Provides: On-ear audio reproduction with inline microphone
Compatibility: Any device with standard 1/8″ headphone jack; more recent (2008+) iDevices support inline remote control functions
The sub-$100 market for headphones is saturated with mediocre-to-poor performers, as audiophiles are usually looking to spend more and neophytes are often won over by slick design rather than acoustic performance. This makes the Denon AH-D510R headphones a breath of fresh air for anybody who needs cans that are big on high-quality sound and easy on the wallet.
The Review Backstory
I was challenged this year to listen to all the Christmas music I own before purchasing anything new, and I gladly accepted the challenge. Luckily, the Denons arrived just in time for the kickoff—the day after Thanksgiving is the day my iPod gets loaded with my 563-song Christmas playlist. The challenge was not only fun, but thanks to the clear audio and spot-on imaging of these headphones, it was an education, as well. Previously unheard elements of some songs were revealed, and the need to update my few remaining 128 kbps MP3 files was made glaringly obvious.
Denon’s design for the AH-D510R is technically over-the-ear, but users with medium-large to large ears will find that the cups rest more on the ear. A stiff layer of padding and comfortable plastic covering the pads make these headphones comfortable for longterm use after a day or two to break them in. The lightweight hinge design allows the cups to hold on to the ears without causing the headband to dig into the top of your head, and the included inline remote and microphone are a nice touch for iDevice users, though the remote’s functionality will vary depending on your device.
None of the materials are super-premium, with plastic used for most components, but the cups themselves have a rigid machined aluminum back and overall build quality is sturdy. The earcup padding is also well done, providing above average isolation. For the price, Denon’s trade-off is more than acceptable, given the audio performance.
Unless you are a complete audiophile who insists they can tell the difference between uncompressed and Apple’s 256 kbps AAC encoding, your ears will give the AH-D510R a standing ovation. Pushed to the highest volume possible on both the iPhone and a Mac with iTunes’ preamp cranked up, these cans produced virtually no distortion on songs that many lesser headphones destroyed even at moderate volumes.
Bass is natural—punchy-but-tight—and highlights bass instruments in jazz and classical music, while delivering driving electronic bass for the Trans Siberian Orchestra albums.
Simple midrange guitar-and-vocal songs, like Tracy Chapman’s folk rendition of Oh Holy Night, are rendered in warm richness, while the midrange of fuller songs are well-detailed and never overpowered by bass or treble.
At the highest end of the spectrum, sopranos from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the endearingly annoying children from the Charlie Brown rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing sparkled. Complex orchestrations are delivered in perfect balance, with no one range of the spectrum overpowering the others. Listening to these headphones in comparison to cans costing even twice as much highlights the attention Denon has put into the acoustics.
Denon made excellent design choices to deliver high-end audio with a low-end price tag. The AH-D510R will not stand up to severe abuse, given their abundance of plastic components, but the sound quality and well-executed inline remote control make these headphones an outstanding value. The earcups fold flat, providing for some portability, but commuters take note: there is no included travel gear like a pouch or case. Reducing the number of moving parts is likely one of the cost-reduction measures, so plan to use these headphones in one primary location.
With well-balanced sound and comfort aplenty for all-day use, these headphones will inspire audio enthusiasts and neophytes alike.
Buy the Denon AH-D510R