Headphones and Earphones

Denon AH-NC732 Noise Canceling Headphones

ARTICLE INDEX

Denon AH-NC732 Noise Canceling Headphones

Introduction

I suppose in this iPod generation we shouldn’t be surprised by the explosion of new headphone options. Breaking it down, there are 3 types of headphones really: in-ear, on-ear and over-ear. In-ear offers the best solution for portability while over-ear is typically large and cumbersome and generally provides the best reproduction and comfort, it is usually reserved for the audiophile or studio engineer. On-ear however may offer the best of both worlds, especially if they travel easily, offer comfort, clean fidelity and outside noise cancellation - hence the new AH-NC732 from Denon.

Specifications

  • Impedance: 40 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 105 dB
  • MFR: 5 Hz -  28 kHz
  • Single AAA Battery Operated
  • Weight: 5 Ounces Without Cables
  • MSRP $299 USA
  • Denon

Technology and Design

Denon claims that the AH-NC732 cancels outside noise by 99%! Referred to as “active” cancellation because it has microphones in each ear cup and the circuitry processes the ambient noise out of phase thereby canceling the unwanted sounds.

I’m impressed that a single AAA battery does all this work. I can say I’ve spent hours and hours and still the battery works just fine. Denon claims you’ll get 40 hours out of each battery.

There are a couple of important issues that set the Denon’s apart from other noise-canceling headphones. Firstly they can be used with or without the cancellation active and suffice it to say, the sound is very different, more on that later.

Secondly, Denon incorporates a proprietary design referred to as Acoustic Optimizer technology. Found on many of their headphones, this feature is essentially ports on the outer ear cup equalizing internal pressure producing better bass, cleaner fidelity and tone, hopefully.

The AH-NC732 are very lightweight weighing 146 grams (approximately 5.1 ounces) including cables and battery! The ear cups are 3” high by 2 ½” across with the battery and switch built into the right ear.

Beautifully crafted and sturdy despite their light weight and delicate design, the 732’s hinge in a couple of places for comfort. The upper band adjusts for head size and the ear cups pivot flat for storage. All black except for a shiny sliver band around the Denon logo on each ear piece.

The ear cushion is made of “low-repulsion” urethane and clad in very soft leather – very comfortable actually.

The attachment cord is detachable again best for storage, while an extension cord is provided and compatible with iPhone/iTouch with no additional adapters required.

Each ear cup is loaded with a 40mm driver with Neodymium magnets expected to deliver between 5-28,000 Hz.


Accessories

Everything folds neatly in a compact zippered carrying case about 6” x 7 ½” x 1 ¾” thick. Inside are a couple of storage nets for two detachable cables, one is 28” and the second cable is almost 5 ft long, (for home use a bit longer would have been nicer) both with 1/8” jack. An airplane dual plug adaptor, a standard ¼” gold-plated stereo plug adaptor are also included.

 

 

 

 

 


In-Use

They were nice enough to offer a pair just before I left for CEDIA back in September. For me coming from the east coast, a flight to Denver is several hours – perfect to audition the new AH-NC732’s.

The more sounds that come into your headphones, the more it seems to block out. Strangely while at home before my trip, I tried without much ambient sound and found small amounts of sound filtered out. So I don’t know if it was my perception that the noise-canceling feature works harder the more sound it detects to remove?

First let me state the solid carrying case is first-rate and very convenient. The headphones fold once to fit in. I passed up watching the latest romantic comedy for my own laptop stored music so I didn’t use the airplane double-pronged adapter.

So far a big thumbs-up for portability and flexibility.

It’s taking me years to admit to myself I may actually have a bigger head than normal. The adjustable bands on top make for an easy and comfortable fit. The ear-cover for lack of a better term fits nicely over the ear and the padding is soft yet firm. I wondered if it would feel this good for 3 hours+?!

Another thumbs-up for comfort!

With the blue-lit switch inactive and no music playing the NC732’s yield very decent results blocking out some lower bass while voices became muffled. Activating the noise-canceling feature still without music seemed to remove significant bass while it seems to raise the sound pressure in your ears, but impressively blocking many annoyances.

Ahhh, quiet, thumbs way up! Music time!!

For those concerned for your neighbors seated to each side of you whether on a train, airplane or in the office, be assured there is very little leaking even at quite loud levels unlike open back designs.

One surprise to me was the very different sound with the noise-canceling active and inactive. Inactive the playback was warm, laid back almost, and while active produced greater dynamics and clarity without too much edge. So it may be a personal preference you might have but I enjoyed the added richness and depth of the active setting. Highs seemed more extended, voices definitely more forward. Active seems to boost the midrange, especially noticeable with acoustic guitars having a cleaner definition.

Perhaps the perception is not having headphones on at all? The best description I can tell you is the difference is like hearing music coming from a different room and walking into that room and how it becomes tighter, less veiled, and more dynamic.

Getting home and plugging the headphones into my Benchmark DAC1 still playing digital music from my laptop produced yet another level of fidelity. The DAC1 nicely handled the digital source while the Denon’s delivered richly textured playback.

We live in a relatively small house and as such do not have a dedicated 2-channel room, but rather a shared space with a sitting area used for gaming. A doorway away is a laundry room that isn’t all that quiet. The NC732’s did an exceptional job of isolating the music from these audible distractions. So assuming we all live in less than ideal music listening conditions, noise canceling makes sense at least some of the time.


Conclusions

We live in a crowded world that increasingly gets smaller. We all work in smaller cubicles and with more people taking public transportation the trains and busses are fuller. And with most every flight filled to capacity our personal space along with our neighbor’s space is violated in every aspect, sound pollution especially is no exception.  Even for someone just looking to quiet their environment with no noise or sounds, the Denon’s offer some tranquility.

This generation listening to music on portable devices significantly more than at home only reinforces the need for devices like the Denon AH-NC732 noise cancellation headphones. There are many on the market, the difference is how they perform and I’m hooked on the Denon’s sound quality – it delivers in spades elegant and rich rewards for anyone dropping $300 MSRP on portable headphones. The Denon’s come well equipped, and work even when the battery fails, most do not.

I’ve owned another pair of noise cancellation headphones and enjoyed them. But I’m immediately replacing them with the NC732.