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Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 Noire Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 7 4.0%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 33 18.9%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 79 45.1%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 56 32.0%

  • Total voters
    175
OP
amirm

amirm

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I don’t care about that harman headphone curve anymore, after listening this headphone and looking at measurements, harman curve doesn’t make any sense for me (for my preference).
Well, you actually do like part of Harman curve which is that boosted bass. Headphones that don't subscribe to that, have flat or even rolling off bass.
 

Dan Clark

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This is a review, listening test and measurements of the Dan Clark Audio (DCA) AEON 2 Noire Planar Magnetic closed back headphone. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $850.
I put the second post in, just so you would notice my prior post with the comments… I assume that the owner didn’t send you the tuning kit that goes with the headphone. If not, the headphone includes several tuning pads with varying degrees of attenuation above 3 kHz to bring the top down closer to curve. Back in the day we thought this was a good idea because some people really do like headphones with more emphasis on the high frequencies, but we also wanted to give people the option to dial it down to a more neutral tone.

Now our most recent models ship with one tuning, as in this case, we found that some people didn’t use the tuning kits, dealers didn’t mention them, or only displayed without them, because the dealers don’t normally modify products for demonstration, and several other reasons.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Now we simply ship with one tuning, as in this case, we found that some people didn’t use the tuning kits, dealers didn’t mention them, or only displayed without them, because the dealers don’t normally modify products for demonstration, and several other reasons.
You can add reviewers like me in the list of people who don't like it. :) Having to test the headphone 2 or 3 times with various config adds tremendous burden and confuses the messaging of what the headphone is about. In the age of ready EQ, we don't need blunt instruments like that anyway.
 

Dan Clark

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You can add reviewers like me in the list of people who don't like it. :) Having to test the headphone 2 or 3 times with various config adds tremendous burden and confuses the messaging of what the headphone is about. In the age of ready EQ, we don't need blunt instruments like that anyway.
There were other reasons as well, and this can be added to the list. But I thought an important for you to be aware that the high frequency emphasis you observed, was actually not expected to be the way most people would listen to it. But as you know, we don’t do it this way anymore on our new products and we won’t going forward…. Part of the concept of the ability to tune a product to taste comes from my own history modifying audio products, as we’ve moved to a broader audience, and people who are less interested in fine-tuning and tweaking things that model just doesn’t make sense for us or the majority of our customers anymore.
 

AlexHRider

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But as you know, we don’t do it this way anymore on our new products
Sooo.. when are we getting the next DCA Aeon with thd as low as the Ether CX headphone with large cups?:p

Just got (1 month more or less) from Massdrop the Ether CX and its stunning
 

Robbo99999

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I think @amirm is speculating that whatever is used to create the 114hz bump is causing harmonic peaks higher up. So presumably 4th (912) and upwards. Bring the 114hz down and you might reduce those.

I have zero idea of that could even be the case, but think that is where he was going
Yep, I know that's what he's saying, as that's how distortion "works", but his graph is showing THD and there are no problems with THD at 114Hz, therefore there aren't gonna be any 2nd/3rd/4th/5th/etc harmonics causing issues at higher frequencies.
 

PeteL

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You can add reviewers like me in the list of people who don't like it. :) Having to test the headphone 2 or 3 times with various config adds tremendous burden and confuses the messaging of what the headphone is about. In the age of ready EQ, we don't need blunt instruments like that anyway.
We are in the age of Ready EQ indeed, but not ready measurements for average buyer. It would be presumptuous also to think that the buyer know what he is doing with an EQ, and preference is a thing. This headphone was not designed to be measured by you, it was designed to be sold. Sliding in a filter is much more foolproof and easy than dialing in an EQ of an unmeasured headphone. That's a great Idea, you get 3 manufacturer approved EQ you choose what sounds best to you.
 

Robbo99999

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@PeteL , you messed up your post formatting so it won't just let me hit the reply button to reply to your post. If we think Amir is accurate in his observation that the 114Hz filter increased the warmth of the headphone, then maybe it's not related to THD, but maybe related to IMD. I know Amir doesn't measure IMD as I understand it to be a not very easily controllable test, but as an idea maybe it's an IMD effect instead.
 

