Pros: Powerful sound, Detailed, Comfortable, Forgiving, Good with almost any music
Cons: Sound leaking (mostly in), looks like plastic rather than wood, hinges feel fragile
Here is my original blog post: http://noblehifi.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/denon-ah-d7000-review.html
DESIGN & PRESENTATION
After a layer of solid plastic is removed, which sole purpose is to protect the leather topped box, it's clear every detail of this product has been carefully considered. The silky bronze coloured cloth wrapped around the headphone's display mount, the metal logo plate and the way the cable is neatly hidden while still displaying the large plug - it exudes luxury from every angle. This feeling continues as you remove the headphones too. The leather headband and ear-cups are soft, smooth and beautifully stitched. The aluminium frame and pivots look expertly designed & crafted. The headband extends with a satisfying and precise click, showing the fine engineering evident throughout.
The ear-cups are attached to another thin circle of aluminium which rotates to help you further customise the fit. The mahogany exterior of the cups - apart from adding to the acoustics - bring a nice touch of class to the looks as well (although the coating does have a tendency to look like plastic from some angles). The Denon logo is the only thing to break the subtle wood texture and being under the coating it stands little chance of getting rubbed off even if you are heavy handed.
The thick, braided cable is a bit heavy but feels nice, doesn't tangle easily and splits in to two separate cables about 40cm before each cup. Unlike a single cable connection this makes sure the distances of wire to each driver is equal for maximum precision - this seems to be the default for “high-end” headphones. The split is managed by a nice looking but rather large piece of Denon branded plastic. The only down side of which is that if you are sat at a desk it likes to catch under the edge. The cables might be well made and a nice 3m length of 7n (99.99999% pure) copper but I would have preferred them to be more easily removed - should the need to replace or upgrade them ever arise.
A closer examination will reveal that they are made in China rather than Japan but there seems to be no obvious down side to this in the build quality. I do feel the need to treat them more like a Fabergé egg rather than an indestructible tank - I am not sure this is due to the materials & price or the joints & finish. Its very noticeable but I'm not sure if it bothers me.
I found the comfort of these headphones very good, the best I have used in fact! Despite being a little bulky they don't feel too heavy, they position well for comfort and avoid touching any part of the ear, thus can be worn for long periods without fatigue. The clamping force on my head is enough to keep them there and maintain a good seal with the leather while not pressing on my head too hard so as not to cause any discomfort. The leather and closed nature make them feel warm to use in hot weather but to change this would impact the audio signature and quality.
Apart from the headphones the equipment I use with them is almost entirely computer based. The music is ripped from CDs in lossless format. I have a desktop PC but also use a laptop. In both cases I almost always output the audio via USB to an external DAC & headphone amplifier. As well as trying these headphones plugged directly into a computer I have also tested them plugged directly in to a few portable devices.
DRIVING: DIRECT (UN-AMPLIFIED)
These headphones have a very low impedance (25ohms). This is the lowest of any of my headphones, I expected them to produce a louder sound with the same equipment because of this. While they were nowhere near the loudest they were not terribly difficult to drive either. Both the iPhone and Cowon PMPs easily got to high volumes and even had room to spare. The Samsung Galaxy S (phone) was the only exception, struggling a little with the volume often stuck at 100%. Both my 70ohm Sennheiser HD25-1 II's and 32ohm Grado SR80 produced noticeably louder sounds with all the devices, the Denons feel more like 100ohms by comparison.
My first DAC / headphone amp was the Fiio E7. It is a cheap but very versatile little portable unit which improves the standard output from a PC or laptop greatly. It only supports CD quality audio but it provides a big step up in audio quality compared to a computers built in sound. If you listen to music through a computer and have nothing like this it's perhaps the best value audio upgrade you can buy.
My second DAC / headphone amp is a CEntrance DACport - like the Fiio E7 this is a portable device but it lacks a battery (powered by USB – 9v). It also has no audio inputs other than USB, no screen and no bass control while costing considerably more than Fiio. It justifies this by supporting high definition audio up to 24bit / 96khz and does so with minimal distortion. I find this unit very crisp, clear and detailed with a decent sound stage but rather lacking in low end power (bass). I found it difficult to enjoy a lot of music at times because of this, especially with the Denons for some reason. I assumed that the Denons would have plenty of power to spare thus making this a good pairing but unfortunately it did not give me this impression.
