Denon AH-D1001 Headphones
by John Crossett
||"The first thing I
noticed after slipping the 'D1001s over my ears is that they offered an abundance of deep
bass. But that bass wasnt simply deep; it was deep with authority and clarity."
"In the midrange, the AH-D1001s re-created voices that were naturally rendered with all
the subtle inflections that mark how singers enunciate their words." "However, the
AH-D1001s are a bit on the dark side of neutral, though not objectionably so."
||"The Denon AH-D1001
headphones are small, good-looking, and light at 6.3 ounces. They use a closed-back
circumaural design that fits over the ear." "Their size also makes them small enough
to wear in public without looking out of place. They have 32-ohm impedance and 130dB/mW
sensitivity, making them easy to drive. Their frequency response is a claimed 8Hz-37kHz."
closed-back headphones the AH-D1001s do not keep the world out. Noise from around you leaks in
at a rate usually reserved only for open-backed designs. But they do a decent job of keeping
the music youre listening to from escaping."
||"For the price I
dont see much in the way of competition for the 'D1001s. They open up the world of
high-quality headphone sound to the iPod crowd."
When I was a young music lover, a typical audio
system was made up of two speakers, a receiver and a turntable -- with maybe a
cassette deck too. Today kids are turning to the iPod and/or a computer to handle their
music reproduction, so choosing a good pair of headphones may be the most important audio
purchase a music-loving youngster makes today. But what sets good headphones apart from
the cheap earbuds Apple includes with their iPod? Should headphones be open backed or
closed, or possibly even IEMs (in-ear monitors)? These are only a couple of the questions
headphone buyers will have going through their heads.
Luckily, no one has to spend a lot of money to
gain improved sound. The decision as to whether or not to go for open- or closed-backed
phones, full-size headphones or IEMs, is a personal one, but if you decide to go the
full-sized, closed-back route and dont want to spend several hundred dollars, then
the Denon AH-D1001 ($149 USD, but can be found for less on the street) is a good place to
begin, and maybe even end.
The AH-D1001s defined
The Denon AH-D1001 headphones are small,
good-looking, and light at 6.3 ounces. They use a closed-back circumaural design that fits
over the ear. With the backs dressed in matte-black plastic with matching black
"pleather" earpads and headpad, the 'D1001s offer a classy look. Their size also
makes them small enough to wear in public without looking out of place. They have 32-ohm
impedance and 130dB/mW sensitivity, making them easy to drive. Their frequency response is
a claimed 8Hz-37kHz. They use a 40mm micro-fiber diaphragm with a neodymium magnet.
Denon uses high-quality oxygen-free copper for
the thin (by audiophile standards) cabling, which splits about a foot below the earcups
into non-replaceable right and left feeds. Another really intelligent aspect is that the
initial cord is only a meter in length, which is perfect for use with an iPod. Then,
should it be necessary, you can add the included three-meter extension cable for more
maneuverability. The AH-D1001s come terminated with a 1/8" jack and include a clip-on
1/4" adapter, both gold plated.
Despite being closed-back headphones, the
AH-D1001s do not keep the world out. Noise from around you leaks in at a rate usually
reserved only for open-backed designs. But they do a decent job of keeping the music
youre listening to from escaping. This makes these good headphones to wear late at
night while sitting in the room with a sleeping spouse. Finally, Denon also includes a
drawstring bag to keep the AH-D1001s in like-new condition when not in use.
The main system I used to evaluate the Denon
headphones was my iPod full of Apple Lossless files, either alone or connected to my
HeadRoom Portable Micro Amp with DAC via an ALO Bling Bling Silver line-out cable. To get
the fullest sense of what the 'D1001s could do, I clipped on the 1/4" adapter and
extension cable and plugged the 'phones into my Original Electronics Master headphone amp,
which was connected to my Audio Research LS17 preamp. Sources were a Stello CDA320 CD
player and Esoteric SA-10 CD/SACD player. All interconnects were Analysis Plus Solo
Just make sure you give the AH-D1001s adequate
time to run in before passing final judgment. In the beginning, I found that the bass came
across as too prominent, masking all of the other positive attributes in the low
frequencies. There is also a pre burn-in "film" that overlaid the musical
spectrum. After I gave the 'D1001s 50 to 100 hours of run-in, the frequency spectrum
started to even out and that "film" began to disappear.
The first thing I noticed after slipping the
'D1001s over my ears was that they offered an abundance of deep bass. But that bass
wasnt simply deep; it was deep with authority and clarity. Tight and clean, the bass
exhibited little overhang and no mushiness. When I listened to the new CD by Stanley
Clarke, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten, a.k.a. S.M.V., called Thunder [Heads Up
HUCD3163], I clearly heard each of the different sonic signatures of all three bass
players. This came as a nice surprise because on most cuts they all played together. Most
inexpensive headphones will fail to distinguish among the three, instead creating a
mish-mash of sound. But this differentiation gave me a clear indication of the 'D1001s'
ability to keep separate instrumental lines that exist in similar frequency bands.
In the midrange, the AH-D1001s re-created voices
that were naturally rendered with all the subtle inflections that mark how singers
enunciate their words. As I listened to the Wailin Jennys Firecracker CD [Red
House Records RHR CD 195], the AH-D1001s allowed me to hear the innocent wispiness of each
of the three female vocalists on "This Heart of Mine." Each singer was portrayed
as unique while still blending with the others in the manner that makes listening to the
Jennys harmonies so enjoyable. The acoustic tone, timbre and definition of the instruments
that populate this album sounded very much as I expect they did in the studio. The
midrange did seem a bit recessed at first, but the longer I listened the clearer it
became, and suddenly that initial reticence wasnt anywhere near as apparent.
