Pros: Fantastic sound, Mature aesthetic design, Versatile, Solid build quality, Ideal compromise between open and sealed traits, Modding potential
Cons: Uncomfortable and slightly unwieldy feeling, Isolation is lacking for sealed headphone, Discontinued / Price gauging, Requires care to avoid damage
A sadly rare classic
The Denon D2/5/7000 line of headphones are quite legendary. Many considering them to be some of, if not the, best full sized sealed headphones to be produced. Their discontinuing was, understandably, much mourned with many feeling that there were few truly great sealed headphone options available. I was quite happy with my HFI-2400, but was after the next level in my desktop headphones. I was lucky enough to stumble across some D2000s in the trade forum for $300, and in good as new condition (and in my own country!). I grabbed them and eagerly awaited my arrival of this well renowned headgear.
Right off the bat, it's quite clear that these are for headphone lovers. They're stupendously elegant and so mature in their design, it's such a breath of fresh air in comparison to the shouty aesthetic design of so many consumer headphones. These things really are super handsome. They're clean, neat, understated and dripping with class and maturity. They're like a 35 year old businessman amongst a gang of 16 year old skaters; you can't help but take it more seriously than the competition.
Not only does the visual presentation of the headphone lend itself to a feeling of quality, but so do the materials and quality of construction. The metal (I'm unsure as to whether it's aluminium or magnesium) of the cup ring, yolk and gimbles are thick, sturdy and cold to the touch, with a really attractive sparkly chrome finish. The cups themselves are plastic, but sturdy and of good quality, once again with a very good finish. The earpads and headband are wrapped in a high quality pleather (probably the nicest faux leather I've yet encountered) which is very soft to the touch. The cable is an especially nice surprise. It's 3 metres long, and sleeved all the way to the metal jack (with chrome finish) which terminates in a 3.5mm jack with a screw on 6.35mm adaptor. The cable is fixed dual entry, and has a sturdy but elegant little Denon branded splitter.
I love the build and looks of this headphone. It's premium class all the way.
This is where things get very impressive. In short, these are the best performing headphones I've yet owned (which makes sense, they're also the most expensive) but they blow away the open back and similarly costing (RRP) HFI 2400. They're just fantastic.
The bass performance is the D2000's call to fame, and I must say it is pretty damn good, but it's not perfect. The bass levels on on the warm side of neutral, but not dramatically so. I wouldn't call these basshead headphones, or even bassy; just mildly warm. Bass reach is excellent and sounds quite flat to a very low level before rolling off right at the bottom. Quality wise it's very good, but a little flawed. It's very controlled, and actually has somewhat of a polite placement. It's not uncommon for warm and bassy headphones to place the bass right on your lap or in your face. The Denons place them far more naturally in the mix, they play ball equally with the rest of the spectrum. I think this is beneficial, however those wanting high levels of bass prominence and ultimate authority will note this and may find it takes away from the bass experience they are after. The bass is well textured and detailed, however it does have a somewhat loose sound to it. I don't want to overstate it, and it's not what most people would think of when they think of loose bass. In the grand scheme of things (compared to more commonly seen consumer phones) it's actually tight, but I think compared to most audiophile grade cans, it just lacks a slight bit of tautness or focus. It's hard to explain. Nonetheless, the bass response is very, very good and actually quite natural sounding.
The midrange was actually the first thing that struck me about the Denons, coming from the HFI2400. The very first thing that made me go wow was that the mids were noticeably clearer, more forward and more focused than on the Ultrasone. It genuinely made the HFI2400 sound quite recessed and muddled by comparison. The Denon is one of those headphones where you're not forced to choose between great bass and great midrange, you are receiving both. Maybe this will make me somewhat outspoken on these headphones, but I've seen people describe the Denons midrange as being recessed, but honestly I just don't hear it. The resolution and clarity, and just the sense of coherency, are very pleasing to my ears. I really take pleasure in that you can have a phat bassline pumping away whilst maintaining this level of midrange performance. Hell to the yes! Good resolution and detail, with no lack of presence to my ears earns a big thumbs up from me.
