Greater bass extension and slam, Enhanced vocal body, More coherent imaging, Cleaner background, More comfortable
Reduced vocal extension and clarity, Reduced separation, Narrower soundstage
Japanese earpad manufacturer Yaxi have impressed time and again. Utilising the hard-wearing, supple Alcantara as their flagship material, this earpad manufacturer proves that aftermarket earpads can provide not only an alternative but an upgrade to stock units. Their latest pads is for the AKG K712/Q701, one of the most popular midrange open-back headphones alongside staples such as the Sennheiser HD650. It is a reasonably comfortable headphone with a reference-orientated sound. Out of the box, I was surprised by its excellent imaging performance and clarity. However, though tuned to be linear, this headphone leans, to my ear, towards brightness. It has a prominent middle-treble and lack bass depth and warmth. Yaxi seeks to append this with their Alcantara earpads that offer a different flavour of sound in addition to revised ergonomics. The pads are available for $59 USD on Yaxi’s website here.
I would like to thank Yaxi very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the K712 pads for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earpads free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
The Yaxi pads lock into the factory mounts with the same affirmation as the stock units. Even from at a glance, the build quality and design of the Yaxi pads are superior. The firm padding and synthetic fabric of the originals feel thoroughly unforgiving in light of the Yaxi’s plush memory foam and opulent Alcantara construction that is ever easier on the ears. However, due to their softer filling, the earpads do feel shallower than the originals.
The shaping of the pads also aids ergonomics. The heat-activated memory foam in the Yaxi pads conforms significantly better to the head, producing better long term comfort and minimizing the formation of hotspots. In addition, the flatter surface of the pads spreads clamp force over a larger surface area. These factors culminate to provide a substantially more comfortable experience with the Yaxi pads.
As with the MSR-7, the Yaxi pads serve to smooth the highs and enhance bass presence to form a warmer, mellower sound. They do not do so to an extreme extent, however, they do create a more L-shaped signature with forward, full-bodied vocals. Meanwhile, highs become noticeably smoother and bass plumper with enhanced note body. The presentation is also altered by a significant degree.
It’s immediately clear that extension has improved. Bass kicks harder and a powerful deep-bass rumble absent on the stock pads comes to light. And though bass reaches deeper, sub-bass quantity isn’t increased so the low-end doesn’t overwhelm. Meanwhile, the mid-bass is bolstered, producing an increase in note size. This brings bass more in-line with the rest of the sound and the headphones are granted greater balance between the 3 core frequency bands as a result.
Upper-bass is not overly affected so though the tone is warmer and notes are larger, over-warming and muffle are not an issue with these pads. Still, some additional body is provided to the midrange without an ounce of bloat or chestiness. Bass notes are enlarged, however, the same degree of control remains, producing a more visceral definition if slightly less speed and separation than the original.
Lower-mids are granted additional presence which enhances vocal body. Meanwhile, the centre midrange is brought forward which aids vocal presence and clarity. The upper-midrange is slightly attenuated so listeners are granted an even denser listen at the cost of some extension. This works in tandem with a general shift of the low-end towards warmer and smoother highs that skew the midrange towards warmth and coherence over the openness and clarity of the stock configuration. Voices are larger and more powerful.
So though vocals are brought forward, they do sacrifice clarity compared to the stock config in favour of enhanced body and a lightly warm tone. Male vocals benefit, in particular, sounding more resolving and accurate in timbre. Meanwhile, female vocals take the most hit from the high-end attenuation, assuming a smooth, full-bodied presentation. As compared to the MSR-7 where it’s cool stock vocals were balanced by the warmth of the Yaxi pads, the K712 is rather neutral stock and more clearly warm with the aftermarket pads.
When listening to the stock K712, my largest gripe would easily be its middle-treble that brightens up its presentation. The biggest impact of the Yaxi pads is attenuating its 7KHz peak to provide a smoother listen and a significantly darker, cleaner background. The foreground is less crisp and aggressive but also less brittle and splashy. Treble instruments are granted a more organic presentation with enhanced note body while retaining ample bite and attack. Meanwhile, the background is significantly darker.
As a result, the headphones sound immediately less airy and open than stock which can be a stark change. However, a few minutes of adjustments reveal a sound that is just as resolving but no longer as fatiguing. Extension remains unchanged and the background becomes cleaner while the foreground is smoother. Whether you prefer greater headroom or greater body and smoothness will depend on personal preference, but the transition towards a sound that works better during longer listening suits the similar increases in comfort offered by the Yaxi pads.
Surprisingly, the Yaxi pads actually give up a fair amount of width in order to craft a more coherent presentation with more stable imaging. The stock pads provide a width biased presentation where the Yaxi pads provide more depth and a rounder image. Imaging is sharp stock, aided by high separation. The Yaxi pads, on the other hand, have a much strong centre image, bringing the presentation onto a smaller but more focussed stage. Directional cues and transients remain just as poised. Separation tells a mixed story too, reduced within the bass and midrange due to the added warmth, but increased in the treble as the foreground and background are in greater balance. The Yaxi pads possess more defined layers where the original was more separated but also less coherent.
Yaxi’s earpads demonstrate how small tweaks can culminate to transform a presentation. The K712 is a very respectable headphone stock and many enjoy its sound, however, those wanting greater warmth without being smothered by bass will find delight in the Yaxi pad’s more organic sound. Moreover, the jump in build quality and comfort is immediately noticeable, and much appreciated over longer listening sessions where the firm stock pads could form pressure spots. There are some caveats, most notably with regards to the presentation where separation and width are reduced. Otherwise, this is another finely tuned pad from Yaxi well-balanced between ergonomics and sound.
The K712 pads can be purchased from Yaxi for $59 USD. I am not affiliated with Yaxi and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.