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I was skeptical of these $350 wireless earbuds - until they knocked my socks off

The Denon PerL Pro deliver fantastic audio playback right out of the box and surpasses all my expectations.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
The Denon PerL Pro earbuds.
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

When it comes to audio, I can be incredibly picky. Like most audiophiles, I have very particular wants and needs before I'll proclaim a pair of headphones a viable option. Because of that, most earbuds fail to stand up to my demands. I've had a few that were passable but rarely has a pair of wireless earbuds knocked off my metaphorical socks.

That is until I tried the Denon PerL Pro

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Now, before I continue, know that these are premium earbuds with a price of $349 on Amazon. But if high-quality sound is what you're looking for in an earbud, and you have the cash for them, these babies are hard to beat. I'd go so far as to say they rival my go-to over-the-ear wired headphones, the V-Moda Crossfade 3.

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When I received the Denon PerL Pro earbuds, I was skeptical. I've gone through so many pairs of earbuds (none of which wind up in my "headphone rotation list"), and I tend to shrug them all off in favor of my go-to's (unless I'm exercising, at which point I go for my Mojawa Run Plus bone conducting headphones).

That all changes now.

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No, I won't be using the Denon PerL Pro earbuds for exercise because these things are too costly and too good for sweating. But when I want to hear accurate, rich, and elegant sound on the go, these earbuds are exactly what I want.

The specs

For those who love a good listing of specs, here they are:

  • Masimo AAT delivers personalized sound based on each individual's otoacoustic emissions, which are produced by the inner ear. A personal hearing profile is created in the Denon PerL Headphone app, using artificial intelligence.
  • Denon Sound Master and Dirac Virtuo help to deliver accurate and spacious sound.
  • Bluetooth calls with CD-Level clarity, thanks to Qualcomm AptX Lossless.
  • Eight mics.
  • Social mode keeps you aware of your surroundings.
  • Denon Headphones app allows you to customize your experience with unique audio profiles and fine-tune controls.
  • Up to eight hours of battery life and three additional charges from the case.
  • Customizable touch controls with four customizable touch inputs on each earbud.
  • IPX4-rated water and sweat resistant.
  • Frequency response: 20 to 40,000 Hz.
  • Weight: .29 ounces (for each earbud).

As with every pair of earbuds, fit is crucial. You want to get the best seal possible with the ear tips. I've always found foam ear tips to be far superior but have a much shorter lifespan. The silicon tips might not create the best seal, but they will last exponentially longer.

My experience

I always judge earbuds (and headphones) without using any app to customize the sound. I want to hear the music exactly with the manufacturer's default settings, so I can get an idea of what the pure sound is from the hardware.

With some earbuds, that results in an experience that isn't nearly up to my standards. However, in the case of the Denon PerL Pro earbuds, the manufacturer nailed it. As soon as I connected them to my Pixel Pro 8 (which was just a matter of taking them out of the case and walking through the automatic connection prompt on the phone), I popped them in, opened Spotify, and played my default song for testing such devices… Rush's Tom Sawyer

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Had you been watching me, you would have immediately seen the huge grin that spread across my face. I'd finally come across a pair of earbuds that made me a believer again. It took all of four bars of music to impress me. But, of course, I let one of the greatest rock songs ever written continue and, by the time it came to a close, I was sold.

The Denon PerL Pro earbuds are truly a work of art. The sound is accurate, vibrant, spacious, and hits all the right notes. The bass is perfect, the midrange subtle but sharp, and the highs are spectacular. What is truly remarkable about these earbuds is that you don't have to use the app to customize the sound, as it's that good out of the box.

Also: The best wireless earbuds: Expert tested and reviewed

And although you won't find the bass of the PerL Pro's to be as thunderous as some of the competition, it's far cleaner and accurate. Out of the box, the EQ on these earbuds is spot on for every genre of music I tried (prog rock, metal, classical, choral, 80s, rock, shoegaze, and pop). In some instances (such as with Rush's Moving Pictures album, the sound was so crisp and agile that I was certain it was coming from my turntable. 

ZDNET's buying advice

These have not only raised the bar for earbuds, they've set the standard, and every earbud or headphone I use will have to stand up to what the Denon PerL Pro earbuds deliver. 

It really comes down to this: If you have the money and are looking for sound that shouldn't be possible with an earbud, the Denon PerL Pro earbuds are the ones to buy. Forget about anything Apple or Google has to offer and do your ears (and soul) a favor with a pair of earbuds that will light up your brain off-the-charts sound.

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