Denon audio headphones

The Denon Signature Headphone Sound

3 min read

My first foray into Denon came probably 20 years ago with a stereo receiver — my first high quality one rather than the bargain-priced variety. It was a little weak at 50W/channel, but sounded great.

Some years later I got my hands on the Denon AH-D5000 as a swap for the AKG K701 headphones. The AKG’s had brilliant detail, but were in my opinion so anemic in the bass that music was never fun to listen to. The best way I can think to describe it is to say they had a ruthlessly neutral but clinical sound.

The similarly-priced Denon cans were something I’d researched heavily, but since there were no hi-fi stores near me to demo them I’d ordered them otherwise blind.

Risky, but they did not disappoint.

Most reviewers in 2009 described them as having a fairly V-shaped EQ curve, which is true but a bit reductive said in isolation here. Essentially that’s a good shorthand to say they had robust bass and bright, rather exciting-sounding highs. Comparatively the mids are a little recessed, but overall clarity and detail were stellar.

To this day they are the most enjoyable sounding headphones I have ever worn. (Read my original review.)

They occupy an interesting middle point in the overall headphone market at the $400-600 range — far more than the casual user would pay but still below the more recent $999-1500 range of top flagship headphones the most discerning audiophiles swear by.

Competition at this general price point is fairly high, but not as much so as the $150-300 range that popular brands like Beats and V-Moda occupy.

The Sound? In A Word, Luscious.

Coming from a pair of headphones that I described above as flat and clinical, the Denons were immediately engaging.

They had all the detail and the wide sound stage (how open or narrow the instrumentation sounds) I’d become accustomed to from the AKGs, but a much warmer presentation that made everything I listened to fun.

I think I spent nearly 3 hours straight sitting at my computer putting on song after song. As each one resolved I’d think, “Oooh! I should put that album on next! I wonder what that one sounds like?”

In the many years of reading different reviews on the AH-D2000/5000/7000 line that’d became somewhat legendary in the hi-fi forums, that was a common opinion about them. Even the folks that tried them and didn’t care for the sound signature still agreed on that signature being an easily identifiable Denon sound.

High Enthusiasm in the Community About the Newer Offerings

Eventually the AH-D2000/5000/7000 line was discontinued in favor of what the entire audio community saw as inferior headphones (such as the ill-fated 7100s), and you didn’t hear as much about the brand on forums for some time.

I kept using my increasingly venerable and worn (but still great-sounding) D5000s over the years on and off, but treated them like a classic car you keep in the garage most of the time and bring out to enjoy on an occasional Saturday afternoon.

Other fans of the brand kind of had the same idea, reporting sticking to the beloved older models and hoping quietly that some day Denon would return to form.

Luckily for those looking for a modern option, Denon indeed returned to these roots with their new AH-D7200 (and 5200 little brother). And for users looking for a more affordable option than the $999 MSRP of the 7200s, note that the classic Denon cans were actually rebranded Fostex construction, and Fostex continued making and improving upon that design even when Denon changed gears.

The modern Fostex TH-610 is considered by many to be the spiritual successor to Denon’s old AH-D5000 equivalents, and you’ll see with one glance the striking design similarity. The TH-610 is also notably cheaper than Denon’s new 7200s, available for as low as $400 on Amazon.

For the purists looking to have an official Denon offering, you’ll be pleased to know that the price has already dropped from launch by a couple hundred dollars, and will likely be even more affordable once there are some good used options available.

Have your own story of music experiences with a pair of Denon headphones? Share below!