Disclaimer: Thanks to Denon BeNelux and Denon Indonesia for the loaners.
Lately I got in touch with the Denon BeNelux distributors and they were so kind to lend us two of their latest units for review: the closed $600 AH-D600 and top of the line $1.199 AH-D7100, both from the Music Mania Series.
Denon, you say…
There has been a lot of talk on the web about these new Denons, mostly because a whole group of people isn’t too happy with the cancellation of the good old D7000 headphone. The D7000 with its particular sound and classy (wooden) looks is a beloved headphone for a lot of audiophiles. Secondly there is the price setting of the new headphones and last but not least the design. Is it worth it? We’ll find out.
In a fast growing headphone market both Denon headphones are pretty expensive but you do get a lot in return. They both are delivered in a basic box but once you open it (do check the pics) you get luxury in return. The inside of the box is shaped in the form of the headphone and decorated with a silky cloth. “Why would you need a headphone stand when you get such a nice box to let the headphone sleep in?” I said to myself. Yet the reference headphone, the D7100, does come with a stylish headphone stand as well. To my opinion that wasn’t really necessary but after all this is the reference model and I think Denon was thinking the same. Both headphones come with a removable double entry cable with 3.5mm connectors and you get to choose between a gorgeous, 7-NOFC removable cable for at home, with a HD700 like finish, and a normal, shorter one with controls for on the go. There’s no cable noise with either and I really love the “home” cable. The only difference between the D600 and D7100 cable is that 7100 home cable comes with a 6.3mm jack.
You love or hate the design of these modern looking headphones and as said in the beginning lots of headphone enthusiasts loved the old-school look of the D7000 and they for sure have to get used to the new styling, as do I. One thing I do find the Denons to be is slightly big. I have a fairly small head and even at the smallest setting these 365 gr. Denons barely fit. That actually surprises me because Denon studied 4.000 pairs of ears worldwide to get the best fit possible. The flexible pentagonal shaped cups however are very handy and the finish is quite nice even if the finish does look very plastic like. Of course the D7100 has a nice mahogany touch but not like the D7000 had. They both are very comfortable and have incredibly soft memory foam leather pads and leather inner headband. The pads are even more comfortable than the Momentum’s or LCD-3’s leather pads, and therefor they’re the best I’ve had the pleasure to use. They have beautiful stitching on the pads and headband as well, on both headphones. Isolation-wise, the D600 and D7100 score good but not great as with so many headphones.
How do they sound then?
One of the questions that will be asked is how these new units compare to the former D7000. Unfortunately I do not own a D7000 and after four weeks of searching and only 1 available D7000 in the UK, I gave up. Even Denon BeNeLux couldn’t even help us with a unit, so I’m sorry for not being able to make a direct comparison. Both new Denons use 25Ohm, 50mm! “Free Edge Nano Fibre” drivers which are supposed to deliver a clear and transparent sound according to Denon. And they do, one even more than the other.
Let’s start things of with the D600. The sound stage is very nice for a closed headphone and the left to right balance and three-dimensionality are very good even. The D600 sound is very easy and it sounds natural and fresh, not fatiguing in any way. Voices are excellent and everything sounds very musical with the D600. Clarity is what defines these Denons, clarity, detail and air. The D7100 is technically better in everything, and not just by a small margin. Soundstage is much wider and deeper and it has an even better three-dimensionality. It has plenty more detail everywhere actually and it has more room between the instruments (more air). Technically it is the best headphone without doubt, but that doesn’t say everything. Both headphones are very natural and clear and don’t color the sound. Transparant, just like Denon said.
Bass section is very nice on the D600. Bass can go deep when needed, it has punch, body and texture/layering but not as much punch as the DT770 AE (it does have more detail). It’s not as continually present as with the AE either but when needed bass is there, even sub bass. It doesn’t exaggerate or overpower the rest at all and I really enjoy the Denon bass, in both models. If I do have to nitpick I could say it seems just a tiny bit slow for fast rock like System of a Down & Billy Talent. The 7100 bass is just like the D600 but even more detailed and layered. On the other hand it maybe even is a bit slower as his companion’s as well.
The mid-section on the D600 is also very clear sounding but it has less body as say the DT770AE. The mids are a tad thinner sounding overall, especially if you’re coming from a Sennheiser but they have a good level of detail (more as the AE). Yet they do can sound rather compressed, especially when comparing to the D7100. The D7100’s mids are more extended and detailed and have a lot more air in them. But this is where something happens, namely the voices/voicing. On one hand they are better as they are more natural and detailed but on the other hand they can sound wrong. Let me explain, voices on the 600 are laid back and more compact while with the 7100 voicing is more airy, more in your face and especially more forward. They also are brighter but more natural. Because of these extra airy mids they have the impression to deliver less body and as a result the bass and treble jumps out more. Its sound really depends on the musical style you are listening to and the quality of your recording.
