Denon is celebrating its 50th anniversary manufacturing headphones this year. The expanding headphone market continues to grow with new offerings being offered at a rapid pace and it seems like there are new products being released weekly. The growing economy is contributing to the explosive personal audio market growth. Denon which in previous years had dominated the closed headphone market with their Denon D2000-7000 series, is back with its new D7200.
The Denon line ruled the personal audio market with the legendary Denon D7000; which had a reputation among music enthusiast in the community for deep thunderous bass with a wide soundstage and a world-class midrange. In those early days, Denon was sourcing their drivers from the Japanese giant Fostex. The headphones were exciting, musical and a terrific value and then suddenly where discontinued on short notice.
Fostex had some manufacturing issues which may have lead Denon to reconsider their position on using them to OEM their headphones. The screws on the headband kept falling out and needing service, the cables being used had issues and were microphonic and were not user replaceable. In essence the relationship came to an end and Denon started building a new line with brand new drivers and a redesigned headband. The birth of the AH-D7100 never became a hit in the headphone community and fell short in performance compared to the music that the D7000 was making . Forums started humming with disastrous comment’s on the new replacement for the legendary D7000. The sound never equaled or came close to the sound of the headphone it was replacing and the forums were fuming with the decisions that Denon made regarding the new reference line.
People tended to look at other brands including Fostex to try to recreate the D7000 magic and sales of the D7100 in the community were floundering. Denon mysteriously while still in the game appeared to be out of the game; especially in circles where it mattered. Users were quick to point out that the magical Denon sound was lost and the new headphones were a disaster.
Rebirth or Start of a New Legend
Denon is now using Japanese FreeEdge driver technology in the newly designed AH D7200 . The new driver is made from a nano-fiber material which Denon chose for its low mass. These new drivers are said to offer an accurate piston motion and eliminate distortion. Natural walnut wood cups are used for their strength and tough build quality which should last a lifetime. The striking cups have a natural finish and have the Denon logo engraved in silver on both cups.
The cable is a pure 7N copper cable and is removable, so for people using their favorite aftermarket cables, they will able to swap in other cables easily. The high quality cable and drivers are made in Japan. Denon also put lot of thought into the headband design and eliminated issues that they had with prior models. The ball bearing click stops used offer an easy adjustment for users to make the necessary adjustments. The ear pads are made of soft leather with memory foam inside and designed specifically for the D7200. The headband uses sheepskin-padded leather and is stitched for durability. The 50MM Nano driver is easy to drive using a portable player, phone or dedicated amplifier.
The finished product is striking and the build quality is quite evident throughout the entire design. The D7200 is like a fully loaded Lexus and has the same quality features found in many headphones in this price range. The MSRP is $999
Prior to doing any serious listening I burned the D7200 in using Tidal streaming tunes through my reference Chord DAVE for 100 hours non-stop. The sound of the D7200 out of the box had good musicality but the bass felt wobbly and soundstage was not open. Thinking back to the time when I first had purchased the D7000 in 2009, I had remembered it was similar experience. I noticed after 50 hours the sound started to open up and the bass became more defined and the midrange was sounding sweet. Noticeable was the wider soundstage with improved midrange definition and it kept changing as the process continued with more hours. Once the burn in process completed I started the serious sessions for my evaluation.
Miles Davis’ revolutionary album from 1986 Tutu has fantastic bass lines with the synth programming that our own Jason Miles did for the album. The track “Tomass” is an exciting track and gives you everything you want to hear to test a reference headphone. The bass is thunderous yet textured and well defined. The sound from Miles’ muted trumpet sounded musical and had excellent tonality. The soundstage was wide and had excellent depth with good space between the musicians. The D7200 had me engulfed in the performance and I completely forgot I was wearing a headphone. It was as if the D7200 disappeared and all that was left was Miles with his magnificent band. The D7200 transported me to the session and the music had me completely focused with the amazing performance. Immersed in the performance, the entire listening session went into the early hours of the morning. Tonality was outstanding on this track and the soundstage portrayal was stellar and first rate. The sound of Miles’ trumpet was musical and never harsh and with marathon sessions made the music come to life.
Listening to Ed Sheehan “Barcelona”on his new album Divide is an upbeat dance tune. The D7200 took me to Spain and had my oversized body moving to the beat. The recording had lot of neat stuff going on and was fun and musical. Sheeran’s vocal was addicting and the sound of instruments had me feeling like I wanted to move the feet. The dynamic sound the D7200 was putting out made me realize something special was going on with this headphone; the sound was clean, musical and had exceptional tonality and transparency.
“Bibia Ne YE Yo” was more of the same, the sound was involving and had me in tune to the music and Ed’s vocal was clear and vibrant with excellent articulation. The song had a calypso beat to it and treble extension was outstanding while reproducing this song. Missing was any harshness or brightness that would hinder the performance and the musicality was exceptional.
