Denon AH-NC732 Noise Cancelling Headphones - Denon AH-NC732

By Edward Chester

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

User Score:

The noise cancelling part of the equation comes from an active system whereby a microphone on the outside of the headphones picks up all the ambient noise around you then pipes an equal and opposite signal back into the headphones, theoretically cancelling out the ambient noise and ending up with silence. In actuality, though, these systems never work flawlessly and there will always be a degree of background noise that leaks through. That said, these do seem to be among the least effective we've used in quite a while.

We think this is mainly due to the way the headphones sit on your head. You see, the fit is incredibly light, which does make them more comfortable than most on-ear designs but also means they don't seal very well over your ears, which lets a lot of ambient noise sneak through. Obviously the active system cancels some of this out but we can't help but think a slightly tighter fit (or over-ear design) would've helped in this regard.

That said, one strange upside of this is you still get a good sense of what's going on around you, just with everything being a bit quieter. This means you can still have conversations and hear the fast car approaching you from behind - two examples that truly noise-blocking canalphones can't deal with - but the constant hum of an aeroplane engine is noticeably reduced.

Unfortunately, there are no upsides to the most annoying consequence of these phones' light fit; they fall off incredibly easily. Just tipping your head forward (like you would to get something out of a travel bag, say) causes them to fall off. This makes them incredibly impractical for anything except sitting very still.

Battery life is also a problem. Just one AAA battery is required to power the set and we got a good couple of days usage out of it (Denon says the battery lasts around 40 hours), which is fine. However, if you forget to turn the set off, there's no automatic standby mode so your phones will just merrily run themselves down while stowed away in your bag. Thankfully they are at least usable even without batteries, which is more than can be said for some noise cancelling cans, but you obviously won't get any noise reduction and sound quality also takes a nose dive with bass response particularly suffering.

And this brings us nicely to the ultimate point of these phones; their sound quality. When fully powered up, they sound magnificent. For a start, bass is full and well-defined yet not overpowering, but it's the clarity at the top end that really sets these apart. Every little detail is reproduced effortlessly and there's a smoothness to the whole sound that just feels wonderfully natural. The only possible negative with regards to sound quality is that they can sound a little cold and stark when compared with something like a pair of Grados, for instance, but you quickly get used to this different tonality.

Verdict

The Denon AH-NC732's are among the best travel headphones we've used in terms of the quality of sound you get. However, we can't help but feel the on-ear design is just fundamentally flawed. After all, you still end up with quite a large case so why not make them a little bigger use larger over-ear cups, making the headphones more secure and comfortable.

Overall Score

7

Scores In Detail

  • Value 7
  • Sound Quality 9
  • Features 8
  • Design 6

Duncanf9f

December 22, 2008, 7:13 pm

I havent tried these headphones but have been using the Bose QuietComfort 3 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones for quite a few years now. Great performance both for noise reduction (but agree with comments on some noise intrusion due to the on-ear design)and music. Also lots of accessories supplied - really neat rechargable cell - lasts 20+ hours ( additional battery and acharger with adaptors for everywhere).


Price circa 𧶼 - sure they are more expensive than the Denon but .....I wouldnt be without them.


Bose also offer simialr but with over the ear design.

Frederic73

December 22, 2008, 8:57 pm

I agree with the review(er). I bought these headphones over in the US and I am a bit disappointed with the noise reduction, although the sound quality, comfort etc. are very good. I also paid a hair under $140 which is less than half the price of the alternative I considered - the Bose QuietComfort 3.

misk

December 24, 2008, 7:53 am

A very thourough and useful review. I just wanted to mention a couple of points. Compact size is important for travel - I don't want a case to take up half my carry-on bag :) - so the on-ear design is a necessary compromise if you want as compact a headphone as possible and don't like earbuds. I would like to know how they compare with other on-ear models, like Bose QC3.


Auto power-off would be nice, but I dont't see how you would achieve this - they give you the option of using them for noise cancelation without music playback, and you don't want them to turn off automatically when you have them on. There is an indicator light, so it's easy to see and turn the NC switch off before storing.

Ross Alford

June 3, 2009, 9:46 am

I have a pair of these and generally like them, although it would be nice if they had some less messy way of dealing with the cords, assembling the whole outfit is a bit fiddly. I also would like a built-in volume control, as occasionally airline seat volume controls cannot be adjusted down far enough, or automaticlly ramp up during announcements, making you rip the phones off your head--it would be easier to just slide a gain slider. One last comment--either the reviewer has a small head, or the size has changed; for someone with my (large) hat size, if anything they are a tiny bit tighter than necessary and certainly have no tendency to fall off.

jjl

November 25, 2009, 6:21 am

Edward,


Unfortunately your article doesn't cover the scam related to Denon's international warranty or lack of warranty as the case is.





I purchased a pair of these in Singapore two weeks ago and they began playing up on the flight home to Australia. Within 2 weeks I contacted the Australian distributor to find out my warranty would not be honored as I purchased them outside Aus.





Unless I wanted to return them to SG for repair, I was stuck with a dud set of headphones. Needless to say I was not at all happy and as always it was false economy, should have bought the Bose and got a true international warranty.





Very sad as I always thought of Denon as a trusted brand. Shameful!

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