Pros: Audio quality, comfort, easy to power, stylish design, 5-year warranty
Cons: Limited availability
I walked in to a nearby stereo store a couple weeks ago and saw these on display. I hadn’t intended to buy anything, but after I demo’ed the H-A100 on my iPhone I had no choice but to walk out $500+tax poorer. Not a moment too soon, because it was their last pair in stock. It is now the crown jewel of my fledgling high-end headphone collection.
I bought the SM3s on the basis of their high reputation around here (I’ve been a lurker for a while) and although I was quite happy with them I can assert that the A100s are better in almost every way: better soundstage (goes without saying); tighter, punchier bass; equally lush, liquid mids; and a vastly superior high end that captures far more detail without sibilance or harshness. The SM3s obviously have better isolation, but isolation on the closed A100s is quite decent, and they’re far more comfortable for extended wear because they’re not jammed into your ear canals. They’re lightweight and feel secure without any tight clamping.
They sound great running off mobile devices, so I see them as the phones that the B&W P5s were supposed to be: a truly audiophile mobile solution. They cost $200 more and they’re bulkier, but unlike the P5 they actually DO offer audiophile sound from mobile sources.
I can’t speak to how they stack up against the flagship headphones listed above, but given that they blow the highly-regarded SM3s out of the water, I’d say they occupy a very sweet spot where SQ, comfort, price, and mobility meet in perfect harmony. They’re also beautiful. It’s too bad they’re only a limited edition, because I think they’re world-beaters. Knowing how Japanese firms operate, I suspect Denon is selling these at sliver-thin to no margin: A limited-edition product celebrating their centennial is the kind of statement into which they might pour their resources with only a cursory nod to profit.
If you can get your hands on these, by all means give them a try. They may not replace your HD 800 or Stax SR-007, but I think they offer even the most discerning audiophile an excellent mobile solution, and for many may be the last headphones you’ll need to buy.