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Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Closed, Aeon 2 Noire and Stealth

nonnyno

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Hi,

So I've read the reviews of the DCA Stealth, Aeon RT, Focals and numerous other headphones.

I cannot see the Aeon RT in the UK so my choices really boil down to Aeon 2 Closed, Aeon 2 Noire, Stealth, Focal Elegia, Celestee, Radiance or Stellia for closed backs. I cannot hear any of them in advance bar possibly the lower end Focals.

My music tastes are fairly wide with the exception of Rap and the more extreme forms of metal (A beautiful intro followed by someone with rabies screaming in pain doesn't do it for me ;-> ).

Now here's an observation. I have looked at Jaakkop Pasanens list of headphones:

https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/AutoEq/blob/master/results/RANKING.md

Assuming I've interpreted this list correctly, Amir highly rates the Stealth largely to their adherence to the Harman curve but according to this list they don't conform as tightly to the curve as many others. The Aeon 2 closed and Noire both do far better as do the Beyer DT 990's. The Grado Hemps are just a smidgeon behind, the Sundaras and most of the Hifi man headphones are way ahead. The Focals all score badly bar the Utopias (but I heard the Elegias and they sounded pretty good to me on a quick listen in a noisy shop).

Crinnacle too rates the DCA's much lower than the others and in fact rates the Focals much higher and if you want a purely subjective approach to things Tyll really liked the Focal Clears and the Stellias.

So, what am I and indeed any other potential purchaser to think and make a decision based on? Objectivity (consistent experimental design and method) should provide a relatively consistent, relative positioning of these headphones. That has not occurred! In fact we have ended up with multiple viewpoints based on objective measures which are largely contradictory, which provides little more value than the subjectivists approach beyond the idea that we measured. Do we now need a source which measures the measurers?

I can't try before I buy. I live miles from the headphone specialists so listening is out (beyond the lower end headphones). Common sense suggests that I should not spring for a big budget headphone (£3K plus) like the DCA Stealth as only one objectivist reviewer has waxed lyrical about it (Amir) and returns in the UK are not easy for headphones apart from Amazon who doesn't stock the DCA's in the UK. The DCA Aeon Noire Aeon 2 Closed have not been reviewed by Amir so I have only the Pasanen and Crinacle lists to go on for an opinion on them and these contradict each other as to the Aeon 2/Noire and the Focals. In fact practically the only headphone any reviewers can agree on is the Hifiman Sundara which is open back (I'd prefer closed).

This leads me to conclude that objectivist headphone reviews are really only subjectively objective and that buying a headphone sight unseen is a nightmare. You can ultimately only trust your ears.

I want to make clear that I am not getting at ASR (Amir) or indeed any other objectivist reviewer. The amp and DAC measures do seem to tally with others who take the objectivist approach. I have purchased two items of hardware based on Amirs reviews and was delighted by what I got, especially given the money spent. Lightning destroyed my SMSL M500 and I need to replace it. I'll use Amirs reviews and recs from this site to determine its replacement. Clearly though items which involve a hardware to physical interaction cause issues for objectivity.

I am totally stuck with the decision as to what to do and how much to spend on a headphone.
 

tifune

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There's a lot of variables that go into finding the right headphones *for you*. Since you're aggregating reviews, remember crinacle also says [think of FR like a flavor.] Meaning, 2 different brands of chocolate ice cream could be good or bad to you in wildly different ways. These reviews are only a starting point that help guarantee a certain level of quality. They, nor the score, don't guarantee anything about how they'll actually work out in your real world circumstances.

IF you have a slightly pliable budget, I'd suggest buying a few different lower-end models on the secondary market that hint at what you're eventually willing spend and see what you do/don't like. So if the Stealth/Noire speak to you, try out the Closed X first. In the USA they can be had for $300, less if you're patient. No idea about UK, unfortunately. The Sundara's also great, but I can relate to wanting closed. The lower priced models are easier to recoup compared to a Utopia or Stealth.

