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This review first appeared in the March 2009 issue of hifi & stereo magazine You can also read this review of the Denon AH-D7000 in its original German version. We translated it through a syndication arrangement with our German colleagues. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of or Denon. - Ed.

Reviewer: Sebastian Eilzer
Digital: Sony SCD-XB790 CD player with Musical Fidelity X-DACv3 + PSU converter
Headphones: Sennheiser HD650, AKG K701
Headphone amps: Headamp GS-1 w/DACT, Musical Fidelity X-CANv3 (modified) + PSU, Meier Audio Corda HeadFive
Review component retail: €999

Knock on wood, there's more...
At the moment, headphones sell pretty well. It's little surprise that sooner or later, this sector would roll its own luxury wares. Popular opinion of course relates to luxury as primarily charging excessively for cosmetics, lifestyle and exclusivity in a bid to flaunt one's liquidity. That contains a kernel of truth but honestly, a luxury limousine regardless of wood and leather also drives better than its mid-market cousin. To break into hifi luxury often requires princely sums that would cover a fancy car or perhaps even that cozy cottage in the woods.

It's the headphone listener who is twice blessed in that regard. She may breach such exclusivity at rather more modest club fees without giving up on the wood and leather chic. Enter Denon's AH-D7000. With its leather-covered lid and gleaming product name emblazoned, the box alone conveys elegance already. Beneath the lid coddled in fancy cloth await the headphones. Inside a massive cardboard insert, even their umbilical is nicely protected. The ear cups are crafted of real Mahogany and
finely lacquered. The head band and linkage are Magnesium and solid and well finished. The thick cable has been pulled through a cloth cover to increase tactile pleasure and terminates in a massive 6.35mm plug. A 3.5mm adaptor is lacking but it's not likely that these cans will ever be used on such inputs. Once slipped atop the head, there's instant satisfaction from the incredibly soft ear cushions. Seating pressure is very low to promise unlimited comfort. Only the sealed cups could cause some sweatiness during high room temps but that the Denons share with all other circumaural designs. So check in the affirmative, this new arrival does indeed a powerful fit'n'finish impression make. Merely looking of course won't do. Hence powering up the can amp it was, then instant plug and play.

and a spontaneous grin is unavoidable. Doubts and hesitation prove unfounded. The Denon AH-D7000 is no mere poseur. The sound delivers on the luxo packaging and is instantly different from most others. The longer one listens, the more pronounced this distinction becomes. Where most headphones, particularly sealed designs, create their soundstage very close to the head, the Denon manages a rather greater distance to better approach a regular loudspeaker perspective.

Still, intimacy survives. Given the right music, goose bumps are predestined to guarantee hours of listening pleasure sans fatigue. That's because artificial staging keeps the listener at bay as though he were observing a concert from the last row. With its sealed transducers, the Denon does bridge this gap very well. Its wooden chamber response creates fetching dimensionality yet voices remain intense enough to trigger an emotional response. It's really the rare recording that elicits a desire for more instrumental presence whereas voices are delivered clear and articulate no matter what.

New headphones always mandate a getting-used-to period but here the Denon behaves differently too. While sounding distinctive right away, no disconnect is triggered. One embraces the presentation immediately and the bass quality is instantly obvious. Simply put, the Denon continues where others give up. One standard criticism with headphones is that one doesn't feel true sub bass. While many cans will reproduce the low tones quite precisely, they do so relatively homogenized and tame when compared to the gritty impact of good loudspeakers. To avoid misapprehensions, not even the 7000 can compete with a well-tuned listening room - but, it hides this separation far better.

It delivers the very low bass with uncommon pressure and weight at the ear. While objectively speaking it's somewhat emphasized, combined with the unavoidable lack of gut impact it makes for a very passable illusion of infrasonics. Unlike its D2000 and D5000 stable mates, the AH-D7000 also neatly avoids the mistake of thickening up the entire bass region. Its low bass is flanked by a very taut and well-contoured mid and upper bass. Being familiar with the two other models, this perhaps came as my greatest surprise. Though ultimately not drastic perhaps, this difference turns the AH-D7000 into a headphone I can happily live with. Should a sudden urge for Mezzanine by Massive Attack awake you in the middle of the night, you needn't wait for the morning to fire up the grown-up speakers to the proper mayhem levels. From the first pounding bass shudders, the AH-D7000 will deliver on its implied luxury promise.

In the midband, I couldn't detect any distortion. Instruments presented themselves garbed in natural timbres. An interesting comparison was at hand with Argentinia-born cellist Sol Gabetta. She concertized twice, once live in the chamber music hall of the Berlin Philharmonic, then via CD over the Denon. It'd be sad if the concert wasn't the more compelling experience. But, the headphone session still captured the peculiar virtuosity and sheer joy of playing akin to the live event. The 7000's rich nuances made for a persuasive and realistic performance. Voices move nicely into the foreground with proper redolence to bestow the requisite sonority also on male vocals. Certain wooden cans pursue their vocal emphasis with colorations that seem pleasing at first only to be condemned as guilty of distortion in the long run. The Denon stays well clear there. Driver and enclosure seem perfectly tuned to each other.

The Stockfisch sampler Closer to the Music Vol 1 & 2 offers excellent opportunities to tease out the true palette of midrange nuances. Here the Denon betrayed no weakness. It served the music without effort or complications. Voices remained attached to real bodies. I never felt suspicious that the AH-7000 brushed things under the table or hit its limits. The musical essence was conveyed very transparently and the treble too elicited zero complaints. Sibilants never were overcooked, something that's vital for relaxed long-term sessions. This isn't accomplished by hooding or restraint. To get specific, Katie Melua's first album Call of the Search was perfect. This release celebrates her gorgeous pipes but is let down by peaky mastering. Many cans get harsh as a result and listening becomes an effort. While the Denon couldn't rectify the mastering mistakes, the essential beauty of the music remained untouched. I could listen through the entire album without real issues.

Needless to say, the Denon won't cover all eventualities equally well. With this or that CD, other designs are superior. With vast recorded space such as churches for example, the AH-D7000 lacks the kind of airiness only open-backed designs will deliver. Fortunately the can-jam genre makes it possible to afford alternate options for special occasions or to simply undermine boredom from sameness.

Different from certain highly specialized entrants, the AH-D7000 covers a very broad band of programmatic choices. As is true for any upper-class cans, serious listening of course means
deliberation about proper amplification. The Denon is no different and obviously profits in precision and impulse response as ancillaries improve. With its very high sensitivity however, even weaker output sockets won't be the limiting factor when it comes to sheer SPLs.

What Denon has released here is more than impressive. While certain headphone aficionados might react affronted by the sticker depending on the state of their purses, there's ample justification for it. The AH-D7000 is a highly resolved choice that soundstages in a way many will instantly admire. I predict in fact that the Denon will make the transition from regular speaker to headphone listening far easier than most other cans. What's more, the 7000 is one of the very few which delivers true low bass. If you're looking for a peak-performance and comfortable alternative to standard loudspeakers, the Denon AH-D7000 becomes a mandatory audition.
redaktion @

Model: Denon AH-D7000
Type: sealed dynamic headphones
Trim: Magnesium bridge, leather ear cups
Sensitivity/nominal impedance: 108dB/mW | 25 ohms
Weight: 370g
Other: 50mm Neodymium magnet, micro-fiber diaphragm, solid Mahogany enclosures, gold-plated 6.3mm plug