The Ultimate AirPods Pro Alternative? Denon's AH-C830NCW True Wireless In-Ear Headphones, a Full Review

Manufacturer & Model
Denon AH-C830NCW True Wireless In-Ear Headphones
MSRP
$159
Link
https://www.denon.com/en-us/product/true-wireless-headphones/denon-noise-cancelling-earbuds
Highlights
Affordable, lightweight, excellent Active Noise Cancelling, superb sound with verified depth to bass, up to 24 hours of playback time.
Summary
Denon's first-ever Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) In-Ear Headphones brings high-level performance to a price point that falls well short of Apple's AirPods Pro and other high-end models. Delivering comfort and flexibility during both active and relaxing times, the AH-C830NCW is a true lifestyle product. Its onboard ANC is a workhorse, readily eliminating ambient noise, call quality is excellent, and sound quality is tremendously competent. Despite a few shortcomings, the AH-C830NCW delivers great performance for the buck.
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During a recent walk through Reagan National Airport's expansive domestic terminal, I couldn't help but notice the number of ears plugged with wireless buds. Gone are the days of seeing white cords dangling about; wireless has completely infiltrated the market.

On that particular trip, I entered the cabin of an American Airlines Airbus armed with a new audio weapon: Denon's first-ever Active Noise Canceling (ANC) buds, the AH-C830NCW ($159). Launched simultaneously with the company's entry-level AH-C630W Wireless Earbuds ($99), the AH-C830NCW carries a price tag that falls south of Apple's AirPods Pro and higher-end options. Locked and loaded with many of the performance characteristics we've come to expect from modern wireless buds, Denon says both models are capable of dishing "powerful, detailed sound."

As with past earbud reviews, my evaluation of the AH-C830NCW extends beyond a few hours of listening tests, having integrated it into my daily life for more than seven weeks. It's helped me power through pavement-pounding runs, dog walks, lengthy sessions in the gym, long hours at the keyboard, shopping trips, phone calls, and quite a few power naps. All told, I've spent more than 170 hours with the AH-C830NCW in my ears, and the results are definitely worth detailing.


Out of the Box
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To simplify things, I'll refer to the AH-C830NCW as the "C830" for most of this review, which immediately brings us to one of a handful of nitpicks: the lack of a catchy name. Denon, if you're listening, a product this good deserves something more than a generic "earbuds" tag or cringey model number. Give us something to chirp when others ask what they are!

The C830 landed on my doorstep in high-quality earth-friendly packaging, crafted with cardboard, paperboard, and recyclable plastics. Overall box design and product presentation were top-notch and should satisfy those who enjoy a proper unboxing experience.

In addition to the earbuds and case, Denon provides three sizes of ear tips, a short USB-C charging cable, and a quick start guide. A complete owner's manual can be accessed using a QR code within the guide or by visiting manuals.denon.com/AHC830NCW/ALL/EN/.

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As is typical, the C830 employs a dual-purpose charging/storage case. Its dimensions (width and length) are nearly identical to Apple's AirPods Pro, but it's almost twice as thick, making it somewhat bulky when slipped in a pocket. The well-built outer shell is durable, and a wide, flat bottom allows the case to stand free while charging via a rear USB-C port (wireless charging isn't supported). A front-mounted color-changing LED indicates the case's charge status, which doubles as a Bluetooth pairing indicator when the case's rear pairing button is activated.

The case's angled lid conceals two molded charging bays that expedite fitting the earbuds into place. Strong magnets keep them securely positioned and locked in the case, though they're easy enough to remove with a quick pinch-and-lift motion.

At first glance, the earbuds look strikingly similar to Apple's classic design, but a side-by-side inspection finds the C830 is slightly larger in both bud and stem dimensions. It also has a smoother, more slippery plastic surface that can present some challenges during handling. I'll stop short of branding Denon's material choice as a negative, but I'd prefer something with a tad more texture.


Performance Overview
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Denon's C830 media materials are a tad light on technical information, and the company declined to provide detailed information about the performance capabilities of its 0.4" Oval Dynamic driver. I did manage to snapshot some real-world output and ANC performance characteristics, which I'll discuss later in the review.

