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Speaker Image

An example of how bendy these things are.

The band has a metal core, is extendable, and is also padded.

Band Image

Note the length of band extension. This is about average, but should let these things fit just about any head.

The left ear cup has a recessed 1/8-inch port for the audio cable. The right ear cup has a battery cavity that seats a single AAA, an on/off switch, and an LED to let you know if the active cancellation feature is engaged.

In the Denon AH-NC732s' box, you will find the following: airplane adapter, 1/4-inch adapter, detachable cables (2.3 feet and 4.92 feet), a single AAA battery, and a carrying case.

In the Box Image

While this is more than lower-end headphones will give you, for headphones in the AH-NC732s' class this is a standard set of included items.

Overall, the AH-NC732s seem very durable. They have a good cord guard around their plug, and the plug itself is bent at a 90-degree angle. This design tends to last a bit longer than straight plugs, which can quickly wear down the cables inside the cord.

The AH-NC732s are a small set of on-ears, slightly smaller than the Bose QuietComfort 3s. They have a very reserved aesthetic, but it's clean, simple, and won't embarrass you. While we definitely thought they were nice looking, there isn't any wow factor at all. The only notable aesthetic factor we noticed (other than a general sense of 'these look okay') was that, when worn, the AH-NC732s tend to curve away from the natural curve of the head. A little above your temples, the band will fall away from your head before arcing back to meet the cups. This could look a bit silly at times. Otherwise, however, the Denon AH-NC732 headphones have a nice, professional look, but are a bit too plain to have any real charm.

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The Denon AH-NC732 headphones are a set of noise-cancelling on-ears. With the active noise-cancelling features and a $300 price tag, the AH-NC732s are joining the crowd attempting to dethrone Bose from its pedastel amongst mainstream listeners. Like the Bose headphones, the AH-NC732s are comfortable, don't move around much when your head does, and come with some good cable and adapter options. Unlike the QuietComfort headphones, however, the AH-NC732s can switch their cancellation on or off, letting you conserve battery life when you don't need it. Also, audio quality gets a significant boost from shutting off the noise cancellation. The Denon AH-NC732's frequency response has some issues towards the higher third of the graph. The bass is emphasized, but not emphasized too much. At around 7kHz, the graph takes a huge plunge. This is the frequency you'd want to equalize up if you like drums, so this dip might take some of the punch out of drum-heavy songs. After that initial downward spike, the graph rescues itself for a very short period of time, only to fall back below the lower limit. One thing you should look out for on these graphs are sharp lines. That means that an instrument straddling that frequency range can have a dramatically different emphasis for different notes. The sudden dip down around 7kHz and the subsequent zigzagging means that things toward the higher end might seem a bit inconsistently emphasized. Again, the AH-NC732s have a fine response for the lower frequencies, but tend to fumble higher ones.
Frequency Response Graph

The average score for this section is presently 4.01, so the Denon AH-NC732s are a bit worse than average. They aren't the worst of the headphones below, but that's not saying much: the QC3s fall off earlier and further.

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Looking at the non-QC3 comparison headphones below, it's obvious why the AH-NC732s underperformed. Those that do stray outside the limits go nowhere near as far off their mark as the AH-NC732s (again, with the exception of the QC3s). The 6isolators have a very flat response and only dip slightly outside the limits in a very small area. It's interesting to note that most of the active cancellers (the AH-NC732s, MDR-NC500Ds, and QC3s) follow more or less the same trend of a good bass response but an underemphasized higher end. The exception to this rule is the Creative Aurvana X-Fi, so the previous three headphones can't blame their poor performance on some flaw inherent in active cancellation.

The Denon AH-NC732 headphones have virtually no distortion when noise cancellation is turned off. As you can see, the line barely ever raises above zero for the entirety of the frequency spectrum.

Distortion Graph

Noise Cancellation Off

When it's turned on, however, it's an entirely different story. That bump in the middle almost reaches 3%, which is almost distracting. If we were to score based on this performance, it would've gotten a 1.16, which would have been the worst distortion score we've assigned by a little over half a point.

Distortion Other Modes Graphs

Noise Cancellation On

Unfortunately, this distortion spike is just something you'll have to deal with if you're listening to an active-canceller. Sub-par sound quality comes easily when the headphones are injecting soundwaves into your music that doesn't belong there. What we'd recommend doing is shutting off the noise cancellation when you don't need it. Chances are, if you do, you're in a loud enough environment that the distortion will seem like a natural byproduct of the ambient noise.

Of course, this means the AH-NC732 has the distinction of having both the best and worst distortion scores, if only for now.

In our comparisons, the AH-NC732, as our current high score topper, blows away the competition. As good as the other headphones here are, they all have more distortion than the AH-NC732s.

