With earbuds practically taking over the popular private listening landscape, I can't help but wonder how many people consider over-the-ear headphones anymore.
While I love my earbuds, especially while wandering around New York City and riding the subway to work, over-the-ear 'phones provide a visceral listening experience that earbuds can't match. Case in point: the Denon AH-D2000s.
The full-size headphones provide deep bass that you feel on your head while listening, and their comfy closed earcups won't disturb anyone who happens to be nearby.
With all the trappings of a high-end audio product, the only thing the AH-D2000's seem to be missing are the obligatory wooden shells on the outside of the cups. If you step up to the more expensive AH-D5000, you can have that too.
Meanwhile, the AH-D2000's sport black plastic shells, but those shells are held in place by a magnesium metal frame that's plenty solid and provides enough adjustment for small or large heads, and--at just over 12 ounces--isn't as heavy as you'd expect from that much metal. The headphones didn't weigh my head down, even after multiple hours of listening, and they're very comfortable to wear, being neither too tight nor too loose.
My only gripe about the design, and it is a minor one, is that the leather cover on the ear cups did leave me with a little bit of sweat on the skin below and behind my ears after prolonged listening. (Headphones with cloth-covered pads tend to avoid this problem.) The leather on the D2000's seems pretty thick, though, so you shouldn't run into the problem of it flaking off as you will with headphones such as the Sony MDR-V6.
The nearly 10-foot cable is double-sided (one wire to each earcup) and is covered in a cloth mesh jacket that feels durable and looks nice. Denon includes a gold-plated quarter-inch adapter for the gold-plated 8-inch (3.5 mm) stereo minijack connection.
Denon makes a big deal about the headphones' microfiber diaphragms--the drivers that create the sound waves that your ears hear. According to Denon, the microfiber can be thinner than the cellulose drivers normally used in headphones, but is very dense.
This means that the driver can be rigid enough to produce the necessary sound waves, while being more agile and therefore more responsive, which theoretically should help it to produce more realistic sounds. In practice, these headphones produce nice, deep bass with clear definition, while producing crisp high frequencies and a smooth midrange.
For example, when I listened to "Candela" by the Buena Vista Social Club, the D2000's did a great job of keeping up with the deep driving bass part, while preserving the crisp slaps of the fast-paced percussion. The staccato plucking on guitar strings in the beginning of the track sounded quite realistic, and Ibrahim Ferrer's vocals practically sound as though he's in the room, while the multipart harmonies retained the characteristics of each of the singer's voices rather than becoming one big muddy batch.
Put another way, the Denon AH-D2000s are a great set of home headphones. However, are they worth their $350 asking price? I had the opportunity to compare them with the Sennheiser HD 600s, which can be had for about the same price. The Sennheisers have an open-air design and cloth-covered ear pads, but I ended up enjoying the Denons more.
I think I enjoyed the Denons more mostly because they delivered more powerful bass than the Sennheisers, though their closed design might have something to do with that. However, the Sennheisers also aren't nearly as comfortable to wear, despite the fact that they are lighter then the AH-D2000s.
Can you get a pair of headphones that delivers a more pleasing sound quality? Probably--there are plenty of worthwhile candidates available. However, given high-end audio's rule of diminishing returns, you may pay quite a bit more for the incremental improvement. In the meantime, the Denon AH-D2000s should satisfy even the most demanding audiophiles. E-mail to a friend
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