Using a 2 I.E.M. set-up is something that I strongly advise to anyone who listens to a wide range of music. Just like in trade, the saying "not every tool is the same" is something which we can apply when optimizing our portable rigs. You wouldn't use a hammer to weld a car so why would you use a bass light armature when listening to modern music such as Hip-Hop R+B and electronic?
In my case I always have 2 phones, one tuned to detail retrieval and accuracy with a fairly flat response and another to really get the party going when I am listening to some of the harder stuff I like.
Having been a fan of the MH1C and the JVC FX series for some time I recently picked up a set of Denon Urban Raver Series AH-C300 so lets take a look at how it fits in.
THE MEAT OF THE REVIEW
About the AH-C300
The Denon AH-C300 uses Denons new double driver air compression chambers, what this means is 2 whopping massive 11mm drivers in each ear, this is huge. 11mm on its own would be impressive but it is even more so when you realise they are doubling down. A first that I have seen is the right earpiece has remote function built in which allows call controls, volume and track changes and even when the camera app is on pushing the right earpiece will take a photo.....very cool. Finally Denon has also developed the Denon app with these phones (specifically for the urban raver line) a music player with built in Tunein Radio its very nice indeed although my main listening on my android phone is still through Soundbest Player..
Packaging - (9/10)
Packed beautifully with a eye catching sleeve with lots of good information about the product. Once the sleave is removed there is a book like cardboard case of very good quality. All in it comes across as a premium product and its nice to see thought going into it as it adds to the drama.
Accessories - (9/10)
Simply excellent, the leather case is of very high quality and something if I saw in a store I would happily pay £30-£50 for. It is padded on both sides internally making it solid and rigid providing great protection to your gear and has a huge and quality feeling karibiner to hook it onto stuff. Many tips are provided in not only size but in type, ranging from gel filled to regular and comply. Finally there are 3 different size ear hooks which attach to the crux of your helix to provide stability.
Looks and Build Quality - (9/10)
These are huge. I don't mean on the big side, I mean they are positively the most massive iems I have seen. Once you get your head around that the IEM's themselves have a real premium feel all around them. They look futuristic cool which is something I usually wouldn't go for but they do it in a very classy way and are certainly not fashion phones like beats etc. Build quality is rock solid and materials used very nice indeed.
The cable is nothing short of brilliant, it has a lovely feel, is tangle free, low microphonic and side by side I might actually prefer it to my GR07 cable although they are both excellent but different.
This really comes down to what tips you are going to use with them. I have find the best to come when tip rolling with either bi-flanges from meelec or the brilliant sony MH1c tips.
Im not going to give a fit rating on these as it can vary wildly, you are most likely going to have to play around with what works for you but when you get it right you will be rewarded greatly. Play around with different combos of the ear hooks and tips, I was mucking about tip rolling and what ended up working best for me was a set of bi-flanges I had and the medium ear hooks. Whith this set up I get a great seal and they stay firmly locked in place however this may differ for you.
The one caveat I will put is that if you have anything less than medium ears you may want to stay clear because as mentioned they are huge.
Sound Quality (9/10)
After burning in and getting my fit set up it was on to what was to become one of my longest single listening sessions I have ever done for a review. We have a winner here on so many levels and the combined effects of what the Denons do are nothing short of miraculous.
The lows - Bass here is simply put incredible. Massive globs of quantity with great quality, having worked in Tokyo's Industrial/Electro/EBM scene I can safely say this is the closest that some of these artists could expect to getting there music to sound correct. The bass seems to adapt perfectly to the genre you are listening to, in classical and rock it is controlled and rich but in Hip-Hop and electro it rumbles with great authority at almost sub levels. Originally I had feared that these would be completely dominated by the bass but that it not the case, it blends excellent with other frequencies and is very very very enjoyable.
The mids – Again mids are great the have warmth and sweetness I associate with the incredible Hifiman RE-262. Its not super analytical like a balanced armature as you would expect but it comes across with a nice air and separation to them. Vocals are great in both male and females with even more prominence to the former. I really could listen to these all day and be very happy. Comparitivley I would have the C300 mids right in the mix with the eph-100 and RE-262 on a pure enjoyment basis.
The highs – Here is perhaps the most surprising part of the Denons. You expect the big bass, you would the mids were probably going to be good but the highs? You would be excused for thinking that the highs would be completely buried as they have been in many other phones intended for modern music types. That couldn't be further from the truth. The highs are nicely presented akin to how well Denon do in there other high end offerings they are crisp, clear and completely free of any sibilance.
Sound-stage, Separation, Clarity?. - Sound-stage is massive, they have the biggest soundstage from any IEM I have ever heard period. The music sounds out of your head stadium size. It is intensely 3D which sounds incredible with its effect at the end of Sugar Man by Sixto Rodriguez and Whole Lot of Love by Zeplin. For live music it is a dream and listening to Portishead live in NYC was an must and did not disappoint. All in I am going to say its even bigger than the Sennheiser IE8, I owned this phone years ago and that is what I truly remember about it, so much so that I tracked down another pair to do an AB comparison with. The Denon won on a pure sound quality perspective. .
The Denons are perhaps the most surprising phone I have heard to date, upon receiving them I expected nothing more that a take on Dre Beats. A company just trying to cash in if you will. Along with that they were trying to catch the dual dynamic market which is hot right now. What I got was something completely different,
It is capable of standing alone as your only iem as they compete the very high end, in fact I would go as far as to say that they are the most perfect IEM I have heard for Electronic, EBM, Hip-Hop and modern pop. If these are the genres you listen to exclusively or if you listen to a lot of live music then these are the phones for you. If you can live with the fit small ears had better look elsewhere. Additionally jazz and similar listeners should move along to balanced armatures but therein lies my original point.
If you listen to a wide variety and have the funds these should be in your lineup there are times where i am listening to an artist or genre and feel I am not getting the enjoyment I should be with a balanced phone and this is why I, as previously stated, am a 2 phone listener and implore everyone to start doing so.
Myself, I am keeping the Denon and that really is saying something as I had no intention to at the start. The AH-C300will go nicely to compliment my customs or Ety ER4S whilst offering bigger sound and bass while still retaining a very high quality polished experience. Overall the Denons get a massive thumbs up and a go buy now recommendation.
For what this phone has done I am actually going to put it up there.... right up there, I am going as far as to say this is in my top 3 all time IEM's at any price point, the others being the ER4S and UM miracles. It is just so unique, different and fun sounding, unlike anything else.
* i like to review based mainly on the sound first and take price into consideration. Given this I would expect to pay anywhere around the £150 mark and still be very happy with these, they really are that good. However I managed to pick these up for £50 in the UK and that just seems like the most ridiculous price to performance ratio ever. I am going to say that at that price it is an absolute no brainer.
**Playing around after the review I hooked the Digizoid Zo into this. THIS IS SIMPLY PUT THE MOST CRAZY BASS ON ANY EARPHONE EVER, ABSOLUTLEY OUTSTANDING, BRAVO DENON BRAVO! It seems it just gets better and better.