The claim of up to six hours of playback time (4.8 hours while using Bluetooth and ANC) proved to be generally accurate, and the case can store enough energy to execute three full recharges on the go. What's missing, for iPhone users, is access to an accurate charge indicator, which means you're never entirely sure how much listening time is available. Yes, the buds play a series of tones to indicate a low charge, but if you hear those tones while you're away from the charging case, you'll eventually find yourself out of luck.

Note: the C830's case doesn't offer fast charging.

The use of Bluetooth 5.0 (Class 1) provides a crystal-clear, high-quality audio connection that rivals the distance performance of the AirPods Pro. I was able to leave my phone in one location within my 4,000+ sq ft home and roam freely about without many interruptions or dropout issues. While outside, Bluetooth remained connected for roughly 60 feet, which provided plenty of freedom to do yard work and the like.

The C830 was easy to pair with an iPhone 11 Pro and an iMac using standard procedures, and Android users can take advantage of "Google Fast Pair." Denon says the buds can remember up to eight devices and instantly link with a last used device as they're removed from the case.

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Having recently reviewed several wireless buds without a physical stem, I was concerned the C830s would feel bulky and awkward in the ear. But, they proved to be exceedingly comfortable and secure. If anything, the stem facilitated proper positioning in the ear, though Denon's choice to locate touch controls on the backside of each earbud – not the stem – is a miss, leading to awkward control activation moments during routine adjustments.

One of the C830's key selling points is onboard active noise cancellation and a "transparency mode" that accentuates ambient sound. A single tap on the left earbud cycles between these modes (and "off") with unique tones indicating which mode is active. Because the C830 lacks a companion app, the tones are critical to know which mode is running. While not a big deal, the lack of an app also means EQ controls, firmware updates, and helpful functions like find my earbuds are off the table.


Sound Quality
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The C830 crafts a wonderfully complex sound loaded with punch and precision. It easily rivals the stellar sound presentation delivered by B&W's PI7 In-Ear Headphones (reviewed here) for less than half the price, exploding with confident bass and a delicious rich mid-range. Highs are also spunky and present, avoiding the pitfalls of brightness that can foster ear fatigue.

With TIDAL's library of Hi-Res music at the ready, the C830s bathed my ears with 90s beat-laden Hip-Hop tracks, classic rock, techno, and favorite artists like Third Eye Blind, The Bleachers, and Deadmau5. Denon's buds had no issue shifting between genres, providing high-level access to any style of music. Playback capabilities were truly high-level, delivering an incredible audio experience.

While notable bass is a primary want on my earbud evaluation checklist, vocal recreation is a close second, and the C830 hit all the right notes throughout the midrange; voices sounded natural and present. Meanwhile, bass performance remained impressive even as the buds loosened during active use, though bass was at its peak when firmly seated.

I measured the C830 using miniDSP's EARS rig, which presents its own design challenges for capturing repeatable results with earbuds. So, I'll discuss results in more general terms rather than showing the entire frequency response. As you can see in the image below, low-end response is healthy to 15Hz, which I confirmed by playing frequency-specific sine waves through the C830s, visualizing results with EARS and Room EQ Wizard's Real Time Analyzer. These buds have plenty of spunk in the low-frequency territory! I also captured output extending well above 20kHz, confirmed with a frequency sweep and individual sine waves.

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Active Noise Cancellation
The C830's ANC capabilities are rock solid, providing notable relief from ambient noise on airplanes, transit systems, and busy public spaces. In fact, its performance subjectively outperforms that of the AirPods Pro, particularly when considering human voices.

To snapshot the C830's ANC characteristics, I played various sine waves through a theater room system, capturing the response with EARs and Room EQ Wizard. Results (graphed below) found performance variations from 20Hz through 20kHz, with an average reduction of 23.5dB when comparing ANC versus no earbuds.