Beyoncé’s “Don’t Hurt Yourself” from her stunning Lemonade album opens with a drum cymbal and the sound was alive and realistic. The sticks hitting the cymbal had realistic shimmer and sounded realistic. The high hat had space in between and I could hear the sticks hitting the skins and feel the space between the high hats as if it was 3D. Never was the D7200 overly analytical and always was able to extract inner detail of the instruments. The sound was involving and dynamic and the track had an urban feel.
“Sand Castles” from the same album really showcased Beyoncé’s magnificent vocals. The piano accompaniment had impressive inner detail as I could hear the sound of the musical notes and inner body sound of the instrument easily. Beyonce’s vocals were inviting and had clarity and portrayed great emotion.
Kelly Clarkson’s performance on American Idol of her new song “Piece by Piece” “brought tears to many an eye including mine when she performed the song live. Listening to the track with the D7200 had me completely immersed in her performance. The subtle piano keys and her vocals were intensely involving. You could feel her emotional pain while she is singing this song. The sadness and hurt she felt while singing this tune was evident and once again I found myself connected to her so much so that I started to feel her pain and again I broke down. The sound was magical and her performance was spectacular. The transducer was able to recreate that special moment and captivated me. The sound was special indeed as it had me emotionally involved, It was a rare moment while listening to this personal masterpiece.
Adel’s “25” album also brought me to a similar place. Listening to her emotional performance brought me deep into the music and had me forgetting about everything except her vocal. The clarity of the vocal was presented with exceptional clarity and the inner detail of Adele’s vocal was transparent with excellent definition.
“Fanfare for the Common Man”from m my Reference Recording Copland album featuring the Minnesota Orchestra is a torturous recording that most headphones fail to reproduce properly. Playing the Devils Advocate, I cranked the volume up on the VPI 229 and pumped up the sound loud, so much so I was afraid of what could happen not only to my ears but to the drivers. Feeling my oats and not sure when I do this if the transducer is up to the task, some distort, others have blown up and many just sound incredibly poor. The track is hard on gear and many other pieces of equipment just fall apart while attempting to reproduce this track. Low and behold the music started flowing loudly and the tympani whacks were so powerful I could almost feel my brain rattling.
The D7200 was certainly up to the task. The fast and dynamic drivers were able to recreate the massive tympani thumps with speed and finesse . The orchestra was layered in a wall-to-wall soundstage with excellent space and air. The fast dynamic performance was believable and the D7200 captured the entire performance without a hitch. The speed and detail were all intact and the performance came to life. Chilling yet musical without a single hiccup and the music flowed flawlessly.
Appalachian Spring from the same album had the Minnesota Orchestra in harmony with their presentation of the music. The entire beauty of the piece was majestic, the layered sections were indeed musical and the tonality of the D7200 lulled me into the beauty of the performance creating another special moment in time while listening.
Well folks, Denon is back in the game and ready to make a huge splash once again in the headphone community. The D7200 is a spectacular headphone and I could end this review right now but for those who like the fine print please read on. The stellar midrange delivers an accurate and balanced sound, the bass while thunderous is never overpowering and among the finest bass in any transducer manufactured today. Make no mistake it is Denon bass-deep and slamming but also textured and musical. The exceptional treble extension was never bright, nor harsh and the tonality is excellent. Never did I feel anything cheated me in performance. The sound was always special, and the soundstage width and depth is in the top tier and has excellent space and air between instruments and musicians.. The privacy offered with the closed walnut cup is welcomed and the beauty factor is extraordinary.
Is it perfect? Well no there were some minor quibbles I had, but many others would not have the same issue. Gang, I am not a small dude and my hat size is 7 5/8, the issue for users like me is the headband was tight and required some work to get it to fit comfortably. My take on this is 90 percent of the people using the D7200 will not have any comfort issue.
I worked on stretching the band and as more hours of usage it started becoming more comfortable The stock pads are barely covering my ear but this can be remedied if I swap them out with a Lawton or Fostex pad, which I am reluctant to do because the sound is so pristine and what the designer intended it to be with the supplied pads. The option will always be there if you feel the necessity to tinker with he sound or comfort if you feel uncomfortable.The D7200 has everything I look for in a reference headphone. The bass reminds me of the days gone by with the D7000, yet completely reinvented with the D7200. The massive and impactful bass is textured and never overpowers the superb midrange and treble.
TheD7200 rewarded me with exceptional musicality during my marathon listening sessions. They never were fatiguing, nor did they omit any of the musical spectrum. The D7200 is the start of the next chapter for Denon and my prediction is once again we have birth the next legend with the D7200. Highly Recommended!
Frank started his journey in high-end audio in 1978 and was quickly hooked. Frank’s passion for music and great sound reproduction is stronger than ever. His main focus is with high-end headphones and portable related gear. He is a regular Head-Fi.org contributor and is a co-founder of Headphone.Guru.