Denon's new AH-D5000 headphones have been on our list of things to drool over since we first glanced at them.
At £500, they're not for the faint-hearted, nor the light-walleted -- these are headphones for serious audiophiles and those who can truly appreciate the experience provided by high-quality audio. The question is, are they worth half a grand?
The D5000s are unthinkably light for 'phones encased in mahogany. Those of you sceptical about placing wood around your head will be pleasantly surprised. They're instantly comfortable -- the delicate yet substantial earpads cushion the cans and, at least for us, caused none of the sweatiness that often occurs after long listening sessions. An asymmetric earpad design further ensures the wearer gets a comfortable fit.
Denon has gone a few extra miles with its design of the D5000s. The adjustable headband is mounted on a ball-bearing system that lets the wearer smoothly adjust the size of the headphones. The padded headband is also as comfortable as the earpads. It's superbly well constructed but flexible and lightweight, thanks to its magnesium components -- just what you'd expect for the cost of a cheap second-hand car.
The feature that most justifies the cost is, thankfully, sound quality. The beauty of audiophile headphones is that you can get close to the precise audio reproduction of a hi-fi costing upwards of £2,000, without breaking into the four-figure price brackets.
The D5000s blew us away with stellar reproductions of every musical genre we threw at them -- tightly orchestrated classical recitals, brutal black metal performances, chest-pounding drum 'n' bass, over-produced pop -- everything sounded crystal-clear and perfectly delivered by the 50mm neodymium magnets in each 'phone. It's like a orgy for your ears, and only supermodels are invited.
The obvious hurdle the majority of people will stumble into is the £500 price tag. If you've never heard what good headphones sound like, perhaps start with something considerably cheaper and work your way up (Denon's C700 'phones clock in at around £140 and are a good starting point) -- an audiophile ear needs time and training to develop. If you're experienced with high-end headphones, you're sure to appreciate the power and clarity delivered by the D5000s.
A weakness for anyone hoping to use these on the go is the heavy duty cable: it's very long and very weighty. The thinner cables leading into the cans themselves also tangle easily. As a headphone designed for home use, frequent travellers may be frustrated at having to manage such extensively professional cabling. Other travellers will thank you since at higher volumes these headphones can leak sound a little.
The lightweight D5000s offer outstanding performance and seductive comfort. They'll become one with your head, and you'll treasure the time you spend together. No matter what your musical tastes, your collection will burst with new life. You shouldn't waste your money if you're just going to listen to plain old MP3s, though, as you'll spend most of your time noticing all the horrible artifacts music compression can leave in its wake, highlighted accurately by the headphones.
If you'd prefer earphones rather than headphones, consider Shure's SE530 earphones -- they break the £300 barrier but sound stunning, and you'll even save a couple of hundred quid to boot.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday