Denon is a brand that won’t need an introduction to many as they have been around since 1910 and have offered a wide range of audio products over the years from turntables, receivers, and headphones. So with such a long history in audio and the headphone/earphone market, it comes as a surprise that Denon has only now released their first ever TWS earbud into the market.
Competitively priced at $159, the new Denon AH-C830NCW is a true wireless earbud with active noise cancellation. It comes in glossy black or white and bears a striking resemblance to the Apple AirPods. The case style and bud style are a bit more angular but otherwise very similar to the Apple offerings.
Construction of the AH-C830NCW is mostly plastic with contact points at the end of the stems for charging and three visible vents on the shell. There is a mic port at the bottom of the stem, a port immediately adjacent to the nozzle, one on the top of the driver housing, and a final port at the base of the body near the junction with the stem. Its IPX4 water resistance rating means it should be fine for workouts and can withstand the occasional splash.
Three sizes of black silicone tips are provided and fit was fairly easy with a good seal made in the process.
Drivers are listed as an 11mm x 10mm ovoid dynamic driver developed in-house by Denon. Details about diaphragm material, impedance, and sensitivity were not available at the time this was written.
Pairing was straight forward with the earbuds detected by the Google quick Pair feature and a dialog appearing asking if you wished to pair the buds. Connections were via AAC codec with the SBC fallback not needed on either of my phones (Samsung, Apple).
Controls weren’t the easiest to figure out and took some time to get used to. Everything is controlled by the touch sensors on the outer earbud face. Single touching the left changes modes between ANC, Ambient, and base mode with a single tone for ANC, two tones for Ambient, and three for base mode.
It is easy to hear the tones with music paused but can be difficult to tell when playback is in progress. This may say good things for the ANC in that you can’t immediately hear the change in signature. Single touching the right ear offers play/pause. From there, the controls are a combination of double taps and touch and hold functions that will require the manual until familiarized. However, once learned the system works well. Surprisingly, no app exists to assist with settings.
Denon lists “Denon Sound Master Tuning” of the internals to provide the best sound quality possible and I can hear a bit of the characteristic house sound from other Denon offerings in the AH-C830NCW.
The earbuds are sub-bass forward with good bass depth while maintaining good clarity in the lows. The mid-bass is also emphasized but not quite as forward as the sub-bass. Bass texture is good and on par with what I found with the AirPod Pro, but bass depth is a bit better giving the Denon a slight advantage in the bottom end versus the Apple offering.
Tuning of the mids is also typical of Denon with good clarity and a bit of thickening in the vocals that give them good weight while still cutting through the mix well. I found the AH-C830NCW best suited to popular genres as the bump in lower midrange energy gives lower strings more weight than higher strings and can make things like quartet pieces seem a little out of balance. When used for rock, pop, and hip-hop, that lower mid push gives guitars ample growl and energy.
At the top end, there is an emphasis to the lower treble that matches the low end emphasis and gives the AH-C830NCW an overall V-shape sound signature. The treble does a good job walking the line though as I had no issues with fatigue during longer listening sessions but didn’t feel like the earbud lacked air either. (Understand that this is a sealed unit with ANC so don’t expect tons of air or stage size, but at least it doesn’t feel claustrophobic as is too often the case in ANC buds).
The AH-C830NCW has 4 mics; two of which are used for capturing your voice when used for calls, and two are used for ANC (active noise cancellation). I found the ANC to work well for droning noises in the lower registers but struggle with voices and sharp noises of higher pitches.
This is not atypical of ANC in general and overall I found the earbuds did an above average job of ANC without greatly diminishing the sound quality in the process.
Battery life can become an issue when using ANC. The additional processing requires power that drains the battery faster. The AH-C830NCW managed to get nearly six hours of use time without ANC and a little over four hours usage with ANC enabled. Although nobody likes less battery life, four hours with ANC enabled is above average performance.
The case provides three full recharges and part of a fourth before needing to be plugged in via the USB Type-C port on the rear of the unit. I appreciate the case design because the LED is visible while the USB cable is connected, without having to flip or open the case.
Overall, I think the Denon AH-C830NCW is a solid first effort at a TWS from Denon and is exactly the kind of product I expected it would be. At $159, it isn’t the least expensive available but when compared to the Klipsch, Sennheiser, and Master & Dynamic models that Denon typically competes with in other markets — the price is somewhat competitive.
The AH-C830NCW are a strong first effort with good ANC performance, good comfort, and better than average sound. Those looking for an AirPod Pro alternative with a bit more slam and low end definition should really like the Denon AH-C830NCW.
It took Denon just a bit over 100 years to introduce their first TWS and I’m excited to see where the line goes from here.
Where to buy: $159 at Denon.com