My third DAC / headphone amp is a new addition from China called the Yulong D100 (mkII version). Of the three units this is the most serious. It's the only one that's not portable - it's a mini hi-fi separate and requires mains power. It also has the most complete list of in/outputs and supports sample rates up to 24bit / 192khz. I currently only use USB which is limited to 24bit / 96khz although it does supports asynchronous mode. This means the unit requests audio from the PC rather than the PC sending audio whenever it feels like it and has the effect of minimising jitter (possibly the biggest enemy of digital audio). This new version has an upgraded USB chip as well as an updated headphone amplifier. This is by far the best sound quality and characteristic that I have experienced so far, it gave me a significant boost in quality for all of my headphones. I had read that the D100 gives a level of quality often associated with equipment costing significantly higher prices, having owned it a few weeks now I can certainly say that it sounds as good as all the hype surrounding it. The D100 mkII turned up mid-way through this review and has forced me to go back over most of this article.
A chance to show off some of my favourite tracks and help me pick up subtle differences in equipment due to me being familiar with their sounds. I have also tried to pick tracks that emphasize different types of sound, thus covering the widest possible range of these headphones abilities.
- Butch Clancy: TinieTempah, Passout
- The Crystal Method - The Grid (Remix of Daft Punk's Tron Legacy song)
- Henry Mancini: The Ultimate Pink Panther - The Pink Panther Theme
- Bear McReary: Battlestar Galactica: Season 2 - Prelude to War
- Hans Zimmer: Sherlock Holmes - Is It Poison. Nanny?
- Yoko Kano: Cowboy Bebop (disc 1) - Spokey Dorkey
- Tony Bennett / Lady Gaga: The Lady Is A Tramp
- Rodrigo Y Gabriela: [self title] - Juan Loco
- Skunk Anansie: Hedonism
- Metallica: Of Wolf And Man
- Holly Cole: Train Song
- Queen: One Vision
- Butch Clancy's Dubstep tune is my only lossy compressed (mp3) track here, the reason for this is it cannot be bought on CD, this track is downloaded from the artist himself through soundcloud.com. It's my go-to song to test the effects of powerful bass. I was a little worried about these headphones overcooking the low frequencies of this music but they displayed their prestige and versatility straight away. The power and precision to the low frequencies as well as a deep physical rumble on offer here is a true spectacle! What is possibly more impressive is that they produce strong, clear and unclouded mid tones at the same time. This might be a bass-head track that doesn't often get appreciated on this level but it's impressive to hear the control behind the power making this sound even better.
- The Crystal Method's mix of my favourite 'Tron: Legacy' track is a dynamic, foot tapping tune which can be tricky to produce on some system combinations. These headphones display it with great presence, it's possibly the most enjoyable and engaging display that I have heard of it yet. Like the previous track it has strong bass and it's produced beautifully here too but the strength in this track is the dynamic and speedy electronic tune which is dealt with vibrantly. If I were to be picky I would say that electronic music in general isn't the Denons strongest genre but they are so versatile it would be like saying it's the least flashy Ferrari.
- Henry Mancini's classic Pink Panther tune is infused in to my brain from watching the cartoons as a child. Listening to the remastered recordings through these headphones is an absolute joy. The instrument separation is wonderful, the saxophone is wonderfully lively and three dimensional yet sublimely smooth - it feels sharply defined yet very natural. This track is capable of sounding quite grating on lesser headphones but these have a relatively laid back nature with this music that makes a very enjoyable presentation.
- Bear McReary's soundtrack has a lot of great detail and an eclectic mix of instruments. This track has a dramatic three minute build up to a massively powerful drum section. The switch to this thunderous display gave me goosebumps here! There are some fairly deep notes preceding them and they can feel a little anticlimactic if there isn't a great deal of clarity to go with that. If the early detail sounds muddy in any way it can all blend together and feel rather mediocre but thankfully this was not the case here. I got a great feeling that the power was building to something special. That power is impressive even before the switch and just when I thought it couldn't possibly get any better it does! It left me in total awe of the headphones ability to feel like they're surrounding you, even a part of you and not something just strapped to your ears.
