components:
AKG K490-NC Design Picture

The K490s have a simple and clear design but suffer from build quality and functionality issues. The thin headband and many potential weak points make the K490s prone to breaking. They have no in-line control options either, which is disappointing. However, they are relatively comfortable for an "on ear" design.

Style
AKG K490-NC Design Picture 2

The K490s look great. The silver accents from the polished metal give them a premium look. The thin headband is lightly padded. The small on-ear cups are circular, well-padded and have textured plastic backs with the silver AKG logo branded upon them. The branding works well with the overall look and is not overstated.

7.0 Comfort
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What it is: Adjustability and degrees of freedom, pressure, stiffness and weight.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used for long durations.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
AKG K490-NC Comfort Picture
Weight : 0.34 lbs
Clamping Force
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What it is: The force that the headphones exert on your head, once you have them on. This is purely a measurement of the force applied, which does not take into account the earpad's surface area and the resulting pressure you will feel, on or around your ears.
When it matters: The tighter the headphones, the more force they put on your head. This can get uncomfortable or cause pain and soreness during long listening sessions.
:
0.64 lbs

Lightweight and comfortable, considering they are on-ear headphones.

3.7 Controls
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What it is: The control scheme of the headphones, the number of functions provided, button layout and ergonomics as well as the quality of tactile feedback.
When it matters: If you want to control volume, pause your music or make phone calls without directly interacting with your audio device.
AKG K490-NC Controls Picture
Ease of use : Above-average
Feedback : Above-average
Call/Music Control : No
Volume Control : No
Noise Canceling Control : No
Talk-Through : No
Additional Buttons : No

The button layout is quite simple. There is only a button for noise cancellation and nothing else. No in-line controls or mic on the cable, which is disappointing.

7.0 Stability
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What it is: How the headphones are designed to prevent them from slipping off your ears or falling off your head.
When it matters: If you plan on using the headphones while doing sports or other physical activities that requires a lot of movement.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
AKG K490-NC Stability Picture

The K490-NC are decently stable headphones. They apply enough pressure to your ears to stay in place during casual listening sessions, and their lightweight, compact design prevents them from swaying too much during moderate physical activity. They also have a detachable audio cable that won't pull the headphones of your ears if it gets hooked on something. However, they're not sports headphones and will slip off you ears while running.

6.6 Portability
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What it is: The volume of space occupied by the headphones when folded into their most compact format.
When it matters: If you're often on the move and need to carry your headphones in a bag, purse , or pocket.
Score components:
AKG K490-NC Portability Picture
L : 4.33 "
W : 5.12 "
H : 2.36 "
Volume : 52.39 Cu. Inches
Stand required : N/A

The AKG 490 are mid-sized on-ear headphones. They're moderately portable and don't take up too much space in a bag. They also fold into a more compact design for easier storage and transport. They will fit comfortably in a jacket pocket but will be too big for regular pant pockets.

6.0 Case
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What it is: The provided carrying options to protect your headphones when transporting them.
When it matters: To prevent damaging your headphones, if you often carry them in your bag or pocket.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
AKG K490-NC Case Picture
Type : Pouch

Comes with a soft fabric pouch that will protect the headphones from scratches and doesn't add much bulk. Sadly the soft fabric will not shield the headphones from hard falls, or water damage.

7.0 Build Quality
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What it is: Durability, material quality, cheap/expensive feel.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used by multiple users (classes/studios), by children, in tough conditions, on a daily basis, or for exercise.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
AKG K490-NC Build Quality Picture

These headphones are quite well-built for the most part, but have a few major weak points, mainly the joints, that may spoil the whole experience. Also, the headband adjustment slider is very loose and easily loses its position. There are some customer reports on Amazon.com regarding the hinges breaking.

Cable
AKG K490-NC Cable Picture
Detachable : Yes
Length : 4.58 ft
Connection : 1/8" TRS

Comes with two cables; USB-1/16"TRRS for charging and 1/8"TRS - 1/16"TRRS for connecting audio devices.

