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AKG Q350 Quincy Jones – Small in Size yet Big on Sound

The AKG Q350 Quincy Jones in-ear headphone is one of the three Quincy Jones signature line of headphones from Harman’s AKG division. The other two models are the Q701 over-the-ear cans and the Q460 on-the-ear headphones. The Q350 stands out as being stylish and ultra-lightweight, very portable and definitely very convenient for anyone who is always on-the-go.

The most important question, of course, is how does the Q350 perform, and does it live up to the reputation of the legend whose name it bears? We’ll find out.

I’m particularly interested in the Q350, because it’s an in-ear headphone. These are my favourite style of headphones due to their portability. Thanks to Omy.sg, IMS Marketing and AKG, I was provided with the black-coloured version of the AKG Q350 for this review.

The Q350 is packaged in a nicely designed cardboard box. The ear buds are neatly arranged and visible through a clear window on the box. A photo of the legend himself graces the front of the box. You can also get bright green or white colour versions of the Q350. The colour options are for the ear buds only. The wires and connectors are always in bright green, the signature colour of the Quincy Jones signature line. Yes, plenty of bright green… some may like the striking, trendy style. Others, may beg to differ.

Inside the box, the Q350 in-ear headphones  are accompanied by two extra pairs of ear sleeves (in addition to the pair already on the earbuds), a nice carrying case, a few information booklets and a brochure on AKG’s Quincy Jones signature line of earphones. The brochure, I suppose, might tempt you to try out the Q701 reference-class full-sized headphones.

The ear sleeves, total 3 pairs of them, come in one each of small, medium and large sizes. Pretty standard. They seem quite soft and comfortable.

The way the wires are packed in the box leaves a lot of kinks in it. That’s how most manufacturers pack the wires anyway. In the case of the Q350, the kinks are particularly evident around the remote and microphone, to fit into the arrangement under the plastic window of the box. I suppose after some time, the kinks will straighten out. The wires are bright green, as I’ve already mentioned. On one end, they terminate in a 3.5mm gold plated plug wrapped in a bright green sheath with the letters “AKG” embossed on it. The Y-junction also has the letters “AKG” embossed on it. The wires are nice to feel, but I worry about the kinks and manageability. The total length is just a little over 1m. It’s long enough for most practical purposes, but I personally would have preferred a little more slack.

You’d expect in-ear headphones in this price range to include a carrying case, and the Q350 is no exception. You get a pretty sturdy, compact, lightweight black zippered case which looks to be of pretty good quality. It’s only just 9cm at the widest point and 6cm deep. Too small, in my opinion, for wires to be coiled around your fingers and still fit comfortably inside this case. But, of course, I suppose you can compromise and arrange your wires in a more compact manner.

Comfort and Fit

The Q350 weighs in at just 3g, without the wires. That’s awfully light. So light that you wouldn’t even notice them. The wires themselves are also pretty light. The Q350 is designed to be worn with wires coming straight down (as opposed to having the wire wrap around the ear). There is a remote and microphone about 10cm down from the right earpiece, just about the place where your mouth would be. It’s a standard iPod/iPhone/iPad compatible remote, so you can control music, adjust volume, and answer calls, etc.

I have a fit problem with AKG’s in-ear headphones. Their tips are too large! It’s a common problem for me. My left ear canal is a little small, so I often have difficulty getting the correct fit with in-ear headphones. The Q350’s tip measures 7mm in diameter, and even with the smallest sleeves, I cannot get a comfortable fit in my left ear. The tip of my UM2, for example, is just barely 3mm. I have no trouble fitting the Q350 into my right ear.

You can replace the Q350’s sleeves with Comply foam tips. Comply’s -400 range of tips are compatible with the Q350. These tips are a type of memory foam which you squeeze before inserting the earpiece into your ear canal. It then expands and fills out your ear canal, effectively holding the earpiece in place and isolating all outside noises.

Sound Quality

The Q350 is driven by a single dynamic driver. The specifications list the Q350 as a closed-back headphone, but I see holes at the back of the earpiece, music from the earpiece easily escapes to the outside, and isolation isn’t all that great, so I’m just wondering how closed the back of the Q350 actually is.

For these sound quality impressions, I used a Cowon J3 player as the source. I was actually trying to use a Govibe Vulcan DAC connected to a MacBook Pro, but the Govibe broke midway (no fault of the Q350).

The first thing that hit me when I started listening to the Q350 is the strong bass. The Q350 may be small, but it certainly packs an impressive bass that will satisfy most people who love their bass strong. The bass is plentiful, but not too overpowering to drown out details. The more discerning audiophiles, however, may find that the punch doesn’t extend down to the lowest frequencies, and at some point it starts to loose definition and clarity. It’s not bad, actually, and casual music listeners will probably not be bothered at all.

Going toward the mids, the Q350 performs with excellent clarity, plenty of details and good resolution. There seems, however, to be an unusual colourization to the music. It is as if some EQ filter has been applied. This is something that needs getting used to. The highs are muted. It’s not all too significant, actually, but I would have loved to hear more sparkle and brightness. This might be alright if you mostly listen to bass-heavy music.

Overall, the Q350 produces an excellent expansive soundstage and depth. Add to that the strong bass performance, it’s quite impressive for an in-ear headphone in its price category.

As I’ve mentioned, the Q350’s isolation isn’t great. I suspect it must have something to do with the holes in the earpiece, which must have been there by design. Perhaps this design lends the Q350 the feeling of openness and airiness.

The wire is prone to microphonics (i.e. the noises you hear through the earpiece when the wire rubs against objects such as your body or clothing). I suppose if you are using the Q350 while doing sports, your sporting activity is going to drown out the microphonics anyway.

Conclusion

The AKG Q350 looks fun and trendy. While you might find the colour a little gawdy initially, they don’t really standout and scream for attention. If you can get the right fit with the ear sleeves, they will be quite comfortable. The Q350 is so light you’re not even going to feel it there.

The integrated microphone and remote will be very convenient if you plan to use this in-ear headphone with your iPod/iPhone/iPad or other compatible music player.

The impressive bass performance is definitely one of the Q350’s many strengths. The colourization may need some getting used to, but otherwise the overall clarity, definition and soundstage will provide much satisfaction to the casual music listener.

The AKG Q350 retails for $159.90. If you’re looking to upgrade from the free earbud earphones that came with your mobile phone, music player, or other mobile gadget, check out the Q350.

This post was originally written as part of my participation in the Omy.sg’s K3003 / The Sound of Luxury blog. I’m now reposting some of those posts, with some minor edits, on my own blog.

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