These Denon AH-D7000s are the most exciting headphones of the year, and they've trumped our previous favourites, the D5000s. At £800 they're very expensive, but they also provide excellent sound quality with rock, folk, acoustic, electronic and metal alike
Denon's AH-D5000 headphones were previously our favourite pair of cans since the Sennheiser HD 650s. Now they've got an official successor in the form of the Denon AH-D7000s.
These �800 monsters were, for us, the most exciting headphones of the year, and after over a month of testing and daily listening, we're ready to sing their praises. They're on sale now.
The D7000s give an even higher level of luxury than their D5000 brothers -- if that's possible -- with glossy varnished mahogany enclosures, golden lettering than doesn't wear off over time, and larger, softer leather earcups. They're also a little more snug than the last version, clinging to the head better.
Although unchanged internally, cabling has been improved. The D7000's Elastomer cable is less prone to tangling and more resistant to being repeatedly packed away and unpacked. Good news, because our in-house D5000 cabling is looking battered these days.
Of course one of the main selling points of the D5000s was the use of real wood to house the drivers. This appears largely unchanged here -- they exhibit the same natural warmth that the wood provided in the previous model.
What hasn't changed much to look at is the padded leather headband, which still extends delicately on ball bearings. We found them extremely comfortable, with looser clasp to the skull than the HD 650s, but more so than the D5000s. They're one of the most comfortable pairs of headphones we've ever used for hours of perpetual listening, beating the Audio Technica, Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic models we've become so fond of over the years.
Inside these lightweight enclosures are microfibre diaphragms, and behind them a 50mm Neodymium magnet. Denon claims the D7000s feature more powerful circuitry than before, enhancing the magnetic power of the drive unit by just over 10 per cent.
Many other specifications remain largely unchanged. The cans can handle a 1,800mW maximum input, respond to frequencies between 5Hz-45kHz, feature 3m of 7N-OFC cabling, and offer a very low impedance of 25ohms. But they have a slightly increased sensitivity of 108dB/mW, however, compared to the D5000's 106dB/mW, helping to yield a marginally louder output.
What's interesting about these headphones is their impedance, or the amount of power required by an amplifier to drive them. Such a low impedance means they're more easily handled by portable players such as iPods, whereas more power-hungry cans really should be used with a headphone amplifier of some kind.
As such, we've tested these headphones with our usual reference amplifier (coincidentally also a Denon), and a hand-built Woo Audio 2 valve-based headphone amp -- which, actually, is typically more suitable for higher impedance headphones. Our musical choices came from both CD and Apple Lossless-encoded files from an iPod classic, via an Arcam rDock.
The first thing we noticed was the tighter, slightly less boomy bass. These cans have a hugely extended low-end response, and to accompany it is an even more transparent, open and detailed treble. A hi-hat rudiment during Ingrid Michaelson's Starting Now was just that bit clearer through the D7000s -- just that little bit more detailed and more believable.
Only a lunatic would try to convince anyone that these headphones aren't noticeably better than their predecessor. Their sound quality is truly beautiful, even more velvety-smooth than ever before. With that explosively deep bass being more controlled, and the rich high-end even more greatly extended, the soundstage created by the D7000s is remarkable to say the least.
We gave Handel's Zadok The Priest some time through the D7000/Woo Audio setup, beside both the D5000s and Sennheiser HD 650s. The beautiful crescendo of strings leading up to the first burst from the choir was warm and rich, bringing a greater sense of presence to the listener than through the D5000s.
Also noteworthy is that through the Sennheisers we heard a choir, whereas through the D7000s we heard individual voices; each vocalist was more identifiable as a person through the Denons -- pinpointing one voice through the D7000s is just that bit easier.
But these are, of course, closed-back headphones. Like their younger brethren, they still deliver an incredibly open sound, but this is where headphones like the HD 650s or AKG K 701s will always triumph.
The D7000s, however, are just as capable with all genres as the D5000s were. The extended treble makes classical recordings even more enjoyable (particularly from SACD), but they're also incredible with electronic music, dance, drum 'n' bass and anything else that's driven by the cataclysmic bass offered by this headphone. The same goes for rock and metal -- the clarity and presence of the mid-range makes powerful instrumentation vibrant and in your face, while retaining essential separation between instruments and each different type of cymbal on the drum kit.
We also really enjoyed Porchrail -- the opening track from Jenny Owen Youngs' Batten The Hatches. A deep double bass plods along underneath acoustic guitars, sweet female vocals and brushes on a loud snare drum. We've never felt more present in the studio, and that double bass has never, not even through the HD 650s, sounded this good. Another example of a genre the D7000s are admirably capable of reproducing.
We just can't love these enough. There isn't a single genre these headphones can't handle, though they truly excel at rock, folk, acoustic, electronic and metal. Their clarity and detail is among the best in the world, and their almost seismic low end will never bore drum 'n' bass fans.
If you can only just afford the D5000s and worry you're missing out, don't worry. The D5000s are still a shockingly detailed headphone, and when we give the D7000s back to Denon and revert to our D5000s, we won't feel like we're missing out on the subtle nuances of our favourite songs.
But if you can afford the extra few hundred and want one of the best headphones in the world, this is it. The D5000s put the icing on the cake, but the D7000s add the artistic decoration to turn that cake into a masterpiece.
Edited by Marian Smith