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Denon PerL Pro
Case: 73 x 35 x 32mm
Earbuds: 27 x 25 x 26mm
Nozzle diameter: 5.5mm
8.4g per earbud
Denon has been pretty quiet on the headphone front for the last few years, but today, we take a look at their flagship earbuds, the Denon PerL Pro. These come with all sorts of bells and whistles and are among the few earbuds that sport aptX Lossless. So how do they do? Let’s have a listen.
Editor’s note: this is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.
The Denon PerL Pro are for cutting-edge gadget enthusiasts who want earbuds they can customize quite well.
What’s it like to use the Denon PerL Pro?
Inside the Denon PerL Pro packaging, you’ll find a USB-C cable, charging case, earbuds, an extra set of concha fins, four sizes of silicone ear tips, and one set of memory foam ear tips. This will be a godsend for some because getting a good fit is the most important thing for anyone buying earbuds. The ability to dial in your tip size and material is a nice plus that isn’t always available, so we’re happy to see that here.
The earbuds themselves are sweat-resistant with an ingress protection rating of IPX4, which should handle the occasional sprinkle of rain as well. We also appreciate the ovoid nozzle of the Denon PerL Pro, as this means that the earbuds have a much higher likelihood of creating a great seal in your ears. This is a big plus if you’re hoping to work out with your earbuds, as getting a better fit means you won’t have to worry about your earbuds falling out.
Despite the earbuds’ rather chunky size and shape, the charging case is a bit smaller than you’d expect — and will fit into most pants pockets without much trouble. You can top up the charging case via the included USB-C cable or use any Qi-compatible wireless charging pad. The coil is on the bottom of the case, so set it down on the pad with the door facing up.
There’s a 10mm driver in each of the Denon PerL Pro buds, which is quite large, though the earbuds have a lot of room due to their large chassis. Ear sensors also allow you to listen with one earbud in or pause your music when you remove both from your head.
How do you control the Denon PerL Pro?
Controlling the Denon PerL Pro is done through the app and the capacitive touch pads on the backs of the earbuds. However, you will need to do some tinkering on your own before you listen, as the default controls are a little… sparse. After you set up the earbuds, you can use the top hamburger menu to navigate to the settings pane and locate the controls.
Enable / disable social mode
Play / pause / answer call
Double tap and hold
You can map playback controls, call controls, voice assistant, social mode toggle, spatial audio, and more for each earbud. This is an excellent set of earbuds to have if you like to tinker and optimize your control schemes. I had no issue with changing input methods on the fly, and despite the breakthrough cold here in Canada, the touch plates on the backs of the earbuds didn’t have any issue detecting my fingers even when it was -14C outside.
Should you use the Denon app for the Denon PerL Pro?
As much as it sucks not to have a choice here, the Denon PerL Pro don’t work with all the features advertised if you forgo the app. You need to use the Denon Headphones app for control customizations, firmware updates, and ear scanning. Though some might not like it, these advanced features depend on your smartphone and require networked software.
However, there’s a lot to like here: the ear tip fit test and the personalization sequence from Masimo AAT are nice touches, as the app attempts to automatically customize the sound of the Denon PerL Pro to your ears. I didn’t particularly enjoy my customization, but that’s mainly because I don’t like bass as much as the app thinks I do. I wound up using the ProEQ quite liberally to tailor the sound into something more palatable.
How do the Denon PerL Pro connect?
The Denon PerL Pro connects to your source device via the SBC, AAC, and aptX Adaptive (including aptX Lossless) codecs. The Denon PerL Pro join the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds as some of the few products with this new codec enabled via Snapdragon Sound, but only if you have a phone with a Snapdragon 888 (or better) processor. However, because the Denon earbuds don’t have the new S7 or S7 Plus chipsets, they won’t be able to use XPAN. Minor issues, though; aptX Lossless is still pretty great.
By using Bluetooth 5.3, the Denon PerL Pro should, in theory, be able to support LE Audio and Auracast. However, it’s not listed on the product’s site, so take that with a grain of salt. I also had some stuttering issues with the left channel, which only happened under particular circumstances.
Because the app is necessary to pair your smartphone with the Denon PerL Pro, you’ll first need to pair the earbuds with your phone — even if you’re going to be using them with your computer. That process is as simple as opening the app and following the prompts. For devices that don’t have the app available, follow the steps below.
- Enable Bluetooth on your source device.
- Open the case to the Denon PerL Pro and wait for the lights to come on.
- Select the Denon PerL Pro in the list of available devices on your source device.
How long do the Denon PerL Pro batteries last?
