AKG N5005 Review

The AKG N5005 sounds incredible with its 5-driver hybrid build and interchangeable sound filters, but is it worth $1000?

Bottom Line

With four physical sound filters and three different cord options, the AKG N5005 is all about letting you customize the way you want to enjoy its pristine audio quality.

In terms of pure audio, there are no downsides here; even the Bluetooth connection, which brings down the overall audio quality, still delivers the best Bluetooth audio on the market.

Design:
(4.3)
Comfort:
(4.1)
Customizability:
(4.8)
Sound:
(5.0)
4.6

Ever wonder what IEMs could sound like if they cost $1000?

AKG seems to have put a lot of thought into this question when devising their audiophile-grade N5005 earbuds. The folks at AKG are no strangers to pristine sound quality, so it is to be expected that they would deliver on that front.

However, with this massive a price tag, the N5005 deserves every bit of scrutiny no matter how minute. Whether explicit or implicit, the promise of perfection is unavoidable at this price.

So let’s see how well these IEMs can keep their promise.

Specs

NameAKG N5005
TypeWired/Wireless IEM
Drivers9.2mm dynamic driver + 4 balanced armature drivers
Impedance18 ohm
Sensitivity116dB SPL/V@1kHz
Frequency range10Hz – 40kHz
Battery life8 hours
Weight11.4g

Design

Everything about this product simply glows with a premium luster, starting with the box filled with plush foam. Inside the box, you’ll find a hardshell case, a plane adapter, a cleaning tool, plenty of ear tips, three cords, four sound filters, and, of course, the two earpieces.

The earpieces feature a ceramic construction that’s perfectly capable of fending off against attempts at scratching. These earpieces aren’t exactly small, but that’s because each one features no fewer than five drivers – one dynamic driver responsible for the bass, and four balanced armature drivers that handle the mids and the highs. Thanks to this hybrid driver configuration, they boast a frequency range that goes up to 40kHz.

Underneath the ear tips is where you can screw on the different sound filters which are supposed to act as something akin to physical EQ presets, letting you customize your listening experience to your liking. The ear tips are detachable and can be connected to one of three cords using MMCX connectors.

Cords

The three cords also serve the distinct purpose of widening the customization options.

Firstly, there’s a standard mic-enabled 3.5mm cable.

Secondly, there’s a balanced 2.5mm cable looking to fill all your audiophile needs.

And thirdly, there’s a Bluetooth cord that can turn the N5005 into a pair of wireless earbuds.

Unlike the other two, the Bluetooth cord isn’t braided, although it does feature a sliding fastener that’s handy for managing the length of the flap. All the cables are designed to be worn around the ear to provide an added layer of stability that the bulky earpieces certainly need. Cycling among the three options is a breeze thanks to the superb convenience of MMCX connectors.

If you’re in the comfort of your own home, surrounded by impressive Amps, DACs, and other audio equipment, then you’ll get the most out of the balanced 2.5mm connection. However, the difference in audio quality between the 3.5mm and 2.5mm cables isn’t huge, probably due to the low impedance of the N5005.

The 3.5mm features a microphone that’s great for issuing commands to personal voice assistants. If needed, it can also see you through a phone call without the need to remove the earbuds without any hiccups. And whereas the low impedance may be construed as a downside when using the 2.5mm cord, here it’s an upside as it means that any battery-powered device (like a smartphone or a tablet) can power the N5005 without any issues.

Finally, there’s the Bluetooth cable that turns the N5005 into the best-sounding wireless IEMs on the market. Now we want to make it perfectly clear that the earbuds don’t sound as good when using this wireless connection as they do with a wired connection. The degradation in sound quality is evident.

Therefore, we don’t believe this Bluetooth option should be regarded as one of the main appeals of the N5005. After all, why spend an entire grand on a pair of IEMs if you’re not going to enjoy the audio quality at its best. Instead, this should be viewed as a cool perk that does still offers the best wireless earbuds experience.

The Bluetooth cord houses a battery that can hold a charge for 8 hours while taking 2 hours to fully replenish. These aren’t the best rates, but if you need anything more you shouldn’t be surprised that a pair of (largely) wired headphones can’t provide that.

Comfort

As far as comfort goes, the N5005 isn’t winning any awards, as its oval shape takes some getting used to. The rubberized corners certainly help matters when it comes to inserting or removing the earpieces, but it’s still not the most pleasant experience.

