The In-Ear Headphone Face-Off Page 4
Overall Rank : Tied 4th
John Sciacca Ranking: 5
The Denon phones were the largest and heaviest of the bunch, with a machined aluminum housing. The cable plug extension is heavy and I found it had a tendency to catch on things and try to pull the phones out of my ears. I was able to get decent fit, but with their weight and size, I was always aware of the phones being there and they didn't "disappear" the way that others did.
For me, the Denon's had the deepest bass of the bunch, like someone found the volume knob on the sub and gave it a squeeze. I listened to The Crystal Method's "High Roller" and when the song takes off at 1:06, you want to feel like the drummer is really dropping the hammer and the Denon's delivered that in spades. However, vocals were very laid back, and had a way of sounding like the performer was hiding at the back of the stage. Vocal heavy songs like Dave Matthews' "Bartender" sounded completely different from some of the other models that it could have been a totally different mix. Overall, they sounded like the classic V-shaped EQ curve with emphasized highs and lows; a sound that will appeal to many listeners, but not me. While I was OK with this in the bass, it didn't work for me in the highs, especially with drivers sparkling just millimeters from my eardrums. Ultimately, the brilliant highs kept me from wanting to turn the volume up too high.
Brent Butterworth Ranking: 3
Metal's great for cars, planes, and watches. But when I'm choosing something to put in my ear, I'm not such a big fan of metal. The moment I slipped the cold aluminum shell of Denon's AH-C751 into my ear, I felt as if I'd been transported to a doctor's office and was undergoing a physical.
The metal shell also adds weight, so the AH-C751 feels heaviest of all the earphones tested. The weight keeps them from resting comfortable in your ears; you can't forget they're there. And although they never threatened to fall out, they never seemed quite secure in my ears, either.
The rock-solid metal chassis seems to elevate the AH-C751's sonics. From the very first note, I felt almost as if I were listening to an excellent pair of freestanding speakers, so natural was the tonal balance. In fact, the AH-C75's sound reminded me of the $20,000-per-pair Revel Salon2 I recently reviewed for S&V. No, the sound isn't as detailed, delicate, or airy-but it is that neutral. And it has a fantastic sense of space and ambience.
This is a great earphone for sedentary uses, such as sitting on a plane or drowning out the chatty Cathy in the next cubicle. But it's really too heavy for active use.
Leslie Shapiro Ranking: 2
The Denon AH-C751 didn't have as many fit options as the others, but luckily for me, I found a good fit. They provided decent sound isolation and were comfortable and felt surprisingly secure.
The AH-C751 had an accurate high-end - sounded nice on acoustic guitar and female vocals. However, the muffled bass, lacking impact and punch, detracted from the overall sound quality. The midrange was clean and warm, but there was a slight harshness in the upper midrange on snare drums, hi-hat, and vocals. I had to turn down the overall volume on "Tell Me 'Bout It" by Joss Stone to keep the harshness in this bright mix from becoming uncomfortable.
Mike Gaughn Ranking: 6
The Denon's were the one set of buds from this bunch that failed to make any kind of positive impression on me at all. Not only did they have the worst fit and sound isolation, but their sound was so aggressively treble that it became difficult to listen to after a while. They displayed decent bass on "It Makes No Difference Now," but the treble was so tinny and insistent that it was a constant distraction. And the midrange was so deficient that it couldn't even begin to compensate for the upper-end clangor. The track's sax-and-brass blasts were so harsh they almost hurt. Meanwhile, the percussion hits on "Insensatez," so crucial to establishing the track's bossa nova groove, lacked roundness and presence, and the whole mix was overwhelmed by an annoying "tssh"-y sound. The bass was OK, though, and the Denon's fared better here than they did with the more demanding Ray Charles track. "Frank Sinatra" yielded pretty much the same results, causing me to cringe at the aggressive opening drum hits, which had no depth to them at all.