It was almost a year ago that I purchased Ultrasone's Pro 900 headphone. From the moment it played its first bass notes, I was hooked. I had never heard such deep and thunderous bass from a headphone before, and as an avid electronic dance music listener, this was an incredible thing. For nearly a year since, I've been enjoying them daily, posting on the official Appreciation Thread and helping others decide whether or not this headphone was for them.
The Pro 900 wasn't without its faults, however, and it was these faults (namely lack of long term comfort and extremely picky headphone placement) that made me research alternative cans. Upon messaging MalVeauX about his Denon D2000, he immediately offered to send them to me so that I may audition them. I've had them for almost a week, and while my comparisons are complete, they have been some of the toughest comparisons I've ever made in headphonia.
My primary goal for this comparison was to find out if the D2000 provided an improvement over the Pro 900 in key areas such as comfort, soundstage, and tonality, while still being able to provide satisfying bass volume, depth, impact, and definition. Going up against the Pro 900 in this regard is no small feat, as its bass is truly impressive. If any of you have followed the Ultrasone Pro 900 Appreciation Thread since the beginning, you'll know that I mentioned the D2000 a few different times in my initial review. I have learned a lot since then, not only about headphones but about my own musical preferences and the ways in which I evaluate new pieces of equipment. If my opinion of the D2000 differs from that initial review, I'll be sure to point it out and then provide the reasons why my opinion has changed.
Each headphone is powered by my Matrix M-Stage V2, which is fed from an Ibasso D4 via usb from my desktop. Nearly all of my music is in FLAC, with very few albums at 320kbs mp3 and only one at 160kbs (for the purpose of showing which headphone is more revealing of poor source content). I used various drum & bass, dubstep, and trance albums, along with a few metal albums in the testing of these two headphones.
Without further ado, and with my deepest appreciation to MalVeauX for making this comparison possible, I present my Denon D2000 vs Pro 900 impressions. I hope you all enjoy.
"Elegant." That is the first word that strikes me when I see the Denon's D2000. From its very simple, silver, magnesium frame to its dark ear cups to its black-cushion leather, it has all the looks of a headphone-lover's headphone. This is even more apparent when it is held in one's hands; it is very light and fragile, demanding the utmost care from the user. The earpads are extremely soft to the touch, which translates into an incredible level of comfort once the 'phones are on my head. The clamping force is minimal, but just enough to keep them from sliding around during motion. This was hard very hard to get used to after the strong clamping force and velour earpads of the all black, all plastic Ultrasone Pro 900. Once I adjusted, however, I definitely prefer Denon's approach to user comfort.
Once the D2000s were plugged into the M-Stage, I was surprised to find that I could turn the volume knob almost as high as I could with my Pro 900s, given the Denon's 25ohm impedance (compared to 40ohms on the Ultrasones). Over my course of listening, there were a few aspects of the D2000s that stood out to me.
The first thing that struck me was their soundstage. Deep, and wide, it surpasses that of the S-Logic holographic soundstage of the Ultrasones. This contradicts what I said on my initial review of the Pro 900 almost a year ago, when I was so struck by S-Logic and immediately dismissed the soundstage of the D2000s. Now, with more experience under my belt and a much more thorough comparison, I can see the superiority of the D2000s. While there are still times that the Pro 900's S-Logic creates the perception of a deep and wide soundstage, this perception can't hold up when compared to the expansive soundstaging of the Denons.
Mids are a bit more forward than on the Pro 900, and were rendered with a bit more weight and realism. This is readily apparent when listening to metal. I never knew just how off the tonality of the Ultrasones was. Guitars sound much more realistic on the Denons, and carry more attack. Drums also sound incredible, carrying just as much weight and impact as drums through the Pro 900, but again, with a more realistic tone. The slower drivers of the D2000s add a bit of decay to many notes, and much more often than not, this adds to that notes realism without sacrificing PRaT. I thought the Pro 900 was an incredible headphone for metal, but its rare that I find a song that I don't like better on the Denon now. While this extra realism in tonality is very noticeable in genres with real instruments, it carries over a bit to the electronic genres. The intro to "Rock It" by Sub Focus sounds much better, as the Denon's flatter response curve renders the pounding opening notes with better realism (at the expense of a little bass volume).
Treble was also sparkly and extended on the D2000s, without ever hitting harshness like the Pro 900s can. High hats carry less sibilance, and synths that exist in the upper registers feel smooth and extended rather than aggressive.
The bass on the Denons was interesting for me. Upon first listen, I immediately thought, "Who turned the bass down?" After a year of the Pro 900's thunder, the D2000 was a little anemic. Once I adjusted to their sound signature, however, the bass began pleasing me more and more. It reaches just as deep as the Ultrasones, and carries similar weight, but with the slightest decrease in impact and volume. I find it to be much more akin to an actual subwoofer, with a clear and focused location, as opposed to the earthquake bass on the Pro 900s which fills the whole ear cup and comes from every direction.
The D2000 is also much, much more forgiving of poor source content than the Pro 900s, and I think this partly has to do with Ultrasone's take on soundstage. S-Logic completely collapses on low bitrate files, and the resulting song sounds quite terrible. With the D2000s, however, it is much harder to tell the difference between higher and lower bitrate files, and I find that even down to 160kbs, the Denons make music sound good.
Now, the way I've worded each paragraph may make you think that the D2000 is clearly the superior headphone, but this isn't the case. The Pro 900 is at its best when it is playing dirty, bass-heavy dnb/dubstep that is without vocals and without the need for realism in its tone. And when it is playing these kinds of tracks, it is hard to find a better headphone. Tracks like "From Deep Space" by Phace & Misanthrop sound beyond amazing and with the Pro 900's huge bass, immersive S-Logic soundstage, and incredibly quick PRaT, one can easily see that these may be the best headphones for the genre.
The purpose of this review wasn't to see if the D2000 dethroned the Pro 900 for EDM, in fact, I don't know if any headphone can do that. Like I stated above, it was to see if the D2000 provide superior comfort, soundstage, and tonality without sacrificing too much bass. Does the Denon fulfill that criteria? Absolutely.
Listening to the album "Mixmag Presents: Sub Focus Future Bass" through the D2000s, I was never left wanting for more bass; it hit hard and went low. On some tracks, such as Pendulum's "Tarantula" and Skrillex's "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," the bass was so powerful, deep, and focused, it almost tricked my brain into thinking the bass was hitting in my chest as if from an actual subwoofer, something the Pro 900 never did for me. There are still songs that I know would be slightly more exciting on the Pro 900 and be better suited to its sound signature, but for what I gain through the D2000, I'm alright with that.
Pro 900 owners: If you enjoy your headphones and love the bass they output, have comfort in knowing that no other headphone is likely to do EDM with greater authority. I've loved the Pro 900s for nearly a year, and they are an incredible headphone. My tastes have matured and changed over the year, and the D2000 is simply closer to the sound signature I am looking for. By no means does that indicate that it is a superior headphone and that you are missing out; chances are, you'd like the Pro 900 better.
This comparison has been very hard, but more importantly, has been incredibly educational and fun for me. I've found out more about my musical tastes and what I am looking for in a headphone, and as of right now, the D2000 is closer to that than the Pro 900.
Thank you for reading my review, and I hope it helps anyone out there looking for a comparison between these two great headphones. Pictures are located below. I look forward to any feedback you all have, positive or negative. Thanks again.
Edited by Jibbie - 9/25/11 at 8:16pm