Towards the end of 2012, Denon launched a new series of headphones as part of a concerted effort to gain greater relevance in today’s audio market. The new range of products was classified into four different categories intended to appeal to different demographics. Denon presented us with the Urban Raver for bass-heads, the Globe Cruiser for business professionals, the Exercise Freak for the fitness minded and the Music Maniac for the audiophiles. The AHD-7100 is the premium offering from the Music Maniac series and is intended to provide the highest levels of performance.
Before we even begin to delve into the design, hardware and features of the Denon AHD-7100, the most important fact to keep in mind is its price. The headphones cost a bomb and have a price-tag of S$1699. Obviously this fact will be taken into consideration when evaluating, analyzing and passing judgment on the various aspects of the product.
With regards to aesthetics, the AHD-7100 doesn't look like its asking price. We have previously indulged in expensive, high end headphones like the Audio Technica ATH-W3000ANV and the Beyerdynamic T90 which both give a premium feel with their design and their appearances. Unfortunately this Denon competitor is unable to match their lofty standards. In our opinion, the silver finish and brown accents of the headphones are thoroughly blasé.
Denon has used hand-carved mahogany for the construction of the ear-cups. It is a shame that the wooden textures are hidden away under the housing body of the headphones. Perhaps if Denon had followed Audio Technica’s lead and made the wooden ear-cups the main design aesthetic of the headphones, the AHD-7100 would not have received such a low score for design, of which aesthetics are a part. That being said, mahogany has bright and warm tonal characteristics. It is an excellent wood to incorporate into audio products and a personal favorite of ours for its tone, but does this implementation from Denon please us? Find out more in the next page as we describe the outcome from our listening tests.
Driver size for the AHD-7100 is 50mm which is on the larger side, even for high end headphones. But the most interesting specification is the impedance which is just 25 Ohms. This level is actually comparable to IEMs (in-ear monitors) as opposed to other high-end headphones. To put it in perspective the Sennhesier HD700 and the Beyerdynamic T90 have an impedance of 150 Ohms and 250 Ohms respectively. The low impedance of the AHD-7100, in conjunction with the 3.5mm jack, makes it so that the Denon headphones can be used with portable music players and notebooks without the need of extra amplification. However, on the flipside we will have to see how the choice of low impedance affects the audio performance of the product. To further boost the usability of the headphones with portable players, an in-line control pod is also provided.
As high end headphones are intended for dedicated listening over long duration, comfort is an integral part of the product. While our personal preference is skewed towards a loose fit, the AHD-7100 was too loose even by our standards. We almost felt as if turning our head too fast would send the headphones flying off. This obviously resulted in an uneasy wearing experience.
The cushioning for the ear-cups is made from memory foam and the ear-cups themselves have a ball and socket design which makes them very gentle on the ears. It must also be stated that the ear-cups are nice and roomy. While overheating is a problem after extended use, it was not extreme and fell within an acceptable range after taking into account the duration of time spent wearing the headphones.