Compared to my Grados these Denons are on another planet – in build quality and comfort terms at least. The Grados’ foam supra-aural earcups can become uncomfortable after extended listening; these do not. The Grados feel quite fragile in comparison, but they’re also a fundamentally different design. Where the Grados are open-backed – which is supposed to offer the best possible detail and sound quality – the Denons are of the closed back variety – a design more frequently seen on noise-cancelling and DJ headphones than high-end audiophile units.
This approach has its benefits. There’s far less noise leakage from a pair of closed back headphones than with opened back cans, which is ideal if you want to listen to your music in the same room as someone else. Open back headphones can irritate if you’re sat right next to someone else trying to read a book or watch the telly, for instance. Closed back headphones shut out the outside world more effectively too, though I hasten to add that these Denons won’t shut out aircraft thrum, office air-conditioning or commuter train bustle like Sennheiser’s noise-cancelling PXC-450’s.
The burning question I wanted answering, however, was how these AH-D2000 would fare for pure sound quality in comparison to Grado’s superlative 325i headphones? For while they’re not the most comfortable or best built phones in the world, the latter do produce simply fantastic sound quality for the money.
First things first, though the Denons exhibit a slightly closed sound, they do still manage to feel extremely light and airy. Denon makes much of the phones’ microfibre diaphragms, which it claims reproduce the nuances and details in music much better than the cellulose type in most headphones. I imagine this helps in this regard – the AH-D2000’s certainly don’t sound very boxy.
Play Ramon Ruiz’s beautifully recorded flamenco-style guitar through them and you’ll find there’s a real sense of atmosphere to them. You can hear the buzz of the strings on the frets, and the jangle of his rasgueados seem to leap out into your brain, but also the character of the guitar seems to come right through and there’s a real weight and attack to the low notes. My favourite test, an extract from Mozart’s ”Requiem”, was next up – a powerful blast of choral drama that really tests audio components to their limits. Again, the Denons had a little closed sound to them, but the drama and detail was all there, and the ominous plodding of the orchestra had impressive weight and gravitas.
Here, however, the Grados showed their strength. They sound just that little more real, effortless, and unforced. Though the Denons are extremly good they can’t quite reproduce music with the same sort of hair-raising realism that the 325is can. Worryingly, when I cranked the volume up during the louder choral passages, the AH-D2000s started to break up, but since this was at levels that would turn you deaf if you listened for longer than a few hours, it’s probably nothing to worry about.