PeteL

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@PeteL , you messed up your post formatting so it won't just let me hit the reply button to reply to your post. If we think Amir is accurate in his observation that the 114Hz filter increased the warmth of the headphone, then maybe it's not related to THD, but maybe related to IMD. I know Amir doesn't measure IMD as I understand it to be a not very easily controllable test, but as an idea maybe it's an IMD effect instead.
Yeah sorry I can't seam to be able to fix this easily, not sure what happens. Could be IMD as well yes. Again we don't know from measurements, I did not say Amir's assessments where right.
 

Robbo99999

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Hi Amir, and thanks for taking the time to do the review. Two things to add here, the first is that you measured this without using any of the tuning pads, which were pretty much included for the intention to use them for anyone looking for a softer sound on the high frequencies. Generally, I recommend people start with the black filter, or the lighter white filter. That significantly addresses the high frequency emphasis

The second thing is you show distortion at 7 kHz, that is because you have a deep notch on one, likely due to a standing wave with the coupler at that frequency, which means that you have very low fundamental and that makes any distortion or noise relatively elevated in amplitude. You’ll see this on pretty much any headphone when you have a deep notch at some frequency around the coupler. I’ve seen some other measurements you’ve made with other headphones, it’s the same effect.
Although that deep notch in the fundamental is happening between 9-11kHz whereas the distortion is showing between 7-8kHz, so that doesn't seem to add up?

EDIT: Sorry, yes, there's a 7dB notch in the fundamental between 7-8kHz, so you're talking about that smaller notch. (not sure if that smaller notch can explain such a rise in distortion though).
 
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Merkurio

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Yep, I know that's what he's saying, as that's how distortion "works", but his graph is showing THD and there are no problems with THD at 114Hz, therefore there aren't gonna be any 2nd/3rd/4th/5th/etc harmonics causing issues at higher frequencies.

One thing that has been confusing me after watching @Dan Clark seminar on headphone measurements last year, is the part where he explains the threshold of audibility of the harmonics (even masking the fundamental), do you know from what level of THD this occurs and what is the frequency range most affected?

I ask because I've read in some research paper that our distortion detection threshold is extremely poor, especially when it comes to low frequencies (usually about 5% THD), but I don't know if this is related to the audibility of the harmonics and the frequency masking derived from it.
 

JanesJr1

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IMO the headphone as a whole should offer something to make-up for the decrease in efficiency vs. Dynamic. Here it's more than just raw THD performance, clearly. Compare with other Planars Amir reviewed, some measured less THD, others more.
I have both the Drop DCA Closed X and the Noire. The Closed X completely re-educated my ears with regard to headphone bass reproduction, because, for example, my dynamic-driver HD-650's sound just unacceptable to me now because of the obvious and audible bass resonances associated with that driver in comparison to the planars. And the weak-ish sub-bass of the HD 650 does not gracefully accept EQ to get it to Harman levels or something close to it, while my two DCA 'phones EQ smoothly.

My point is that the planar difference is not just in the measurements, but is clearly audible, at least for low-distortion planars like DCA's. Dan Clark has said many times, however, that we are collectively so used to bass resonances arising from almost-omnipresent dynamic drivers or from room effects and speaker enclosures, that we come to expect them and some of us may prefer them. Personally, I find the better separation, and tight high fidelity of low distortion planar bass to be preferable. YMMV.

Pick your poison, low-efficiency or low-distortion, but there is a payback for accepting the low efficiency of DCA planars if you do happen to like the sound. That said, I also have a Sundara, another planar that I like, and it is a lot more efficient than the DCA headphones, if also heavier and less comfortable. But the Noire is my #1 pick out of the three, and I had to make sure my amplification was adequate only once, when I bought the 'phones, so not much practical effect from the higher current demand.
 

Robbo99999

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One thing that has been confusing me after watching @Dan Clark seminar on headphone measurements last year, is the part where he explains the threshold of audibility of the harmonics (even masking the fundamental), do you know from what level of THD this occurs and what is the frequency range most affected?

I ask because I've read in some research paper that our distortion detection threshold is extremely poor, especially when it comes to low frequencies (usually about 5% THD), but I don't know if this is related to the audibility of the harmonics and the frequency masking derived from it.
I don't actually know the answer to that question, but I do know that different harmonics are more audible or detrimental than others. For instance 2nd order harmonics are thought to be not particularly offensive, and it's often the 2nd order harmonics that make up most of the THD (with THD standing for Total Harmonic Distortion, so is a sum of all the different orders of harmonic distortion that originated from that frequency). 3rd order Harmonic distortion & upwards supposedly have a more detrimental audible effect but I don't know what the thresholds are. Generally, below 1% THD should not be a problem across the whole frequency range, and in the bass area you can have more than 1% THD without it being a problem, I think I've heard figures banded around of up to 5% THD in the bass, but if you go to the lowest frequencies like 20Hz maybe it's an even higher threshold.
 