Moving up the sonic ladder, the AH-D1001s' treble
kept the upper frequencies clean and clear without veering over the line into clinical. A
cymbal sounded just like a brass plate struck by a wooden stick. A violin had that silky
sheen I hear live. However, the AH-D1001s are a bit on the dark side of neutral, though
not objectionably so. After full burn-in they offered up a pleasingly coherent overall
sound that excelled at popular music -- or any music that depended on its beat to drive
the sound along. The only aspect missing was that last degree of air and space that gives
a sense of the transient wafting off into eternity. This is not by any means a deal
breaker -- Ive heard far more expensive headphones that have the same problem -- but
it is something to keep in mind if the upper treble is important to you.
The dynamic abilities of the Denon 'phones are
only fair. This could explain why they sound so good with pop and rock -- music that is
usually highly compressed to begin with. One thing that helps the D1001s overcome their
lack of dynamic prowess is their clarity. This clarity also aids them in doing a pretty
fair job on jazz, folk and blues. Yet even their clarity doesnt help on music with
wide dynamic swings such as classical, where they sound too flat and constricted to be
totally convincing. If your favorite music contains large dynamic swings, I would suggest
looking elsewhere. But for popular music the Denon headphones are going to be hard to
Surprisingly for an inexpensive closed-back
headphones, the AH-D1001s do very creditable job with image placement. No, soundstaging is
not their strong point; its not the strong point of any headphones. However, the
closed-back AH-D1001s seem to be able to transcend those limitations to a degree and offer
a real sense of air and space. This allowed the soundstage lover in me to smile as I
picked out where each musician was located in the mix. The album rodrigo y gabreila
[ATO0030 88088-21557-2] is just two acoustic guitars. One is on the right and the other to
the left. Both were kept in their own acoustic space by the 'D1001s. The Denon 'phones let
me hear each line as a separate entity. The rhythm and pace that are so important in
keeping the duos version of "Stairway to Heaven" moving along was carried off
wonderfully by the 'D1001s.
Most important for the iPod crowd, the AH-D1001s
will sound just fine run straight from the headphone jack of an iPod. The high sensitivity
of the D1001s means the amp section of the iPod is powerful enough to let me hear most of
what the Denon headphones were capable of reproducing. However, using a good headphone
amplifier will let these headphones more fully show their true sonic capabilities. That Thunder
album I mentioned above was more emotionally involving when I used either my HeadRoom
Portable Micro amp with DAC or my standalone Original Electronics Master headphone amp.
The extra oomph that those amps offered seemed to add another half octave to the bass. The
added power also made the 'D1001s sound more dynamic than they do when run straight from
the iPod's headphone jack. Using the amps also wiped the background window a bit, letting
the music emerge from a darker background. But the good news is an outboard amp is not
a necessity. The Denons can be used either way with little sonic penalty.
Until now my reference for inexpensive
closed-back headphones were the AKG K81 DJs (about $55 street price, sadly no longer
available). These sit on the ear (supra-aural) as opposed to the way the Denon headphones
rest far more comfortably around the ear.
Once I had listened to both back to back it was
obvious that there was a clear winner. The Denons handily bettered the AKGs by offering a
more even overall sonic picture. All aspects, from the bass to the midrange through to the
treble, flowed more seamlessly together through the Denons headphones, which is what live
music is supposed to sound like. The AKGs took more of a "Hey, look at me" view
to the different aspects of the music.
Starting in the nether regions, the bass via the
'D1001s was deeper, cleaner, and tighter with more definition than the
deep-but-less-defined bass of the AKGs. While the midrange was similar, the Denon 'phones
out-pointed the AKGs due to their more even integration. Up top the Denons were far more
extended and displayed greater definition. The AKGs sounded rolled off in comparison. Both
are on the dark side of neutral, but with their better definition and clarity the 'D1001s
seem better equipped to overcome this deviation from neutrality. Finally, the Denon
headphones come with a nice short cord that makes it easier to use them with an iPod or
laptop. When I needed the cord to be longer, I just attached the Denon-provided
three-meter extension cord. The AKGs, on the other hand, have a cable more suited to home
use, requiring me to either loop it somewhere or pay to have someone shorten it.
The Denon AH-D1001s easily bettered the AKG K81
DJs sonically. They have now become my new reference in inexpensive closed-back
With the shifting focus from the component stereo
of my youth to the portable music carriers like the iPod, its become more important
than ever to find good-sounding headphones. This is especially true for people like me who
desire to listen to the highest-quality musical reproduction they can afford. The Denon
AH-D1001s are headphones that should be given serious consideration when that upgrades bug
bites. They offer a long list of strengths, including very good overall sound (which
should be job one), an affordable price, great comfort, and good looks combined in a
small, fairly portable package. The fact that they can be used with or without a headphone
amp with little sonic penalty is also a plus.
Yes, there are better headphones. Denon offers
models that will offer you better sound from closed-back designs, but at a much higher
cost. For the price, I dont see much in the way of competition for the 'D1001s. They
open up the world of high-quality headphone sound to the iPod crowd. In doing so they make
better sound available to those who thought that they were stuck listening to earbuds.
|Denon AH-D1001 Headphones
Price: $149 USD.
Warranty: One year parts and labor.
100 Corporate Drive
Mahwah, NJ 07430-2041
Phone: (800) 497-8921
Fax: (888) 544-8434