I don't even pay attention to open backs any more. For me, the whole point of headphones is portability and I don't want to make enemies everywhere I go by assuming everyone else will enjoy what is tantamount to hearing my music over a speaker phone. If I spent most of my time in a closed office or small dorm where I couldn't use speakers/sub, but also wouldn't bother anyone else, open backs can squeeze a little extra value for your $ in many cases. DCA's kind of throwing a wrench in that whole thing, thankfully, but there's other great closed backs too like LCD series or the oft-forgotten Denon AH's (9200 a fav of mine).
 

DjBonoBobo

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Quite simply, if you can't listen for yourself beforehand, you can't make a good decision IMHO. It's always possible that you just don't fit or like a pair of headphones, even if others like them. With the Stealth, there's very little chance that you'll find it "bad", I think, but it's expensive.
I myself bought the Noire blind. I hate the treble, but can EQ it pretty easily to make it ok for me. It is foldable and practical. In everyday life, however, I no longer use it so often, I prefer to take an open back.
So, if the objective measurements don't show any major problems and if you can apply EQ, chances are good that you'll somehow manage with it after a blind purchase and don´t regret it.
But if you are looking for an ideal solution, you can't do without your subjective impression IMHO (after a pre-selection based on the measurements).
 

someguyontheinternet

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I would recommend DCA over Focal based on the distortion numbers of the models that have been reviewed so far.
The out of the box tonality seems to be in the acceptable to good range for both DCA and Focal, but DCA seems to do a better job at controlling distortion. With distortion under control you can more freely experiment with different EQ profiles to see what hits the spot for you.

There is also a conjecture that some form of bass distortion may be desirable as it creates a sense of more "dynamic bass" or "slam" (both very underspecified terms). I'm not really sure if that really is the case, but I can see how the conjecture somewhat correlates to a group of subjective statements. However based on the current knowledge I don't think it's a solid enough conjecture to rely upon.
 

DjBonoBobo

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BTW Thomann UK has DCA headphones and a 30 days return policy. I am not a fan of ordering and returning just for fun, but it could be at least a safety net if you really don´t like them (if you decide in favor of DCA).
 

tifune

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There is also a conjecture that some form of bass distortion may be desirable as it creates a sense of more "dynamic bass" or "slam" (both very underspecified terms). I'm not really sure if that really is the case, but I can see how the conjecture somewhat correlates to a group of subjective statements. However based on the current knowledge I don't think it's a solid enough conjecture to rely upon.

can you recall where you heard/read that? Lots of criticism of DCA in particular, saying they don't have enough "slam." IME that means they don't have enough power, but i'm trying to keep an open mind.
 

someguyontheinternet

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can you recall where you heard/read that? Lots of criticism of DCA in particular, saying they don't have enough "slam." IME that means they don't have enough power, but i'm trying to keep an open mind.
It's a conjecture made by Dan Clark in this presentation:
 
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nonnyno

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I should have also said that my hearing has clearly changed. I did an online test and could still hear at 16.7 kHz. This surprised me as I'm 54 but then I've never tortured my ears. Thats said I also have a pair of Senn 800's. I used to love them. I had a major ear infection 4 years ago. It nearly made me deaf. I recovered but on getting the hd800's (thats the 800 not the 800s) out of storage I now find them flat and dull. Very clear and resolving but dull - no foot tapping - no energy (I'm sorry I don't know how to describe it - its not like they were cheap and I know people rate them - I used to. Something changed my perceptions). I've tried them stock and I've tried them eq'd to the Harman curve (an improvement) but dull. If I find them dull would the DCA Aeon 2/Noire closed be similar? The Sundaras sounded very nice but as I was looking for an end game headphone I was thinking that by spending a bit more I could get it. I realise that the Stealth is unlikely to cause offence but clearly to spend 4K not to be offended is a bit foolish. You spend 4k to be wowed.

With Thomann I'm not sure if one doesn't end up paying significant duty now the UK has been daft enough to Brexit. If not then thank you for the heads up.

