The AH-D1001s are the lightest, smallest headphones in this survey and for this reason are among the most comfortable. They are arguably the only ’phones in this group light, compact, and sensitive enough to be worn comfortably outdoors and on the go. As it turns out, the Denons are also—by a mile—the least expensive ’phones in this test group. Truth to tell, we originally requested Denon’s more expensive $350 AH-D2000, but that model was unavailable for review in our timeframe, so that the PR folks suggested we try the much less costly AH-D1001s instead. I worried, at first, that the little Denons might not be able to “run with the big dogs,” but they soon put my concerns to rest, proving themselves to be real overachievers—and a very good deal.
While with AH-D1001s may not sound quite as “big,” revealing, or transparent as the top models in this group, they come close enough that they can stay right in the hunt and are so well-balanced you would never think of them as having “shortcomings” at all unless you compared them side-by-side with the best $500 models. The Denons deliver a smooth, suave, sophisticated midrange sound supported by warm, nicely weighted bass. Highs are reasonably clear and extended, but trade off the “Nth” degree of definition and resolution in order to achieve a pleasing quality of natural “sweetness.”
The Denons sounded downright seductive on Marilyn Mazur and Jan Garbarek’s aptly named “Joy Chant” from Elixir [ECM]. The AH-D1001’s refined midrange did a great job of revealing the bouncing, exuberant sound of the steel drum-like percussion instrument highlighted on the track, while also giving Garbarek’s light, dancing sax lines plenty of room to play. While high percussion may not have quite shown as much treble detail and “air” as on the premium price ’phones, the presentation was still very satisfying. Beyond trying to reproduce the sound of instruments in a strict, accuracy-oriented sense, the Denons strive (successfully) to capture their overall feel or “vibe."
But the Denon’s can really rock out, too, as I discovered when I put on “Reckoner” from Radiohead’s In Rainbows [ATO Records] records. The track opens with a potent, expressive drum kit pattern that the AH-D1001s render with energy and snap. More importantly, though, the capture the song’s giant, almost otherworldly soundscape, which give the sense that the song is being performed in a garage about the size of an Olympic gymnasium.
The light, compact AH-D1001s are among the most comfortable phones in our survey. One small caveat is that their earpads are covered in a faux leather material that does not wick away perspiration the way fabric earpad covers do.
Denon’s AH-D1001 is a delightful headphone that combines sonic prowess with great versatility, comfort, and value. Though not a true top-tier performer in any one area, the Denons get close enough in all areas to make things interesting and at a more than fair price. One final point: the Denons are so easy to drive that, in a pinch, you could power them directly from an iPod (though only at moderate volume levels).