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Denon AH-C830NCW review: A soundful, but incomplete package

Denon’s newest buds deliver flagship sound, but they fall short of competition in many areas

The Denon AH-C830NCW charging case held in hand
(Image: © Regan Coule/Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Denon AH-C830NCW are great-sounding wireless earbuds, but the implementation of some features and a lack of support for others means they fall short of rivals at the price.

Pros

  • +

    Clean, accurate sound

  • +

    Great call quality

  • +

    Adequate ANC

  • +

    Reliable touch controls

Cons

  • -

    Poor battery life

  • -

    Uncomfortable when worn for longer listening

  • -

    Lacks some popular features

Denon AH-C830NCW specs

Price: $159

Colors: Black; white

Battery life (rated): 6 hours (ANC off); 24 hours (charging case with ANC off)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0

Water resistance: Yes (IPX4 rated)

Size: 0.86 x 0.9 x 1.38 (per bud); 2.3 x 1.2 x 1.8 (charging case)

Weight: 0.19 ounces (per bud); 1.52 ounces (charging case)

The Denon AH-C830NCW is the legacy audio brand’s newest true wireless release. These flagship buds maintain the clear sound and call quality of their predecessor, and add effective active noise cancellation (ANC) into the mix. Denon even improved the touch controls for seamless tap input.

For every box checked off, Denon also left one unchecked. Key categories like battery life, comfort, and design were given little consideration. Then comes the lack of common and modern features which hinders the AH-C830NCW’s value.

See which models rank among the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones we’ve tested. And for the ultimate in sound quality, check out our pick of the best-sounding headphones for audiophiles

In the meantime, read our Denon AH-C830NCW review to get the complete breakdown on these wireless earbuds.

Denon AH-C830NCW review: Price and availability

The AH-C830NCW can be purchased for $159 exclusively through Denon’s website and come in black and white finishes only. Inside the box are a charging case, USB-C charging cable, three pairs of different sized ear tips, quick start guide, and safety instructions.

Mid-range noise-cancelling earbuds are not scarce in today’s market. There are plenty of elite options up for grab, such as the $199 Beats Fit Pro, which is practically a sports version of the AirPods Pro with the same features, and the $124 Sennheiser CX Plus that has flagship sound and quality ANC for a lower price.

For all of the latest wireless earbuds sales, bookmark our best headphones deals page.

Denon AH-C830NCW review: Design and comfort

  • AirPods clone design
  • Heavy charging case
  • Stable, but uncomfortable

Think of the AH-C830NCW as an AirPods Pro clone with a bulkier cavity and much longer stems. It isn’t the ugliest, nor the fanciest design out there. Build quality is sturdy (the all-plastic construction can survive hard spills to the ground), and details like the polished matte finish and silver accents offer up some flair. IPX4 certification protects these buds from excessive sweat and water splashes.

The Denon AH-C830NCW wireless earbuds displayed aloft a leaf painting.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The slanted lid on the charging case is a cool design choice, but that’s it as far as aesthetic appeal. It's a scratch and scuff magnet and feels heavier than most charging cases I've encountered. Another complaint is where Denon has placed the pairing button on the back that sits flush on the surface and requires effort to locate and press.

The Denon AH-C830NCW propped on a magnetic stand

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

While the angled ports allow for easy insertion into the ear, they also stick out far enough to press against the concha, causing discomfort after about two hours of use. Those with a low pain threshold are unlikely to wear the buds for longer than an hour.

ANC mode enabled on the Denon AH-C830NCW

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The silicone tips fit nicely in the ear and create a tight seal. They also demonstrate decent sweat absorption to minimize slippage. Keep in mind though that these aren’t workout buds, and I'd be cautious about running with them as they are still capable of falling off and disappearing through a sewer grate.

Denon AH-C830NCW review: Controls and digital assistant

  • Responsive  touch controls
  • Unreliable digital assistant support

The AH-C830NCW doesn’t come with a full suite of controls (there is no on-board function for volume, for example). During my early testing, I thought that these Denon earbuds didn't include digital assistance support. However, it turns out the feature is supported but just rather poorly executed. 

The bigger story here is touch accuracy. Single and multi-tap gestures were registered with precision for playback, call management, and listening mode activation. I even experimented with swipes to see whether the touch sensors would register them, and they did.

The Denon AH-C830NCW's touch controls being demonstrated

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The digital assistant was the only function that gave me trouble. Firing up Google Assistant became frustrating at times due to the assigned input gesture not always working. When it did pop up, certain words were misinterpreted and minor inquiries like “what is my next event” lead to different actions (why it pulled up my alarm screen was baffling). Siri was more difficult to activate, and it stopped working on my MacBook Pro after one try.