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Call Quality
Answering a phone call requires a double tap on the right earbud (the same command ends a call), and the C830 provides excellent voice and incoming audio support. Users can engage either ANC or transparency to fine-tune the call experience, giving the C830 a big boost in tunable call performance.

I didn't encounter any surprises during routine conversations, and callers said the earbuds kept ambient noise (such as running water, clattering dishes, and crackling bags) at reasonably comfortable levels. The same can't be said of Apple's AirPods Pro, which is notorious for amplifying external noise.

Fit and Wearability
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At 0.17 ounces each, the C830s were comfortably light during long listening sessions and held their positioning well, even during erratic head movements, various head positions, and conversations.

The buds were good performers during workouts and long runs and carry an IPX4 water resistance rating, making them easy to recommend as an exercise partner. Like all earbuds, the C830's seal imparted a "thud" with foot strikes while running, which I was able to mitigate with a slightly looser fit. And, to its benefit, ANC did an excellent job of eliminating wind noise. The buds are prone to snagging on shoulder straps of weight vests and the like, so keep that in mind if your workout routine or outdoor activities includes gear that slips over your head.

The lack of access to voice-activated Siri controls was definitely missed, making playback control a bit more cumbersome when chalk-covered hands, gloves, and ski caps were involved.

During restful times (read: power naps), the C830's design profile kept the buds from digging in when pressed against a pillow. Of course, ANC held intrusive noise to a minimum, making a peaceful rest all the more attainable.


Conclusion
Considering price and audio performance, Denon's AH-C830NCW True Wireless In-Ear Headphones are easy to recommend. While it lacks convenience features found on competing models, it delivers big in the sound department and offers excellent ANC and comfortable wearability. If you're in the market for a pair of buds capable of top-shelf service during active and relaxing times, the C830 will serve you well.


Denon AH-C830NCW True Wireless In-Ear Headphones Specifications
  • Bluetooth Audio Codec: AAC, SBC
  • Driver: 0.4" Oval, Dynamic
  • Noise Cancelling: Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling (ANC)
  • Transparency Mode: Yes (Denon Ambient Monitor)
  • Google Fast Pair: Yes
  • Bluetooth Class / Version: 1/5.0 with LE (Low Energy)
  • Battery Life: Up to 6 hours (Bluetooth music), 24 hours in total when charged with charging case; Up to 4.8 hours (Bluetooth + ANC), 19 hours in total from charging case.
  • Waterproof: IPX4 (earbuds)
  • Maximum Dimensions Earbuds (W x D x H): (in) 0.86 x 0.9 x 1.38
  • Maximum Dimensions Charging Case (W x D x H) (in): 2.3 x 1.2 x 1.8
  • Weight Earbuds (oz): 0.19 each
  • Weight Carrying Case (oz): 1.52

 
Last edited:

Dourou

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Hi there!
Thanks for the cool review.
Few q’s in the experience:
What is the rate (ie 24/48) the headphones can handle?
I recently bought Neobud’s kickstarter high end audio ANC buds and can say that hi res really makes them shine (tested on Amazon with HD tracks).
What would you say is the comparative quality?
 

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Hi @Dourou,

Great questions. I wish I had a rate to share with you, but Denon hasn't been forthcoming with that information. I've posed the question again, so hang tight.

I'm not sure I have enough experience across all relevant competition to give you a list. But I can say, that they offer a significant upgrade in performance over the last pair I reviewed (ColorBuds 2) and are insanely close to giving an experience nearly comparable to Bowers & Wilkins IP7. That said, the IP7 is a world beater of a product... but considering these Denon Buds cost over 50% less, it's hard to argue with the sacrifices you make.
 

Dourou

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Hi @Dourou,

Great questions. I wish I had a rate to share with you, but Denon hasn't been forthcoming with that information. I've posed the question again, so hang tight.

I'm not sure I have enough experience across all relevant competition to give you a list. But I can say, that they offer a significant upgrade in performance over the last pair I reviewed (ColorBuds 2) and are insanely close to giving an experience nearly comparable to Bowers & Wilkins IP7. That said, the IP7 is a world beater of a product... but considering these Denon Buds cost over 50% less, it's hard to argue with the sacrifices you make.
Thanks! Sounds like a great product.
My GF has the colorbuds and it is night and day with mine. I’ll hold on for the rate details.
 