Front
Angled
Side
Rear
Top
7.3

Sound

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What it is: How accurately the audio is reproduced. The tests are performed with the headphones' most commonly used features enabled (noise-cancelling, wireless, etc.)
AKG K490-NC Frequency Response
6.7 Bass
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What it is: Frequency Response from 20Hz-250Hz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on bass frequencies, such as those of kick drums and bass guitar.
Score components:
AKG K490-NC Bass
Std. Err.
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What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in bass frequency response (20Hz-250Hz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) bass performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
4.11 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
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What it is: The lowest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response.
When it matters: Shows how extended the bass is.
Good value: <40Hz
Noticeable difference: 5Hz
:
75.51 Hz
Low-Bass
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 20Hz-60Hz.
When it matters: Kick drums and low frequency effects get their 'thump' from this range. Mostly felt than heard.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-6.21 dB
Bass
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 60Hz-120Hz.
When it matters: Melodic bass instruments have most of their fundamental frequencies in this range. This is where the 'body' and 'punch' of the bass sits.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-1.46 dB
High-Bass
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 120Hz-250Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments get their warmth and full-ness from this range. When over-emphasized, mixes tend to get muddy and boomy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
2.65 dB

7.4 Mid
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What it is: Frequency Response from 250Hz-2KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on mid-range frequencies. This is the case for the majority of audio content.
Score components:
AKG K490-NC Mid
Std. Err.
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What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in mid frequency response (250Hz-2.5KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) mid performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
3.52 dB
Low-Mid
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 250Hz-500Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments have their fundamentals or low harmonics in this range. Over-emphasis in this range sounds muddy and cluttered. Under-emphasis, thins out the vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
4.37 dB
Mid
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 500Hz-1KHz.
When it matters: This range is occupied mostly by upper harmonics. Over-emphasis sounds forward and boxy. Under-emphasis pushes instruments to the back of the mix.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
2.62 dB
High-Mid
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 1KHz-2KHz.
When it matters: Most instruments, especially vocals, get their intensity and clarity from this range. Over-emphasis sounds honky and harsh, under-emphasis sounds weak and distant.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.53 dB

6.8 Treble
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What it is: Frequency Response from 2KHz-20KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on high-range frequencies, such as voice, cymbals, and any other material where brightness, brilliance and airiness is desired.
Score components:
AKG K490-NC Treble
Std. Err.
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What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in treble frequency response (2.5KHz-20KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) treble performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
4.48 dB
Low-Treble
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 2KHz-5KHz.
When it matters: Almost all instruments rely on this range for their presence, detail, and articulation. Over-emphasis can sound harsh and painful. Under-emphasis hurts the comprehensibility of vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-0.49 dB
Treble
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What it is: The average amount of over/under emphasis in frequency response from 5KHz-10KHz.
When it matters: This is the sibilance range. Cymbals, vocals, and lead instruments rely on this range for brightness and presence. Over-emphasis sounds piercing and painful, under-emphasis sounds dull and lispy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-4.52 dB
High-Treble
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 10KHz-20KHz.
When it matters: This range gives brilliance and airiness to the sound. Over-emphasis sounds hissy, under-emphasis sounds closed-up and lifeless.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
4.18 dB

9.8 Total Harmonic Distortion
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What it is: The subtle, unwanted frequencies (harmonics) produced alongside the intended frequencies.
When it matters: When clean and pure sound reproduction is desired, though its effect is not as noticable as frequency response.
Score components:
AKG K490-NC Distortion
Weighted THD @ 90
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What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion measured at 90dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: How pure the sound is at moderate listening levels.
Good value: <0.100
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
0.011
Weighted THD @ 100
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What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion measured at 100dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: How pure the sound is at loud listening levels.
Good value: <0.300
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
0.043

7.2

Isolation

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Score components:

The K490s are not going to isolate you very well. The noise canceling is sub-par at best but will at least keep sharp ambient noise at bay. They shouldn't be your first choice for noisy commutes or traveling. The seal provided by the ear cups, on the other hand, are decent for an "on ear" design and leak very little sound.