The treble is similarly well behaved, thankfully. Treble is where things seem to most easily go wrong with headphones in the sound department for me, but luckily that is not the case here. The Denon is known for having a slight tendency to be a tiny tad on the bright side, and I would agree with that. That said, I have absolutely no issues with the treble being too bright, piercing, sibilant or fatiguing. It's just fine! This was the one area where I did notice that the Denon lost out a little bit compared to the HFI2400. Being a sealed headphone (or you could debate it was 'semi-sealed' in the Denon's case) the treble to didn't have quite the sparkly, airy and extra extended properties that are more typically found with open headphones, the HFI2400 being one of those. However, the treble was still of very high quality, and it's far more even than the stupidly uneven treble of the HFI2400, which really is a roller-coaster affair in the treble. Despite the quality being that 15% less than the typical open treble performance at this price range, it's not at all a slouch with it's crystal clear, extended response. It's the best treble I've heard from a closed headphone.
Imaging and soundstage is another area where I would give the edge to the Ultrasone, but once again, not by as much as you might expect. It's pretty amazing that they sound as they do. They're spacious beyond my expectations, with impressive depth. They do suffer from the brickwall effect, but that's quite forgiveable seeing as they give the illusion of space as well as they do. This certainly qualifies them as being more than competent for film watching or gaming. All things together, the Denon is a fantastic sounding headphone.
Comfort and other ergo-niggles
This is where the Denons flaws really come out of the woodwork, unfortunately.
There's a number of problems with the Denons for me that make them lacking in the comfort department. Coming from the HFI2400, I had become a big big fan of Velour earpads. I just love the way the feel on my skin, and from a comfort and cleanliness perspective they are infinitely superior to (p)leather in my mind. Coming back to the pleather earpads of the Denon reminded me how gross pleather gets and how little it breathes. Your ears are far more prone to getting hot in long sessions, and the material gets oily and gross. A little maintenance goes a long way though, so if you keep the pads clean it's not so bad. This is the least of the Denon's problems, though.
The Denons are heavy, noticeably moreso than previous headphones I've owned. They're listed as being 350g, 60g moreso than my previous most heavy owned headphone of mine, the HFI2400 (which I didn't find to be heavy feeling at all). They're also the largest headphones I've owned. This combination of size and weight doesn't necessarily spell disaster in the comfort department, however I find that the Denons have a pretty low clamp force. Having something large and heavy that doesn't clamp onto your head with sufficient force leads it to feeling quite unwieldy and insecure. I just don't quite like the way it feels, I really miss how comparatively light, compact and secure the Ultrasone felt. The real issue, however, is because the weight is not supported very much by any clamp force it means the headband (and subsequently, your cranium) has to take the bulk of the weight.
This wouldn't be too big of a deal with a light headphone, but since this one is a little on the heavy side, it would need a really superbly comfortable headband to pull this off. Unfortunately, it lacks this very important feature. The headband is desperately under-padded considering the physical properties of this headphone. It's actually very frustrating, I don't know what they were thinking when designing this. It smells to me of cost saving, stingy accountants messing with good design. The headband simply isn't up to scratch, seemingly to favour sleek minimalism over actual ergonomics, and in correspondence with the weight and lack of clamp; the Denons just don't live up to all day desktop comfort requirements. I wouldn't go so far to say they're an uncomfortable headphone, but a hotspot will form on my head well within a couple of hours and make itself quite known. The comfort is lacking enough for my uses that I'm selling them because of it.
The other ergonomic problem I have with the Denon is in relation to durability. I personally haven't have any problems, and I wouldn't expect to since I baby the things that I own (especially my audio gear). To make things clear, I'm not saying that the Denons are poorly built, they're actually very well built. I'm of the opinion that durability absolutely 100% requires good build quality, but good build quality does not 100% guarantee good durability. The Denons seem to have good build quality for the sake of luxurious finishings and quality, not for the sake of being rugged and durable with ability to withstand hard knocks. I have a bit of problem with this. Whilst I appreciate the quality of it all, I feel like I have to constantly worry about them. I prefer having something that I can throw around a little bit more and not need to worry about scratching it up or it breaking a joint if I accidentally drop it.
I feel like I'm starting to repeat myself here, but this is yet another headphone that I really love but the lack of comfort breaks the deal. The build quality is very nice, the sound is excellent, the aesthetics are great but I simply can't enjoy them enough if I can't wear them for extended periods whilst being free from discomfort. I am well aware that these headphones have a very high reputation for being comfortable, so if you find them that way, they are a damn good choice. I've recently sold mine and have a Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm on the way in the mail, which should be better for me with the comfort (velourpads, lighter weight, higher clamp force and better padded headband) as well as far better durability. I hope I like it's sound!
If you can hunt a used D2000 down these days you could be in for a real treat.