I bought these noteworthy cans in 2009, and they were my third pair of high-end headphones over $200. Prior to that I’d tried the AKG K701 and Sony MDR SA5000.
At that time they had an MSRP of $699, but I managed to snag them for $400ish on Amazon for an almost even trade for what I got selling the AKGs.
I’ve taken the Denon AH-D5000s all over the place — on vacations, to parks, to work, and enjoyed many years of listening at the desk. I’ve used the cans off of a Behringer UB802 mixer, a Harmon Kardon receiver, and even straight out of my smartphone. Suffice it to say, I’ve heard what they can do in all sorts of scenarios with pretty much every genre of music.
I’d written a review about these headphones shortly after getting them 10 years ago, and decided to do a re-review all these years later so discuss their legacy, how they’ve held up over time, and celebrate a truly epic pair of headphones.
Alright, let’s celebrate these beautiful headphones adorned with mahogany earcups.
As you can see, the headband and ear pads are worn out, but still comfortable and functional. I haven’t worn these as everyday headphones in awhile to prolong whatever life they have left.
(Though I have recently resumed doing so for this review as I save up for some newer alternatives.)
Despite the faux leather of the earpads being worn, it’s worth mentioning that the padding on the inside is still properly voluminous and hasn’t squished down over the years.
I find that impressive for 10 year old gear; the V-Moda XL earpads for my M100s lost most of their oomph in 6 months comparatively.
To this day, these are the second most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn — coming in just behind the Sony MDR SA5000. I’ve had them on for several long gaming sessions or for music while working very comfortably.
Literature on Denon’s website back then explained that in Japan it’s a common belief that since the finest instruments are made of wood, it only makes sense to use wood in headphone designs to more faithfully reproduce the sound.
Whether that does contribute to the D5000’s great sound or not, the mahogany earcups sure are nice to look at. (But man are the newer D7200s sharp with their black walnut!)
The AH-D5000’s Sound, 10 Years In
I’ll start by saying I’m a big fan of my everyday travel headphones, the V-Moda M100s. However, every time I go any stretch of time only listening to those and switch back to the Denons, it gives me the same joy I had when I first took them out of the box.
The first thing that strikes me listening to the Denon AH-D5000s again is the sound stage. It’s much wider than other auditions I’ve had, and you can definitely close your eyes and imagine the layout of the band based on where it sounds like things are coming from. Cool for recordings of live performances that are mixed well.
It just makes the music feel more alive.
When I switch back to the V-Modas the sound stage is comparatively far narrower.
I’d describe it by saying each instrument feels distinct rather than a block of sound coming into your ears.
But the second major thing that strikes me upon another critical listen is an observation I made 10 years ago about these headphones: they hit subwoofer-deep levels of bass.
Everyone who’s used V-Moda’s M100s describes them as bassy headphones, but that definitely speaks more to the volume of the bass rather than the depth of the bass. They sound good, but the Denons just go deeper and sound bigger.
Floor-rumbling bass guitars and well-recorded kick drums really shine here. It’s not overpronounced or too “in your face” in my opinion, but admittedly I also like a warm, forward sound.
(It’s the reason I didn’t like the AGK K701s back in the day. To me they were too clinical-sounding and had way too little bass.)
The Denon AH-D5000s do have what occasionally strikes me as slightly too much sparkle in the upper register. This is something I enjoyed more about them 10 years ago, but is mostly remedied by a little EQ-ing. Maybe my ears have changed, or maybe my tastes have changed. It certainly doesn’t ruin my enjoyment of the headphones, but did stand out to me and seemed worth noting.
Voices have a fiber to them, which makes singing seem a lot more intimate to listen to than other headphones where voices sound good at a glance but lack that extra something.
With well-recorded guitars you get a sense of their fingers plucking and moving across the strings, and drums actually sound like the drummer is hitting a variety of different surfaces (drums aren’t really a singular instrument, after all).
Usage and Durability
Audiophiles common to headphone forums might cringe at the idea of plugging these straight into the headphone jack of a PC with a decent sound setup (no discrete headphone amp?!) but I find the D5000s fairly easy to drive and still full of depth in that application. I’ve certainly used them with more complex setups, but I’d argue that even with a pair of headphones at this level you shouldn’t feel like it’s an insult to their character to run them out of a simpler setup if it still sounds good.
I’ve often seen this tier of gear described as if listening to them on anything short of a separate $300+ headphone amp would sound so terrible that it wouldn’t even be worth it.
I still think these Denons sound far better straight out of a smartphone than earbuds meant to be powered that way, even if that’s not their full potential.
The standard 3.5mm plug makes that relatively easy, although the 3 meter cord is a bit cumbersome for on-the-go usage.
I wouldn’t call these headphones fragile per se with the steel and aluminum construction, but with the long cord and polished mahogany earcups prone to scratches these are clearly meant as quiet listening at-the-desk headphones.
Some people have mentioned loose screws or other mechanical issues over time, but thankfully that’s not been my experience. I’ve probably occasionally been too rough on these headphones for what they are, but after 10 years the only issues are blemishes on the earpads and headband. And those are probably at least partially my fault for not always properly respecting the headphones.
The Denon AH-D5000 headphones certainly aren’t perfect or neutral in their sound, but they’ve been a real joy to use for many years. If you scope out headphone forums you’ll see many have felt the same, so it’s nice to see after a bit of a hiatus that Denon has returned to form with the newer D5200s and D7200s.
And of course, since during the time of the D5000s discussed here Denon actually rebranded Fostex’s design, and you can find a fairly similar design and sound in the modern Fostex TH-610 as an alternative.
Thanks for reading.
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