Monday, July 3, 2017

Denon AH A100


The baby Denon 7000 as it were, it's rumored to have had less than 1,000 total units in production. With no more than 400 being imported to the US. I was fortunate enough to find mine second hand, sadly by the time I'd gotten it the headband was replaced and the stock cable was swapped for a modular mini 4pin XLR. The previous owner even swapped out the ear pads, I held onto it for about a year with hopes to restore it, though I never got the time to do so.  



The packing is most impressive. With an MSRP of $499, I feel Denon set the BAR for how to present a product with this launch. The outbox is just cardboard, but inside the actual product box is encased in a faux leather with Denon logo embedded in a gold font.


Sadly, the box I had didn't age very well. I was the third owner of these so I didn't have much control in how they were kept prior to being in my possession. Still, even more impressive than the outside of the box was the linen lined interior! 



I owned the Denon 5000 and still have it's original packing. An sadly it's no comparison. It's a shame that Denon only offered this attention to detail and quality for it's 100th Anniversary headphone. Still again, this was only a $500 headphone when it was launched! Even today, and up into the $1000+ territory I've yet to find a box designed this beautifully and functionally. 


Although entirely in Japanese, I enjoyed reading through the booklet included with the AH A100. It apparently covers Denon history in the A/V Industry. 



Despite my certificate of authenticity, the status of a true collectors item was out of my reach. Having been modded for better comfort and function I decided to just sit back and actually listen to it! 

Specs

  • Dynamic Neodymuim 50mm driver
  • Frequncy Response 5-37,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity 101 dB
  • Impedance 32ohms
  • Weight 7oz







The overall sound is very balanced, with a warmer tilt and thicker timbre. They had neither a veil nor were super transparent and detail oriented. They just simply sounded good. The image was believable and intimate with impressive coherence but not super defined. Transients weren't super clear, but were neither totally absent. Both micro-detail and dynamics were also apparent, but not in your face obvious. My listening with these was sourced from my Project Ember II, running my Sylvania 6sn7 GT Jan-Chs VT 231 tube an straight out of my HM 601. 

The Denon AH A100 did suffer from a little sub bass roll off, but had good power and definition in the bass overall. While listening to Jazz the upright bass was presented with authority and just a touch of fret noise. Acoustic guitars have a touch of texture with a thick body and only little bit of mid bleed. Only kick drums suffer on the Denon AH A100. I found it lacked power for many of the metal tracks I listened to. For world music and classical bigger drums like the Timpani and various ethnic war drums had a good heavy presence more tactile than it was audible.

The Midrange was intimate with a touch of tactility. Guitars had thick body, and good crunch when needed both in the lower and upper mids. Heavier distorted metal riffs had a nice aggression without sounding too thin or thick. Vocals had a good touch of breathy echo up top and thick low registers. Good body and chest weight to the sound. Violins and wood winds, were a little lacking in presentation of their transients,  though had a warm sound with more emphasis on the body and resonance of the instrument, over the individual strings. That warm weight of the collective was very present throughout the mid range, it was especially nice with a piano. 

I liked the highs best on the Denon AH A100, good sizzle and snap. Lots of clarity, air and aggression without ever being too harsh or strident. A strident top end is common of the stock Denon D2/5/7 series, but the AH A100 has the energy without the harshness. Though, every so often the highs were tapered a bit behind a thick mid range.  

I compared these directly with my Modded Audio Technica ES10, and ultimately what I found was while my ATH ES10 had better definition, better imaging and with a faster more beautiful and natural timbre. Though it's flaws were just as obvious as it's strengths though, on the flip side, the Denon AH A100 was very relaxed has excellent comfort and is equally engaging. It isn't perfect, but it's flaws and strengths aren't as apparent. If anything, I can say it was a touch too slow and warm. Though the ATH ES10 I have has been modded to give it the speed and detail it has. The real strength of the Denon AH A100 though is it's balance. Unlike the Audio Technica ES 10, it's not picky about what you plug it into. It's not picky about what files your playing with it either. It simply exists, you wear it and you enjoy it. 

Overall the Denon AH A100 brought together the best elements of the larger D series, and combined them for an overall relaxing and pleasant listen in an easy to manage size packed in one of the BEST Headphone Boxes I've had a chance to own! These prove to be a real treat from Denon to the few who are fortunate to own one!  





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