PeteL

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I have both the Drop DCA Closed X and the Noire. The Closed X completely re-educated my ears with regard to headphone bass reproduction, because, for example, my dynamic-driver HD-650's sound just unacceptable to me now because of the obvious and audible bass resonances associated with that driver in comparison to the planars. And the weak-ish sub-bass of the HD 650 does not gracefully accept EQ to get it to Harman levels or something close to it, while my two DCA 'phones EQ smoothly.

My point is that the planar difference is not just in the measurements, but is clearly audible, at least for low-distortion planars like DCA's. Dan Clark has said many times, however, that we are collectively so used to bass resonances arising from almost-omnipresent dynamic drivers or from room effects and speaker enclosures, that we come to expect them and some of us may prefer them. Personally, I find the better separation, and tight high fidelity of low distortion planar bass to be preferable. YMMV.

Pick your poison, low-efficiency or low-distortion, but there is a payback for accepting the low efficiency of DCA planars if you do happen to like the sound. That said, I also have a Sundara, another planar that I like, and it is a lot more efficient than the DCA headphones, if also heavier and less comfortable. But the Noire is my #1 pick out of the three, and I had to make sure my amplification was adequate only once, when I bought the 'phones, so not much practical effect from the higher current demand.
You can have good bass out of Dynamics, you just picked a poor one in the bass department, the HD 650. Those are unacceptable for me too.
 

Robbo99999

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I have both the Drop DCA Closed X and the Noire. The Closed X completely re-educated my ears with regard to headphone bass reproduction, because, for example, my dynamic-driver HD-650's sound just unacceptable to me now because of the obvious and audible bass resonances associated with that driver in comparison to the planars. And the weak-ish sub-bass of the HD 650 does not gracefully accept EQ to get it to Harman levels or something close to it, while my two DCA 'phones EQ smoothly.

My point is that the planar difference is not just in the measurements, but is clearly audible, at least for low-distortion planars like DCA's. Dan Clark has said many times, however, that we are collectively so used to bass resonances arising from almost-omnipresent dynamic drivers or from room effects and speaker enclosures, that we come to expect them and some of us may prefer them. Personally, I find the better separation, and tight high fidelity of low distortion planar bass to be preferable. YMMV.

Pick your poison, low-efficiency or low-distortion, but there is a payback for accepting the low efficiency of DCA planars if you do happen to like the sound. That said, I also have a Sundara, another planar that I like, and it is a lot more efficient than the DCA headphones, if also heavier and less comfortable. But the Noire is my #1 pick out of the three, and I had to make sure my amplification was adequate only once, when I bought the 'phones, so not much practical effect from the higher current demand.
I agree with you on the bass distortion EQ problems associated with the HD6XX line (I have the HD600), and my experience was the same as yours, it doesn't accept bass EQ to Harman Levels - results in woolly undefined bass which I attributed to distortion issues; and likewise on the other side of the coin I've experienced fantastically detailed and impactful bass from an EQ'd planar headphone (HE4XX), but I've also had really great bass from dynamic driver headphones too - the open back HD560s being the stand out example of very well defined & impactful bass after bass EQ (it's low distortion) from an open backed dynamic driver headphone, and also the closed back NAD HP50 (again low distortion) - so you don't have to have a planar headphone to experience defined impactful low distortion bass, but often planar drivers do have low distortion in the bass (not always though).
 

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I must say, I expected a better target compliance, especially at higher frequencies. Also this jagged behaviour and not very low distortion (like in the LCD-XC) makes me rethink a planned purchase. Also on the DCA site the price is $899 and it is promised: 'ÆON 2 Noire's tuning almost exactly aligns to the “Harman Curve”', which is not totally fulfilled.
I note that Oratory's frequency curve shows less of a shortfall in the 2-5 kHz range. and the resulting EQ correction in Oratory is proportionately quite a bit smaller than Amir's. I don't know if this is unit variation or coupling to the test-head, but Oratory shows pretty good Harman compliance except for the 5-7 kHz peak. (And choppiness above 7 or 8 kHz is par for the course with headphone coupling, and is less worrisome to me.) I've been trying Amir's EQ today, and kind of prefer it, but found I had to tame some shoutiness and mild sibilance with some music. So I'm kind of splitting the difference with Oratory above 1 kHz...
 

