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

DjBonoBobo

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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.
When I heard the Stealth at a dealer, he also talked his mouth off about "lively" amps and tried to badmouth my RME ADI 2 DAC.... My advice: Try to ignore this kind of talk and concentrate on the headphones.
 
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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?
I'm not interested in mobile amps. This is purely for desktop listening - headphones only. The problem is I share the house with my folks and my father listens to speakers loudly as he's getting a bit deaf hence the requirement for a closed headphone for the majority of my listening.
 

Snoopy

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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?

I don't mind spending a bit more on good looking , good quality cable.

I spend nearly 100 euro on a 3 meter XLR for the Focal Elegia. Silver coated , copper. Not because I believe in any of the audiophool stuff but it just looked nice and it was the only one I didn't have to import.



I will probably buy one for the Noire in the near future as well.


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headwhacker

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In my experience listening to different headphones over the years, trying them out for a listen is a must. Especially, if you are spending a lot of money. I want to see measurements to make a decision. Amir does more compared to other reviewers than just the FR curve. Evaluating a headphone for a big part is personal taste. I realize there is no endgame when it comes to headphones. Personal preference can change over time.

Hence, I believe the most important measurement for a headphone is the distortion curve. If you have a headphone which has low enough distortion, then an EQ can get you to a sound that you enjoy depending on your mood or preference at a given time.

The DCA headphones are good candidate for EQ due to their low distortion especially the Stealth. In my opinion it is priced too much. However, I am still curious to give it a listen. I went to a local headphone shop last weekend but no demo available for Stealth. Tried the Aeon2 Noire instead, it's clear and resolving but for some reason compared to Audeze LCD-XC (which is equally low in distortion measurements) it does not sound as full. The low end is more weighty on the XC than on Noire. Hence, I picked up the XC.

It's a shame though, because ergonomically I prefer the Noire which is lighter and collapsable which makes it easier to bring along wherever I go. But what I hear weighs more enough to go with the XC.
 
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nonnyno

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You're not the first person whose has said that about the Audeze LCD -XC and I agree with your thinking.

My problem is in getting dems close to me. For the most part also DCA stockists are often not Audeze stockists and often the Audeze stockists are not focal or meze stockists so I have to not only travel a long way to hear dca headphones but then a long way to travel to hear the focal or Audeze or hifiman headphones. Distances we talk about in the UK may not be quite as large as US distances bu they're often much slower drives so covering 600 or 700 can take multiple journeys and a few days. I have also recently discovred a brand called focal torino. I have no idea what their headphones sound like or how they will measure but some reviews ahve said theyre emminently eq'able and have a quality low end.
 
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nonnyno

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Oops yes spirit torino. Its been a long and fraught day - sorry and thank you
That doesn't look desperately encouraging in yet most of the reviews rave about them. The ones I've read anyway.
 

sq225917

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I had the chance to listen to all the Dan Clarks at a show the other week, quiet room, end of day, very little ambient noise. Decent digital front end and topping A90 amp.

To be fair I was massively underwhelmed, clean, clear, low distortion for sure. But vfm compared to my fiio fh9 with peq applied, nah, nowhere near. Even the Stealth sounded a bit recessed and smoothed over.

You could hear them get better as you went up the range, the Voce sounded quite different to the rest, but different tech and hpa so not to be unexpected.

I'm still yet to hear any full size headphones that don't just sound wrong.
 

majingotan

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I had the chance to listen to all the Dan Clarks at a show the other week, quiet room, end of day, very little ambient noise. Decent digital front end and topping A90 amp.

To be fair I was massively underwhelmed, clean, clear, low distortion for sure. But vfm compared to my fiio fh9 with peq applied, nah, nowhere near. Even the Stealth sounded a bit recessed and smoothed over.

You could hear them get better as you went up the range, the Voce sounded quite different to the rest, but different tech and hpa so not to be unexpected.

I'm still yet to hear any full size headphones that don't just sound wrong.

Quite the opposite experience from you with the DCA Aeon 2 Open that I demoed about an hour earlier. No EQ just stock tuning since I prefer that subjectively. To my subjective preferences they sound PERFECT except for the deepest subbass where my BA IEM has better presence but the Aeon 2 Open subbass quality is very good for its price. Mids and treble, imaging and layering are amazing for the price IMO. Very full and impactful sound for my subjective preferences. IMO better than Focal Clear OG across the board. Got my head bobbin and some mini-goosebumps during my time with it. Prior to this I never thought I’d like the Harman OE Curve as much as I do now since I’m fully accustomed to inverse Harman IE curve of my IEM. The source used for the demo is my SP2000 DAP with 16 bit FLAC files

Edit: it was the Aeon 2 Open that I demoed not the Noire.
 
