Review: Denon AH-D7000 Headphone Page 2

Performance

To some extent, the Denon D7000 even sounds the part of an open-back headphone. The Denons get about as close as any closed headphone I've ever heard to the sound of speakers in a room. I wouldn't put them in the same league as a high-end open phone such as Sennheiser's HD-800, but to my ear they compare quite favorably to the HD-650 and HE-500). Apparent soundstage is impressively wide for a closed model; the sense of airiness is, perhaps, a function of the lightness and comfort of the headphones themselves - the fact that they seem to disappear physically contributes to the illusion of disappearing acoustically (swapping out between these and the also very nice sounding, but far meatier HiFiMan HE-500s, for instance, really emphasizes the effect).

Low end is authoritative, midrange very present, and the upper octaves clear and clean and without harshness. I feel that there might be a very slight departure from perfection in the form of a bit of a bump in the lower mids - there's a clear sense of warmth here, at least to my ears - but that's not necessarily a bad thing. That warmth may be what the closed design lends to the overall D7000 sound. This is definitely not a bass-challenged headphone, though it isn't boomy or cloudy. You certainly get the sense of a bit of room gain - but since you also get an appropriate sense of spaciousness, that's alright with me.

I have to admit that we couldn't find anything that sounded bad on the Denons (at least by virtue of anything attributable to the headphones themselves). While there's definitely a lot of low end here, the combination of warmth and detail really lends itself to small-ensemble acoustic music - the Denon makes a really fine jazz headphone, especially if your tastes run towards the aggressive. On on the contrapuntal, proggy intro to Tim Berne's "Scanners" (from the Manfred Eicher-produced ECM outing Snakeoil, a 24/88.2 FLAC); the bandleader's alto sax maintains clear separation from Oscar Noriega's clarinet; the tones of both instruments (and those of the rhythm section of Matt Mitchell on piano and Ches Smith on drums) are beautifully represented and the air moving through Berne's overblown horn during the solo is impressively audible. 

Listening to "Duchess," from Billy Hart's latest quartet outing on ECM (forgive me, I've been on a Manfred Eicher kick lately), All our Reasons with Ben Street, Ethan Iverson, Mark Turner, the Denons were, in my opinon, as good as the HD-650 and HE-500 at representing the ensemble in acoustic space, and provided a more "live" sound; the band's largely dark and warm instrumental tones all managed to be clearly audible. The classic woodiness of Ben Street's bass (lost in muddy boom on lesser closed 'phones) certainly spoke loudly here, more forward than on the HD-650, but with great detail, the sound of the strings against the fretboard also more clearly audible, and well-placed beneath Iverson's economical piano. A different sound than the open headphones for sure; but not a less "realistic" one - think of the experience as sitting a little closer to the stage, a tad closer to the bassist. 

Phil Ryan noted the Denons' strength in revealing minute details of well-known performances. Listening to John Medeski's "I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free," (from a live 16/44.1 AIFF file of a December 16, 2010 live date in Ginza, Japan), Phil felt not just that the Denons "owned the lower midrange" and provided an even better "live" sound that the open-back HiFiMan HE-500 (Phil's reference for high-rez listening), but that Medeski's habit of tapping his left foot was particularly well represented, "as it has come across in person when I've seen him play, and not hidden behind the piano as much -- it occurs alongside it without becoming as masked as it."

Turning to heavier fare, the Denons' impressive midrange presence and tight, focused bass makes it an absolutely killer rock headphone. Guitar crunch and electric bass come across impressively well, whether the 'phones are busy detangling the brutal, knotty dueling 8-string sci-fi onslaught of Meshuggah's I (16/44.1 WAV) or revealing the relative subtleties of Paul McCartney's "Let Me Roll It" (from Band on the Run, 24/96 FLAC). Everything sits in its place in a dense rock mix  - you won't miss a thing.

Phil also felt the Denons were great across-the-board rock 'phones. He was really taken with them while checking out the electronics/strings/processed guitar extravaganza that makes up Wilco's "Art of Almost " (from The Whole Love, 24/96 FLAC), and felt that "deftly delivered the deepest meandering bass on this track, while filling the sides of your head with bottom-of-the-ocean depth - a palpable listening experience that kept the sense of urgent, yet swirling, movement that the track embodies." Compared with the HE-500 he felt that The Who's "We're Not Gonna Take It," (from Tommy, 24/96 FLAC) "sounded much more majestic on the Denons, thanks mostly to the harmonies popping out more than they do on the HiFiMans, which in this comparison come off as somewhat anemic sounding and shrouded when trying to compete with the incredibly detailed wall of sound that comes careening out of the Denons."

Switching over to some serious stuff, for example the Gideon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica recording of Sofia Gubaidulina's otherworldly "The Canticle of the Sun: The Glorification of Death" (from The Canticle of the Sun, 24/44.1 FLAC), I felt like the Denons ran up somewhat against their limits in presenting the dynamic extremes and competing dense choral and percussion textures. Don't get me wrong - the 'phones did a good job of presenting the instrumental and vocal tonalities; I did, however, feel that the overall presentation of the piece would be better on an open phone (or, obviously, on speaker in a perfect room) Something even more rocking, like the San Francisco Symphony's take, under Michael Tilson Thomas, on John Adams' "Short Ride in a Fast Machine" (the opening reminds me quite a bit of the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime") were just the slightest bit overwhelmed by the Denons' low end during mass ensemble passages, though even so instrumental details came through surprisingly well.

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