The AH-NC732s had a rocky tracking test. It doesn't have any huge swings throughout the main part, but this is a normalize graph and that short downward spike after 1kHz looks like it might've actually plunged down a bit further than this graph shows. Also, towards 10kHz the graph bounds upwards, meaning the volume swings dramatically to the left channel. After that point it gets a bit scribbly, but that's typically what happens on the high end. While there aren't any drastic pulls either way on this graph, it's far from smooth. This being said, even the drastic swings are less than a 10 decibel shift, which isn't particularly noticeable.

Tracking Graph

The Denon AH-NC732 has a wobbly tracking graph. Just by eyeballing the tiny little graph thumbnails below it's apparent it didn't do too well. Again, we don't score on the lower or higher end of the graph since the data isn't 100% accurate. The only pair of headphones that are comparably rocky are the Aurvana X-Fi headphones, but even they don't jump to the height that the AH-NC732s do.

The Denon AH-NC732s are capable of outputting 106.62 decibels, which isn't great. Most headphones can output 110-120dB, which is what we award maximum points for. Anything louder than that is damaging. Reaching 106dB isn't bad, but it might not be enough for those who like it loud.

The main selling point of the AH-NC732s is their active noise cancellation. Denon touts it as capable of cancelling out 99% of external sound, which is a figure vague enough to essentially be meaningless. Interestingly enough, contrary to the norm in such oversteps of marketing, the AH-NC732s aren't bad. In fact, they have decent cancellation for a set of active-cancellers. They're currently our second best set of active-cancellers, after the Creative Aurvana X-Fi headphones.

Like other active-cancellers, the AH-NC732 mainly blocks out bass frequencies, and like other active-cancellers, the cancellation actually creates a bit of noise towards the middle frequencies. Again, this isn't as good as a good set of in-ears, such as the Etymotic Research ER6is, but they represent the current upper crust of active cancellation.

Isolation Graph

For the majority of those reading this review, this section is the most important one. Exactly how well does the AH-NC732s' noise cancellation do, compared to other competitors - or, for that matter, how well does active noise cancellation even work to begin with? If you find yourself asking that question, then we certainly have an exciting array of graphs for you. Again, the blue lines are active cancellation, green lines are passive. No blue line means no active cancellation.

First of all, good ol' earplugs seem to beat noise cancellation in terms of overall isolation, as evidenced by the Etymotic ER6is. If you're looking for some spot reduction on bass, however, then active cancellation is something to look into. In this regard, the AH-NC732 headphones score between the QuietComfort 2 and 3. The QuietComfort 2s form a poor seal with the head (the padding is fuzzy and about as air-tight as a stuffed bear) so we weren't surprised to see the AH-NC732s win that match-up. It's very similar to the QC3s in terms of forming a tight seal with your head (both headphones use similar material on their pads), but the QC3s block out a bit more bass.

While the AH-NC732s and their noise cancellation aren't the worst out of the headphones we've reviewed, they aren't as good as the Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones, and both underperform versus a pair of in-ear headphones.

The AH-NC732 aren't the quietest headphones ever - on the contrary, they actually leak a bit more that you'd think, given their cancellation abilities. This being said, the AH-NC732 has the second-highest score in this category for a non-in-ear headphone (the Sony MDR-DS6000 currently occupies first place). This achievement doesn't say all that much for the AH-NC732, but it also doesn't say much for non-in-ear headphones in general. If you like listening to your music really loud, someone sitting next to you will probably hear it. If you're in a library or quiet office, everyone will glower at you.

In order to test comfort, we unfortunately have to default to our own. While this is great news for anyone with our exact head specifications, for others this section will serve as a mere guide. Please, harass the store to let you try on headphones before purchasing. Uncomfortable headphones are only slightly better than broken headphones.

If nothing else, the Denon AH-NC732 headphones are comfortable. They don't grip the head too tightly, but they also don't shake around. The pads have a soft covering, and gently rest against the sides and top of your head (since the band is thoughtfully padded as well). While the headphones are a bit bulky, they never feel heavy. The buttons are easy to reach, although they could have more diverse shapes to aid in finding them by touch.

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We took the headphones for a jog, and they tended to stay put while we moved, although we wouldn't recommend getting all sweaty with these headphones: there's just a thin cloth between your ears and the sound element.

The only caveat we have is for those who aren't used to noise cancellation: chances are it'll make your head feel funny for the first few hours. We've heard it described as feeling like one's head was under water, like the person was adrift in space, like the person had to pop their ears, etc. We recommend wearing the headphones for at least a few hours to get used to the sensation before making any judgments in regards to comfort.

After a wear session of six hours, we felt exactly the same. The pressure didn't seem to grow with time, in fact, as we got used to them the pressure actually seemed to lessen slightly. Conversely, wearing these headphones can make your ears a bit hot since they're basically ear muffs with a good seal. Overall, however, the AH-NC732 headphones are very comfortable, even during extended use.