7.0 Noise Isolation
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What it is: How much outside noise is blocked out by putting the headphones on.
When it matters: If the headphones are going to be used in a noisy envinronment (airplane, subway, etc.)
Score components:
AKG K490-NC Noise Isolation
Overall Attenuation
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What it is: The overall amount of environmental noise reduction in dB.
When it matters: In loud envinronments like planes, trains, offices, etc.
Good value: <-20dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-16.27 dB
Bass
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What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the bass range (20Hz-250Hz).
When it matters: When the outside noise is bass-heavy, like in airplanes.
Good value: <-15dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-7.54 dB
Mid
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What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the mid-range (250Hz-2.5KHz).
When it matters: When the environment's noise is mid-heavy, like in an office.
Good value: <-15dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-11.7 dB
Treble
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What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the treble range (2.5KHz-20KHz).
When it matters: When the environment's noise is treble-heavy. Although uncommon, areas with sharp sounds fall under this category.
Good value: <-30dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-31.7 dB
Self-Noise
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What it is: The amount of noise created by the active electronics of the headphones (if applicable), measured from 300Hz-20KHz. Applies mostly to wireless and noise-cancelling headphones.
When it matters: If too loud, it could become distracting when listening to quiet material like podcasts and audiobooks.
Good value: <16dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
11.28 dB

The ANC (Active Noise Cancelling) on these headphones is subpar, only providing 10dB of reduction from 30Hz to 1KHz. However, the treble isolation starting around 2KHz is decent.

7.6 Leakage
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What it is: The amount of sound bleeding out of the headphones.
When it matters: When the listener doesn't want people around them (in office, recording studio, etc.) to hear what is being listened to.
Score components:
AKG K490-NC Leakage
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
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What it is: The amount of sound leakage heard 1 foot away from the user, while the user is listening to a 100dB SPL signal.
When it matters: When you don't want people hear what you are listening to.
Good value: <35dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
36.41 dB

Very minimal leakage up to 300Hz, but there is a notable increase from 500Hz to 4KHz. This means they leak in the mid-range in addition to the typical treble leakage.

5.0

Active Features

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What it is: Headphones with active components that require a battery. This includes noise cancelling and wireless headphones that actively reduce noise or transmit audio via a wireless connection.
When it matters: How suitable the power and wireless specifications of an active headphone will be, depending on your listening habits. The range and/or discharge time of the active headphone you select will be important if you're often on the move or have long uninterrupted listening sessions.
Score components:

Surprisingly,  the AKG K490 has a rechargeable battery that lasts as long as some of the headphones that use disposable AAA cells. Granted they only have noise canceling as an active feature, which makes them less versatile for other use cases than noise canceling headphones, lacking both wireless or an app, to enhance and customize sound. However, at 46 hours of battery life, they will easily last a weekend without needing a recharge.

0 Wireless
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What it is: Headphones that offer a cable-free listening experience over a wireless network, typically via Bluetooth or radio frequency.
When it matters: If you don't want to be limited by the length of an audio cable. This means having the freedom to move around in your home or office with a much greater range than an audio cable could provide, especially, if the Bluetooth source is heavy or difficult to carry.
Score components:
Type
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What it is: The type and version of the wireless network, the headphones use to connect to the audio source. This could either be Bluetooth or radio frequency.
When it matters: The Bluetooth version will determine how compatible the headphones are with your Bluetooth enabled devices. Typically, newer Bluetooth versions are backward compatible with older ones but may lack the additional features that more recent Bluetooth protocols provide.
:
N/A
Obstructed Range
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What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when the Bluetooth source was placed in another room.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you, while listening to your audio in an indoor environment. Although, the obstructed wireless range will slightly depend on your home or office layout.
Good value: >35ft
Noticeable difference: 5ft
:
N/A
Line of Sight Range
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What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when in direct line of sight of the Bluetooth device.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you, while listening to your audio in a large and open environment.
Good value: 170ft or more
Noticeable difference: 10ft
:
N/A
NFC
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What it is: Near Field Communication technology that allows you to quickly, pair your headphones with your Bluetooth and NFC-enabled device.
When it matters: This makes pairing with an NFC-enabled device a lot easier than the typical and often tedious hold-to-pair procedure that most wireless headphones have.
:
No

