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A Review On: Denon AH-D5000 Reference Headphones

Denon AH-D5000 Reference Headphones

Rated # 61 in Over-Ear
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Price paid: $399.00
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Pros: beautiful sound, feel, aesthetics

Cons: Not sure

These headphones are alarmingly great.  


Now, I want to first talk a little about myself. I am not seasoned veteran of Hi-fi. I do not have any experience with multi-thousand dollar listening setups. These are simultaneously the most expensive and greatest headphones I've owned. Of course, their quality is overwhelming to me. Please read this review with the understanding that I might not be "qualified" to accurately or usefully compare these headphones to similarly priced models of other brands. 


I come from Sennheiser HD595 headphones. Before that, I used Audio Technica ATH-A700 headphones. These are both excellent choices. Both of these headphones wowed me when I got them. Prior to the ATH-A700s, I had never heard "good" audio, period. I currently run my Denon AH-D5000s through a very modest stereo amplifier hooked up to the line out of an HT Omega Claro Plus+ sound card, playing ASIO-outputted flac stuff. I would venture that this is a very adequate setup for music and media listening, although I am sure it is not directly comparable to the setups that some people have spent $1000+ on (between DAC and amp).   


Anyway, modest context of my experience aside, I want to start to discuss the headphone itself, the Denon AH-D5000.



First, we have the package. The box is not special. It is slightly reinforced with an interior plastic frame (so I think the delivery guys and warehouse guys would have to seriously mistreat it in order to damage it), but it is not special. I would have liked a slightly better case, but that is not very important. Removing the equipment from the case is an easy affair that takes only a few seconds - open the box, slide out the plastic frame, untwist some ties, lift out the headphones. It is simple and straight-forward.  


The first thing I notice is the weight and appearance. The headphones are very light, but they feel remarkably sturdy. The ATH-A700, with their complicated headband apparatus (you know what I mean) were light, but also seemed a tad flimsy. The Sennheiser HD595 seemed more sturdy than that, but the Denons are in a completely different realm of craftmanship. This is the difference that several hundred dollars can make.  


The headband is simple black leather (or fake leather, whatever). The earpads are the same. The frame is said to be magnesium - I suppose this is the reason for the apparent stability. The cups can extend downward from the headband, as most headphones can do. I was impressed, though: the headphones extend downward by the mechanism of notched metal bars - even for headphones this expensive, I was expecting more plastic parts.   


Plastic parts are not what this is about. The headphones feel beautiful, and they are beautiful. The first aesthetic element you are likely to notice will be those gleaming, polished mahogany cups. I knew these would look great, but, having never held wooden-cupped headphones before, I was pretty happy just to look at these and enjoy their appearance. These things look exactly how I would imagine "nice" headphones to look - classy, simple, modern, sleek, interesting and shiny. The cord is also nice - I have heard of people complain about the cord before, but I wonder how they are judging it, or to what they are comparing it. The cord is wrapped in a woven-thread/cloth sheath-thing (please forgive my utter lack of articulation), and it is thick and good. It is not a cheap and simple rubber cable you would expect from a $10 set of headphones; it is (at least ostensibly) a very nice cable. It is flexible and the length is acceptable for my purposes. 


When plugging the headphones into my receiver, I of course had to attach the 1/4 plug over top the "default" 1/8 plug. This mechanism is also very smooth and pleasing, both to use and to look at. Shiny and delicate threads allow the adapter to snugly and perfectly screw into place on the edge of the plug, finally coming into its position as if it were a natural extension of the cable. My other headphones had adapters, sure, but they were not this nice. They were all simple - pop it into place, listen for a slight click and it's in. I'm not sure how much the screw-mechanism helps the sound of the headphones (it probably does not), but it definitely smells of quality.   


As far as sound goes (perhaps the most important thing about headphones, right?) I am not sure I am up to the task of describing it. I read other reviews of the AH-D5000 before listening to the phones myself (indeed, before even purchasing them), and I know a few of the things they say and tend to agree with some of those things.  