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Thanks! Sounds like a great product.
My GF has the colorbuds and it is night and day with mine. I’ll hold on for the rate details.
Well... not getting a response on this. I'll keep trying
 

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Apple's AirPods Pro...notorious for amplifying external noise.
Really? I wasn't aware of that. I haven't noticed that, though when running etc I generally run them in the "transparency" mode. Hmmm, the headphones sometimes switch mode themselves, maybe they switch into transparency without using knowing? A puzzlement.
- I think you are correct, Denon needs a cool name. "AirPods" or "ColorBuds" can accumulate sub-brand recognition and value. "AH-C830NCW"...not so much [barf].
- I don't notice foot thud with AirPods Pro, which I sure did with wired stuff and some other wireless buds. I also have a LOT of problems with earbuds working loose and getting inconsistent and pumping bass response. My kid's AirPods were the first things I tried that didn't, but I wanted ANC, and lower bass which the not-quite-sealing AirPods didn't quite do.
- Kudos for the very low bass and very high treble measurements!
- Where is the B&W PI7 review? If "here" was supposed to be a link it's not.
 

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Really? I wasn't aware of that. I haven't noticed that, though when running etc I generally run them in the "transparency" mode. Hmmm, the headphones sometimes switch mode themselves, maybe they switch into transparency without using knowing? A puzzlement.
That's speaking from the perspective of a caller; the kind of ambient a caller hears via airpods on the other end.

- I don't notice foot thud with AirPods Pro, which I sure did with wired stuff and some other wireless buds. I also have a LOT of problems with earbuds working loose and getting inconsistent and pumping bass response. My kid's AirPods were the first things I tried that didn't, but I wanted ANC, and lower bass which the not-quite-sealing AirPods didn't quite do.
- Where is the B&W PI7 review? If "here" was supposed to be a link it's not.
Yes, it's all seal dependent. Consider yourself lucky!

Thanks for pointing out the failed link. It's been added. (https://www.avnirvana.com/threads/reference-grade-a-full-review-of-bowers-wilkins-pi7-in-ear-true-wireless-headphones.9054/)
 

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A huge consideration for me re BT phones is the buds repositioning while working out. I had IEM's and went with over ear (currently 66 Audio Pro Voice) because of this common "flaw". I like this product and review... however these things gotta stay where I put em. If not, it's a deal breaker.
 

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@FireGuy these were great (for me) during workouts… the biggest flaw being accidental activation of controls. You can definitely learn how to avoid that issue, but it would have been nice to have the controls positioned on the stem, rather than on the side of the actual bud.
 

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@FireGuy these were great (for me) during workouts… the biggest flaw being accidental activation of controls. You can definitely learn how to avoid that issue, but it would have been nice to have the controls positioned on the stem, rather than on the side of the actual bud.
Copy that Todd thank you. My preference as stated, is over ear. Other than the occasional warmth & sweat of the pads I get excellent freq response with this design and they certainly remain stationary. With that said (noting the small control issue) do I get very similar or identical performance with the Denons? I really want to like these. Do I get the low end impact too?
 

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For earbuds, I thought the bass was nice and robust. As I measured, it is capable of 15Hz… of course, a good seal is needed to make that sound impactful.
If money is no object and you’re looking for serious bass, the B&W PI7 is spectacular.

You can read the review:
 

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For earbuds, I thought the bass was nice and robust. As I measured, it is capable of 15Hz… of course, a good seal is needed to make that sound impactful.
If money is no object and you’re looking for serious bass, the B&W PI7 is spectacular.

You can read the review:
If the P17's can survive cross fit that's good enough for me. I think at times Marine boot camp can be easier. Another fine review... 10.4 on that. Price point I think is in line with those mid level, home bound, amp-aided phones from Senn, Hifiman, Beyer etal. I can easily deal with that. P17's look good too. Thanks for the referral.
 
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