Maintaining comfort on wireless headphones can be tough. You don’t want to place some giant battery onboard because weight is the antithesis of long-term comfort, but you do want a large battery lifespan. You don’t want to skip on wireless connectivity features because few things can ruin your listening experience faster than some bad audio sync.
For some people, sound quality matters above all else. But audio can be hard to appreciate when you’re struggling to hear your music over environmental noise. Getting the best of all worlds can be expensive for headphones, but it can also absolutely be worth it.
Denon AH-GC30 Premium Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones
The Denon AH-GC30 are incredibly strange. Even though these are priced like entry-level audiophile headphones, they’re not really audiophile headphones. They’re more like high-end headphones that have been given a number of high-end features. But they’re far too generalized in design to truly be audiophile equipment.
Truthfully, in a mobile capacity, it can be difficult to get your hands on audiophile sound. Especially if you don’t want to carry around some kind of brick-like power source with you. Many of the best audiophile cans on the market, understandably, have much higher power requirements. Especially when it comes to impedance.
But the AH-GC30 gets pretty close. These headphones have a truly robust feature set. From their calling features to the degree of noise protection they deliver, there’s a lot going on here. Clearly, these headphones are not going to be the best choice for someone looking for a cheap pair of entry-level cans. But for people who really want the head wireless headphones they can get their hands on? There might be something here.
Design & Layout
Unfortunately, the AH-GC30 are cursed with looking somewhat cheap. Strangely enough, looking a bit cheap is a problem that’s very common to many high-end headphones. Because ultimately, most of their body is constructed from plastics, and we all have an intuition that plastic is cheap.
But these plastics aren’t selected to save money, they’re selected because they’re among the best combination of lightweight and sturdy materials that you can find for headphones. You can find headphones made from sturdier materials, like metals or wood. People don’t want to wear them because they’re almost invariably too heavy. When it comes to comfort, nothing will ruin your experience faster than weight. More specifically, headphones that are too weighty will put an uneven strain on your neck, which you’ll feel the longer you wear them.
One exception to the primarily plastic construction of these headphones is the headband, which is made from a sturdy aluminum band. The band allows you to pull-out and extend the ear-cups by several notches, but we’ll look more closely at comfort considerations a bit later.
Partially counteracting their not quite premium appearance, the DH-GC30 are available in both black and white. Both use the same matte exterior. The black has silver highlights, while the white is stylishly highlighted with gold. The DENON name is placed on the outside of each ear cup, too.
Putting aside style, one thing these headphones definitely have going for them is a compact nature. The headband and ear cups are both highly bendable and foldable, which ensures you can toss these headphones into a bag and not have to worry about them breaking during transit. The Denon AH-GC30 measures about 3.54 x 6.1 x 8.27 inches, at least when folded up and packed away.
Sadly, the AH-GC30 end up weighing about one pound. That’s about average for a pair of headphones like this. And truthfully, it’s hard to do much better than that on weight without seriously undercutting the battery performance.
That’s the reason why so many wireless headphones end up weighing about the same weight – manufacturers have figured out that the 1lb mark is about the most you can shove onto headphones before the weight becomes an imminent problem. Since this is a problem shared across the industry, it’s tough to be too critical of Denon for that.
For starters, it’s worth noticing that the Denon AH-GC30 are constructed to be over-ear headphones. As such, the ear cups are designed to provide their own layer of passive noise protection by delivering a physical seal against your ear that keeps out noise. The passive layer of noise protection provided here is really nothing special, working out to be something like 10dB of noise reduction. In fact, some noise is actually intentionally let in to the ear-cups, which is what allows the ANC feature to work.
As a feature, ANC isn’t a binary thing that headphones have or don’t. ANC is a feature that can be implemented well, or implemented poorly. And the Denon AH-GC30 actually does a pretty good job here. Similar to how Bose has implemented their latest generation of ANC technology, Denon delivers a number of different sound modes you can select between to fine-tune the sort of performance you want from your headphones.
For instance, there’s an ambient monitor mode that ensures you don’t miss an announcement or don’t miss some kind of important conversation going on. And there’s a mode designed to block out all noise to the best of the AH-GC30’s abilities. This kind of granular control is really quite impressive, and it’s not something many brands have done well to this point.
Denon AH-GC30 are made with edge-free audio drivers, intending on helping maintain a more natural tonal balance within the soundscape. But it’s really all the software support surrounding those drivers that help them sound outstanding. Things like adaptive equalization, wind noise reduction, and echo cancellation.
