Three years and some dozen evaluations in the past, I declared the Bang & Olufsen H6 the most effective transportable headphones you possibly can purchase. As if to spite me, B&O ended up discontinuing the H6s in favor of some wi-fi mediocrities, and I’ve been caught with no true favourite pair of high-quality, over-ear headphones to suggest. Loads of good ones, however none as immediately partaking, satisfying, and downright soulful as my H6 benchmark. Effectively, immediately I can say Denon has surpassed my earlier reference level for transportable audio with its flagship D9200 headphones. Handmade and engineered in Japan, these bamboo-clad cans do nearly all the things proper, and their solely actual draw back is a mighty $1,599 worth.
The Denon D9200s are the headphone equal of Fujifilm’s X-series of cameras. They’ve a design that’s without delay retro and timeless. You might be studying this evaluate in 2019 or 2029, and all the great issues like the actual bamboo cups and quilted leather-based headband will nonetheless be fascinating and laudable. With out even placing these headphones on, I may inform you that they’re the actual deal that everybody else tries to repeat. I lately reviewed the $199 Brainwavz HM100s, which even have actual wood cups, however fail to match the refinement, precision, and construct high quality of Denon’s design. Dare I say it, the D9200s do truly exhibit craftsmanship of the type all of us too typically hear about, however don’t expertise.
As soon as wrapped round my skull, the D9200s have sufficient clamping power to remain in place with out ever inducing discomfort. I can’t run with them on, which extra convenience-focused headphones just like the noise-canceling Bowers & Wilkins PX permit, however I wouldn’t wish to accomplish that with a four-figure pair of cans, anyway. The D9200s are gentle for his or her measurement, and whilst you’ll by no means fairly overlook you’re carrying them, they really feel extra pillowy than burdensome. If I’ve a quibble, it’s that the headscarf might need benefited from somewhat extra or higher positioned padding, because it doesn’t really feel fairly as pretty and tender because the earpads.
The big, uneven pads wrap across the again of the listener’s ear and supply a powerful diploma of passive noise isolation. I’ve been on London’s tube and busy central streets with the D9200s on, and my music has come by means of cleanly, powerfully, and pleasurably each time. You don’t want a robust amplifier to drive these headphones, and I’ve been utilizing them fortunately with the Hidizs Sonata HD dongle and a Pixel 3. The one draw back to their use in public is that they do leak a few of their sound out, so that you may be a little bit of a nuisance in a quieter surroundings. In any case, for the overwhelming majority of on a regular basis circumstances, these headphones will preserve their excessive sonic high quality.
It’s additionally good that the pads are simply replaceable. Spending large cash on headphones of this kind calls for high-quality elements from the beginning plus some extent of consumer serviceability, and Denon ticks each containers.
Alas, in contrast to the newest wave of smartphones, the Denon D9200s aren’t foldable, they usually don’t include a carrying case — so that you’ll need to both purchase a separate case your self, or, as I’ve tended to do, simply put on these round your neck when not listening to them. They’re comfy sufficient to not get in your method, although you’ll additionally should be relaxed in regards to the peacock high quality that they’ll add to your each day outfit.
I discover myself intensely relaxed in regards to the D9200s’ small shortcomings, and that’s due to how rattling good they sound. Closed-back headphones can typically sound claustrophobic, with a slim and shallow soundstage, however not these ones. Closed-back cans additionally usually wrestle to search out the precise tonal stability, with both the bass submerging all the things right into a swamp of thump, equivalent to with the Campfire Cascade, or the treble taking pictures a thousand sharp daggers at your eardrums. Denon’s personal D7200s share a number of the bodily qualities of the D9200s, however fail on this primary efficiency take a look at with a muddling, unassertive sound signature. The D9200s are a return to type for the storied audio firm.
The primary album that made me sit up and take discover that these D9200s are one thing fairly particular was Stromae’s Racine Carrée. The observe “Humain à l’eau” is a fast succession of variegated bass notes combined in with varied highs equivalent to… an elephant’s trumpet. These headphones do an skilled job of laying out all of the low-end texture and delivering that “slam” that all of us search for, however when Stromae’s lyrics are available in, the D9200s put him entrance and middle, the place he belongs. Rosalía’s El Mal Querer displays the identical qualities. When she sings, I tear up somewhat. Vocals really feel just like the first-class citizen on these headphones, however the bass is so taut, punchy, and current that my basshead urges are absolutely sated as properly.
Focal’s $3,000 Stellia may be an unfair comparability for Denon’s flagship cans, however I had them round on the time of this evaluate, so I listened to each. The Stellia are extra resolving and insightful, letting me peel away all of the layers of a posh manufacturing like Billie Eilish’s “when the occasion’s over.” There’s extra realism and reality to be obtained from Focal’s headphones, however the D9200s are those that make me nod my head extra typically. They’re those I dance in my bed room with, partially as a result of they’re smaller and lighter, and partially as a result of their tuning is just extra euphonic.
I attempted my finest to journey up the D9200s by leaping round genres: Gaël Faye’s Rythmes et botanique, Le Trio Joubran’s Majâz, Run the Jewels’ trifecta of albums, Kelela’s Hallucinogen, Aukai’s Branches of Solar, Bo Hansson’s Lord of the Rings, Contaminated Mushroom’s Legend of the Black Shawarma, System of a Down’s Toxicity, and Drake’s Tuscan Leather-based every sounded pretty much as good or higher than I’ve heard them. I even tried nation music with Lil Nas X’s “Previous City Street” collab with Billy Ray Cyrus, and yep, that’s superior too.
Denon’s D9200s depart me wanting for little or no. There are not any different headphones that may present this degree of sound high quality with this diploma of portability and suppleness. I can plug these Denons into my devoted amplifier at house or simply jack them into my telephone by way of a dongle. They’ll sound and really feel nice, it doesn’t matter what.
With a construct high quality and an aesthetic that promise to face the take a look at of time, the Denon D9200s are a simple pair of headphones to suggest. Take excellent care of them, they usually’ll final you lengthy sufficient to make their excessive preliminary worth really feel solely justified.
Images by Vlad Savov / The Verge
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media might earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. For extra info, see our ethics coverage.