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Denon AH-D7100 Music Maniac Headphones Review

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Denon AH-D7100 Music Maniac Headphones

Denon AH-D7100 Music Maniac Headphones

Summary

  • Product Name: AH-D7100 Music Maniac Headphones
  • Manufacturer: Denon
  • Review Date: February 20, 2013 07:05
  • MSRP: $1199
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • Buy Now
  • Driver Size: 50 mm
  • Driver Type: Dynamic, Free Edge Nano Fiber
  • Impedance: 25-ohms
  • Sensitivity: 110 dB/mW
  • Maximum power input: 1800mW
  • Frequency Response: 5~ 45,000 Hz
  • Weight: 13 oz (370 g)
  • Ear Cups: Real Mahogany Wood
  • Ear Hanger: Glass Fiber Reinforced Mold
  • Headband: Adjustable Slider, covered in Protein Leather
  • Ear pads: Patent-pending pentagonally shaped Memory Foam Ear pads, covered in Protein Leather Detachable Cable Connections (R&L earcups)
  • Accessories Included: 3 foot long audio cable with in-line remote & microphone, with 3.5mm audio jack, 10 foot long 7N-OFC mesh, covered audio cable with ¼” gold plated audio jack Desktop, Display Stand Carrying Pouch, Detachable Karabiner (for carrying case)

If you've watched a lot of our video reviews you may have heard me mention my Denon reference headphones from time to time. To compare over the ear and even in-ear headphones we always go back to the Denon AH-D2000s (which sound similar to the D1000's we reviewed). And, after several years of trying various headphones, I didn't think I'd ever find another pair that would sound as good. And that's all I'm going to say for now, otherwise I'll spoil the review and you'll just click off and watch some cat video or fail compilation. I know you oh too well...

OK, so describing the build quality isn't a big deal with headphones. We're essentially going to go over the cups, the drivers, the head band and case, and the cord.

Let's start with the cups. The ones on these $1200 headphones are African mahogany and are, according to Denon, actually hand carved by Zambian monks... well, they're hand carved, we added that last part. The AH-D7100s are a big departure from Denon's D7000 or D5000 headphones in terms of their design. Gone are the dangling free-floating earcups, replaced by a molded design that seems to be a modern trend dominating a lot of the more popular brands. It's kind of a shame, actually, since these beautiful mahogany earcups are largely hidden underneath the plastic outer shell. The pads are made from memory foam wrapped in protein leather, which is a synthetic material that has the feel of natural leather, but is tougher and more durable. Even after hours of wear, the phones felt comfortable on our ears and the ear pads didn't tend to sweat our skin.

mahogany cups

The drivers for the D7100 are custom-developed 50 mm Free Edge Nano Fiber Drivers. The drivers are essentially affixed to a polypropylene rubber surround before they meet with the baffle. These 25-ohm headphones have 110db sensitivity, considerably more than the D2000s, and claim a frequency response of 5Hz to 45kHz.

nano driver

1/4The phones are just really comfortable, though the movement of the cups is limited compared to Denon's prior design since they sit within a durable glass fiber-filled plastic housing. The headband has an integrated slide that will extend the reach enough to accommodate just about any size head. About the only other thing to talk about before I go into my listening tests is the cord. It splits at the top and plugs into each earcup... and it's actually removable, so you can completely replace it with a high-end model of your own choosing. We actually think this is pretty cool since everyone in the high end headphone market seems to differ on what's best... fabric, flat, rubber... Denon gives you two cables: one that matches what's used on the D5000 - a 10 foot long 7N-OFC mesh-covered model with a 1/4” gold plated audio jack, and a 3 foot rubber cable with in-line remote & microphone. During music playback the 3-button remote works as you'd expect... the outside buttons control volume and the center button handles play, pause, and track skip functions.

iPhone cable

OK, that's the headphones in terms of design, but what about sound? We queued up some Chopin (Etude in C Minor Op. 10/2) which is a particularly dynamic track and settled in for a listen. This track is all piano, but it uses nearly the entire lower to upper-mid range of the instrument and does so in a very dynamic manner. From the first strike to the rapid succession of runs up and down the keys, the Denon headphones placed the piano just in front of me and in a sort of curved wrap-around from left to right. It was as if I was sitting just behind the pianist, watching through a fish-eye lens. In case you haven't figured it out, the effect was very realistic and tonality on the piano, as well as the naturally-captured reverb, was rich and spacious.

That wasn't the only classical track I listened to, but I want to move on and hit up some other genres. I can't think of anything more opposite than Yello's The Eye album. I immediately went to track 5 "Junior B" which, in addition to some beautiful and raw female vocals, features a series of bass drops around 2:35 that simply go too low for most speakers or headphones to carry throughout the full length. The Denon Music Maniacs would make these guys proud. While I don't think there is much (in terms of practicality) to the 5Hz low frequency response, at least it's a good indicator that the AH-D7100 won't give up or give out on anything that the mix and mastering engineers heard in the studio. If anything we noted a bit of additional bass beyond what we would have expected, given our familiarity with the tracks.

beats plastic overmold

dire straitsWe had to queue up some Dire Straits "Money for Nothing" simply because, well, it's an absolutely fantastic track. It has one of the most excellent stereo guitar and drum tracks I've ever heard... and the dueling vocal harmonies are fantastic in that they're not panned way out, so you can really tell if your speakers can handle the depth of the track. The D7100's really delivered a wide soundstage with this track, wider than I would have expected from headphones, but they also didn't create a hole in the middle where the vocals were supposed to be, nor did they collapse the vocals into my head. Instead, the vocals were just out in front, delivering a nice intimate listening experience—despite the power of the track. This is a song you can listen to over and over again on these headphones, and each time you'll pick up something new that you missed the last time through. 

steely dan goldSteely Dan was next, with "Deacon Blues", and the D7100s rendered the delicate drum track with all of its minutia intact. The accompanying synth, electric piano and tenor sax were authentic (particularly the sax solo towards the middle of the track) and Donald Fagen's vocals are just solid.

Then, for fun, we queued up a track that has about 10 minutes worth of Japanese Taiko drums. This is a pristine recording and it will decimate most loudspeakers with its dynamic range and powerful low bass hits that seem to decay forever. The Denon's did pretty well, though we aren't sure any headphone is capable of playing this track perfectly in the way it's intended. With the AH-D7100's, even the powerful low hits were well-represented, with beautiful natural reverb and the ringing decay that characterizes what happens when you smack very large drums in the presence of other drums. I could listen to this track on a good pair of speakers or headphones all day.

Overall, these are excellent headphones that will provide you with a significant step up over the hip-hop models circulating on TV informercials (where, apparently, the color of your headphones is more important that how they sound). They aren't perfect, mind you. We felt the bass was slightly accentuated, though it's certainly pleasing and not overbearing by any means. And, like other molded headphones, the AH-D7100's can become slightly uncomfortable right at the top of the head for those with smaller noggins. Overall they seem to be designed for larger skulls... like mine... hmmm... almost a custom fit...

What kind of headphones do you use? That's the question for this week. Let us know by commenting on our video at Youtube.com/audioholicslive. And don't forget to Like us on Facebook where we post throughout the day as we review home theater equipment and talk to manufacturers about new products. Our Twitter account, AudioholicsLive, is pretty active as well so follow us there if you want the latest news and updates.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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Andrew Gash was the online personality for Audioholics' video reviews back in 2010. He's an accomplished video editor and scriptwriter and enjoys masochistic events such as entering 48 hour film festivals each year, for which his last several attempts have placed in various nominations and awards.

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