Like most audio companies these days, Denon—best known for its AV receivers, no doubt—has thrown its hat into the proverbial high-end wireless headphone ring with two over-ear models and two in-ear models. The Denon AH-C830NCW earphone is Denon’s first true wireless model with active noise cancellation. True wireless means there are no cables connecting the casings to each other or to your source device (typically a smartphone). Active noise cancellation employs the earbud’s built-in microphones to monitor ambient noises around you, model their sound waves, and then play back inverted sound waves, effectively cancelling out the original ambient noise. The AH-C830NCW is intended for listening to music or providing audio for phone and video calls from a smartphone or tablet, whether you’re sitting down or on the go.
Looking at the design, it’s clear that Denon intended the AH-C830NCW to be a less expensive alternative to the Apple Airpods Pro (2nd generation) ($249). It has a bulkier, glossier housing containing a dynamic driver, built-in microphones, associated electronics, and a silver-trimmed stem extending down from the housing. The stem houses the charging port for each earphone. Three sizes of silicone ear tips are provided to comfortably fit most ear canal sizes. The AH-C830NCW earbuds is available in either black or white. The matte finished case sports an hinged top with magnetic closure, a small LED charging status light on the front, and a USB-C cable port and Bluetooth pairing button on the back.
What Makes the Denon AH-C830NCW Earbuds Special?
- The comfort and fit of the AH-C830NCW earbuds is excellent. The casings are lightweight compared to most of the competition, and I found the earphones to be quite comfortable, even when wearing them for more than two hours at a time. In addition, the fit was snug and stable, enabling me to exercise at the gym without having to regularly adjust their fit. That’s a welcome improvement over many other true wireless earbuds I’ve used. And with the IPX4 waterproof rating of the Denon AH-C830NCW, damage from sweat or the occasional water splash is not a serious concern. While these are not specifically designed to be sports earbuds, it’s a nice to have the added versatility.
- The AH-C830NCW earphones are surprisingly accurate. What I mean by that is that they’re capable of reproducing the music as it was intended to be heard by the studio engineers. That is, plentiful bass when appropriate, natural sounding vocals, and high frequency details without over emphasis or reduction of any of those areas of the audible frequency range. Other earbuds try to impose their own sound, which isn’t the motive here.
- The active noise cancellation is better than expected. Commuters will like the great isolation that engaging the active noise cancellation provides. Successively tapping of the left earbud yields a notification sound, followed by cycling to the next of three available listening modes: ANC on, Ambient sound mix, and Normal (ANC off). With ANC engaged, I found that all but the loudest external noises were either eliminated or greatly reduced. For instance, jet engine noise was reduced to a point that increasing volume level of my music was not necessary. And with the ambient sound mix engaged, I could carry on a conversation while music was playing at a reasonable volume level. And when outdoors walking the streets in my neighborhood, I could hear cars approaching from a block away while having music playing. The effectiveness of the ANC feature was almost as good as on the Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279.99) (buy at Crutchfield), considered by many to be one of the highwater marks of ANC execution in a true wireless earbud.
- The AH-C830NCW offers great vocal clarity. For those looking for an earphone to also use for phone calls in addition to listening to music, this one comes equipped with dual beam-forming microphones along with a third microphone, all working together to further enhance voice clarity. Voice calls sound as though you’re speaking directly into a smartphone rather than through earbuds, especially when indoors.
Why Should You Care About the Denon AH-C830NCW Earbuds?
These are no-frills, music-oriented, true wireless earphones with active noise cancellation that also offer clear vocals for phone and video chats at a reasonable price. If accurately reproduced music and taking occasional phone calls is your priority and you don’t care about the extra features that some true wireless earbuds provide through companion apps, then the Denon AH-C830NCW earbuds would be a good option.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Denon AH-C830NCW
- The lack of built-in volume controls means volume adjustments can only be made from the source device.
- Battery life is not as good as many competitors, despite pretty good overall. Denon rates battery life as 4.8 hours with ANC on versus 7 hours for the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 ($249.95) (buy at Crutchfield). The shorter battery life of the Denon could be a factor for those using earphones to take numerous phone and video conference calls throughout the workday. The last thing you want is to have the earphones stop working in the middle of an important call. Denon’s combined total battery life specification when using the case to recharge the earbuds is 19.2 hours, but there is no quick or wireless charging option available.
