The AKG Y600NC review in a sentence: if you simply want to avoid a 'me too!' pair of over ear noise cancelling headphones, go right ahead.
For me, the Y600NC aren’t quite the complete article, but they do have a lot of charms. While they may not be the best noise cancelling headphones you can buy, the AKG Y600NC does have an engaging mix of street style, with sound that is more accurate and laidback than you might expect from the groovy and sick looks.
That's then accessorised with active noise cancelling, of course – a feature that headphones buyers seem increasingly unable to resist.
AKG Y600NC: price and availability
The AKG Y600NC are on sale right now, priced in the UK at £199. AKG’s American distributor is notorious for offering some eye-popping deals, but there’s nothing doing on the Y600NC at present - so expect to pay in the region of $249. Australian customers are looking at more like AU$359.
AKG Y600NC: build quality, design and battery life
AKG is to be congratulated for delivering a pair of over-ear headphones that look - by prevailing standards - actually quite distinctive. Those big, circular earcups join the headband via a 90-degree hinge, and the point where the headband meets the hinge is very slender. In a world where the design brief for most over-ear headphones can be paraphrased as “make them look like Sonys from a distance”, the Y600NC appear slightly different. And in a good way.
Like most wireless over-ear headphones, the earcups are doing a fair bit of work beyond housing drivers. On the right-hand side, for example, as well as that USB-C input there’s a switch dealing with ‘power on/off/Bluetooth pairing’ and a button responsible for AKG’s ‘smart ambient’ functionality. The brief and tidy AKG control app allows you to define the ‘smart ambient’ button’s function as either ‘ambient aware’ (boosting external sound) or ‘talk thru’ (boost external sound while radically reducing the volume of music).
On the left-hand side, meanwhile, the entire outer surface twists slightly to increase or decrease volume. It’s a nice hands-on feature, but it’s rather annoying that rotating and holding the control doesn’t ramp the volume up or down to match. Instead, rotate and release to increase or decrease volume by a factor of ‘one’ - which is altogether less intuitive and less satisfactory. There’s a push/slide switch covering ‘play/pause’ and ‘skip forwards/backwards’, and a 3.5mm input for the remote-equipped cable should you need to hard-wire.
Build quality is well up to the sort of standard the price demands. Those big earpads are of memory foam and pleather, and while the headband feels rather meanly padded it proves acceptable. The 322g weight is unremarkable in a product of this type, but comfort is never an issue. The Y600NC fold fairly small, and while their provided carry-pouch isn’t going to keep them safe while they’re in your luggage it will at least stop them getting scratched while they’re in your backpack.
Beyond defining the ‘smart ambient’ function, the control app allows some EQ adjustment, with the ability to save a few settings. It’s also handy for checking for software updates - but that’s about it as far as app functionality goes. There’s not even the facility to adjust the Y600NC active noise-cancelling - it’s on, all the time, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Battery life is a respectable, if unremarkable at this stage, 25 hours when used wirelessly, with 35 hours available if you suffer the indignity of hard wiring. Charging is via a USB-C socket at the bottom of the right earcup, and a ten-minute charge is good for another four hours of playback.
AKG Y600NC: sound quality
Unlike a lot of competing designs, the AKG Y600NC don’t have a specific sonic signature so much as they have mild traits. Which in some ways is a brave and admirable position to adopt - but in others, well, not so much.
Tonally, the AKGs get most things right. With the app-based EQ settings flat, there’s encouraging drive and attack at the top of the frequency range - treble sounds are crisp, and just the right side of ‘bright’. And further down, the midrange carries more than enough detail to grant a singer all the powers of expression they possess - all the character, or the lack thereof, is made absolutely plain. Thanks to the open and well defined soundstage, vocalists also enjoy plenty of breathing space - even if there’s a lot of additional information competing for midrange space.
The bottom of the frequency range, though, isn’t quite so accomplished. No matter how you fiddle with the EQ settings, bass sounds are - by comparison to the way the rest of the frequency range is reproduced - rather monotonal and short of detail. There’s no shortage of weight, or heat, to the way the Y600NC describes low frequencies, but there’s precious little subtlety to them. So while they underpin recordings securely and deliver reasonable momentum too, they sound quite remote from the rest of the recording.
And while we’re having a mild moan, there’s not a huge amount of dynamism on display here either. Big ‘quiet/LOUD/quiet’ shifts aren’t quite described fully, and the AKGs can sound a little dispassionate as a consequence.
But ignore these (slight but definite) traits and the Y600NC are quite an engaging and entertaining listen. If it’s a feral, up-and-at-’em attitude you’re after you’ll need to cast your net a bit wider - but if easy-going fidelity and a real facility with the nuances of a singer sound like your sort of thing, these AKGs are well worth your consideration.
AKG Y600NC: verdict
All in all, the AKG Y600NC are a rather idiosyncratic product. They look interesting and they have some real areas of expertise where performance is concerned. Certainly you can’t buy any more midrange realism than this without spending a fair bit more money.
However, a flash-looking app that doesn’t do much, active noise-cancelling you can’t switch off and bass reproduction that sounds a bit like it belongs to entirely different headphones make them far from an automatic choice. Unless, of course, they turn up online at a great price – our pricing widgets up top will let you know.