The resulting audio is ideal for enjoying movies, listening to music, and of course taking calls. Not only are these drivers good at helping ensure you hear what you’re supposed to hear, they’re quite good at keeping things sounding realistic. Which means better clarity in calls, and hearing music closer to what the artist intended for you to hear.
Of course, over-ear headphones have their own limitations. They’re not going to compare to a real subwoofer when it comes to bass performance. But the AH-GC30 delivers bass with warmth, and the rest of the tonal range with great clarity. It’s a soundstage that’s easy to love because it’s not heavily biased in any one direction.
The Denon AH-GC30 is capable of providing a 20 hours of battery lifespan. When compared to other over-ear headphones of the same type, you’ll find that 20-hour lifespan is high average. You can’t go much higher than 20-hours on headphones like this because doing so will cause the weight of the headphones to get uncomfortable very quickly. And in exchange for what? In most circumstances, 20-hours ought to cover you, right?
Whether or not you actually reach the 20-hour mark depends on a number of different things. For starters, it depends on you not using these headphones at maximum volume for every hour of the day. The 20-hour estimate is actually based on a user who’s inside a room-temperature area, and someone who’s using the headphones at around half-volume.
If you greatly wander outside of those parameters, you might find this headset can quickly work its way down towards a maximum capacity of roughly 15 hours. That’s partially to do with the ANC. Similar to Bluetooth, ANC is a fairly power hungry feature. Because it requires the headphones to pay attention to the sound around them, and then create soundwaves made to cancel out that noise for you.
Looking to stretch out the battery a bit? You can switch over to 3.5mm wired mode to get rid of Bluetooth. Going to wired mode will actually save you quite a bit of battery. And being able to go wired means even in the distant future, when the battery inside these headphones finally dies, the AH-GC30 will still be a functional unit when wired.
Often times, these types of headphones fall short when it comes to calling features. Interestingly, the AH-GC30 really breaks the mold here. For starters, this headset supports both wired and wireless calling. In other words, it allows you to make calls wirelessly using Bluetooth, or while wired with the in-line remote connection. More often than not, headphones like these only support one or the other.
When it comes to taking calls, it’s worth noting that the AH-GC30 was built to deliver something resembling business-level call quality. It does that because it was made with a dual microphone configuration, which can be essential to delivering on clarity when you’re in a noisy environment. One microphone can work to help compensate for noise that’s affecting the other.
And that’s not all. The AH-GC30 goes a bit further by offering native support for cVc noise cancellation, which provides even more noise protection. The people who are on the other end of a call will hear your voice blanketed over some steady ambient noise which blocks out noise behind you, effectively removing another 25dB or so from your environment. The cVc technologies combined with the dual microphone configuration really makes the AH-GC30 shine when it comes to calls.
An over-ear design is ideal for comfort, but the inclusion of ANC actually contributes to comfort too. Because it means you don’t need the physical seal to be quite as tight to achieve the same level of noise protection. In fact, you’re actually better off letting a little noise in for the ANC to be able to do its best work.
Similar many pairs of portable headphones these days, the headband uses a soft layer of memory foam that’s been covered in a protective layer of in faux fabric. Essentially the same materials are used on the ear cups. Generic materials are used precisely because they’re the right things to use, even though it means these headphones end up physically feeling pretty similar to much cheaper headphones.
The headband expands, retracts, and slides into itself. Like any pair of similar headphones, it’s pretty annoying when the headband accidentally slides on one side accidentally, like when you’re picking up the headphones. But the AH-GC30 make it very easy to get your comfort settings back where they were. Along the edge of the headband, you’ll find some numbers, running one through six. Once you know which settings are right for you, getting back to them takes only a glance.
Denon includes a micro USB charging cable, an audio cable with an in-line microphone, and an audio cable without a microphone. Additionally, they include a zippered case that can fit the headphones and all its accessories. The case is made of a nice smooth nylon fabric that’s fairly sturdy and lightly waterproof.
Who Should Choose Denon AH-GC30 Headphones?
Just about the worst thing about the Denon AH-GC30 are their price tag. But sometimes you get what you pay for. People who want to marry several high-tier headphone traits together into a single product will love these headphones. When it comes to call clarity, they’re near perfect. You could do better if you had four microphones instead of two, but only better by a narrow margin.
People who are interested in battery lifespan will find the AH-GC30 perform admirably, especially if you’re willing to ever implement the use of a wired connection to help pad out the battery. And when it comes to audio quality, the AH-GC30 deliver what comes quite close to audiophile sound. Which makes them a good choice for someone who’s really wants the best of all worlds from their headphones.