- Hans Zimmer's track is one of my favourites for subtlety and dynamics. There are a few quiet moments where a slow build up shows off a single instrument extremely well. I got a really great feeling of texture to every sound here. The instrument separation was wonderful and the soundstage for a closed headphone is probably even more impressive. This album in general has so much energy and drama, it gave me a great feeling of depth and dynamics.
- Yoko Kano's song is fantastic for it's aggressive harmonica and plucky acoustic guitar and chosen here to see how large amounts of high frequency are dealt with. The high notes still feel powerful and punchy, as is the point with this track, but there was a smoothness to it which made it feel more pleasant than I had previously experienced. Too much recessed high end would make this sound boring and probably have you reaching for the volume anyway but this presentation was wonderfully exciting without being painful.
- Tony Bennett's Song is actually for Lady Gaga (sorry Tony). I have never been a fan of her “normal” music but her vocals here impress me greatly. Like the previous track its a great example of carefully controlled treble. I have had this song hurt my ears on almost every pair of headphones I've ever tried. Obviously it makes me push the volume up more than I should but it was an effect that didn't happen with these headphones.
- Rodrigo Y Gabriela's guitar duo is one of my new favourites. The speed and power on display here is amazing. I have almost never listened to this and thought it sounded boring. What I get from these headphones here is a new level of texture to the sounds, it's like I can feel what every string feels like to the touch as I listen. There are also some deep thumps from them smacking the guitars and this is also the best rendition of that effect I have yet heard.
- Skunk Anansie's track is a rather laid back one, especially for them. I heard this track a long time ago and loved it but that was long before I had any equipment of this calibre. Listening to it now is strange but great, its the song I know but with new levels of detail and subtlety. The instrument separation, the clarity of vocals – all dealt with beautifully.
- Metallica's Song is my only high definition track here at 24bit / 96khz. This is another blast from the past track for me and the Denons display it with the level of clarity that is not often heard in tandem with such a powerful guitar. Like electronic though I think that metal is also not these headphones strong point. Great but not so stellar as say classical, jazz, soundtracks, popular... well the list goes on but you get the idea. It's just not such an engaging experience as other genres but I can't stress this enough - it's not bad at all.
- Holly Cole's sublimely smooth and deeply powerful song is a great example that not only dubstep gets great use out of finely controlled and powerful low frequencies. I've said it before but versatility seems to be these headphones strongest point. You might be initially most impressed by the power but it certainly doesn't end there.
- Queen's classic song (although one of many) shines brightly here. Their sound just hits high in every way for me, unlike where metal just didn't quite have the best energy with these headphones this sound was quite the opposite - for me. The strong low end adds only a tiny boost but it feels just right and the midrange that shows these headphones don't really have much weakness.
If there is one word I could use to sum up these headphones it would be “versatile”. They seem to suit more genres of music better than anything else that I have heard. It could be argued that for their price this should be expected. One point of view would be to see them as a good investment and a simpler solution than purchasing several lesser headphones that are only good for a few types of music. To support this ideal they have great comfort and being closed back are more suitable for different environments than most other high-end options. Despite them being famous for their speaker-like powerful sub bass, which is great, I don't feel like this affects the other frequencies in a negative way. With their low end energy and closed nature they can seem slightly warm but considering their construction they are the most airy sounding headphone I have experienced. With beautifully detailed & exciting mid tones, articulate & smooth treble on top of the endless depth & hard kicking low frequencies I would generally describe the characteristic as neutral sounding but at the same time I can see why some people might think that's far from true. There is a lot of energy on display here, just everywhere and well controlled throughout!
- Powerful but Controlled Sound
- Balanced & Detailed
- Good Sound Stage for a closed headphone
- Easy to Drive
- Genre Versatile
- Build Quality (although not something you want to throw around).
- Poor Isolation for a Closed Headphone
- A Little Warm Sounding
- Wood Coating Appears Plastic
- Non removable cable
- Annoyingly placed/shaped cable splitter
All of these negative points are rather insignificant to me given the benefits except the first one because it means they are rather poor in a noisy office environment. Although expensive I do think they are worth the price and although relative I don't think you are paying for diminishing returns when you see how unusual this balance of features is.