Thanks also to all who have weighed in so far.
 

tifune

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I should have also said that my hearing has clearly changed. I did an online test and could still hear at 16.7 kHz. This surprised me as I'm 54 but then I've never tortured my ears. Thats said I also have a pair of Senn 800's. I used to love them. I had a major ear infection 4 years ago. It nearly made me deaf. I recovered but on getting the hd800's (thats the 800 not the 800s) out of storage I now find them flat and dull. Very clear and resolving but dull - no foot tapping - no energy (I'm sorry I don't know how to describe it - its not like they were cheap and I know people rate them - I used to. Something changed my perceptions). I've tried them stock and I've tried them eq'd to the Harman curve (an improvement) but dull. If I find them dull would the DCA Aeon 2/Noire closed be similar? The Sundaras sounded very nice but as I was looking for an end game headphone I was thinking that by spending a bit more I could get it. I realise that the Stealth is unlikely to cause offence but clearly to spend 4K not to be offended is a bit foolish. You spend 4k to be wowed.

With Thomann I'm not sure if one doesn't end up paying significant duty now the UK has been daft enough to Brexit. If not then thank you for the heads up.

Thanks also to all who have weighed in so far.

Re: Stealth you're absolutely right. Realistically, there's no headphone "worth" $4k. I say that wearing my Stealth right now. But, for me, spend your $ where you spend your time and even if Stealth is only 3% better than Noire I've already gotten my money's worth in that regard. But, I don't know your financial situation. For some people, $4k might as well be $400k when it comes to headphones - it's simply not an option.

I never had 800, only 800S. I loved them, but open back is just too limiting for me so I sold them for EtherCX, and sold those for D9200, and sold those for Stealth. So, I guess that's my ranking? Another consideration, planars are more power hungry than 'traditional' designs like 800 so often an amp is needed. Not always, it depends on your tastes re: volume & bass, but Stealth for example it's recommended to have 500mW, presumably at 22ohm but I don't think that was ever specifically called out. You won't get that with a Qudelix or dongle (yet)

You mention Focal; FWIW I've tried the Stellia and hated it. I have the Utopia and really like it, but at the same price if you can get closed-back Stealth why limit yourself with open back? Much easier to drive, though, I can get adequate volume with Qudelix. Also, I just sent the ML 5909 to Amir. If you despise wires, may be worth it to wait for those results. Some of the smartest guys in the room are behind that one so I have high hopes.
 
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nonnyno

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Re: Stealth you're absolutely right. Realistically, there's no headphone "worth" $4k. I say that wearing my Stealth right now. But, for me, spend your $ where you spend your time and even if Stealth is only 3% better than Noire I've already gotten my money's worth in that regard. But, I don't know your financial situation. For some people, $4k might as well be $400k when it comes to headphones - it's simply not an option.

I never had 800, only 800S. I loved them, but open back is just too limiting for me so I sold them for EtherCX, and sold those for D9200, and sold those for Stealth. So, I guess that's my ranking? Another consideration, planars are more power hungry than 'traditional' designs like 800 so often an amp is needed. Not always, it depends on your tastes re: volume & bass, but Stealth for example it's recommended to have 500mW, presumably at 22ohm but I don't think that was ever specifically called out. You won't get that with a Qudelix or dongle (yet)

You mention Focal; FWIW I've tried the Stellia and hated it. I have the Utopia and really like it, but at the same price if you can get closed-back Stealth why limit yourself with open back? Much easier to drive, though, I can get adequate volume with Qudelix. Also, I just sent the ML 5909 to Amir. If you despise wires, may be worth it to wait for those results. Some of the smartest guys in the room are behind that one so I have high hopes.
Money isn't really an object but common sense is. I was brought up not to just spend for spendings sake. If a £4k (GBP - about $5.2K) headphone (plus whatever is required to drive it) will result in audibly better sound then I will spend the money but I need to be sure that it results in a better outcome (even if it is only say 5%).

I haven't even looked at those others you mentioned. Given the confusion I'm already suffering I was reluctant to muddy the waters further.
 

tifune

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Money isn't really an object but common sense is. I was brought up not to just spend for spendings sake. If a £4k (GBP - about $5.2K) headphone (plus whatever is required to drive it) will result in audibly better sound then I will spend the money but I need to be sure that it results in a better outcome (even if it is only say 5%).

I haven't even looked at those others you mentioned. Given the confusion I'm already suffering I was reluctant to muddy the waters further.

I don't blame you, it's a rabbit hole. That's why I typically recommend starting with a variety of secondary market (used/b-stock) lower tier models within same/similar lineup to be sold later, especially with $5.2k USD on the line. For $1k you can get a taste of pretty much everything and recoup probably $900 of that when you're ready to make a final decision.

