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Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1.1 Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 34 20.1%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 67 39.6%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 57 33.7%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 11 6.5%

  • Total voters
    169

amirm

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This is a review, listening tests and detailed measurements of the Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1.1 open back headphone. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $1,799.99.
Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1.1 open back review.jpg

The Ether flow is an attractive headphone and pretty comfortable to wear. It comes with different set of pads. Owner bought it used so was not sure what is default. I am not either :). So I measured the Right channel (red below) with a thick black pad and left the other one the way it was (an open transparent mesh).

Note: The measurements you are about to see are made using a standardized Gras 45C. Headphone measurements by definition are approximate and variable so don't be surprised if other measurements even if performed with the same fixtures as mine, differ in end results. Protocols vary such as headband pressure and averaging (which I don't do). As you will see, I confirm the approximate accuracy of the measurements using Equalization and listening tests. Ultimately headphone measurements are less exact than speakers mostly in bass and above a few kilohertz so keep that in mind as you read these tests. If you think you have an exact idea of a headphone performance, you are likely wrong!

It was non-trivial to get the same bass performance for both channels on the fixture. But after some trying, I got there.

Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1.1 Measurements
Again, note that the right channel in red has an extra pad:
Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1.1 open frequency response measurement.png

This is a pretty odd response. There is no part of our target curve that is adopted. We also have interesting set of resonant peaks which seem to diminish with the extra pad. EQ will be darn necessary. To that end, here is your guide:
Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1.1 open relative frequency response measurement.png


On very good news front, there is essentially no distortion even at punishing 114 dBSP!
Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1.1 open relative Distortion measurement.png

Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1.1 open Distortion measurement.png


Group delay is not revealing of much other than some messiness:
Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1.1 open Group Delay measurement.png


Impedance is flat and low:
Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1.1 open Impedance measurement.png


Which when combined with about average sensitivity means it is an easy headphone to drive:

best open back headphone review.png


Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1.1 Listening Tests & EQ
The immediate impression was that of the somewhat exaggerated upper bass/warmth. You could listen to them as is because it is not annoying in any regard. But EQ is mandatory to bring out what this headphone can do. The complex shape of the deviations made it a bit difficult but I managed to get there up to a few kHz:
Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1.1 open back equalization.png


Strategy was a dip for the resonant peak and then two PEQs to boost the whole region. Upper bass was pulled down and low bass pulled up to taste. Depending on good your high frequency hearing is, you may want to play with pulling those resonant peaks down as well.

Me? I was satisfied and was blown away by the incredible fidelity I was hearing with those 5 filters. The track you see on the snapshot of Roon was to die for with amazing resolution and detail. You cold almost feel the strings courtesy of very nice spatial qualities.

The high sensitivity allowed my RME ADI-2 Pro to drive them up to as high a level as I wanted with thundering bass that resonated the cups and my ear! I wish I didn't have to take pictures of the headphone for the review so I could keep listening to them!

Let say that I did not expect to be able to correct the response as well as I did. It was tempting to just write off the headphone and not bother. But owner had told me to try so I am glad I did.

Conclusions
There is no question that the stock frequency response is off compared to what research tells us it should be. Even though the deviations are broad, the stock sound is not annoying so in a pinch you could use it as is. But add half a dozen filters to your EQ datapath and the ETher Flow 1.1 comes to life like nobody's business. Credit likely goes to good bones in the form of incredibly low distortion. To some extent, maybe the headphone we want is an extremely low distortion one we can EQ as we need!

Price is up there though so I can't recommend the Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1.1 open if you are going to use them as is. If you can pick one up used and add EQ though, you have a winner there.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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solderdude

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index.php


I measured one too:
fr-ether-open.png


With some EQ I thought it was an excellent sounding and comfortable headphone. A tad too 'midrangy' without EQ with an 'ethereal' treble. Price is what mostly kept me from buying one.

Below the 'original' (non Flow) Ether:
fr-ether.png
 
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solderdude

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Not impressed at all, genuinely thought they would perform better from things ive read.

Sounds very good though and as with every headphone it improves with some EQ.
High build quality, very comfortable, low weight (for a planar magnetic), decent sensitivity (for a planar).

My impressions without EQ and driven from a FiiO DAP I had with me at the time:
The Ether Flow open has a ‘warm’ and ‘open’ sound to it. The bass sounds slightly woolly/rubbery. It has a ‘laid back’ character to it and can sound slightly ‘muffled’ in the middle frequencies. Still the overall sound is quite ‘airy’.
With some recordings the sound can have a ‘sharpish accent’ to it.
With ‘busy’ music (a lot of instruments playing at the same time) it is somewhat lacking in ‘dynamics’ and can sound a bit ‘messy’. The low impedance asks for good amplification that can handle low impedances quite well. It can play pretty well directly from portable equipment though.
 
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Jimbob54

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Comfort should always be consideration 1 for any headphone purchase IMO and ability to EQ/ low distortion second so these seem to tick that box. Not sure the peakiness above 3k is a good thing though and might put many off. But a bass boost, dropping the c200hz and a single broad 1-3k peak im sure would make a huge difference which is pretty much the EQ Amir has applied.

But even second hand these arent going to be cheap . Wonder how audible the distortion of some of the cheaper hifiman round units would be vs these if you applied similar levels of EQ for £00s less. And also, the cheaper DCA Aeon range.
 

Hayabusa

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muslhead

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bass shy. how politically correct
I would prefer to find something a bit closer out of the box to match the curve.
Praying i could EQ this for my taste without blowing up distortion would have me concerned. WARNING - subjective comment. There is no way i see this worth the money they are asking and the reason i voted poor
 

IAtaman

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That EQ looks suspiciously like the Harman OE target :)

Might have been interesting in a world LCD-X did not exist in my opinion.

1687427649946.png
 

IAtaman

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I wonder how the graph would look like if it was normalized at 1K. Would it be then "mid-forward" and "shouty"?
 

Azathoth

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Can't get my mind off of the fact the round cups remind me of the Hifimans
 

Hayabusa

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Lunafag

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To some extent, maybe the headphone we want is an extremely low distortion one we can EQ as we need!
That's how I ended up with Audeze and cheap single dynamic driver IEMs(kind of absurd IEMs get worse in distortion the more you spend on them). Stock tuning of any headphone is just not doing it for me these days.
 

xaviescacs

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:D I've voted great but I didn't expect to be the only one! To me, in this price point, yes, expensive, but far from the state of the art ones, distortion free is absolutely key factor. So to me these are great. :p
 
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AdamG

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To some extent, maybe the headphone we want is an extremely low distortion one we can EQ as we need!
This needs to be said more often. Especially when you take into consideration that we will all have different sound tastes and goals. A low distortion across the audible band makes a headset/IEM far more valuable and the buyer has a much greater chance of enjoying the purchase post EQ. Also means to me anyway. That a headset with low distortion can be easily used for multiple purposes like Music/Gaming and Movies by simply using different EQ sets for each activity use. When you report “incredibly low distortion” I instinctively know that that headset will work for me and should work for anyone able to apply EQ. Then it’s just down to a few key attributes (Comfort, Style and price). Easy to drive is the Cherry on top!

Thanks for the review Amir. :cool:
 
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