Review of the AKG N400NC True Wireless Earbuds

As someone addicted to binge watching reviews of sound systems, speakers, headphones, and IEM’s (In Ear Monitors – basically earbuds), when Crinacle+ uploaded his The BEST (sounding) True Wireless Earbuds, I was immediately intrigued. Not because I have been looking for a pair, but because these were listed at discount for only $47.99, which sounded like incredible value considering these premium earbuds normally sell for around $149.99. I decided to get myself a pair because the possibility exists that I may work away from the office more frequently in the future.

At $47.99, these premium wireless earbuds are a steal!

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8.2mm Single Dynamic Driver

AAC & SBC

Active Noise Cancellation

Onboard Microphone

Phone Calls & Controls

MSRP: $155.00

Unboxing

I was hyped when I received the email from iShop informing me that my parcel had arrived in Lusaka!

The packaging creates an immediate perception that this is a premium product, and at the normal $150 asking price it is to be expected. Opening the box reveals a nicely packaged set of buds, a carrying and charging case, type-C charging cable, four spare silicone tips of different sizes, one foam tip (in the blue sachet) and two additional sets of comfort rubber fins again of different sizes.

Build Quality 10/10

The metal case feels solid and expensive, yet a little bulky. The Type-C charging port is convenient, as is the fact that it complies with the wireless Qi charging standard. As an owner of a wireless Qi charger, this feature is particularly convenient since I only need to place the case on my wireless charger to top them up.

The buds are also constructed from metal, and have the same premium feel to them as the case. They are a little weighty, so if you are looking for a pair that you can take along for a jog or the gym these probably won’t be the best. They are waterproof IPX7 rated, which means they are protected against water immersion, for 30min at a depth of up to 1 meter. Feel free to sweat away while wearing these!

The buds are constructed from the same premium metal material as the case, and are water resistant up IPX7 standard!

Fit, Comfort & Battery Life 6/10

I have smaller ears, and they are particularly sensitive to IEM’s. Initially, these didn’t work for me at all and I couldn’t find a comfortable fit or seal. However, I switched out the medium rubber fins for the small rubber fins and the change was substantial, with the buds fitting snug in my ears. Changing out the fins was easy, they are basically a thick rubber band that you just peel off, and replace with a smaller finned band. The buds have a notch which wraps around them, and the band simply snaps into this notch.

After the change, these became very comfortable even after extended listening sessions, though I do have to readjust them slightly every 15min or so to ensure the seal remains tight. I believe they should be comfortable for most users.

However, since I have small ears, I constantly feel like these could fall out while I wear them, but your mileage will vary depending on your ears’ shape and size. Because of this, I do not consider them to be a good option for myself for mobile outdoor usage, especially if I am active, which is a bummer.

These are very comfortable even after extended listening sessions.

AKG claim that the earbuds have 4-6 hours of playtime with the ANC enabled. I didn’t get to properly test their claims, and haven’t had the buds run out of juice from normal use yet. Charging them is very easy, you simply place them back in the case. I have spent a couple of evenings listening to these before going to bed, and I love the convenience wireless units provide. Charging the case is also easy, especially considering it has wireless charging. The case is able to recharge the buds to full capacity for one more 6 hour cycle, so with a fully charged case and buds you should have about 10-12 hours of listening time.

I took the buds with me on a recent trip to Kariba, and didn’t get to use them because there was no network and me being a child of Spotify and the modern era had zero music saved on my phone. I had the case and buds charged before leaving and once I got back home I discovered the charge was fully depleted, with both the case and buds drained. It could be that I had not properly charged them, but if not the 5 days I was gone shouldn’t have drained them?

App, Features, Connectivity 4/10

The AKG Headphone App was the one thing I strongly disliked about these buds. The first annoyance is that you cannot use the app unless you enable location. For many, this will be a major privacy concern.

Many of the features provided by the app are not relevant to me, or are features I really don’t care about. The ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) worked fine. With ANC at maximum, sounds around me were heavily muted, which I guess is how ANC should work. The TalkThru function allowed me to easily hear people around me without the need to remove the buds from my ears, and the music volume is lowered to around 20-30%. I liked this TalkThru feature. The Ambient Aware setting does exactly what it says, it allows sounds around you to be picked up by the mic and played back through the buds. It doesn’t sound natural, and a lot of sounds that your ears or brain would naturally ignore as background noise is incredibly noticable with Ambient Aware activated.

The gesture controls are nice, but I found myself using controls on my PC more often than not. The Tap to Pause was the only gesture I frequently used. The EQ is an interesting one, it appears to be an excellent feature with the full frequency range available for up to 10db shifts, but for me the neutral tuning on these buds are excellent, and I had no desire to setup a custom EQ.

The neutral tuning on these buds are excellent, and I had no desire to setup a custom EQ.

