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If you're looking for a beautiful soundstage, one marked with clarity, one unhampered by exaggerated bass and crowded notes, Denon's AH-D7100 over-ears ($1,199) are an excellent candidate.
But unless your noodle is on the larger side, and unless your bank account is flourishing indeed, these headphones may not do. The baseline fit is so spacious that they simply won't fit smaller or even some average-sized heads. Additionally, some may complain that these headphones are too heavy, and too plastic—they scratch up very easily. That doesn't mesh well with the enormous price tag.
Yet for all that, plenty of picky ears with money to spare are sure to love the Denon AH-D7100's great extras, clean sound quality, plush leather, and mahogany details. Listeners can use these at home with an included stereo cable, or with a personal mobile device, thanks to low impedance.
Let's get right to it: The Denon AH-D7100s are too big. Only big-headed audiophiles (wink) will find a great fit here. They just won't fit every head size. The D7100s barely fit me, so that I constantly found myself reaching up to tighten the band—to no avail. They just don't tighten up enough.
Additionally, the rig's sheer weight may cause the top of your head to ache. Several of my coworkers commented on this, and with extended listening, I did experience some discomfort, despite the cushy leather reinforcement along the bottom of the band. Don't get me wrong: These are very comfortable headphones. But for upwards of 1,000 dollars, I wish they were lighter and better suited to a wider range of head sizes.
The handsome intersections of silver limbs, plush leather padding, and mahogany accents do make the Denon AH-D7100s stand out, though. The speaker pads are big and luxurious, and the accessories are the tops (more on those in a bit).
As for the quality of the parts, using plastic for the band may have been necessary to lighten the frame, but it also means that the headphones mark up at the drop of a hat. These D7100 over-ears never strayed beyond a desktop environment, but the plastic ear cups still managed to collect ugly little marks and scratches. To avoid damaging the plastic band and ear pieces, be absolutely sure to use the included headphone stand.
The removable Y-shaped cable is likely to fare better. Should a wayward house cat mistake your cord for a delicious goodie, you'll be relieved to note the removable design—just replace the mangled cable. Additionally, each joint is nicely reinforced to withstand everyday wear and tear.
In case you're wondering whether you can enjoy tunes on a personal mobile device as well as with high-end equipment, the answer is yes: The D7100s have fairly low impedance of just 25Ω, which requires less power and less amplification. The three-button inline remote/mic is actually made for Apple devices like iPads and iPhones, allowing you to pass on songs, modify volume, or answer phone calls. Of course, if you're at home by your favorite stereo, you can always pop in the other cable: A 10-foot, "99.99999% OFC" (oxygen-free cable) beast with ¼” gold-plated audio jack. Yes please.
Lastly, although the in-line remote caters to iOS, a special app is available for Android users, too. Denon's "Audio App" let's users tailor, store, and share their own EQ curves. The app also boasts 50,000 internet radio stations through TuneIn Internet Radio service, as well as Facebook and Twitter features, but we won't venture down that rabbit hole.
As one might imagine, the AH-D7100s don't have clumsy, run-of-the-mill sound quality. These Denons are anything but affordable, yet they make music sound clean, balanced, detailed, and natural.
So why that mammoth price tag? What's the difference between everyday headphones and these? It's all a question of balance: Where most consumer headphones push volume up throughout the bass range, these Denons do not.
Bass is almost perfectly flat here, meaning the D7100s do not boost emphasis on low notes. Quite the opposite, in fact. These headphones actually underemphasize bass at times. Middle notes aren't over-stressed either, and high-middle notes actually drop in volume. Finally, uppermost notes (think high notes on violins, vocals, woodwinds, etc) get a bit of a spike.
The resulting sound profile? Listeners will enjoy rich, satisfying bass, since volume is balanced just so, and middle and high notes that ring out with beautiful, unclouded clarity. When I listened to a $150 pair of headphones for comparison, the differences were striking: Vocals and high notes on the cheaper pair were easily audible, but bass overshadowed everything so strongly that my music was less clear than on the Denons.
I listened to numerous genres with the AH-D7100s, but classical music definitely flourished the most. Every delicate little detail has such clarity, from the soft press of a piano's foot pedal to the dry sigh of a brush falling over a snare drum. High vocals are as clear as a bell.
There are two performance complaints worth mentioning, but only the most seasoned ears will notice them: A touch of audible distortion hampers a small segment of the bass range. It's nothing egregious, most folks won't hear a thing, but it's something to listen for if you're a picky buyer. Second, the overtones on instruments like guitar, bass, and french horn, are a bit louder in the left speaker than in the right. This, too, is a mild issue that many are unlikely to ever notice. Maybe vinyl fans will take these imperfections in stride—some claim to enjoy the "warmth" associated with tube amps, after all. To each their own.
The Denon AH-D7100 (MSRP $1,199) over-ears are a luxury purchase for hobbyists with spare change. These aren't perfect for mixing with—the response isn't totally flat after all—but sound quality is very clean and detailed, and unhampered by the garish bass notes you find on so many headphones these days. Perhaps the biggest perk is the fact that these cans work without high-end equipment. Plug them into an iPod and listen to your heart's content.
The downsides? These things will be too big for plenty of people, and the plastic band and ear cups mark up too easily. The frame is so heavy that it may cause slight aching with extended listening, and a touch of distortion in the bass range means that the truly picky need to take these for a test drive prior to purchasing.
A test drive is certainly worth your time: Denon really captured beautiful, detailed, natural sound quality with the AH-D7100 over-ears, and for a great many listeners, that's worth every cent. Just do yourself a favor and shop around before making your decision—a few tradeoffs like an in-line remote and removable cables could save you hundreds of dollars.
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