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sq225917

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As I said I generally dislike over ear headphones. Given the price of even the cheapest dca I was left wondering what the fuss is about.

I'll stick with my fh9 peq'd out to Harman curve -2db in the bass.
 

JanesJr1

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Quite the opposite experience from you with the DCA Aeon 2 Open that I demoed about an hour earlier. No EQ just stock tuning since I prefer that subjectively. To my subjective preferences they sound PERFECT except for the deepest subbass where my BA IEM has better presence but the Aeon 2 Open subbass quality is very good for its price. Mids and treble, imaging and layering are amazing for the price IMO. Very full and impactful sound for my subjective preferences. IMO better than Focal Clear OG across the board. Got my head bobbin and some mini-goosebumps during my time with it. Prior to this I never thought I’d like the Harman OE Curve as much as I do now since I’m fully accustomed to inverse Harman IE curve of my IEM. The source used for the demo is my SP2000 DAP with 16 bit FLAC files

Edit: it was the Aeon 2 Open that I demoed not the Noire.
I own both the Closed X and the Noire. I have similar, positive reactions to the DCA phones, but I notice an awful lot of variation in people's reactions to them. I find some comments very, very hard to reconcile with the reality I hear with these headphones.

I hear comments that the DCA phones may be bass-shy, which they most certainly are not (including 3d-party measurements). It may be that a subset of listeners have under-powered the headphones, or have a poor head seal. Dan Clark attributes this in part to low-distortion bass, typical of planars, seeming to have less bass than some dynamic drivers with greater subjective bass response due to the admixture of distortion that the ear may perceptually accept as part of the bass fundamental (like my Senn HD6XX's). True or not, at least the closed-back versions of the DCA Aeon phones deliver a fine dose of clean bass down to the sub-bass. The DCA's trained me to love low-distortion bass.

The issue of "slam", as distinguished by some from bass response and involving the excursive punch of transients, may have some truth, but I hear tremendous drive and slam from the DCA's if the volume is at serious (but still comfortable) listening levels ... so much so that I can't see wanting more. The DCA's can sound less punchy at lower volumes, but that is typical of normal speaker loudness curves. The frequency of the comments about it, however, makes me wonder whether DCA phones have a steeper loudness curve, so that the drivers fully engage only at louder volumes. If someone knows more about this, I'd love to hear it. I may try to find a way to test it at some point.
 
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majingotan

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I own both the Closed X and the Noire. I have similar, positive reactions to the DCA phones, but I notice an awful lot of variation in people's reactions to them. I find some comments very, very hard to reconcile with the reality I hear with these headphones.

I hear comments that the DCA phones may be bass-shy, which they most certainly are not (including 3d-party measurements). It may be that a subset of listeners have under-powered the headphones, or have a poor head seal. Dan Clark attributes this in part to low-distortion bass, typical of planars, seeming to have less bass than some dynamic drivers with greater subjective bass response due to the admixture of distortion that the ear may perceptually accept as part of the bass fundamental (like my Senn HD6XX's). True or not, at least the closed-back versions of the DCA Aeon phones deliver a fine dose of clean bass down to the sub-bass. The DCA's trained me to love low-distortion bass.

The issue of "slam", as distinguished by some from bass response and involving the excursive punch of transients, may have some truth, but I hear tremendous drive and slam from the DCA's if the volume is at serious (but still comfortable) listening levels ... so much so that I can't see wanting more. The DCA's can sound less punchy at lower volumes, but that is typical of normal speaker loudness curves. The frequency of the comments about it, however, makes me wonder whether DCA phones have a steeper loudness curve, so that the drivers fully engage only at louder volumes. If someone knows more about this, I'd love to hear it. I may try to find a way to test it at some point.