Some things may surprise you, for example the Steath's auto-fit headband is far too loose for my tastes and it can't really be tightened short of bending it and risking damage. The HD650 feels like a velvet vice grip, which I love but if you google around you'll see posts asking how to loosen it up for better comfort. The LCD-2C is an excellent value, if you don't mind looking & feeling like you're wearing 1/2 of a bowling ball. The 9200 I keep mentioning, the ear pad cut-outs are not sized for a XXL human like myself so as much as I loved the sound and they're as sensitive as a IEM (meaning a $25 dongle can do the trick), I was motivated to find something I could comfortably wear for more than 1 hour.
 

Snoopy

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I got the DC Aeon Noire and the Focal Elegia.

For the Focal Elegia you should get Dekonis Stellia pads to really get the best out of them. And I got a balanced XLR cable.

All that increases the price of the Elegia. (I paid around 700€ for all that)

I got the Noire as open box with a balanced cable for 777€.

At that price the Noire are definitely the better value.



The Noire are lighter, fold nicely and are easier to bring with you.

The Elegia are way easier to drive and you will probably get away with most dongles and DAPs and have a pleasant experience. Especially if you use a Equilizer.



The Noire sound better in my opinion and are more comfortable and feel more like "quality".

The Elegia with Stellia pads sound pretty good as well. But I probably wouldn't buy them again and go straight to more expensive dynamic headphones or planar magnetic Headphones.
 
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nonnyno

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I don't blame you, it's a rabbit hole. That's why I typically recommend starting with a variety of secondary market (used/b-stock) lower tier models within same/similar lineup to be sold later, especially with $5.2k USD on the line. For $1k you can get a taste of pretty much everything and recoup probably $900 of that when you're ready to make a final decision.

Some things may surprise you, for example the Steath's auto-fit headband is far too loose for my tastes and it can't really be tightened short of bending it and risking damage. The HD650 feels like a velvet vice grip, which I love but if you google around you'll see posts asking how to loosen it up for better comfort. The LCD-2C is an excellent value, if you don't mind looking & feeling like you're wearing 1/2 of a bowling ball. The 9200 I keep mentioning, the ear pad cut-outs are not sized for a XXL human like myself so as much as I loved the sound and they're as sensitive as a IEM (meaning a $25 dongle can do the trick), I was motivated to find something I could comfortably wear for more than 1 hour.
I'm hearing you loud and clear. The Senn hd650's are hard to find now in the UK (it all seems to be hd660 or 600). The 650's when I heard them originally sounded muffled to me when I auditioned them as did the 600's. The 800's in comparison beautifully clear. If the 800's non eq'd/eq'd still got my feet tapping I would not be looking to change. I'm hoping I can get a good price for the 800's and the Resonnessence Concero HP dac/headphone amp. Both are barely used and mint. Even the headband is sweat free as I always wrapped something around it when I used it (the anal retent in me :->). I will check out some of the other recs you've made and thank you.
 
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I got the DC Aeon Noire and the Focal Elegia.

For the Focal Elegia you should get Dekonis Stellia pads to really get the best out of them. And I got a balanced XLR cable.

All that increases the price of the Elegia. (I paid around 700€ for all that)

I got the Noire as open box with a balanced cable for 777€.

At that price the Noire are definitely the better value.



The Noire are lighter, fold nicely and are easier to bring with you.

The Elegia are way easier to drive and you will probably get away with most dongles and DAPs and have a pleasant experience. Especially if you use a Equilizer.



The Noire sound better in my opinion and are more comfortable and feel more like "quality".

The Elegia with Stellia pads sound pretty good as well. But I probably wouldn't buy them again and go straight to more expensive dynamic headphones or planar magnetic Headphones.

Oh my useful information - thank you.. I can et the Elegias here for £499. Your view of the Noire is interesting. Apparently brexit (the gift that keeps on giving!) has put the prices up as its more like £850 to £900 gbp. I will do a bit more research but I am beginning to think I might try out the Sundaras for open back and the DCA Noires for closed and try to get over dreams of going further up the scale till I get the chance to audition somewhere.
 

