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Denon PerL Earbuds Review: Cool Idea, Imperfect Execution

They’ve also got an extra two hours of battery, with eight hours of playback time instead of six hours in the standard pair. Both pairs offer three extra charges in their respective charging cases.

That said, the cheaper model is pretty well stocked for its price point, with options like a volume limiter and gain enhancer (for low-volume audio sources), adjustable auto-pause and voice prompts, and mid-tier noise canceling and transparency mode. You’ll get better performance from the Pro model’s Adaptive noise canceling, but you’ll also pay a hefty premium to get there, and the regular model does a decent job with low-end rumbles like fans and traffic noise.

Once again, there are some execution issues at play with both pairs. Transparency mode sounds rather brittle and, more notably, the sound gets much quieter with transparency mode on, then ramps back up for ANC. This appears to be by design so you can better hear the world around you, but in practice it was annoying to jump back and forth, forcing me to crank the volume in transparency mode and then blasting my ears when I engaged noise canceling.

I also noticed some occasional rumbling noise that sounded like interference with ANC on, mostly apparent in the standard pair, though it’s not usually noticeable with audio playing.

Powerful Sonic Skills

When I say I can’t tell you what you’ll get with the PerL’s sound, I mean that in more ways than one. In three different profile adventures, across both the PerL and the PerL Pro, I got three different results, with the visual evidence to prove it (a little color pattern in the app shows you the hearing sensitivities measured).

The first version with the PerL Pro seemed like something of a misfire. The sound was different, and certainly better than the default, which seems almost purposely aimed at blandness, but it didn’t feel particularly tailored to my sonic vibe. The second try was better, serving up excellent clarity and detail, but still felt a little crisp and forward for my taste.

For whatever reason, it was with the more affordable model that I found blissful success. The first profile cooked up by the standard PerL earbuds felt like someone was in my head, crafting sound elements that “Ryan 3” would particularly enjoy. It might come as no surprise that the sound has a certain processed quality, what with it being processed before my eyes. Even so, it is one sweet ride.

Instruments seem to pop out of the ether, isolated so that each tone color is fully revealed, yet subtly presented. Horns are satiny and smooth, guitars and synths burn in their sonic corners with brilliantly colored timbres, and bass is full and balanced. All the different elements are married together in spectacular harmony.

Vocals are especially well reproduced with the PerL, offered with uncommon presence that lets you hear the full wash of reverb and each minute breath and detail with impressive precision. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Brian Wilson’s “Feel Flows,” but it wasn’t until now that I realized he alternates “feel flows” with “feel goes” in the chorus. Similarly, Robert Smith’s breathy effects in “Close To Me” have never been more lively and, well, close to me.

I’ve never really bought into personalized sound profiles up until now, preferring to let the speakers do at least the majority of the work, and position my ears as semi-objective observers. Part of that is admittedly some insecurity; as someone who relies on their ears for a living, and for whom ear plugs have long been standard operating procedure, I don’t like to think about the ravages time takes on all of our hearing over time.

Denon’s PerL earbuds have made me a cautious convert. From the fit and design to the inconsistencies in the custom profiles, the PerL aren’t perfect, but they do feel like a confident step on the road toward something very exciting. If you’ve been wondering about personalized sound, I suggest you try a pair for yourself—you might find something your ears have been missing.

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