First, the mids. Everyone talks about the mids, mentioning that they seem recessed. I will agree that the mids feel a bit "distant." The bass is very "up front" and the highs are also very apparent, but the mids feel like they are slightly further away. I do not think this is a bad thing. I don't know if it is a good thing, but I do know that it is an interesting sound and I suppose the fact that the mids feel a little further away helps the overall sound to be more distinct, with separated and easily distinguishable parts. Everything is very distinguishable, and every sound has a place. Again, I feel the need to apologize for my woefully inadequate articulation on these points. What I want to say is that every sound I hear, I can easily single out and hear on its own, unblemished by the other sounds. I suspect that the "distant" middle range of sounds helps create this effect.  


Next, the bass is incredible. I would call myself a basshead, as I listen to a variety of electronic music that even includes some dubstep (well-known genre for uncanny amounts of bass). For Trance, Drum & Bass, and Dubstep (and a few other subgenres of electronic) these headphones are absolutely wonderful. The specifications say that these phones do 5Hz all the way up to 45000Hz -- I am definitely getting the low end of my Armin Van Buuren and such on these cans. I do not think it is "flabby," -- when I think of "flabby" bass, I think of people with car stereo systems with the bass-boost on, and the dashboard is vibrating and the bass is shaking things so much that it produces a sound resembling flatulence. I do not feel this effect in the Denon AH-D5000s. Amplification might affect this - I do not know. In any case, I feel that the bass is great. There is certainly a lot of bass (far more than my other headphones), and the bass sounds more controlled, tight and clean than the subwoofer I have for my speaker system (although that is admittedly mid-fi and I'm sure there are FAR better subwoofers out there than what I have). In short, the lows are great here.  


The highs, then, are the last specific thing I can discuss about the sound. Piano music sounds exceptionally crisp and clear. I have heard people in other reviews discuss sibilance, and harsh sounds that come from the bright highs of these headphones. I know that my cheapest earbuds I use for my Zune that I bring to work produce all kinds of horrifying hissing, staticy and vulgar, grating noises when the high notes are hit by singers and guitars and the like. I even get vague bits of this sometimes (very rarely) with my HD595s. I am just not experiencing this at all with the Denons, though. Highs feel smooth. I mean, they are not jarring, they are not ear-piercing, nothing unpleasant like that. They sound clear and beautiful.  


Speaking of awful noises, I suppose I can also discuss "listener fatigue." I had no such thing with the Audio Technicas, but I would experience some fatigue with the Sennheisers. After a few hours of listening, my ears would feel hot and uncomfortable, pressured and unpleasant. If I were to pause the music at that point and listen to silence, I would hear a minor ringing. I don't think this was the fault of the Sennheisers (but perhaps it was the fault of the particular combination of Sennheiser + my stereo). Now, the Denons do not give this effect to me at all. I feel like I could leave these in for hours and hours and hours and not mind at all.   


Music sounds wonderful. As I've already mentioned, electronic music absolutely shines. I also listen to some alt-rock like the Cardigans, Boa, the Cranberries - and they sound great, too. The bright quality of these headphones is fabulous for the guitars and keyboards of such a band. The singers all sound so defined, too. While on the topic of singers, Sarah Brightman and Loreena McKennit both sound fantastic, and back to rock-related things, I've found these headphones perfectly useful for enjoying Pink Floyd, King Crimson and the like. Also, these headphones can resolve all of the chaos going on in some pretty intense death metal like Cryptopsy's None So Vile. The layers and instruments are far more distinguishable here than they were on other phones. Some classical music that I occasionally enjoy also sounds pretty great, but I am not enough of an avid, active listener of classical to feel like I can say much about it, other than that I think it sounds great on the Denons, just like the other stuff does. In short, I like all of my music on these more than I liked it on my other headphones - but I have to repeat, electronic music REALLY shines on the Denons, even moreso than anything else.  Stuff like Bassnectar (with a huge variety of sound), sounds just unbelievable. Who says the bass is overpowering?



Well, that's about all I can say. I might add an update when I feel these have more completely burned in, but that probably will not be necessary. I'm sure they'll still sound great. I know it's the writing of a pretty inexperienced Head-Fier, and I could stand to hear a lot more headphones so that I can better compare them to each other - but this is it for now. I like these a lot, and I hope you can see where I am coming from and why I like them as much as I do. I suggest these to everyone, but primarily I suggest them to anyone who favors electronic music. I feel that this type of music is the strong point of the headphone here.


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