Pros: Neutral sound signature, highs, accessories, packaging
Cons: Lows, price, wire, design and look
Packaging & Accessories: 10/10
Build Quality: 8/10
Design & Look: 6.5/10
Microphonics (higher ratings means lower cable noise): 8/10
Audio Quality: 8.5/10
Value: 6.5/10 for £300-350 price tag OR 10/10 for the £150 price tag
My final Rating: 7/10: based on £350 price tag OR 9.5/10: based on £150 price tag
Purchase Date: December 2012
Purchase Price: £300-350 -> Can now be found for under £150 (review is based on £300-350 price tag)
First of all, I would like to thank Denon for sending me out the AH-C400’s to review. These headphones, are the first “premium” range earphones that Denon has released. After being a big fan of the bass quality and quantity of the previous models, like the C710 and the C751 and especially the price point they came at, I was vastly interested what the first ever balanced armature drivers from Denon would offer. The C400’s have a dual balanced armature design, which is worth noting about as it competes with the likes of Westone, Phonak Audéo, Ultimate Ears and so on.
The price point of these is what’s more interesting, as these earphones don’t come cheap. In fact they sit right in between the competition at £300 to £350, making these earphones come in at a very expensive price point. These can be found at AmazonUK & AmazonUSA.
Packaging, accessories, box content, overall first impressions (look wise)
For my initial impressions and unboxing video – Click here
The packaging of the new Denon range has impressed me already. The packaging looks very good, very professionally done, and looks visually appealing.
Top marks again to Denon for the attention to detail.
The accessories provided are also brilliant. The carrying case is just perfect for the earphones, as it has a hard-esk finish to it. It however isn’t too bulky to carry around, and can easily fit in ones pocket. Thus the case is extremely useful for keeping the earphones safe and secure. Alongside this, there is a karabiner which can be used for transportation uses.
Also included is the following:
-Hollow silicone tips
-Solid silicone tips (with a hard interior)
-A pair of Comply Foam Tx-100’s
I found the best tips for me was the Comply Foam ones – I’ve always been a fan of the comfort and isolation these Comply’s provide, and thus was happy to see them included in the package of the C400’s.
Overall first impressions:
Overall, my first impressions were very positive especially with the packaging and the accessories being quite useful for the earphones.
The overall build quality of the earphones is very good overall, however there are a few things that bothered me about the build quality.
First of all is the inclusion of the in-line remote, which is rendered completely useless with my Android device.
There are very few FULLY Android compatible in-line mics that work. The Denon’s aren’t fully compatible either, and it comes as no surprise. What annoys me is the fact that these are premium earphones – I would have wanted at least an option to not have a mic, or have a mic that’s compatible with Android devices. If this was a cheap set of earphones, like some other earphones I have owned, then I wouldn’t have cared, nor mentioned it, but seeing as we are talking about a set of £300+ earphones, either having a removable cable or the option of a non-mic version should be a given. This leads me unto two more things regarding the build quality: The lack of a removable cable, and the current cable itself.
As said above, a removable cable like the one that’s included with the PFE232’s is very useful for not only keeping the longevity of the earphones, but ALSO being able to switch between the mic and non-mic version of the cables. So, for there not to be a removable cable AND the fact that there is no option of getting rid of the in-line mic, is quite disappointing.
Furthermore, on the current cable itself: The cable is well constructed and is made very well, more so it is quite flexible, and doesn’t get tangled. However, as the cable is quite thick it causes cable noise (microphonics) when worn straight down. The good new however is that the earphones have no microphonics when worn over-the-ear. Which means that these earphones can be worn both straight down and over-the-ear. There is also another problem I found after wearing the C400’s. The wire that goes over my ear, doesn’t often stay there – and usually just pops out. I’m not sure this is because of the design – and thus not supposed to go over-the-ear, or if it is because of the thick wire, and thus doesn’t stay in place properly.
The earphones themselves, and the strain relief are both well built. The strain relief both at the 3.5mm gold plated jack and at the earphones can take quite some strain. The earphones themselves feel quite solid and don’t seem to be able to break easily.
Overall, the build quality is good, but not great for something priced so highly.
Now the overall look, comfort and isolation
Now the look for me really disappointed me. When I first saw the new-line of earphones and headphones Denon had to offer I was sceptical, especially with their premium headphones like the D7100’s. I quite liked the normal non-attention seeking look of the previous flagship the C710’s, however these C400’s are extremely shiny and more so look like it was created in Mars. I’m not sure if this was the intention, or if there’s something that inspired them, but it seems to me that it is something inspired by space/aliens and such things.
To me the look is not appealing, especially seeing as these are premium earphones. If these were made for your “beats” wannabes then I would completely agree that these earphones “look funky”, but that’s not the case.
Overall, to me the look isn’t appealing and more so is very flashy, something a true “music maniac” wouldn’t want. When worn over the ear, due to their quite long “wire” design, it makes these earphones look big.
The isolation of the earphones is very good, and this is mainly because there is no type of vent that can be visually seen (or heard as a matter of fact) on the C400’s. Accompanied with the Comply Foam tips, the C400’s block out a lot of noise and do an excellent job of it. I was truly impressed by the noise isolation they provided, especially looking at the way it was designed. Not much else to say, than they did a wonderful job!
