The last high-end cans to come from Denon were the superb AH-D5000s. However, you needn't spend AU$1500 to get into Denon's high-end good books anymore — the AH-D2000s have just been released, and at AU$799 they're twice as affordable. Sort of. Denon states the D2000s are based on the flagship D5000s, so comparisons are naturally in order.
Instead of the D5000's mahogany enclosures, the closed-back AU$799 D2000s are built from a composite material, resulting in a silky smooth finish. This material difference affects the tone of the headphones' bass, given that wooden enclosures tend to offer a more natural sound, but we'll come to that shortly.
Present still are the exceptionally comfortable padded earcups — though the material appears to be of a slightly lower quality than that used for the D5000s — which press only lightly against the skull, offering not only comfort but, for us at least, no noticeable 'sweaty ear syndrome' even after several hours of listening.
Padded well, too, is the adjustable headband. It's mounted on what feels like ball bearings, adding a subtle but noticeable element of class.
The D2000's copper cabling is 3m in length (so no, iPod fans, you won't be taking these on the bus), over 99.9 per cent oxygen-free, encased in cloth and features a gold-plated 3.5mm plug (a screw-on 6.3mm adaptor is in the box), ensuring the 50mm neodymium magnet and Microfibre diaphragm get every last detail from your audio source. And, just like the D5000s, they'll respond to frequencies between 5Hz-45kHz and rock a sensitivity of 106dB/mW.
The same 'Acoustic Optimiser' technology, implemented in Denon's entire new earphone and headphone range, is also a part of the D2000s. This technology balances pressure both in front of and behind the diaphragm, which Denon claims provides a more natural sound.
As AU$799 closed-back cans, they excel at conveying detail — the high-end in particular is beautifully crisp and clear, without a hint of harshness. We heard terrific transparency on Jenny Owen Youngs' From Here, with excellent separation between instruments and a sonically balanced overall voice.
This clarity and separation was apparent again listening to Vanessa Carlton's orchestral masterpiece Twilight. The string section's beautifully defined crescendos throughout the track sent shivers down our back, and we were able to pick out the oboist's delicate key presses at one point, too.
It's purely subjective whether or not you like this, but we felt the D2000s lacked an element of warmth, and the composite enclosures have contributed to this. One point to note is the less prominent upper bass which, unlike the D5000s for example, doesn't blend into the mid-range.
While this didn't detract from our enjoyment, we've heard KT Tunstall's Black Horse and The Cherry Tree sound warmer through other models. The believable sound stage is still there, though, and that great separation we keep talking about helped this song still sound terrific.
Moving on to Pendulum's Propane Nightmares, a tight, clear bass, deep response and decent power were all present. Those smooth bass lines were delivered clearly, fuelled by raw power and enabling dance music to sound live.
We must mention that for closed-back cans they're remarkably open. Okay, they've not got the true openness of, say, Sennheiser's HD 650s, but they're among the most open-sounding closed headphones we've ever heard.
In this price bracket, Denon's AH-D2000s are truly outstanding. Masses of detail and a sonically neutral, balanced sound make these superb reference cans. Yes, they're half the price of the AH-D5000s, but they're far from being just half as good, making them terrific value for money.
Our one point to note is that we've heard warmer-sounding 'phones, so if this is an absolute be-all and end-all requirement, at least aim to try them out before you buy.