Denon AH-C830NCW vs AirPods 3 – an easy win, but not for who you’d think
Can the giants be unseated?
- Very well priced
- Well-balanced sound signature
- Simple use, with no app
- They're a little big
- Touch controls
- Case is uncomfortable when put in a pocket
- Better battery life
- Spatial audio and Adaptive EQ
- Excellent case
- No sound isolation or noise canceling
- A tad too expensive
- Don't sound as good
The AirPods 3 are some excellent little earbuds, with all the Apple magic at a slightly lower price point than the flagship AirPods Pro 2. They are perhaps a little too expensive, costing a fair amount more than that which came before, but they improve on their predecessor in some key ways. They are also, however, really annoying to get a hold of.
If you’re not bothered about whether your headphones are in any way Apple affiliated, then the Denon AH-C830NCW (try saying that three times with your mouth filled with taffy) are a brilliant alternative. They may not have that Apple touch, but you can get them in white, so you’re not missing out color-wise. You might also find yourself liking them more than the AirPods 3 thanks to their great feature set.
Let’s put them head to head to find out which should have a place in your pocket.
AirPods 3 vs Denon AH-C830NCW: Price
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The AirPods 3 aren’t cheap – full price, they’ll set you back around $169. That’s a lot of money for a pair of in-ear buds that don’t have ANC or silicon-sealing ear tips, but there are other features you pay extra for. Like the big Apple logo on the box.
The Denon AH-C830NCW are also not cheap, but they’re cheaper than the AirPods. You’ll get more features for your $149 as well, so you could say that they’re a better value. I certainly would.
AirPods 3 vs Denon AH-C830NCW: Features
The AirPods 3 are the middle-of-the-road option of the AirPods line. They have some of the features but lack some of the big selling points of the more expensive models. That means you’re getting Spatial Audio support and that magically connecting case, but no active noise canceling or adjustable tips. Whether you like some of the features does depend on taste, however.
If you’re really into Spatial Audio but don’t want to spend over $200 on a pair of headphones, then these are a great option. They support Spatial Audio out of the box, and they work seamlessly with an iPhone 14 Pro, MacBook Pro 14-inch, or any iPad. You can adjust some of the aspects of the sound in your mobile device's settings app, such as the nature of the Spatial Audio you’re listening to, and the equalization if you think there’s more to be had out of the sound quality of a particular track.
The controls on the side are one of my favorite features of the buds, with little force touch panels on the stalks. That means you’re not going to accidentally press the wrong button when you adjust them in your ear, with each press needing to be far more deliberate. Beyond that, however, the AirPods 3 are little more than an in-ear pair of buds with Spatial Audio support.
The Denons don’t try to set themselves apart with any kind of fancy features, everything they do is super solid. The headline here is the ANC – a great feature that the AirPods lack. It’s good too, and blocks out a good amount of noise, especially for the price. It’s also, importantly, a big leg up over the AirPods.
Connecting to an iPhone, while not as magical, is as simple as opening the charging case and hitting the connect button in the Bluetooth menu. There are touch controls on the sides of the buds that while I’m not a fan, still work well.
There’s no Spatial Audio support, but arguably, ANC is a far more useful inclusion for most people. Usually, I’d say ‘if you’re on iPhone, go for the AirPods. For everyone else on Android, choose the other for features’, but here I’d say get the Denons in both cases.
AirPods 3 vs Denon AH-C830NCW: Sound Quality
The AirPods are a little boring in this regard. They don’t sound bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but they are extremely neutral. There’s very little sound shaping, with no emphasis on any one part of the sound. This usually wouldn’t be a problem, if the headphones were more dynamic and spacious, but the AirPods aren’t. Again, they don’t sound bad, but they’re just boring. For most, they’ll be fine. But they could be better.
The Denons show just how much better the AirPods could be. They’re also a neutral sound signature with little shaping to the sound, but they are a far more engaging listen. There’s more sub-bass for one, so there is a palpable bounce to the sound, as well as better clarity in the top end. They are an impressive little in-ear bud that rivals even the sound of the AirPods Pro 2. I like them a lot, and I think potential customers will too.
AirPods 3 vs Denon AH-C830NCW: Battery and case
The Denon buds have some great battery life. Each bud will last for 6 hours, with an extra 18 hours of life coming from the case. That’s a grand total of 24 hours of battery, which is pretty good for in-ear ANC buds. Switch the ANC off and that battery life should be extended as well, but numbers aren’t given.
The case that battery life comes from however is a bit of a dud. It’s a slightly angled affair with a flat top, that's slightly thicker and wider than it perhaps should be. It makes slipping it into a pocket a bit more difficult, and more uncomfortable when you’re sat on the bus.
The AirPods 3, on the other hand, offer a little more battery life. The buds themselves still give you 6 hours of battery life, but the case gives you 24 extra hours of battery. That’s an extra charge, effectively, so there’ll last a good long while.
They also feature fast charging and wireless charging (if you get the right case). If you pop the buds, depleted of battery, into the case, they’ll charge up in five minutes for an hour of battery. That’s helpful, and something the Denons don't do. There are also wireless charging options, but you do have to get the correct case. Which, wouldn’t you know, is $20 more. And you can’t buy it separately - you’ll be paying $189 all in for the privilege of MagSafe.
The charging case too is much better, with smooth edges and a slim profile that slips beautifully into a pocket. It’s perfectly formed to be a comfortable addition to your daily carry, and honestly one of my favorite aspects of the AirPods line.
AirPods 3 vs Denon AH-C830NCW - Design and comfort
Beyond sound, this is probably one of the most subjective parts of this versus. Let’s start with the AirPods. They look like AirPods – nothing earth-shattering, but if you like them, you like them. There are no silicon ear tips on them which sets them apart from the AirPods Pro, and they’re a little more rounded than the AirPods 2 that came before them. They also only come in white, so hope you don’t mind cleaning them more.
Comfort wise they’re a relaxed fit. They sit more in the ear rather than deep inside, but they’ll be fairly comfortable for most users. If you prefer a deeper fit, then you’re definitely not going to get it from the AirPods.
The design of the Denons is a little more conventional, with a deeper in-ear fit and silicon ear tips. The buds themselves are perhaps a little big, but it doesn’t make them any less comfortable. They’re available in black and white as well, so there are more color options. Personally, I prefer the look of the Denons in this case, but your mileage may vary.
AirPods 3 vs Denon AH-C830NCW: overall winner
The Denons have come out on top, winning in some key areas over the AirPods 3. The ANC on the challengers is a more useful addition to the feature set and the sound quality is superior to the AirPods. They lose out a little to the AirPods in battery life and the size and shape of the case, but it’s not enough to unseat them from the top of the podium.
The AirPods may have lost out to the Denons in the end, but there are some stellar features that you might want. They support Spatial Audio, which is a cool sounding extra, and there’s something magical about the way they connect to an iPhone or an iPad. They may have come out as the runners-up today, but they are still a solid headphone option for lots of people.
Both of these options are some of the best true wireless earbuds around too, so no matter which you choose you're getting a great pair of buds.
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As the Buying Guides and Deals writer for iMore, Tammy puts over a decade of experience in finding the best prices of Apple products to work, helping you save money on the equipment that you want. An audiophile at heart, she loves all things audio and visual, but you’ll also find her drooling over the latest Macs and MacBooks. With a Masters in screenwriting, Tammy likes to spend her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays or driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.