Rewind time back a year or two and you’d find Denon making very traditional-looking headphones. It wasn’t phased by the changing fashions of the time. But things are different these days.
The Denon AH-D600 are thoroughly style-conscious headphones. These new priorities have affected the sound signature too, in a not-entirely-positive-way, but when you look at what’s on offer at the same price, it’s hard not to be attracted to these headphones.
The key to our appraisal of the Denon AH-D600 headphones is quite how cheap they’re available, compared with their RRP. Where the Sennheiser HD700 have stuck more-or-less rigidly to their original selling price, you can now snag the Denon AH-D600 for around half their £500 RRP.
At £270, these are impressive-feeling headphones. Their outer shell is anodised metal, all smooth organic curves and lines not a million miles away from what we imagine a grown-up version of the full-size Monster Beats would look like.
The white stitching on the protein leather headband and the chunky pads is another style point that helps to mark the Denon AH-D600 as quite different beasts from their predecessors.
Although the increased attention to design is not all for show, there are some less impressive build elements if you look a little closer. The inside of the metal outer is unceremonious plastic, and the pearlescent plastic that forms the mid part of the ear cups looks a tad cheap. However, the overall impression should be positive to all but Denon enthusiasts, who might ask “what on Earth are they doing?”
The Denon AH-D600 tick plenty of functionality boxes. They’re closed-backed aside from some well-hidden acoustic ports and provide decent noise isolation. Their dual-sided cable is completely removable, using a 3.5mm jack at the bottom of each earcup.
To max-out flexibility, Denon includes two cables. There’s a 1.8m portable cable for use outdoors, which features a 3-button remote and handsfree calling housing for iPhones, and a more heavy-duty 3m cable for use at home. To top this off, Denon also bungs-in a 6.3mm converter for the 3.5mm ends of these cables and a basic fabric carry case.
Denon really wants you to use these headphones wherever you go, outside or in, although we should stress that there aren’t any functional extras in the headphones themselves. There’s no noise cancellation and no wireless streaming gubbins.
Using the Denon AH-D600 at home poses no problems. The protein leather is an extremely convincing replication of the real thing, and the pads are generously thick. Taking these headphones outside requires a little more confidence. To start, they’re very large. Extending a good way out of the side of your head, they’re conspicuous and will earn you a look or two – especially if you’re not a big, burly 20-something.
The look is classier than the Beats headphones, but there’s something of the stylistic genetic code of that range in the Denon AH-D600. Their fit is a little loose too – not too loose for walking around with, but certainly not strong enough to keep them in place while out on a run.
To go with their Beats-influenced design, the Denon AH-D600 have a potentially disturbing hint of Beats audio sauce. These are very bassy headphones. The question is – are they too bassy? Destructively bassy?
It’s a close call in this case. There is an unbalancing amount of bass and, even after burn-in, we found that it did occasionally overstep its boundaries and become a muddling influence in arrangements.
However, the Denon AH-D600 do come with a few mitigating factors. Aside from the over-keen bass, the sound is very wide for a closed pair and imaging is clear and well-defined. These are truly exciting-sounding headphones that bring music to life with impressive gusto.
The treble does lack the light touch of the open-back headphones you can get at the price from Sennheiser and AKG, but it is well extended and clear. The Denon AH-D600 can’t render sounds like string arrangements with anywhere near the verve of something like the AKG Q701, though. The harmonic undercurrent of low-mids and bass frequencies stifles the texturing of such instrumentation in quite a disappointing fashion.
At £500, these issues would be severe deal-breakers, given the kind of headphones you can get at the same price or less – including the AKG Q701 and HiFiMAN HE-400. However, at £270 the outlook is quite different. That said, purely portable pair, we’d probably opt for the Sennheiser Momentum. They look better and offer better superior bass control, if a less impressive soundstage.
World-class headphones should really be largely genre-agnostic. The Denon AH-D600 headphones are not, but feed them the right content and they can sound well worth their money. They’ll make movies sound tremendously exciting and music that doesn’t rely too heavily on the mid-range will sound great.