Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds review: "Do exactly what they say on the tin"

 Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds pictured next to their case
Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds pictured next to their case

The Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds take the affordable package that is the brand's True Wireless Earbuds and fills it out with active noise cancelling features that rival the biggest names on the shelves.

Since I've always used Samsung phones, I've been pretty married to the companion Galaxy Buds since they first launched in 2019. Despite having a myriad of problems with each pair my phone was bundled with, however, I finally decided I needed a new wireless audio solution that wasn't one of the best gaming headsets. Denon's earbuds have a more traditional in-ear shape that I knew would work for my lugs, and the brand's great reputation for all things audio definitely piqued my interest.

Priced at $159 / £139, these wireless earbuds place themselves among the absolute best big-brand earbuds. Unfortunately, while they served me well for the most part, they really come up short as a pair of gaming earbuds due to some fatal flaws.

Design and Features

Denon's True Wireless Earbuds, just like its Noise Cancelling Earbuds, take on the look of Apple's Airpods Pro, Pro 2, and recently announced Pro 3. Available in either white or black, they have a comfortable and round in-ear tip, with a cylindrical tail that hangs down like a small earring. I tested the black version which has a matted case, making the buds themselves stand out thanks to their shiny and reflective finish. These are a bit of a fingerprint magnet, but that contrast is still easy on the eyes in my opinion.

The case is nice and simple - it's a small pillbox shape with a flip-up lid that has Denon's logo on top, as well as a nice diagonal cut that gives it an ergonomic feel in the hands. On the lower part of the case there's an LED indicator that tells you how the battery life is doing, and on the back is a USB-C connection port and a small multi-function button. This is a nice little way to connect the buds to different devices and means you don't have to disconnect Bluetooth on your phone if you want them to pair to a Nintendo Switch, for example.

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Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds case showing the Denon logo

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Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds case back showing the USB-C connection and multi-function button

I really like the design of Denon's Noise Cancelling Earbuds, and they fit securely in my ears every time I took them out for a walk. Annoyingly though, their touch controls aren't the easiest to operate as their shape makes it hard to distinguish what part is which - a flaw found on a few too many wireless gaming headsets. There were a few times I was talking on the phone or eating a snack when the earbuds came out of their natural position, and when I went to adjust them I ended up inadvertently pausing whatever I was listening to.

As you might guess from their name, Denon's Noise Cancelling Earbuds come equipped with Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling modes, as well as the brand's Ambient Monitoring function. You can cycle through these using the touch controls, and both are very impressive (more on this in a bit).

Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds lying on a table next to their case

Pairing worked very well, and Google's Fast Pair is supported here to bolster that. The driver these buds use is an 0.4 Oval, Dynamic one, and the Bluetooth Audio Codec is AAC, SBC, for anyone that's interested. Battery life is quoted by Denon to be 6 hours while listening to music, and 24 hours when used with the charging case. With ANC switched on this is said to come down to 4.8 hours, but in truth, my testing surpassed that with flying colours. On a lengthy journey to Prague, I had my earbuds on almost the whole time, with ANC to shield me from ambient plane noises they didn't struggle to last the journey without charging.

Unfortunately, for gaming, it's bad news. No low latency means that playing games on mobile or Nintendo Switch is a recipe for disaster. While Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds are certainly usable for the most part if you only do some light gaming with them, you'll definitely notice the delay.


In terms of overall performance, Denon's Noise Cancelling Earbuds were solid and very usable. They're nice and comfortable, and don't take as much adjusting for me as Samsung's Galaxy Buds Pro, so that was a definite upgrade. Having said that, in terms of pure audio performance, they really lack that punch you want from a pair of earbuds with ANC - especially if they're going to cost you more than $150.

Straight away, listening to Psychosocial by Slipknot, which I've always used to test earphone/headphone bass and power, I felt like I was listening to two-thirds of the mix on offer. Clarity and quality of sound were there, but the lack of a lower register meant the balance I wanted just wasn't present - the first of many blows to these earbuds as a gaming audio solution.

Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds lying on a table

ANC chops certainly help in this regard, but without any sort of software or companion app to create custom sound profiles I was just a bit disappointed. The same goes for volume - even with ANC turned on, I feel like I need to put the volume up beyond what my phone recommends, and when I do, the treble outweighs and starts to be a bit uncomfortable.

On the upside, lighter acoustic and orchestral sounds are excellently represented here. Listening to Laufey (who might just be the love of my life) was sublime, and her light-as-air vocals were backed by some really nice jazz instrumentals that Denon's earbuds had no problem conveying.

Using the ANC was most impressive. I played music from my PC's RUARK MR1 MK2 speakers that were about a meter away from me when I had Denon's ANC switched on, and the noise cancelling shielded me from their power extremely well. If nothing else, these earbuds do exactly what they say on the tin. In a similar way, Ambient Monitoring was arguably even better than Samsung's Galaxy Bud software, which always sounds a bit tinny to me. Indeed, using Denon's Ambient Monitoring when I was out on a walk and got caught in the rain was a terrific ASMR experience - especially since I didn't lose clarity on Howard Shore's LOTR soundtracks that I had on shuffle all the while.

Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds in case with the lid open

If the quite ridiculous range of musical genres I'm describing here tells you anything about my bizarre taste in music, just know I put these earbuds through the audio spectrum ringer during testing. You're welcome.

When it comes to gaming, all the positives you get from general use all get let down by the lack of low latency. The lag isn't dreadful, but it is noticeable. Playing games like Forza Horizon 5 with a Backbone One, the music and engine noises were fine for the most part - definitely playable for a short commute. But as soon as audio instructions, cutscenes, or crash noises come in, you remember lag is an issue. Similarly, Super Mario 64 on Nintendo Switch is fine, but Mario's triple jump timings get thrown out of whack when you realise the audio cues are an important part of that gameplay mechanic.

For first-person games like Tiny Tina's Wonderlands, things are noticeably worse. Not least because the lack of bass takes away a lot of game feel, and that punch would be sorely missed in a wider array of video games like Call of Duty Mobile or PUBG.

Should you buy the Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds?

Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds pictured next to their case

As a pair of general-use wireless earbuds, the Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds definitely are worth a buy. They perform well and have a really solid battery life. If you aren't a fan of Apple's more recent Airpod offerings and don't like the shape of Samsung's Galaxy Buds Pro, then Denon is a cheaper, if not similarly priced alternative that will give either a run for its money.

Unfortunately, they aren't something I can recommend as a gaming-specific item since the lack of low latency means you're limited in terms of what will be playable. For a light gaming session on a commute, this won't really be a problem at all, but there are plenty of Nintendo Switch headsets that will do you one better.

For pure audiophiles, there are better options out there too. The lack of a volume and bass punch is a bit disappointing. On the other hand, noise cancelling and Ambient Monitoring are excellent, and more than worthy of your time if this is the main feature you're looking for. Overall, this is a decent pair of wireless earbuds, but definitely not the cream of the crop, and not really something you want for gaming specifically.

How we tested the Denon Noise Cancelling Earbuds

I tested Denon's Noise Cancelling Earbuds over the course of about a month before this review, making them my go-to audio solution for all things mobile. I also tested them out on Nintendo Switch, on a Plane journey overseas, and for talking on the phone. I put them through the wringer in terms of audio range, listening to Rock soundscapes from Slipknot, Nothing But Thieves, and My Chemical Romance, while also listening to a lot of jazz and soundtracks.

I tested the battery life, noise cancelling, and Ambient Monitoring by using the buds while working all day, as well as on walks and longer journeys. I tested them in gaming scenarios by playing Game Pass and PlayStation Remote Play on my Samsung Galaxy S22+, and my Nintendo Switch.

If you'd like to hear more about the ways we test technology at GamesRadar, take a look at our hardware policy.

Looking for a bespoke audio solution? Take a gander at the best PC headsets, the best PS5 headset, and the best Sennheiser gaming headset.