This year Denon is celebrating 100 years of churning out audio-related tech, so it's only fitting that, before we run out of 2010, we take a look at the AH-D1100s. They're mid-range headphones that seek to bridge the gap between budget on-ear cans and higher-end audiophile affairs. They'll set you back around £110, but are they worthy of your hard-earned moolah? Let's take a look. And a listen.
In terms of design, the D1100s are entirely inoffensive. The frame itself is made of silver plastic, with only the upper portion of the headband covered in padding. The earcups are chunky, matte black, plastic affairs, and each cup is adorned with the Denon logo.
The inside of each earcup is pleasingly padded out, and these headphones are as comfortable as they look -- we found wearing them for prolonged periods very comfortable. That's partly because they're extremely light, due to their mostly plastic construction, and partly thanks to the big earcups, which will all but swallow your lugholes.
Their inoffensive design means the D1100s don't look particularly interesting, so if you're looking for something that will turn more heads, check out the slightly more expensive Monster Beats by Dr Dre Solos. The other slightly unsatisfying aspect to the D1100's design is the plasticky nature of their construction. They're light, but the creaky, plastic frame feels fairly cheap.
The D1100s look quite good once you're wearing them, though. The headband is angled slightly forwards, giving them a faintly futuristic, understated look.
The audio performance of the D1100s very much mirrors their design -- it's entirely inoffensive. The D1100s offer balanced, clear and reasonably precise audio, but don't provide the exciting, eyeball-liquefying bass thump of more dynamic rivals.
Donning our leather jackets and rocking out to Billy Idol's Rebel Yell, we could clearly hear the high tones in the mix. The squeaking guitar line in the chorus rang clear as a bell, and the hi-hats sounded crisp and never got absorbed in the rest of the mix.
Listening to Motorhead's Ace of Spades, we could hear the D1100s doing their best to thump us with the punchy kick drum in the low end, but they're slightly lacking in grunt. Bass-heavy tracks like Bonkers by Dizzee Rascal sound accurate, but the D1100s won't rattle you to your core like the Solos or V-moda Crossfade LPs, which nigh on shattered our spines with their bone-breaking bass.
We want to stress that, while the D1100s aren't quite as bassy as some rival cans, they offer a great, balanced sound for the price. Unless you only listen to R&B or trance tunes, you'll probably find they provide good all-round audio.
The D1100s also handle well at high volumes. We stuck noisy anthem Propane Nightmares by Pendulum on at maximum volume and didn't experience too much distortion, or a lack of balance in the mix. We don't advocate listening to music at uncomfortably high volumes, but it's reassuring to know that these headphones won't lose their cool should you need to crank things up.
Despite their lightweight construction, the D1100s offer decent sound-isolation capability. There's no fancy noise-cancellation tech on offer here, but the broad, enveloping earcups do a good job of drowning out the disgusting racket of everyday life. Happily, while they don't let much sound in, they also don't let too much out, so you'll be able to turn up the volume without driving your co-workers nuts.
Cabling won't be an issue -- the D1100s come with a very reasonable 1.3m cable, and a 3.5m extension cable, in case you need to listen to something on the other side of a pond. A soft leather pouch and 3.5-6.3mm adaptor are also included.
They didn't blow us away, but we really like the Denon AH-D1100s. They offer strong, balanced sound, and are so light and comfy that we can forgive the fact they feel rather plasticky. They're a great pair of headphones for anyone seeking something natty without breaking the bank.
If you fancy something more bombastic in terms of design and bass response, you can secure yourself a pair of Beats by Dr Dre Solos or V-Moda Crossfade LPs for a few extra tenners.
Edited by Charles Kloet