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Headphone Sessions 9/20/2012: The New Denon Cans: Oops, They Did It Again

When HeadRoom received the news this spring that Denon was discontinuing the AH-D2000, D5000 and D7000 headphone models to be replaced by the AH-D600 ($499) and AH-D7100 ($1,199) we were worried. The last Denon headphone ‘upgrade’, the AH-D1100 replacing the AH-D1001, was a step backward in our opinion, and a business move we didn't understand. Why replace a popular, great-selling headphone with one that costs more but doesn't sound as good? Will Denon drop the ball again, or have they designed two headphones to surpass the three previous great sounding and popular models? Along with replacing their discontinued lines, Denon is also releasing their new Apple specific AH-D400 ($399), a full size headphone with built-in track and volume controls + microphone as well as an on-board amplifier.   [caption id="attachment_2529" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Denon AH-D600[/caption] After spending some time with the new D600 and D7100 we feel the major problem with the previous models has been remedied, and that was the build quality and durability. The former Dx000's were prone to breaking at the connection of the earcup and the headband. The new Denon design, which involves much more plastic, is completely different and seemingly much more durable. The fit of the new design is comfortable, but quite large. Ergonomics seem targeted primarily to male listeners as our female reviewers found them too large and lacking the adjustability to sit comfortably on their head. Now to what we were afraid of. While the new cans sound good and offer decent spaciousness and great bass, they don't seem to acoustically stand up to the previous models and they definitely don't surpass. The soundstage is spacious for a closed headphone, and is similar to the model being replaced, but the D600 lacks the mid-range presence of both the D2000 and D5000 in comparison, making the presentation of the D600 lean towards the dark side (Obi-Wan has not taught Denon well).  We prefer the clean and natural sounding AKG K550.  It doesn't quite match the D600's soundstage, but it images well, has incredible tone and is much easier on the pocketbook. [caption id="attachment_2530" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Denon AH-D7100[/caption] The D7100 shares the same build quality, but still seems to fall short of the D7000. There is a thickness in the midrange that confuses the presentation and seems to squish the soundstage. Again, these aren’t a bad sounding sealed headphone and for the “basshead audiophile” they’d be an easy recommendation, but for those expecting an upgrade from your D7000 you should consider the Fostex TH-900 instead. The D400 is incredibly bass heavy, especially with the on-board amp engaged, but also with it turned off. However, with the amp turned off the rest of the presentation is dull and lifeless. Their appearance resembles Frankenstein’s head with big knobs sticking out from each earcup. The big knobs lend themselves to easy and intuitive control of your i-device, but don’t expect great call quality because the built in microphone doesn’t provide very good clarity and sounds distant. What you can expect are odd looks from everyone who sees you with these headphones on! [caption id="attachment_2532" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Denon AH-D400[/caption] At the end of the day, HeadRoom is a bit disappointed (again) by new these Denon headphone designs, having been huge fans of the previous models. The D600 and D7100 aren’t total misses, but compared to the recently discontinued line they certainly aren’t an improvement in sound, only in build and durability. The D400 lacks anything to make it a viable alternative to any other Apple specific design, unless you need a headphone that can rattle your eyeballs out of their sockets. For more information on the new Denons or any other headphone please call 1-800-828-8184. A slightly disappointed headphone expert awaits your call.

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