IMO, bass response is a subjective preference but IMO the default tuning is just right for me. I wouldn't even call it bass shy at all and IMO it's slightly lifted more compared to DF tuned IEMs such as the Etymotic ER2SR from what I recall. Bass dynamics ("how fast the on/off transients") is excellent and far better than HD 6XX ("smeared" transients). The star of the show to me though is the mids and treble which to me is definitely in the A+/S- subjective level. It's far better than Focal Clear OG (the word clear in the headphone is an oxymoron to me since its sonic presentation is not crystal clear sounding to me), and as good or better than the HD800S. Definitely on-par with HEDDphones (HEDDphones is superior in bass response for me than the Aeon subjectively and objectively it has extremely low distortion in the bass frequencies as well), and I'd even go as far as closing-in to Focal Utopia's territory and some hint of E-stat characteristic to it as well, but the Dan Clark VOCE is clearly on another league of details, and Aeon 2 Open is better in "engagement factor" to me than the VOCE.

In short, I was grinning and headbanging whole time and such a bad timing that I get to critically listen to it during recession whereas I've heard the VOCE way back pre-pandemic times. I would go back to the store to demo it again over there next week but this time out of a 36dB SINAD amp just for schiit's and giggles.
 
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nonnyno

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Well I'm going to find out soon enough. Since I couldn't listen to them first I decided to compromise and try the DCA Noire rather than the Stealth. If I really love the Noires then I can always return them to the store and buy the Stealth instead as lovers of the Noires who've upgraded have said it is clearly an upgrade soundwise. I decided finally to let common sense rule and instead of going overboard on the stack, buy the E50/L50 stack with balanced TRS connectors as its better than my current combined DAC/AMP. According to ASR its a transparent stack and right up and the L50 should be more than powerful enough to drive either headphone to hearing destroying levels. Expecting everything to arrive today.
 
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nonnyno

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Well what can I say. The E50+L50 + DCA Noire turned up. I plugged it in and and and .... Holy ravioli batman wtaf.

I haven't even attempted to EQ them yet.

Why does anybody say these are bland even for electronic music? I listened to "Go Up" by Cassius. Sure the synths (or electronic drums) started a bit recessed and I was about to say mmmm very focussed around the voice and then the rest of it kicked in. I hate to be a prat by talking about PRAT but seriously folks. I'm exhausted. If another bit of me shook, tapped, jiggled or wriggled it would fall off!!! I can finally hear the lyric, cambric shirt in Sound of Silence properly without it being mumbled.

The only mistake I may have made is that I didn't spring for the DCA Stealth. How similar is it in terms of "house sound" and Is it really that much of a jump up. I've got 14 days to return these.

As for the E50+L50 stack I can't believe it gets much better than these. Could you actually hear the difference between these and the D90Se+A90D or A90 combo? It is really worth the GBP 1,100 difference?

Also has anybody got any recs for a tall headphone stand because the DCA's are a bit too long for my current stand.

Finally any advice on setup:
I have the L50 set to medium gain at present.
The Topping D50 is set at 0DB where should it be set?
Windows volume control is set to 100%
 

Snoopy

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Well what can I say. The E50+L50 + DCA Noire turned up. I plugged it in and and and .... Holy ravioli batman wtaf.

I haven't even attempted to EQ them yet.

Why does anybody say these are bland even for electronic music? I listened to "Go Up" by Cassius. Sure the synths (or electronic drums) started a bit recessed and I was about to say mmmm very focussed around the voice and then the rest of it kicked in. I hate to be a prat by talking about PRAT but seriously folks. I'm exhausted. If another bit of me shook, tapped, jiggled or wriggled it would fall off!!! I can finally hear the lyric, cambric shirt in Sound of Silence properly without it being mumbled.

The only mistake I may have made is that I didn't spring for the DCA Stealth. How similar is it in terms of "house sound" and Is it really that much of a jump up. I've got 14 days to return these.

As for the E50+L50 stack I can't believe it gets much better than these. Could you actually hear the difference between these and the D90Se+A90D or A90 combo? It is really worth the GBP 1,100 difference?

Also has anybody got any recs for a tall headphone stand because the DCA's are a bit too long for my current stand.

Finally any advice on setup:
I have the L50 set to medium gain at present.
The Topping D50 is set at 0DB where should it be set?
Windows volume control is set to 100%
Rooms headphone Stand.. available at Thomann in the UK. The expensive aluminium version is even better

IMG_20220702_132123.jpg


Try avoiding the windows audio mixer. Use asio.
 

tifune

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The only mistake I may have made is that I didn't spring for the DCA Stealth. How similar is it in terms of "house sound" and Is it really that much of a jump up. I've got 14 days to return these.

As for the E50+L50 stack I can't believe it gets much better than these. Could you actually hear the difference between these and the D90Se+A90D or A90 combo? It is really worth the GBP 1,100 difference?