Many wireless earbuds let you assign the controls via companion app. Denon didn’t think this was important. Therefore, you’re stuck with the default control scheme.

Denon AH-C830NCW review: Sound quality

  • Balanced sound
  • Extended frequency range
  • No aptX or LDAC support

Denon equipped the AH-C830NCW with 0.4-inch oval dynamic drivers that dish out solid lows, mids, and highs across the board. Bass response won’t rattle your skull, but it is rich and well controlled.

What you wind up hearing on Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” is noticeably different than what most other mid-range models produce. Denon’s versatile sound profile cleans up the singer’s distorted tone, making vocals pristine over the upbeat, new wave production. The church-organ chords are enchanting and the guitar riffs soar, while the bass drums have an impactful bounce.

Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" playing on the Denon AH-C830NCW

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

You’ll be able to discern instruments on orchestral masterpieces like Quincy Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova,” where brass arrangements and percussive elements like the striking congas are reproduced perfectly. My greatest joy came from indulging in jazz records. The melodic touch on Ahmad Jamal Trio’s “Dolphin Dance” was certainly felt, delivering double bass with such delicacy and steady hi-hats that tap gently on the eardrum. 

Most of my streaming was done through Apple Music and Spotify, and to get this type of sound quality over Bluetooth 5.0 via AAC is impressive. SBC is the other supported codec, while aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC are unsupported for enabling the best audio quality over Bluetooth.

The AH-C830NCW does not have a companion app or sound customization settings. Luckily, it performs just fine without the extra software.

Denon AH-C830NCW review: Active noise cancellation

  • Effective at blocking out low- and mid-frequency external sounds
  • Ambient mode works like a charm

The best noise-cancelling earbuds neutralize external sounds at the highest level. I wouldn’t place the AH-C830NCW in the same class as category leaders like the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds or Sony WF-1000XM4, but it does a noteworthy job of minimizing low and mid frequencies.

Our reviewer testing the Denon AH-C830NCW's comfort levels

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

ANC mode helped silence the blenders and barista-shouted orders at Starbucks. The technology also provided some quiet time indoors, especially during the day when my hyper toddler and numerous other distractions vied for attention. There was no way to avoid my baby boy’s cries, nor my mother-in-law’s incredibly loud iPhone ringtone, but all other noises were muzzled. I could walk into the laundry room and not be disturbed by the tumbling sounds from our dryer. The loud television and humming sounds from our AC unit weren’t bothersome either.

Denon’s Ambient mode impressed me more, letting in vast amounts of ambient noise that sounded loud and distinctive. I could hear bicycle bells and cars from a block away. Much of the landscaping work that took place around the neighborhood was perceptible. Most importantly, the feature let me engage in clear-sounding conversations with the missus when necessary.

Denon AH-C830NCW review: Battery life and charging case

  • Disappointing playtimes
  • No quick or wireless charging

Denon rates battery life at 4.8 hours with ANC on and juts 6 hours without. Those are not enticing numbers. We’re talking just a little over what the AirPods Pro generates (4.5 – 5 hours) and much lower than what some inexpensive ANC models like the JLAB Epic Air Sport ANC (11 – 15 hours) get on a full charge.

The Denon AH-C830NCW charging case connected to a portable charger

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The charging case is just as much of a letdown, holding between 19 to 24 hours, depending how you use the buds. Most of us can live without wireless charging, but not having quick charging is unacceptable.

Denon AH-C830NCW review: Call quality and connectivity

  • Exceptional call quality
  • Multipoint connectivity not supported

A case can be made for the AH-C830NCW being one the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls. Clarity and volume are so exceptional that people will think you’re talking directly into your smartphone. Taking calls outside is even more rewarding with the onboard mics reducing background interference well enough to chat clearly in rowdy environments.

A video call being taken on the Denon AH-C830NCW

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Bluetooth 5.0 is average. The buds will connect instantly to recognized devices once taken out of the charging vase. Google Fast Pair expedites the process on Android smartphones. Range can extend up to 40 feet before dropout occurs.

Multipoint technology (pairing to two devices simultaneously) is not supported.

Denon AH-C830NCW review: Verdict

The AH-C830NCW greatest strength is the way it delivers music. Respectable ANC and call quality also make it a serviceable pair of wireless earbuds for brand enthusiasts, or anyone seeking relatively affordable AirPods alternatives.

However, every pro is negated by a con: superb audio quality vs. poor comfort levels. Useful Bluetooth support vs. mediocre battery life. Reliable touch controls vs. poorly integrated digital assistant support. You get the picture.

Denon’s sonic prowess might be enough to draw your interest, but you'll get stellar sound and stronger noise cancellation from Sennheiser's CX Plus and Beats Fit Pro.

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.