Provides: On-ear audio reproduction with inline remote and microphone
Compatibility: Any device with standard 1/8″ headphone jack; remote is compatible with most Apple devices
Denon’s D340s, the latest addition to the Music Maniac line, offer up a sound that is at once sublime and engaging, pleasing not only your ears, but your wallet and music collection as well. If you’re looking for an entry-level foray into audiophile territory, the D340s feature a flat tuning that delivers a pure and engaging listening experience, while the headphone’s physical design serves up comfortable listening whether you’re just unwinding with a quick song or listening all day to help you power through work.
The first thing you’ll notice when you unpack the D340s is a box that feels worthy of a $300 set of cans. First impressions are important, and the box is both well constructed and delightfully tactile; when you open it you’ll find your new headphones nestled in a buttery soft chocolate brown silk (just because they’re headphones doesn’t mean presentation is irrelevant).
The matte plastic used in the frame, while not trendy, doesn’t show fingerprints, so you get headphones that remain looking good (Apple has the fingerprint issue with all their glossy and shiny products). Fit is excellent with a well-padded headband, memory foam-padded, pentagonal ear cups, and ear cup mounts that swivel through two axes to precisely fit your head.
As with the previously reviewed (and still much loved) Denon AH-D510R headphones, Denon displays a particular flair for making strategic design choices that emphasize substance and sound over pure aesthetics. I must admit I was surprised to find a simple matte black plastic frame with minimalist chamfered metallic rings on the back of the driver housings, given the recent trend towards glossy piano black plastics and copious amounts of metal.
After about six hours of listening, though, I finally got it—Denon’s design choices favored lightweight but solid materials, meaning your head/neck won’t hurt if you listen to music with the D340s all day long. It’s worth noting these headphones are designed to be mainly stationary, as they don’t feature hinges (another weight saver). (There are other products in Denon’s lineup that are geared towards more mobile use, so be sure to check out the Globe Cruisers if you need music on the go.)
Putting sound quality into words can be difficult, as it’s easy to be abstract to the point of obscurity. In no particular order, the Denon Music Maniac AH-D340s are sublime, sensuous, and superlative. Although they are a closed back design, the soundstage they present can only be described as vast, with incredible imaging, beautiful reverberation, and sound that just refuses to be anything less than crystal clear. As on-ear headphones, they do a decent job of reducing outside noise, and inside the sound is warm, rich, and gorgeous. With flat EQ tuning they produce natural sound, meaning your music sounds the way it should rather than sounding like its been manhandled by a strung out DJ. There’s plenty of bass for any kind of music, though if your taste runs towards dance/club music, the Urban Raver line may be better tuned for you. Standouts during the test period included:
- He’s a Pirate, Klaus Badelt & Hans Zimmer – The end to the original Pirates of the Caribbean, this song is a bit of a torture test for headphones. Featuring blaring horns, massive strings, and thundering drum hits, it’s either a muddy mess or a thrilling adrenaline rush. The D340s delivered on the adrenaline, and the frenetic closing strings echo beautifully into the silence at the end of the track.
- Alone with You, Deadmau5 – One of my favorite electronic tracks to use with test headphones, this track starts off with a pure bass beat and layers on audio sprites and a backbeat that show off the superlative high- and mid-range reproduction the D340s are capable of.
- The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm, Howard Shore – This track is astoundingly complex, with a hugely layered choral element, bass drum hits, and the beating of chains to evoke deep earth mining. But it’s also piercingly simple, with a single angelic soprano singing a wordless eulogy for the fallen wizard. The D340′s sound delivers the visceral terror of being chased and the utter desolation of a fallen comrade this song accompanies in the The Lord of the Rings.
- Naturespace audio – Naturespace’s recordings are fantastic, whether you need to block out external noise or just want to relax with the soothing sounds of the beach. The immersive 3D audio experience is almost indescribable on these headphones, which really enhances the feeling of being in the environment of your chosen track.
Denon’s attention to design doesn’t end with the hardware. The free Denon Audio App delivers access to your non-DRM restricted music (iTunes Plus tracks work just fine) and tunein radio stations, which includes some fantastic local radio search options. This is an iPhone app, though it will function on the iPad—it just doesn’t look as good as an iPad native app, which I hope Denon will address at some point.
The real star of the app is the Equalizer, which gives you one of the most useful and intuitive equalizer experiences available. There are a number of helpful presets available, including Small White Buds, Studio Cans, and Restorer modes that optimize your music for specific listening scenarios. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even use completely manual control, not only sliding the equalizer settings up and down to boost/lower their power, but also left to right to adjust the frequencies that are affected. The live overlay of the current track’s frequency helps you determine where to boost and lower the EQ settings, so you can make your tracks sound perfect.
In the $300 price range, your headphones need to provide some impressive sound to justify their price tag. The Denon Music Maniac AH-D340s, apart from a cumbersome name, deliver fantastic sound, comfortable fit, and an understated design that is exactly what you expect for the price. They are not designed to be portable, but if your listening environment is relatively stable (at a desk all day, for example), these cans pump out an impressive sound that will uncover new dimensions in your music—and make your ears very happy in the process.