If the E50+L50 is loud enough for you, there is no point in upgrading.

To me, the Stealth is absolutely worth it. But, as you say it's a big jump so there's a lot of considerations. I'm extremely fortunate such that Stealth isn't a huge financial burden for me. But, if it were, I'm all in on the "spend your $ where you spend your time" ideology so at 2-3 hours/day of usage it'd still be worth it to me even if it stung pretty bad.

Also, the Stealth isn't portable like Noire if that's important to you. Dongles that can do 500mW at 22ohm (DCA's recommended power) haven't come along just yet not to mention Stealth is meant to be comfortable over all else so it slides around a little more than the adjustable Noire headband. And that's before you even get into the Q of "am I comfortable wearing $4k headphones outside the house?"
 

JanesJr1

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IMO, bass response is a subjective preference but IMO the default tuning is just right for me. I wouldn't even call it bass shy at all and IMO it's slightly lifted more compared to DF tuned IEMs such as the Etymotic ER2SR from what I recall. Bass dynamics ("how fast the on/off transients") is excellent and far better than HD 6XX ("smeared" transients). The star of the show to me though is the mids and treble which to me is definitely in the A+/S- subjective level. It's far better than Focal Clear OG (the word clear in the headphone is an oxymoron to me since its sonic presentation is not crystal clear sounding to me), and as good or better than the HD800S. Definitely on-par with HEDDphones (HEDDphones is superior in bass response for me than the Aeon subjectively and objectively it has extremely low distortion in the bass frequencies as well), and I'd even go as far as closing-in to Focal Utopia's territory and some hint of E-stat characteristic to it as well, but the Dan Clark VOCE is clearly on another league of details, and Aeon 2 Open is better in "engagement factor" to me than the VOCE.

In short, I was grinning and headbanging whole time and such a bad timing that I get to critically listen to it during recession whereas I've heard the VOCE way back pre-pandemic times. I would go back to the store to demo it again over there next week but this time out of a 36dB SINAD amp just for schiit's and giggles.
I agree with your comments on the headphones I've also heard, and envy you on the many headphones you have heard that I have not. I gave up the chance to do that when I sprang for the DCA Closed X to Noire upgrade, instead of trying something with different strengths and weaknesses. I did it because I already so enjoyed the excellent tonality, separation and low distortion of the DCA planars.

A/B COMPARISONS OF NOIRE VS. CLOSED X HEADPHONES: I've been doing level-matched A/B comparisons -- many of them -- between the Noire and Closed X phones, and am starting to add the HD6XX's to the comparisons. As you may know, the Noire and Closed X headphones are very similar, but the Aeon 2 generation of phones, which includes the Noire but not the Closed X, has a newer planar driver that was developed from the ground up. The closed X's retail for $379-$499 on Drop.com; the Noire is $899 retail or $765 if you are a prior-DCA customer in the DCA Club.

I haven't finished my comparisons of Noire vs Closed X yet but I've got some prelim findings. The Closed X and Noire phones are obviously close kin and sound very similar. There are some specific differences that strike me as unambiguous. ("Unambiguous" = immediately obvious in sound-level-matched bi-directional A/B and B/A comparisons using at least three relevant music selections, albeit not double-blind. So this is still subjective, even if careful. I'm leaving out subtle differences that may not be valid in a sighted A/B comparison. Here I'm also only comparing the headphones when EQ'd to the Oratory/Harman curve. Out-of-the-box, by contrast, there are other differences in tonality. I use Harman primarily to have an objective reference point. In real life, I modify the Harman tuning, touching up the lower bass, and restoring the Dan Clark bass "bump" in the 60-160 Hz region.)

The Closed X headphones don't have much if any soundstage, and the musical image is usually between the ears. Drop advertises the soundstage of the Closed X, but I rarely hear the soundstage extend out further than the top of my forehead on well recorded material with a natural soundstage on phones that can deliver such a soundstage. That's not to say the headphones are less than enjoyable in many other ways. However, the Noire headphones do have a soundstage, especially for well-miked acoustical material. The Noire stage is often shallow and close, between 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock, but can sometimes have some real soundstage depth from 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock given good miking and a deep setting for voices and instruments. (I've experienced behind-the-head localization on the Noire with a mixing-studio-demo, but not with regular recorded music.)

