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Denon AH-C300 Urban Raver review: In-ear headphones for bass lovers

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The Good In-ear headphone dishes out maximum thump for bass aficionados; works as iPhone headset with integrated microphone; has click-wheel volume/pause controls on the right earpiece.

The Bad The AH-C300's cables don't detach, so when they break you will have to get the headphones repaired. The sound is better suited to rock and hip-hop than jazz or classical music. They're larger than average for in-ear headphones.

The Bottom Line The Denon AH-C300 Urban Raver in-ear headphones deliver ample bass and will please hip-hop and rock fans with its lively dynamics and treble detailing.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 7

Review Sections

Denon's Web site isn't shy about what sort of buyer the company had in mind for the AH-C300 Urban Raver in-ear headphones ($249). The company claims that the not-so-tiny headphones will deliver "a bone-jarring, brutally powerful bass experience." My bones definitely weren't jarred, but the bass is unusually potent. There's lots of it, and the quality and definition of the bass is awfully impressive.

The AH-C300's bass response is supplied by two 11.5mm drivers in each earpiece, and the two drivers use Denon's "Double Air Compression Driver Technology" to generate maximum bass output. The other notable design feature is the way the iPhone compatible mic and controls are integrated into the right earpiece. (Android and other non-Apple phone users are out of luck.)

The AH-C300's bass-emphasized sound won't please every taste, but if you crave bass and a highly dynamic sound, there's a lot to like about these headphones. If you enjoy a broad range of jazz or classical music, the AH-C300's overly abundant bass might be too much of a good thing.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features
The gloss-black, molded-plastic earpieces don't have the look or feel of an expensive headphone design, and while they're commendably light I was very aware of their bulk and size. The right earpiece has Denon’s patent-pending spring-loaded mini control wheel and integrated microphone. To adjust the volume, you turn the wheel; press the center of the wheel to play/pause the music or answer a phone call. It's great that you'll never have to fumble around looking for the AH-C300's controls or mic, but you need to apply a bit of pressure to the controls to make them work; that can disturb the fit of the earpiece.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Speaking of fit, the AH-C300 comes with one set of Comply TX-400M eartips, standard silicon tips (XS, S, M, L), and double solid silicon tips (S, M, L). Denon also includes silicon ear stabilizers designed to hug the inside curves of your outer ear. Even so, the fit was never all that secure; I felt a need to keep pushing the earpieces in because the 54-inch-long "Y" cables hanging straight down had a tendency to pull on them.

Depending on the shape of your outer ears, the cable may put mild pressure against your earlobes. The Bowers & Wilkins C5 in-ear headphones' cables do the same thing. Most folks won't have a comfort issue with either set of headphones, but some will.

The AH-C300 cable is fairly thick and the ends are reinforced where the wire connects to the earpieces. At the other end is a 3.5mm right-angle plug. Alas, the AH-C300's cables are nonremovable (not user-replaceable). That's unfortunate, because over the long term the chances are high the cable will break -- on the AH-C300 or any other well-used headphones. Denon is hardly the only company making nonremovable cables, so I can't judge them too harshly for this misstep. But note that a few manufacturers of in-ear headphones (Shure and Ultimate Ears, for example) do offer models with replaceable cables.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Accessories include a nicely finished, zippered leather carrying case with detachable carabiner and a 6.3mm gold-plated phono adapter plug.

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