Finally the comfort:
These earphones are certainly comfortable, even though they have that odd design to them. The overall comfort is really good, but seeing as the cable is a little on the heavy side (and by this I’m being extremely picky by saying it), that’s the only reason why they don’t score full marks. Apart from that, the earphones sit in your ears and are lightweight; I should also mention that due to their design and overall size, these earphones won’t be earphones that one would sleep on, or use to have comfortably pressing against any sort of object (like a motorcycle’s helmet for example)
Now the sound quality is quite an interesting one. As you can read from the title, it is a neutral sounding earphone, which means that it is brilliant for providing a neutral tone. That however doesn’t mean it can be rolled off nor distorted, and that’s what shocked me about the C400’s. For the price point, one would expect near perfection, when it comes to audio reproduction, but the lows unfortunately disappointed me. The lows don’t extend that well, and at VERY high volumes, with bass boost the lows distort; where other earphones wouldn’t distort.
I guess Denon want a neutral tone – but with that said, I was expecting a little better from their low end spectrum – considering the Denon headphone range (discontinued ones) are known for having good bass reproduction. These earphones have a sublime neutral tone, that is apparent at normal to low volumes – a good example of enjoying that neutral tonality was through listening to EDM (electronic dance music), like ASOT – I hadn’t enjoyed that music so much since my Atrio MG7’s (which I deemed the king of sub-bass, and in some respects king of EDM) – this is almost the opposite in all aspect, from size/form factor, soundstage, frequency response – but for some reason that neutrality, just absolutely works marvels on my ASOT albums. Thus, these are my new earphone to go to for EDM music.
As mentioned before, when pushed, the C400’s couldn’t hold their own, and would just distort at high levels of music. No matter what the music really was, no matter what source (and quality of bit-rate I had), no matter what amp, these would distort. To just make sure I wasn’t cranking it up too loud, I compared it with the UE350’s (£30 earphones), my D2K’s and my PFE232’s – none of those earphones or headphones distorted at the same loud volumes.
When at low volumes or with music (such as classical) which doesn’t have much bass, these performed very well, but as half expected with a set of BA drivers, the lows weren’t that strong and more so sounded rolled off.
So, if you are looking for headphones that give a good bass reproduction, these aren’t them.
The mids and highs on the C400’s is extremely good. The tonality is neutral, meaning nothing peaks out. The netrality does mean that the earphones sound a little “dull” but, in terms of audiophile earphones, these earphones do really well in keeping that right balance between the highs and lows. I don’t quite feel the highs are as extended as my PFE232’s, but the mids are definitely better – and by better, I mean they aren’t laid back, unlike with my PFE232’s. This is a matter of taste in all honesty – I do prefer the laid back presentation of the PFE232’s – but I know some people say they are V shaped, and they are right in saying that – especially when comparing earphones like the C400’s to the PFE232’s. Long story short – the tonality, presentation, and neutral presentation of the C400’s is extremely good, if not perfect.
The C400’s are thus the most neutral, yet capable earphones I’ve heard to date. They hit the notes just right, and don’t hurt your ears over a period of time.
This is where the design of the earphones come to play. I wasn’t a fan of the look and the design of the earphones, but I can see where it comes to play. Those little “bubbles” on the earphones are what give the C400’s a great presentation and soundstage. The sound is quite wide and very much enjoyable. I don’t know what magic Denon have done here, but it works perfectly. When I have the C400’s in my ears, I feel as if the studio is in front of me. They are extremely good with their soundstage, imaging and presentation – they aren’t too narrow, like certain earphones (ie the DBA-02 mkII) or too wide like the IE8’s – these sit perfectly in-between and have a good balance of space and sound.
Sound Quality Ratings
Conclusions and final thoughts
Overall, these earphones are very good for a NEUTRAL sound presentation. They sound great with music that requires neutrality – such as EDM. However with r’n’b and dance music, one wants a little more exciting sound, and the C400’s don’t provide that. Especially with their lack of impact in the bass department.
When I started reviewing the earphones, they were price from £300-350 – which for that price, I would have to think about recommending them. However ever since, they have dropped in price to around £150.
For £150 – I don’t think one can find a better sounding earphone out there. By better sounding I mean, all-rounder, quality and perfect neutral tone. Even if you are looking for something with more exciting tones, one can EQ these to sound as good as the PFE232’s which are priced at £400.
Thus at £150 – these are a no brainer – I don’t see why you wouldn’t get these. However at the original price tag (the price this review was based on) of £300-350 – I would have trouble recommending them to everyone, simply because these excel in certain areas, but fall short in others.
I really enjoy listening to the C400’s when I listen to EDM music – simply because that’s “how the music is supposed to be heard” – and the C400’s just hit the nail on the head.
I deem these the BEST earphones, that I’ve ever come across, for EDM music. These beat the MG7’s that I loved listening to EDM music with, by a considerable margin. Simply due to the tonality, and the soundstage, makes these a clear favourite over the MG7’s.
Hope you enjoyed my review!