In this respect, there is a bit of a preference trade-off involved between the Closed X and the Noire. If you are sensitive to soundstage and instrument image, the Noire can sound more natural on acoustic source music -- the sense of an array of instruments in real space with balance between instruments (as if listening from a position in an audience) is stronger, though less often dramatic. However, the "intimacy" of the Closed X headphones, particularly the close-in presence of vocals, can also be appealing, in the same way that closer-miking of a good voice can appeal. In an A/B comparison, it can make the mids of the Noire sound a bit more recessed, even if more balanced among instruments and well-placed in space. (By the same token, depending on the recording, some instruments or voices can seem too forward on the Closed X and perhaps more in balance on the Noire.)

I would add that video-streaming with Noire phones as the audio very frequently produces a pronounced soundstage, perhaps suggesting some kind of ambience enhancement by NetFlix and the other streamers. (If anyone knows more about this, let us know.)

Both the Noire and the Closed X do a good job with instrument separation, with separation defined as being able to distinguish details of timbre and attack/decay among instruments in congested material with overlapping instruments. However, the Noire can sometimes do a better job sorting out the timbre of instruments with a long decay; e.g. a recessed acoustic bass line behind an ensemble of instruments. (I'm still evaluating this; see also the next paragraph.) The Noire does better when "separation" also includes locating instruments in physical space. Again, this is a preference item; some people may not be as sensitive to the physical imaging, or may listen to genres where it matters less.

A difference between the Noire and the Closed X that I didn't expect relates to attack/decay with percussive transients. If you listen to electronica with the very common synthesized drum strikes and rim-shots, these transients often involve a very fast attack and decay with little resonance. With these transients, the Closed X often sounds extremely fast, like a sharp snap of high voltage electricity, while the Noire can sound more like a handclap. If you then compare this to acoustic transients like actual drum strikes and rim-shots, or wood-on-wood sound effects, the Noire does better on picking up the timbre of the drum-strike spreading across the drumhead, or the timbre of the wood-on-metal rimshot, or the resonance of the wood-on-wood. I'm still working on this but the Closed X sometimes feels faster and snappier on percussive transients, and the Noire may be better on capturing the realistic decay of acoustic instruments, including percussive transients. Whether this simplistically translates into across-the-board better "slam" for the Closed X vs greater resolution and separation for the Noire isn't clear yet; I will do more comparisons with more instruments and music when I can find the time.

"Does it make sense to upgrade from Closed X to Noire?". I'm not done with this, but where it's heading for me is:

1. if you want bang-for-your buck, the Closed X gets you most of the undistorted bass, resolution and separation of the DCA Aeon series headphones at a much lower cost, especially if you aren't that sensitive to subtleties of imaging and soundstage, or if you don't listen primarily to acoustic material.

2. On the other hand, if you really know that you appreciate the DCA headphone sound, listen to acoustic sources, and tend to perfectionism even at a cost, the Noire may be worth it, especially if you use the DCA Club discount.

3. This choice kind of depends on your "listening style": if most of your listening is "experiential"; that is, focused on the music, you might not notice the difference in the phones much because their virtues are mostly shared virtues. But if you are often also an "analytical" listener who mentally dissects your audiophile experience, then you may sensitize yourself to the real, albeit modest differences between the headphones.

4. Finally, there seem to be some listeners (and I am one of them) who dislike having their music located between their ears most of the time, whether or not they also specifically crave a large soundstage with precise imaging; and the Noire will be preferred for them.

5. Oh, and the portability of the Noire is a real plus if you use them mobile (which I do daily).

As noted earlier, these comparisons are based on both headphones being EQ'd to Oratory/Harman. Without EQ there are other tonality differences and it is worth noting the 60-160 Hz bump in the out-of-the-box Noire headphone FR to modestly increase bass and perhaps "slam" in a frequency band in the upper bass that also often sports drumstrikes and other percussive transients. But both headphones share extremely clean, undistorted and pleasant tonality down to the sub-bass and some brightness without EQ. You can EQ them easily or use the supplied earpads to adjust FR.
 
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nonnyno

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Spending the money isn't an issue. I will happily spend the money if there's a material improvement in sound. Will the L50 drive the Stealth easily? I have no interest in portable audio.
 

tifune

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Spending the money isn't an issue. I will happily spend the money if there's a material improvement in sound. Will the L50 drive the Stealth easily? I have no interest in portable audio.

3.5W at 16 ohm? Most definitely, I just use the NX7 and it's more than I need. To me, there's no doubt Stealth is an improvement; I've never personally heard anything better and I've heard just about everything except Susvara. But, diminishing returns and all that...
 
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