Treble wise I think Denon did right with the D600. It’s lively, sparkling but never harsh (unless your recording is hot already) and treble is detailed. Of course compared to a Sennheiser HD650, treble is bright but this is Denon. With the D7100, bright music in combination with the thinner mids and the very airy character of the D7100, can get really bright yet the treble never was harsh to my ears.
Amplification, yes or no?
The big trend lately is to make headphones that no longer need amplification and Denon follows this trend with the “Music Maniac Line” and with a 25Ohm and 108db/mW D600/D7100. They are very easy to drive indeed and you won’t have any problem power-wise. They do fine out of practically anything but here are some impressions with a few amps
With the small, cheap Fiio E10 you get more bass but the treble gets a bit too sharp for me. The contrast with the mids becomes bigger and the sound is “forced”, forward and aggressive and it is lot more fatiguing to listen to, this isn’t an ideal pairing at all and I prefer both headphones without an amp over the E10. With the JDSLabs C421 there is a softening effect on the 600 and 7100 making them sound more relaxed. The C421’s characteristics make the sound more linear and thus you get a better overall sound. With the desktop size Lafigaro 339 tube amp, you get the softest, least aggressive sound and that for some recording and musical styles really helps a lot as the treble gets smoothed out.
The V200 from Violectric is great for testing as I can use both headphones at the same time. The 600 and 7100 don’t need the power of the V200 but it does make them sound even better with its warmer sound signature. That is a personal preference however as I do like warmer sounding gear. As a result I did prefer both of the Denons with a tube amp, it just gave them that extra smooth layer and it trimmed down the top treble more. Overall it’s more relaxed to listen to.
With all the amps I tried them with one thing was clear: because they are so easy to drive and because they are sensitive headphones, you can only use the volume button oh so very slightly. They both get loud really quick and so you’ll only need a few millimeters on the dial.
Without amplification, straight out of the Nano 7G, they sounds pretty darn good too. Denon has obviously been paying attention and usually I would say you don’t need an amp but it would help. Well, it’s no different here but the Denons really do excellent on their own (better than other headphones) and that’s pretty impressive for headphones of this level.
Mike‘s comparison to the Flagships
The D7100 doesn’t try to be a technically impressive headphone like the HD800 and the rest. Generally the technicalities are respectable and I’m definitely not complaining even at the $1000 price point. After all there is a limit on how much technicalities you can ask for and pass that point there is little advantage as the majority of recordings don’t carry that much information anyway. The clarity is very nice, the sound is clean and grainless, soundstage while not monstrous feels spacious and with a good three dimensionality. Bass is clear and well detailed. If I need to complain, it’s on the build quality which I feel to be a $500 headphone with its plastic headband, but I’m definitely not complaining on the technicalities.
I think where it shines is the sound signature that I find to be generally more musical than the HD800 and the T1. It’s a bit similar to the HE-6 in that it has a more top-down tonality (the D600 is a darker more bottom up, senn HD650-like), but being closed back and with a dynamic driver, generally I find the bass to be more punchy. Though the bass is more loose than the planar bass on the HE-6 (or the LCD-2), it’s not bothersome as it’s still far from being boomy and that bass detail and clarity is still very good. In fact the slightly looser bass gives it a more relaxed presentation compared to the HE-6 or LCD-2 which can be a bit “stiff” after a while. It also doesn’t have the center image problem that the HE-6 has. And the D7100 is far more comfortable to wear (more comfortable than the four flagships even the HD800).
Even though I feel it to have a bit too much treble for mainstream recordings (but perfect for Classical, Jazz, Audiophile stuff), it’s still not as polarizing as say the HD800, the T1, or the Audio Technica Woodies. It doesn’t quite wow you on first listen like say the HE-6 or the HD800, but it just does everything very well and at the end I think it’s a far less polarizing headphone. It has that smooth, easy to enjoy character that I find on headphones like the Momentum.
Between the two the D600 loses a little refinement and smoothness that I hear on the D7100, hence pushing it down the flagship grade but I prefer the D600′s darker, bottom up tonality over the D7100′s.
So where does that leave us?
The D600 and D7100 are comfortable and nice sounding closed headphones with a good (D600) to great (D7100) soundstage and detail retrieval but without being too analytical and while remaining musical. Yes, the D600s mids could have been less compact and the D7100 voicing could have been better but for me it was an easy choice which one to listen to at what moment as they both have their pros and cons. If you only have one of these however, I would have to go for the D600 as it does better for all musical genres and with recordings of lesser quality in general. The D7100 is superior in technicalities but it strongly depends on the musical style and the recording you are listening to. In example, classical music like Max Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s four seasons on the 7100 is simply amazing but for rock music or movies I prefer using the 600. Overall I have been enjoying both headphones and I’m impressed with what Denon has developed. I’m looking forward to listening to them again in the future!
Also don’t forget that Denon has a special music app you can download from the appstore (iOS), unfortunately I don’t have an iPhone but I’m looking forward to read about your experiences with it.