The main cable for the AH-NC732 headphones is 59 inches long, aka 4 foot, 11 inches, aka 1.5 meters. The secondary cord is a great deal shorter, only measuring 2 foot, 2.75 inches (0.68 meters). There isn't an included male-to-male 1/8-inch plug connector, so you unfortunately can't join your cables together unless you can provide such an adapter.

Cable Connectivity Image

These are the two cords that come in the box. It would've been nice to have a male-to-male connector to form one long cord, but alas, we do not live in such a world.

The short cord is great for commuters, but the long cord isn't all that long. Again, If there were some included adapter that would let you hook the two cables together, it would certainly help out.

Cable Connectivity Image

These are the two cords that come in the box. It would've been nice to have a male-to-male connector to form one long cord, but alas, we do not live in such a world.

The AH-NC732 package also comes with two adapters: 1/4-inch and airplane (double prong). Chances are the 1/4-inch adapter will get used a lot more than the airplane adapter, but it's still nice to see both included.

There aren't any real customization options included in the packaging. You can tilt the ear cups and swivel them all around, and the band extends slightly. There is also the short/long cord option (2 feet, 2.75 inches and 4 feet, 11 inches) to placate commuters and home users alike (although home users might find the sub-five-foot cord a bit short). There aren't any extra cup pads, or faceplates, or even a little rhinestone gun for customizing your headphones further. If you want to customize your AH-NC732s, you'll have to do it on your own dime.

These headphones aren't the most portable headphones out there, but they aren't the least portable either. Over-headphones are large by design. It's not like you can just shove the AH-NC732 into your pocket when you're done listening.

The AH-NC732s come with a case that, strangely enough, doesn't look like the Bose case. That makes the AH-NC732s the first active-cancellers to not take their emulation of the QuietComfort series to shameful depths.

Portability Image

The closed case.

Portability Image

The closed case.

Portability Image

The closed case.

Although everything can be safely and neatly tucked into this case, the case itself isn't particularly portable. Regardless, should you be going on a trip, the case will definitely let you keep your headphones and accessories organized. If you're looking to commute, then leave the case at home and fit the shorter cord onto your Denons.

The AH-NC732s are a bit annoying to disassemble. The first step is easy enough, though: remove the padding. The back of the padding has plastic catches that connect it to the cup, which can be seen naked below.

Maintenance Image

This is what the cup looks like without its padding.

At this point, you'll need a teeny-tiny screwdriver if you want to continue. Unfortunately, we didn't have a screwdriver that small. We're guessing that the average consumer probably won't either, which is unfortunate.

Battery

These headphones will eat one AAA battery at a time to keep their active noise cancelling going. The AH-NC732s aren't, however, battery dependent, because they will play back music even when the battery is dead. Since many popular active noise-cancellers out there have established a bad trend of not playing when the battery is dead (Bose, go to your room), it's refreshing to see a few companies are still paying attention to user experience.

Battery Image

This is the battery port, which accepts one AAA.

One thing to keep in mind though: the packaged-in battery is bad. We were only able to get 7 hours, 37 minutes out of the AAA that came with the headphones, which is significantly less than the manufacturer's stated time of 40 hours. We put in the name-brand, store bought battery we typically use for testing, and were able to get 23 hours, 14 minutes, which is better.

Active Noise Cancellation

The AH-NC732's noise cancellation feature is about average in terms of its usability, meaning you can switch it on/off but it doesn't have any additional features.

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If you're looking for a solid, comfortable pair of noise-cancelling headphones, the Denon AH-NC732 headphones are a good choice. They are a bit expensive for their $300 price tag, but out of all the active-cancellers we've reviewed, these offer the most for their purchase price. If you're planning on getting a pair of Bose QuietComforts, then you should strongly consider these headphones as well. They're slightly noisier when the active noise cancellation is activated, but they have the options to turn it off for insanely low distortion.

The Denon AH-NC732 headphones are a step in the right direction. They're still a bit expensive, and their audio quality overall isn't the best, but they do have a few strong points. Their cancellation, although still inferior to a set of analog ear plugs, is some of the best we've seen (although that '99% noise cancellation' selling point is essentially meaningless). They also have very low distortion when the active noise cancellation is turned off — and simply being able to turn off active cancellation is great in and of itself.

The real strength of the AH-NC732s, like the Bose QuietComfort series, is their versatility. They are portable for a set of non-in-ears and have decent isolation, which means they're fine on the go. You can also switch off the cancellation for some distortion free playback at your home. Assuming you're looking for active cancellers in this range and think they look good on you, the AH-NC732s are a good pick.

Meet the tester

Mark Brezinski

Mark Brezinski

Senior Writer

@markbrezinski

Mark Brezinski is a senior writer with seven years of experience reviewing consumer tech and home appliances.

See all of Mark Brezinski's reviews

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