Why you can trust ZDNET
:ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.Our process
'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
When it comes to Android, one of the first pieces of security advice I give to people is to only install apps that are absolutely necessary. Follow that advice and the likelihood of you winding up with ransomware or other malicious software on your phone drops dramatically.
For a decade, I've hung my hat on that advice -- and it has served me well.
However, I recently reviewed the Denon PerL Pro earbuds, which completely blew me away. One of my review criteria is that sound equipment should be experienced as the manufacturer intended. Sure, I can adjust EQ to my liking, but that's not a true representation of how the hardware sounds -- it's artificial.
After the review, I was curious if the headphones had more to offer. On top of that, I wanted to see if there was a firmware update -- something that can only be done on such devices by way of an app. And so, I installed the Denon Headphones app from the Google Play Store, created an account, inserted the earbuds into my ears, and let the software do its thing.
I was, as you might expect, skeptical. But Denon rolled its eyes and said, "Ready for some magic?"
The first thing the app did was to test the seal of the headphones.
The next part, which is where my skepticism really hit its stride, was that the app tested the headphones against my hearing to create a personalized profile to improve the sound.
Various sounds came through the heaphones. As the sounds bounced off my eardrums, blobs moved around a circle on the app, stretching beyond its boundaries like they were trying to escape. A couple of minutes later, the process was finished and I was ready to listen again.
Of course, I expected the PerL Pro earbuds to sound the same as they did before I installed the app. But wow, was I wrong.
These earbuds had already blown me away once but, thanks to the app, their depth and clarity had improved to such an extent that I would have sworn I was listening through a pair of seriously high-quality, over-the-ear headphones.
I then decided to toy with the Immersion Mode slider, assuming it wouldn't change much. Just a slight nudge to the right and the sound reached even higher levels of "Wow!"
Even better, the Denon app did all this work with very little input from me. I didn't have to bother with EQ or anything else (other than a slight bump to the immersion mode) and the PerL Pro earbuds had taken on a new, brilliant life.
I could go on about the minutiae of the Denon Headphones app, but that's not really the point. Other than raising the already impossibly high bar that these headphones had previously set, the app helped me to realize that a company like Denon, which has been in the electronics industry since 1910, knows what it's doing. And although there are a seemingly infinite number of snake oils on the tech market, not everything over-promises and under-delivers.
Does that mean I'm going to start installing loads of apps on my Android phone? No, not in the slightest. However, it does that mean when a company as well known in their field as Denon says an app might improve the user experience, I might be more inclined to believe it.
So, the lesson here isn't that it's OK to install any apps you want on your phone. Instead, the lesson here is that sometimes a product works fine without an app, but there could be a world of improvement when its used alongside the associated hardware.
In the end, the choice is yours, but I do hope you continue approaching mobile phone life with a measure of caution. If you believe you need an app to improve a piece of hardware, such as in the case of the PerL Pro earbuds, make sure you do a bit of research before installing the app.
Read some reviews, check into the company or developer, and toss the app name into a Google search and see what comes up.
As for the Denon Headphones app, if you have a pair of Denon earbuds, I highly recommend you install this app and let it work its magic.