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Oh my useful information - thank you.. I can et the Elegias here for £499. Your view of the Noire is interesting. Apparently brexit (the gift that keeps on giving!) has put the prices up as its more like £850 to £900 gbp. I will do a bit more research but I am beginning to think I might try out the Sundaras for open back and the DCA Noires for closed and try to get over dreams of going further up the scale till I get the chance to audition somewhere.

If you want something better (closed back) than the Noire you will probably spend a lot more anyway. You have to get something from audeze but that don't be nearly as comfortable or portable.

If I'm ever going to upgrade again it will probably be the Dan Clark ether 2, stealth but no more sidegrades.

For a different "flavour" there is always pad swapping , equilizer and different amps.

The Noire usually are 999 euros as well. (854 GBP).
But luckily I could grab them during a black Friday sale for 777€ (664 GBP).

Balanced replacement cables for the Noire are a bit pricy compared other brands. So keep that in mind.
 
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tifune

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Balanced replacement cables for the Noire are a bit pricy compared other brands. So keep that in mind.

I recently discovered AliExpress has them for more 'traditional' prices, but yes those connectors do seem to have a bit of premium.

Also, for reasons I have yet to understand, if you're looking at mobile amps balanced isn't a guarantee of higher power like one would expect <32 ohm. The iFi Diablo does something like 2.2W SE, 1.4 balanced. The Topping NX7 is a SE device, I believe, although it has a balanced connector. Not sure what it is about the lower impedance, but if anyone knows i'd love to learn?
 

DjBonoBobo

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I should have also said that my hearing has clearly changed. I did an online test and could still hear at 16.7 kHz. This surprised me as I'm 54 but then I've never tortured my ears. Thats said I also have a pair of Senn 800's. I used to love them. I had a major ear infection 4 years ago. It nearly made me deaf. I recovered but on getting the hd800's (thats the 800 not the 800s) out of storage I now find them flat and dull. Very clear and resolving but dull - no foot tapping - no energy (I'm sorry I don't know how to describe it - its not like they were cheap and I know people rate them - I used to. Something changed my perceptions). I've tried them stock and I've tried them eq'd to the Harman curve (an improvement) but dull. If I find them dull would the DCA Aeon 2/Noire closed be similar?

Even though I have HD800S and Noire here in front of me side by side, it's difficult for me to answer. Among other things, because they feel quite different - the Noire has much smaller, narrower ear cups and has this slight "suction effect" (not as disturbing, however, as with Audeze). The HD800 feels much lighter and roomier in comparison.
Without EQ, I find both unacceptable to me.
If I tune both for my taste (not 100% Harman, but starting from there, so still neutral but for example much more bass for the HD800S), I would still describe the HD800S as "light" and rather bright, and of course spatial.
The Noire is more direct, less spatial and subjectively still has significantly more bass.
Although both are fairly neutral, the HD800S and Noire are pretty stark contrasts for me within this spectrum.
 
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nonnyno

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I have booked a listening at Richer Sounds. A UK high street retailer. They have a weird mix of headphones including the Sundaras, the Elegias, the Senn 660's and 820's and the Beyer 1990s. What concerns me a bit is that they've suggested I bring in the 800's because the problem may be the headphone amp in the SMSL m500 and this kit all has to work well and synergise together. Perhaps there's some expensive Naim uniti type dac headphone amp they can sell me at great expense which actually doesn't measure as well as the Topping, SMSL or Sabaj kit. Aaarrggggh the objectivist in me is coming out in hives at the thought.
 
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nonnyno

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I recently discovered AliExpress has them for more 'traditional' prices, but yes those connectors do seem to have a bit of premium.

Also, for reasons I have yet to understand, if you're looking at mobile amps balanced isn't a guarantee of higher power like one would expect <32 ohm. The iFi Diablo does something like 2.2W SE, 1.4 balanced. The Topping NX7 is a SE device, I believe, although it has a balanced connector. Not sure what it is about the lower impedance, but if anyone knows i'd love to learn?
Yes thank you for that. Actually having read this site at some length I've gotten over the original cableitis I used to have before becoming enlightened. That said knowing which of the thousands of sensibly priced wires/brands are worth buying (e.g. properly shielded and well made) is another difficulty.
 
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