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For more than a decade, I have been a loyal Sennheiser consumer and for good reason. Across the high and low, Sennheiser offers some of the best bang for the buck when it comes to headphone and earbud sound. When asked which headphone to purchase, 9 out of 10 times I would recommend a pair of Sennheisers – and that still remains true today. They really are one of the most consumer friendly and accessible brands on the market – across all price points.

But 2012 has taught me that Sennheiser is far from being alone in delivering premium sound. Over the last two months, I have been reviewing and living with a pair of DENON AH-D5000 headphones – quite possibly the most dialed in pair of headphones I have tested for my choice in music. The experience has been nothing short of exceptional.

Photography: Selectism.com

Read our full review of the DENON AH-D5000 Headphones on the following page.

Back in 2010, I upgraded to what I thought would be my be all, end all pair of Sennheiser cans with a pair of HD-650’s. The sound produced by the HD-650, when paired with a strong and power heavy headphone amplifier, is crystal smooth and “black” between the notes while retaining an open diaphragm that allowed for air to pass naturally into the cup – giving them the sense of “live” sound with the inclusion of background “air.” I still consider them one of the best headphones on the market and an essential option for those looking to enter the premium headphone game.

As noted, the HD-650 is an open headphone that does not seal out the external world. This became a small issue for me, recently when I moved into a new office. The open HD-650 headphone while allowing in environmental sound also allows for those around you experience the music you listen to. I listen to a great deal of beat driven music that, at times, can be more than some can handle.

The solution to this issue is to move to a sealed or closed back headphone that retains all sound within the ear cups – saving your coworkers from having share in your musical tastes.

The opportunity arose to test* out a pair of Denon AH-D5000 reference-grade headphones – very much a competitor to the Sennheiser HD-650 – but with a closed cup system.

The results were nothing short of game changing.

Before we get into the sound presence of the DENON’s, let us look at the build: the Denon AH-D5000 feature full mahogany wood earcups with a magnesium headband frame that very much sets it apart from other high-end, premium headphone. DENON is a clear winner for pure feel like luxury when handling them. Nothing is overdone and every design element has an intended purpose.

The mahogany ear cups are well built and have a “luster” rarely found on high-end models (with the exception of the Grado RS1). The magnesium band and structure of the frame is clean, matted, and very durable. The ear cups sit on single screw joints that move and rotate to position properly over your ears. Inside the ear cups, wearers and listeners will discover soft leather pads that feel comfortable even hours into wear. While the magnesium frame and mahogany cups do make them slightly heavier than their Sennheiser equivalents, they are no less comfortable.

But like all headphones, the true test comes from the sound:

We should note that to truly appreciate the Denon AH-D5000’s, you will need to drive them with a proper headphone amplifier. If plugged in out of the box into your laptop or iPhone, the results will be underwhelming; the AH-D5000 headphones need juice (as do most headphones in the high-end reference category). We will also advise that ample “burn-in” time (ie: play music through them for hours on end) to warm up that circuitry. It will make a helluva difference.

Real talk: the sound that flows through the DENON AH-D5000 is exceptional and a breakthrough for me when auditioning bass music.

I am certain that the low end results which I find the most compelling part of these headphones comes from the closed mahogany cups. The conduction of sound through the wood cups is incredibly unique and broad. Bass, including the sub-bass shines through the wood cups with control and force:  there is no rattle and the notes remain black throughout.

The experience is unique and opened my eyes to a level of low-end that I may have been missing out on for some time.

Where the Sennheiser HD-650’s brought an honest representation of the music I listened to, the DENON AH-D5000 bring a slight level of brightness and thump which I am happy to run with for the time being. The rich detail and ability to distinguish instrumentation remains. Bass music lived and grows through these DENON headphones.

Does this mean I will be selling off my Sennheiser collection? Not at all. Like all good things, sometimes you get tired of the same ole thing. I will most certainly return to them for a change, when I am ready.

The dramatic presence of sound and the mahogany wood cup design does come at a premium: the Denon AH-D5000 headphones retail for around $470. In the opinion of this reviewer, the cost equals return on sound.

* I have now purchased a pair for personal use. Yes, I love them that much.

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