- The AH-C830NCW lacks an accompanying app to provide additional features. If you’re looking for true wireless earbuds with ANC or EQ adjustments, you’ll need to look elsewhere. On the other hand, EQ isn’t really necessary given the AH-C830NCW’s already great sound quality right out of the box. And for people who don’t want to have to mess with another app, the lack of one could be seen as a plus.
- The casings were a little slippery when removing them from the case due to the combination of their shape and glossy finish. I would prefer that Denon had designed the case to have more of the earphones exposed above the interior surface to make them easier to grasp.
- The AH-C830NCW employs Bluetooth 5.0 and supports AAC and SBC codecs. The Apple iPhone works best with the AAC codec, while Android smartphones work better with aptX; however, the earbuds don’t support any variety of the latter, nor the LDAC/LHDC codecs that enable the very best audio quality via current Bluetooth technology.
Listening to the Denon AH-C830NCW…
As I mentioned earlier, I used the AH-C830NCW in a variety of environments including in a quiet room, out walking around my neighborhood, in the gym, and in a busy shopping center. In these environments, I played music from my Apple iPhone 12 Pro with the earbuds set to ANC on, Ambient Mix on, and ANC off. For critical listening, I moved to a quiet room.
Listening to The Rolling Stones track “Living in a Ghost Town” (Qobuz, 24-bit/88.2 kHz) (buy at Amazon), I was surprised how wide the soundstage appeared. In the opening of the track, the drums were anchored centerstage with impactful dynamics, while the chorus and guitars extended just beyond my ears both left and right. When I tapped the left earphone to switch the ANC on, the soundstage collapsed inward. The music sounded a bit congested compared to the airy quality it had with ANC off. With ANC off, I could more easily place the various instruments and vocals within the soundstage. I definitely preferred listening with ANC off, but when in a noisy environment with ANC on, I didn’t need to turn up the volume above my typical listening level, protecting my hearing.
I was pleasantly surprised how accurately the AH-C830NCW teased out the complex layering of instruments in London Grammar’s “Lord It’s a Feeling (Orchestral Version)” (Qobuz, 16-bit/44.1 kHz)(buy a special edition at Amazon on LP) recorded live at Abbey Road Studios. The delicacy of the opening piano and harp notes gradually lead to more and more layering of string and wind instruments, crescendoing when French horns, trombones, and percussion join in. At the 2:50 mark, the bass notes of the timpani and horns really add to the dynamic impact and grandeur of the music. At the same time, I was still able to discern the various instruments within the soundstage. The haunting quality to the vocals by Hannah Reid came through clearly throughout the piece, despite the complex layering and big dynamic range of the music. The balanced approach to music reproduction of the Denon AH-C830NCW is key to accurately reproducing complex orchestral music of this nature.
Do the Denon AH-C830NCW Earbuds Have Any Resale Value?
In a word, no.
Let’s face it: when it comes to wireless earbuds, almost all are one and done when it comes to ownership. That goes double for earbuds in the price range of the Denon AH-C830NCW. Besides, I expect most people just are not keen on putting someone else’s well-used earphones into their own ears.
Who Is the Competition for the Denon AH-C830NCW Earbuds?
As I mentioned earlier, the Denon AH-C830NCW is styled to be an alternative to the Apple Airpods Pro (2nd generation), but stripped down on both features and cost.
The 1More EVO True Wireless EH902 earphones (buy at Amazon) are priced just above the Denon AH-C830NCW and come with an accompanying app enabling additional features such as adaptable ANC, preset or customizable EQ, and the option to set up your own sound profile via the included SoundID software from Sonarworks.
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless earphones ($179) (buy at Amazon) are just a bit more than the Denon AH-C830NCW and include ANC as well as support for the aptX Bluetooth codec in addition to AAC and SBC. There’s also a companion app providing additional features.
A less expensive competitor would be the Cleer Ally Plus II Noise Cancelling True Wireless earbuds ($129) (buy at Amazon). Cleer claims a better battery life of 11 hours, but doesn’t differentiate battery life with ANC on and off in their published specifications. The Ally Plus II also offers adaptive ANC and sound personalization via the Cleer+ app.
Final Thoughts on the Denon AH-C830NCW
The AH-C830NCW is a straight-to-the-point pair of fully wireless earphones very capable at accurately reproducing music the way it was intended, as well as providing clear voice reproduction when taking the occasional phone call. For those looking to also use their earphones to handle constant phone and video calls throughout their busy workday, I would suggest looking elsewhere for a model with longer battery life. But, for those who primarily listen to music, don’t want to mess around with an app, and are looking to save some money in the process, the Denon AH-C830NCW would be a good choice.