10 Latency
Base Latency
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What it is: The latency for the default sub-band coding of most Bluetooth headphones.
When it matters: When watching videos a high latency can cause sync issues between the images you see and the audio you hear.
Good value: 75ms or less
Noticeable difference: 15ms
:
0 ms
aptX Latency
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What it is: An audio coding algorithm (Codec) that improves bit rate efficiency. It reduces latency and improves sound quality over Bluetooth.
When it matters: For better sound quality if your often streaming music over Bluetooth. Also it slightly improves latency when watching videos with wireless headphones.
Good value: 130ms or less
Noticeable difference: 15ms
:
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
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What it is: Low latency variation of aptX that significantly reduces sync issues between video and sound when using Bluetooth headphones.
When it matters: When watching videos or gaming latency is a lot more noticeable than just listening to music.
Good value: 50ms or less
Noticeable difference: 5ms
:
N/A
7.2 Battery
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What it is: The power source of your headphones. All headphones with active features have a battery that will deplete over time.
When it matters: To continue using the active features of your headphones. Some models lose features or switch off completely when the battery is drained, which limits what you can do with them until the next charge.
Score components:
Battery Type
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What it is: The type of battery that the headphones use. Usually AAA or embedded, Li-ion rechargeable batteries.
When it matters: When your headphones run out of power. Rechargeable batteries usually charge via the headphones Micro-USB port whereas AAA batteries have to be replaced or charged with an external device.
:
Rechargable
Battery Life
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What it is: The amount of time it takes for a headphones' battery to be completely drained. Battery life will vary depending on the active features used and volume level.
When it matters: For active headphones that connect wirelessly, have noise cancellation or other audio-enhancing features, that cease to work once the battery is dead.
Good value: >10hrs
Noticeable difference: 0.5hrs
:
46 hrs
Charge Time
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What it is: The amount of time your active headphones have to be connected to a power source to charge from 0 to a 100%. However, charging time will vary depending on your power source.
When it matters: To be able to use the active features of your headphones. Especially, wireless ones that completely switch off and need to be recharged when the battery is dead.
Good value: 2h or less
Noticeable difference: 0.25h
:
2.5 hrs
Auto-off
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What it is: A feature that turns off the headphones, after a set time, when they're not in use.
When it matters: To prolong battery life when the headphones are not being used, or if you forget to manually turn off your headphones.
:
No
Audio while charging
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What it is: Some active headphones remain usable while charging. They continue to stream audio and do not disable other active features.
When it matters: This makes sure that your headphones's battery are not being drained when your relatively close to a power source. However, this means wireless headphones will need a wired connection to the power source during the charging process.
:
No
Passive Playback
Show Help
What it is: Active headphones that still work when all their active features are turned off or out of power.
When it matters: If you run out of power and do not have spare AA/AAA batteries or access to a power source to recharge your headphones.
:
Yes

The AKG 490-NC have a long lasting battery life. They provide up to 2 days worth of continuous play at average volumes. They take a bit longer than average to charge, but it shouldn't be much of an issue has you won't need to recharge through out the day thanks to great battery life. Unfortunately the audio cable and charging cable share the same port and cannot be used at the same time. Hence, you won't be able to play audio while charging.

0 App Support
Show Help
What it is: The additional app provided to enhance your listening experience. They typically deliver a set of practical features that give you more control over the sound, noise cancelling and effects that the headphones produce.
When it matters: An app with a lot of features allows you to customize your listening experience to suit your taste and preferences. For example, additions like an equalizer can give you more bass or treble and room effects can simulate a bigger Soundstage in closed back headphones.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

No compatible app.

In the box

AKG K490-NC In the box Picture

  • AKG K490NC Headphones
  • Flight adapter
  • Audio cable
  • USB cable
  • Carrying pouch
  • AKG warranty card

Conclusion
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

6.6Mixed Usage
Show Help
What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
The AKG 490 are average everyday mixed usage headphones. They have a compact design and a decent sound. Their noise isolation is not as good for noise cancelling headphones but sufficient for moderately loud environments.
7.3Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
Mediocre for critical listening. They have a decent sound but a poor soundstage. They won't reproduce high-res audio with the clarity and detail of an open back design.
6.4Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
Not ideal for commuting. They're compact and easy to carry around but don't block much noise.
6.2Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
Adequate for sports, They're lightweight and compact. However, they're a little unstable for high-intensity exercises and have poor control scheme.
6.4Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:
Suitable for office use. They will only reduce a little bit of office chatter but on the upside, they don't leak much.
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