Everything about the Denon Urban Raver headphones is big. Inside these bulbous, flashy cans is an amplifier that promises to raise the bar on your tracks, especially in genres like techno and hip-hop. Denon also includes on-ear controls and an app for iOS and Android that gives you more control. Is all this worth $239?
Click to EnlargeYou'll definitely turn heads when you wear the Urban Raver headphones, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Though the headphones' combo of glossy black and blue highlights looks slick, the huge knobs that jut out from the right and left ear covers of these bulky cans are not. Each knob sticks out about half an inch and is outlined by a Tron-blue LED light, making them stick out like big, blue sore thumbs.
The knobs aren't just cosmetic. The right one can adjust volume with a simple twist forward or backward, pause and play music with a tap, or answer and end calls. The left knob lets you adjust the brightness of the blue LED lights that outline both buttons. Navigating the controls was a cinch.
The Ravers add 11 ounces to the top of your head, about the same as the flashy SMS Audio Sync by 50 Wireless headphones. But with the knobs, the wingspan is a full inch thicker than 50 Cent's monster headphones. In fact, while walking through a subway car we accidentally banged the side of these cans into one of the poles.
Despite their size, the Urban Ravers are very comfortable to wear. The plush, memory-foam cans have a wide pentagonal shape that fit our ears snugly within their synthetic leather footprint. The headband is glossy on the outside and matte on the inside, and the crown is wrapped in thick-cut "protein leather." We wore the Ravers for hours without any aches or fatigue. It helps that the headband can be adjusted with a sturdy tug.
Click to EnlargeBelow the right cup is a port for the included 3-foot 3.5mm headphone cord. There's also a switch for activating the amplifier that was so small, we often struggled to slide it off and on. Just above the headphone port is a built-in microphone, which means you don't need a dongle on the headphone cord for making calls.
Beneath the left cup is a microUSB port for recharging the AH-D400's battery that powers the internal amplifier and the LED indicators that activate in that mode.
Also included in the Urban Raver box is a zipper bag with a carabiner for attachment to larger book bags.
Click to EnlargeThe Urban Raver headphones can be used with Denon's Club app for Android and iOS devices. Basically an alternative to the music app on your device, the Club app lets you adjust and save equalizer settings for your tunes. We successfully adjusted the low end for hip-hop tracks by nudging sliders in the equalizer up or down. It was tricky to find a setting that worked well across many tracks, though. The equalizer is Club's standout feature, but it only works in the app. Club's equalizer settings don't apply to other apps, such as Spotify or Pandora.
Club can also play tracks saved on your phone and create playlists, but the interface was too clunky and outmoded to replace our go-to music app. There's also free access to 70,000 radio stations and podcasts -- all streaming only -- courtesy of TuneIn Radio.
Click to EnlargeIn regular mode, the Urban Raver's 50mm drivers produced muddy, but serviceable sound. In Frank Ocean's "Pyramids," the midtones, sandwiched between strong highs and lows, lost their edges and sonic detail.
When we turned on the amplifier, we could better hear the almost-atmospheric strings in the background; bass notes thumbed against our ears more, and the synths popped more clearly than before.
The amplifier mode rounded out the sound on almost every track we listened to, adding not only more volume but also making each song more clear. The pianos and horns in John Coltrane's "Blue Train" were more textured and supple; the drum solo in a Queens of the Stone Age track kicked with thumpy vibrato; and Daft Punk's "Human After All" took on bouncier bass and punchier highs.
Still, some songs remained cloudy in the center despite amplified mode. In "Go With The Flow" by Queens of the Stone Age, for instance, the bass guitar overpowered the vocals.
By comparison, the V-Moda Crossfade M-100 ($299) offered cleaner and sharper audio quality across the spectrum. The M-100's bass wasn't as powerful as the Ravers, but we did enjoy the former's sonic clarity.
We did enjoy the Ravers more than the SMS Audio Sync by 50 Wireless headphones. Those bombastic cans kick out overwhelmingly low frequencies. By comparison, the Ravers were better balanced.
Incoming audio during calls made indoors was slightly better than average. As long as we spoke in a conversational tone, our callers could easily make out our voice. Our test caller complained when we talked in a low voice. Also, calls from a noisy environment such as a NYC sidewalk had too much background noise for our co-worker to hear us clearly.
Click to EnlargeDenon rates the Denon Urban Raver (AH-D400) Headphones for 12 hours of battery life. We got about 13 hours of amplified playback and LED illumination on the Ravers.
The $239 Denon Urban Raver headset is definitely for those who like a bassy kick and a flashy design. The midtones are faded on the edges, but the overall listening experience really pops. And, unlike the SMS Audio Sync by 50 Wireless headphones ($243.99), the low end isn't overpowering because the Ravers up the bass in proportion to the rest of the levels. We just wish the knobs on the sides of these headphones didn't stick out so far. For $299, the V-Moda Crossfade M-100 headphones tout clearer sound, but if you like richer, more embellished audio, the Urban Raver headset is a bangin' choice.