If you think £800 is a little on the steep side for a pair of in-ear headphones that don’t even have noise cancelling, be aware that Austrian microphone specialist AKG was originally planning to charge £1,000 for its new N5005s. It seems the company realised late on that £1,000 is still a psychological barrier for a small electronic commodity. Interestingly, though, at the time of writing, N5005s are becoming hard to get hold of – an indication that at £800, the orders are piling in.
And so they should, because these IEMs – in-ear monitors, as upscale earbuds tend to be called – are sublime. Their five‑driver combination provides an exquisitely rich sound, which can be customised to your preferences with a series of interchangeable sound filters that come in the N5005’s deluxe presentation case. They also come with a variety of leads – all in pleasingly chic and practical braided, copper-coloured cabling – which easily clip and unclip from the bud.
One of the leads is a Bluetooth AptX adaptor for wireless use. Another is a “balanced” lead – something I’ve talked about at length in previous columns, but suffice to say that it’s vital if you want to maximise the quality you extract from a high-definition music player like the top-end models from Astell & Kern.
Here’s the awkward question: are the N5005s more than twice as good as the amazing £349 Flares Pro from Britain’s Flare Audio, which were my favourite IEMs of last year? In terms of sound, AKG’s are perhaps 5-10 per cent more refined, but do note, that is from a fantastic baseline.
Where the AKGs score is in the finish. While the Flares look and feel like a labour of love (they are from a tiny company in a south-coast seaside resort), the N5005s, with their glossy ceramic finish and pleasingly solid construction, look every millimetre a luxury product.