I used the buds mostly at my desk, and a few times while cooking and working in the kitchen. I am positive my appreciation for the controls will likely increase once I start using these when I am more mobile and move around. I used the app to update the firmware on these and setup the gesture controls, and immediately uninstalled it from my phone. The app is not needed after setting up the buds, with the features I like all working from the buds themselves even while connected to my PC.

Connectivity on these is great, with easy pairing on my old Samsung S7 as well as my desktop PC. The range is also excellent, I tested these up 10m away from my PC through 2 layers of brick walls, and the signal remained stable and clear. This was not the case when I used these to make a Discord call to test the microphone. A single layer of brick wall cause the signal to drop out and the audio to come through with static or delay for the listener on the other end.

Sound Quality 8/10

The N400’s are not a set of boomy, slamming bass-head earphones, but IEM’s whose tuning lean towards a crisp hi-fi reference sound. The sound is very neutral. This is not to say that the N400’s lack bass, they have excellent bass, but it’s slightly subdued in comparison to the other two IEM’s I own or to what people who like Beats or similarly tuned headphones might expect. The benefit of neutral tuning is that the full spectrum of the frequency range is clearly audible.

For comparison, I also own two sets of wired IEMs. The first is the budget friendly MEE audio in-ear sports earbud. These are small, very comfortable (why I own them), and tuned with an emphasis on bass. The second is the Klipsch Custom-2, which retailed for around $155 when they were released. The Klipsch’s are also on the warm side, which means that they are less clinical and have more pronounced bass. To be honest I find the AKG’s and the Klipsch’s to both be fantastic, but the MEE’s are definitely outclassed. The AKG’s simply have more of everything, the bass is very controlled even when listening to tracks that have a bass emphasis. The entire frequency range is clearly audible and beautifully rendered, while on the MEE’s a lot of sounds are simply lost due to the overbearing bass.

The mid-range on the AKG’s are amazing. I love jazzy laid back songs, and these are excellent in creating a relaxed smooth listening experience. They are incredibly detailed with light background sounds or quick guitar strings clearly reproduced.

The treble, or the highest sounds in music, is well positioned, for in-ears I think these do better than any I have heard yet. They have really good imaging with cymbals and other instruments positioned well in terms of soundstage.

For gaming these buds are terrible. Like most Bluetooth devices, these also suffer from significant latency which degrades any sense of immersion, destroying the gaming experience. The same goes for video media content, the delay in audio places the sound out of sync with what is happening on screen, so its not a pleasant experience and not recommended!

MEE Audio M6

Klipsch Custom-2

Music I listened to for the review

I listened to some music I love and know intimately as well as some pieces that I recently discovered. However, I selected some pieces primarily due to their ability to test a pair of headphones. First among these are Wandering by Yosi Horikawa. Compared to my over-ear headphones, a pair of Cooler Master MH751’s which are driven via my FX-Audio DAC X6, the AKG’s lack in soundstage. The Wandering contains some awesome ambient sounds mixed with music, and is an interesting listening experience which over ear headphones simply reproduce better. However, since these are in-ears its not a fair comparison, so compared to my other two sets I feel the AKG’s were more capable of recreating and placing the ambient sounds in different locations around me. Inocente by Romeo Santos is another track that has a lot of details with its fantastic guitar and rapid string action. I feel the AKG’s perform particularly well on this track and it highlights their strength in the mid-range. Memory by Joseph Williams Morgan is a favourite of mine, and its the track where I feel the AKG’s performed the poorest in comparison to my over-ear set powered with a DAC. The AKG’s weren’t able to reproduce the same fullness of sound.

Shield by Angelina Jordan was fantastic on the AKG’s, the sub-bass and her contralto voice seem to be very well suited to these buds. A new favourite of mine, The Curse by Agnes Obel, also highlighted how smooth these earbuds perform in the mid-range. Finally, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and Clair de Lune by Kamasi Washington both do a great job of testing the entire frequency range and balance, revealing how exceptional these AKG earbuds truly are.

Conclusions

I think for $47.99 these are excellent value. They compete very well with my Klipsch wired earphones, and I think the AKG’s are a better pair overall. The wireless nature has its pros and cons, but for most people the pros will outweigh the cons.

The total cost to purchase these and import them to Zambia was K1,191.40 (K960.40 Purchase & Taxes  +  K231.00 iShop Shipping). This will easily beat anything you can buy in our local stores up to K4000+. If you are looking for a set of in ear wireless earbuds, these are the ones to get while they are available for under $50.

Disclaimer:  I shared my personal take on a piece of audio equipment I purchased in order to help others who might want to know more before buying these themselves. I do not do audio reviews for a living, but I do feel my opinion and thoughts on audio equipment will help you on your quest to better gear.

Thanks for reading!

You can find Hardus on the Nerd Otaku Discord where he is either in a game on most evenings or busy designing stuff for his clients.

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