JanesJr1

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I agree with you on the bass distortion EQ problems associated with the HD6XX line (I have the HD600), and my experience was the same as yours, it doesn't accept bass EQ to Harman Levels - results in woolly undefined bass which I attributed to distortion issues; and likewise on the other side of the coin I've experienced fantastically detailed and impactful bass from an EQ'd planar headphone (HE4XX), but I've also had really great bass from dynamic driver headphones too - the open back HD560s being the stand out example of very well defined & impactful bass after bass EQ (it's low distortion) from an open backed dynamic driver headphone, and also the closed back NAD HP50 (again low distortion) - so you don't have to have a planar headphone to experience defined impactful low distortion bass, but often planar drivers do have low distortion in the bass (not always though).
The DCA planars were simply my first experience with really lower bass distortion, and so were revelatory for me, but I completely take your point...
 

Jimster480

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I'm a little bit disappointed with this DCA HP. I think the Drop Aeon X is a much better deal.
If I recall correctly, it has lower distortion, and you can get better results with EQ. It's also cheaper. (don't know if you still can get it new)
(I have the closed one)
I didn't like it at all when I tried it at the audio show some months ago. I went through a few of my test tracks and just took it back off. I like my OG MrSpeakers AFC, its still going hard after 6 years now. I just replaced the pads a couple months ago. Still works like a champ and has a great sound signature. I feel like the only real upgrade from this one is the Stealth but the price is just way too wild. The Aeon 2 isn't too bad but it is less neutral than the original.
 

Merkurio

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I agree with you on the bass distortion EQ problems associated with the HD6XX line (I have the HD600), and my experience was the same as yours, it doesn't accept bass EQ to Harman Levels - results in woolly undefined bass which I attributed to distortion issues; and likewise on the other side of the coin I've experienced fantastically detailed and impactful bass from an EQ'd planar headphone (HE4XX), but I've also had really great bass from dynamic driver headphones too - the open back HD560s being the stand out example of very well defined & impactful bass after bass EQ (it's low distortion) from an open backed dynamic driver headphone, and also the closed back NAD HP50 (again low distortion) - so you don't have to have a planar headphone to experience defined impactful low distortion bass, but often planar drivers do have low distortion in the bass (not always though).

Is the difference in bass quality (and quantity) between the HD6X0 line and the HD560s really that big?

I ask because I've never tried the HD560s and now I'm curious, I generally lean towards dynamic drivers and Sennheiser is my de facto brand (although I don't like the inferior build quality of the HD500 series compared to the HD6X0 line).
 

markanini

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I have both the Drop DCA Closed X and the Noire. The Closed X completely re-educated my ears with regard to headphone bass reproduction, because, for example, my dynamic-driver HD-650's sound just unacceptable to me now because of the obvious and audible bass resonances associated with that driver in comparison to the planars. And the weak-ish sub-bass of the HD 650 does not gracefully accept EQ to get it to Harman levels or something close to it, while my two DCA 'phones EQ smoothly.

My point is that the planar difference is not just in the measurements, but is clearly audible, at least for low-distortion planars like DCA's. Dan Clark has said many times, however, that we are collectively so used to bass resonances arising from almost-omnipresent dynamic drivers or from room effects and speaker enclosures, that we come to expect them and some of us may prefer them. Personally, I find the better separation, and tight high fidelity of low distortion planar bass to be preferable. YMMV.

Pick your poison, low-efficiency or low-distortion, but there is a payback for accepting the low efficiency of DCA planars if you do happen to like the sound. That said, I also have a Sundara, another planar that I like, and it is a lot more efficient than the DCA headphones, if also heavier and less comfortable. But the Noire is my #1 pick out of the three, and I had to make sure my amplification was adequate only once, when I bought the 'phones, so not much practical effect from the higher current demand.
If it were about THD and the planar tech alone any Hififman or Audeze a would be equally good. I assume people interested in this set are looking at what sets it apart, like the acoustic tuning, and the light weight package.

In a closed back a Planar driver does more to mitigate the issue of FR variability. OTOH open backs will have less FR variability regardless of driver tech, but with the penalty of deficient bass quantity both with dynamic and planar drivers.
 
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