To clarify, this doesn’t mean the N5005 causes unbearable discomfort or that it can’t be worn for long stretches of time. Overall, it’s a fairly comfortable pair of IEMs, but at this price point brutal honesty is required.

As always, it is imperative that you use the ear tips that work for you. The folks at AKG packed a grand total of seven different pairs of ear tips to make sure as many people as possible could enjoy them right out of the box. Given the choice of four different-sized standard tips and three Spinfit fits, most users should be good to go, but if not, check out this guide on how to pick the best IEM ear tips for you.

Once you’ve got the right tips, you’ve got acclimated to the large oval shape, and you’ve wound the cord around your ears, the N5005 can remain stable in your ears. You could wear them like this for hours on end without any issues as far as comfort is concerned, but stability is another thing.

While technically very light at only 11.4 grams, the earbuds are a bit bulky and a large portion of the earpieces hands outside the ear. We also think the cords would’ve been better if the parts that go around the ear were wrapped in a malleable material. As it stands, the cords don’t retain their desired shape for long, which seems odd given how a pair of $50 earbuds could get this part right.

We do not advise using these earbuds for exercising or anything similar, not just because the thought of sudden movements with $1000 worth of earbuds waiting to get damaged scares us, but also because they’d likely fall out of your ears very quickly.

Sound

But really now, other than the pursuit of sonic perfection, we can’t think of any reason to purchase a pair of earbuds this expensive.

Can the sound be described as perfect?

In one word: kinda.

It should come as no surprise that AKG has managed to deliver something truly spectacular with regards to audio quality. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were listening to a high-end pair of over-ear headphones rather than some tiny earbuds.

Thanks to the comprehensive hybrid driver configuration, the N5005 can deliver its hi-resolution audio on a wide sound stage free of any distortion. Regardless of which filter you use or whether you rely on a wired or wireless connection, the overall listening experience is characterized by clarity, detail, and texture.

As previously mentioned, you can use one of four screw-on filters to tailor the sound to your liking. The four filters include:

  • Bass Boost
  • Reference Sound
  • Mid-High Boost
  • High Boost

As far as bass goes, you get the standard AKG treatment – depth and texture over rumble. It’s not that the bass lacks punch – the punch is there – but it’s important to highlight the fact that AKG isn’t looking to win over bass headers with the N5005. Even with the Bass Boost filter, which does manage to boost the bass without compromising the overall clarity, you’re still looking at the standard AKG approach to bass.

Is this a bad thing? We don’t think so. But when you see a pair of earbuds carrying this price tag as well as a Bass Boost filter, it’s easy to get excited. So bass heads searching for rumbly bass should invest their $1000 elsewhere or risk huge disappointment.

The mids also sound great, with vocals having a strong presence, especially on live recordings, and acoustic instruments ringing with a staggeringly lifelike quality. The Mid-High boost accentuates the mids by placing the bass in the backseat, but they can be enjoyed with any filter.

With all that said, the real standout frequency range here is the treble that sounds simply pristine, even when using the Bass Boost filter. With the High Boost filter, the treble takes on an otherworldly quality while making music more fun and engaging.

The Reference Sound filter is basically the standard AKG sound profiling on steroids, making for a rich yet highly neutral listening experience.

The filters are easy to swap out, but once the novelty factor wears off you’ll likely just use the same pair of everything. Regardless, if the aim of the filters was to give users the tools needed to customize their listening experience, then settling on the filter that works best for you was likely the goal all along.

The only fault we could find with it is that it doesn’t feature active noise canceling. The passive noise isolation they provide with the right ear tips is significant, but at this price not having a guarantee that you can listen to your music regardless of where you’re at feels cheap, especially since we already know AKG has a good handle on ANC thanks to their N60NC headphones.

Conclusion

So, does the AKG N5005 come close to perfection?

For some it certainly does, but it’s not a pair of IEMs that’s going to appeal to everybody.

For starters, if you’re already not a fan of AKG’s sound profiling, the N5005 isn’t going to make you love it. It only enhances what was already there in previous AKG devices.

If you are a fan of AKG’s sound, then there’s no better device out there than the N5005, as its various filters and interchangeable cables let you tailor the listening experience exactly to your liking.

That said, there are also a couple of annoyances that we would otherwise consider minor, but not when dealing with a product this expensive. In particular, we can’t get over how the cord won’t stay bent to your will when you wrap it around your ears.

Ultimately, if you’ve got $1000 burning a hole in your pocket and you want the best audio quality IEMs have to offer, the AKG N5005 is the top contender.

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