Putting the Denon PerL Pro through our standardized battery exhaustion test, the earbuds lasted 5 hours and 48 minutes. This is typical of ANC earbuds, but it is good enough to last at least two days’ worth of commutes. I will point out, however, that you’ll be charging your earbuds any time you drop them back into the case, so you’ll be unlikely to find any fault with the battery life anyway. Just be sure to top up the case when you can, and you’ll be just fine.
According to Denon, 5 minutes of charging should net you about 1 hour of playback. As I usually point out, however, earbuds have tiny batteries, and even if you didn’t have fast charging, you wouldn’t need a long charge to get a decent amount of listening time. Just be sure not to let the batteries exhaust entirely, and top up your charging case whenever you can.
How well do the Denon PerL Pro cancel noise?
You’ll find that with a good fit, you can expect the Denon PerL Pro to physically block out about 10-30dB of outside noise, translating to about a 50-87% reduction in perceived loudness.
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The Denon PerL Pro are decent at canceling noise, though inconsistently. To their credit, the Denon PerL Pro can rip down anywhere from 20-40dB of outside noise below 1kHz, with one wild spike of ANC competence near 200Hz. While a reduction of 75% of outside noise is nothing to sniff at, it doesn’t put them within reach of the best noise canceling earbuds, but c’est la vie. These earbuds performed well enough for me on Vancouver’s SkyTrain, so I don’t imagine anyone on a bus, subway, or plane will have any issue with the ANC here.
How do the Denon PerL Pro sound?
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Comparing the out-of-box frequency response with our preference curve, it’s clear that there are some issues. For example, the highs are bizarre in their presentation, with a mix of peaking above 10kHz and underemphasis below, where it’s most important to have a bit of gain (in the 2-4kHz region). Bass and mids are slightly under-emphasized, though that’s more easily corrected than the highs. Most people will find this to be sub-optimal.
The Denon PerL Pro use another third-party software for spatial audio, Dirac’s Virtuo, to help create the illusion of 3D space. It works well and adds to the listening experience. However, keeping your eyes open can ruin the suspension of disbelief because there’s no head tracking. I typically use spatial audio sparingly, so it’s not a massive loss for me.
Immersion Mode +3
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Immersion Mode -3
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True to its name, the Denon PerL Pro’s Immersion mode dramatically improves the MDAQS immersiveness rating of the earbuds. However, it doesn’t fix everything; things still sound wonky if you’ve completed the custom profile for your ears. Ensure the toggle is correctly applied in the app, as you can turn off this feature with an errant tap.
Can you use the Denon PerL Pro for phone calls?
The Denon PerL Pro’s 4-microphone array works quite well for phone calls, though the limiting factor is not likely to be the earbuds themselves — so take the below samples with the knowledge that you’ll likely hear some compression or noise at either end of your calls. In general, though, this is surprisingly good for earbuds, even if it isn’t perfect.
Denon PerL Pro microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
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How does the microphone sound to you?
Denon PerL Pro microphone demo (Office conditions):
Denon PerL Pro microphone demo (Street conditions):
Denon PerL Pro microphone demo (Windy conditions):
Denon PerL Pro microphone demo (Reverberant space):
The Denon PerL Pro is adept in the wind, though you can still hear the moving air in the background. Compared with other products we’ve heard, this isn’t all that bad.
Should you buy the Denon PerL Pro?
No. You shouldn’t buy the Denon PerL Pro just yet.
While there’s a lot to like about them — and they may improve with updates to their performance — they’re just not where they need to be for a set of $349 earbuds. The sound quality is poor without a ridiculous amount of tinkering, and while the features and customizability are good, most people buy earbuds for convenience — not a project. It’s incredibly frustrating because the Denon PerL Pro are so close to being great, but they fall short in baffling ways.
In that light, only pick up the Denon PerL Pro if you want to get your feet wet with earbuds that allow you to customize just about everything possible. For everyone else, though, you’d be better off with something else in the interim.
What should you get instead of the Denon PerL Pro?
I’d steer most people toward the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds ($299 at Amazon). While the products are pretty different, they both support aptX Lossless, but the Bose earbuds deliver audio quality to match. Though you lose a more effective spatial audio feature, the Bose earbuds induce far fewer headaches and offer a much more effective ear-tailoring algorithm. It also takes a few minutes to complete.
While we don’t have a review up for them (yet), those looking for better sound quality are going to want to check out the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 ($149.99 at Creative), as those earbuds have very similar tech to the Denon PerL Pro — but have a much more pleasing sound.
Frequently asked questions
Personalized Sound uses a series of test signal sweeps to calculate how Denon believes your earbuds should be tuned to sound best to you.