Think about it--there's something like 42 plus million iPods and who knows how many other MP3 players out there--and they all come with crappy headphones. Clearly, it's a heady time for aftermarket headphone manufacturers. Denon Electronics, a name we normally associate with high-quality home theater components, apparently took note of the burgeoning sales opportunities and recently introduced five headphones, including two in-ear models, the AH-C350 ($50) and the model we're reviewing here, the AH-C700 ($200). The latter is available in either a silver or black finish.
As with most canalphone designs, the AH-C700's eartips must be pushed directly into your ear canals to deliver the full sound-isolating potential and bass response. To that end, the headphone comes with small, medium, and large hemispherical silicone earpieces, and chances are that one of the three will be a perfect fit your ears. We found the AH-C700 easy to wear over long periods, but some listeners may find the AH-C700 (and other in-ear headphones) uncomfortable, and their sonic isolation makes them less than ideal for jogging outdoors or walking on busy city streets. We can't fathom why, but Denon neglected to include any sort of travel pouch or carrying case with the AH-C700. We stowed the headphones in our pockets where the earpieces picked up a small amount of dust and dirt. Yuck! We removed the earpieces from the headphones every few days to wash them under running water.
The headphones' all-metal design feels more robust and "high-end" than more typical molded plastic designs and its beautifully finished aluminum connector is fitted with a gold-plated, 3.5mm mini jack. The 45-inch long OFC (oxygen-free copper) cables cable proved to be less tangle-prone than most headphone wires.
The AH-C700's sound is definitely bassy, but the treble is still very lively and detailed. To be honest, the plump bass might be a bit too much for those that prefer balanced audio, but as guilty pleasures go, the AH-C700 sounds very right to us.
The headphone's sound-isolating talents were put to the test on the New York City subway system. It didn't do much to banish the low rumble of the trains or dramatically hush the screeching sounds of the wheels against the tracks. Its sound-isolating abilities are about average--our reference Etymotic ER 4 Micro Pro in-ear headphones ($299) more effectively blocked out the din. Ah, but when we played Arcade Fire's Neon Bible the AH-C700's bass clobbered the ER 4's. The mighty 500-pipe organ in the Saint Jean Baptiste church in Montreal that opens "Intervention" positively thundered over the Denon and the bass drum's thuds were more convincingly percussive and drumlike. The Etymotic's sound offered somewhat greater clarity, but we missed the Denon's soul-satisfying warmth. In the end, we'd call it a draw.
We next compared the AH-C700 with Bose's recently revised TriPort In-Ear headphones ($100). OK, the AH-C700 is twice the Bose's price, so it wasn't all that fair a contest. The Denon's bass and treble detail resolution were well ahead of the Bose's, but the Bose's sound was more "open," and less stuck inside the head. And since the Bose design is more like an earbud, it doesn't seal out external sound, making it a better choice for joggers and others who need to be aware of their surroundings. We did note the Denon could play louder than the Bose.