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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

Andrej

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Looking at the frequency response, I am most concerned with the peaks at approx. 3, 6, 8, and 12 kHz. If they are resonances, even if they are equalized to the level of neighboring frequencies, they'll still be ringing, so perhaps a mild cut would be warranted. Once that is done, with a much smoother frequency response curve, I'd compare the overall frequency response to the Harman curve and equalize. Filling the troughs between the peaks works fine, it is just that my brain is wired to get rid of the resonances (if that is what those were) first.

As for the fear that boosting the lowest frequencies to match the Harman curve would blow up the distortions, the boost is maximum at about 7.5dB, which, at 106.5dB would give the equivalent distortion curve for 114dB (where the boost was applied), which at about 0.7%, at lowest frequencies, for 107dB output, is quite exemplary, so I do not see any real problems there.

Distortion - good
Frequency response - bad or good (with EQ)
Presence of resonances - bad

If any of those three gets a "bad" score, to me, it is not attractive to me. At over $1k, it is very unattractive.
 

NDRQ

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It's fun to see one of our early products revisited after so long. This was our second generation of in-house headphones and it was a real step forward for us as our R&D began to level-up.

Ultimately the voicing wasn't on the trajectory we later adopted so we discontinued it, but as noted, it's got good "bones" and it's also worth noting most of them are still in service after up to 8 years...

Thanks for the review!

The reliability and build quality is definitely there.
Even though the stock sound signature maybe not the best, the light weight & durability is really a strong selling point for me.
I just hate the usually heavy planars, they are really uncomfortable and hot after 1-2 hours and even though they pricey, they still fragile and failing often.
You are really lucky if an Audeze or Hifiman still in good condition and working after 2-3 years...
 

Dan Clark

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The reliability and build quality is definitely there.
Even though the stock sound signature maybe not the best, the light weight & durability is really a strong selling point for me.
I just hate the usually heavy planars, they are really uncomfortable and hot after 1-2 hours and even though they pricey, they still fragile and failing often.
You are really lucky if an Audeze or Hifiman still in good condition and working after 2-3 years...
I try to build headphones to be able to wear for 8 hours... I hit on that after dropping a lot on a TOTL headphone that I literally had to take off after 45 minutes because of hotspots on top of my head and clamp that made my jaw hurt...
 

Jimbob54

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I try to build headphones to be able to wear for 8 hours... I hit on that after dropping a lot on a TOTL headphone that I literally had to take off after 45 minutes because of hotspots on top of my head and clamp that made my jaw hurt...
Posted without judgement...but it was these, wasn't it?

 

m8o

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The original Ether, non-C measured best, from what I recall; mine was traded up and evolved into an Ether Flow C that was really perked up by the 1.1 kit. Tho I often wish I still had it in its original form.

On a related note, wonder where all those classic Ether measurements went; not finding any non-C non-Flow Ether measurements at the full AutoEQ master index. Like they never existed. Haha.
 
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SeriousSam70

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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.
From your impressions: "... bass sounds slightly woolly/rubbery", "... it can sound slightly ‘muffled’ in the middle frequencies", "... 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’."

And still your conclusion is: it sounds very good though.
Do you mind if I ask you to explain ?
 

solderdude

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From your impressions: "... bass sounds slightly woolly/rubbery", "... it can sound slightly ‘muffled’ in the middle frequencies", "... 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’."

And still your conclusion is: it sounds very good though.
Do you mind if I ask you to explain ?

Do note the words 'slightly'. The slight 'dip' in the 1-4kHz range is often preferred by many people as it takes away some 'bite' in some recordings but with other recordings this makes it sound a bit 'laid-back' or 'muffled' but really only to those that are used to 'nearfield monitor sound' (like I do). Because the treble is at the proper level the whole sound does not sound muffled, only the mids can with some recordings. I am nitpicking because of the price (nearly € 2k in Europe).

The reduced low bass combined with the reduced mids is effectively a broad 'midbass' elevation (around 200Hz) which can make the bass a bit 'woolly' as in 'not tight/impactful'.

There is some elevation between 8kHz and 15kHz which is both the 'sharpness' and also 'detail' and 'airy' frequency band. This is elevated a bit (without the insert) which was not the case with the original. An insert can lower that treble range improving the aspect.
What is one man's 'hyper detail' is another man's 'sharpness' (also recording dependent).

Overall, certainly with some EQ, the sound and comfort is very good. Distortion was absent, treble was of good (but elevated without the insert) quality with an 'ethereal' and 'laid-back' sound. No Harman bass but that can be EQ'ed in removing the niggles.

The price is not reflecting the overall sound quality but that is a personal thing.
If this were at the € 600 range it would be a great headphone but that is not so, DCA headphones (aside from some AEON models) are not cheap.
 

BrooklynNick

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A bit disappointing coming from the same company that made the Stealth and Expanse.

The review wrongly implies that the Ether Flow 1.1 is a current production model. The Ether Flow 1.1 is no longer for sale. They came out years before the Stealth and the Expanse.

The current model is the Ether 2 and it also predates the Stealth and the Expanse. I don't know exactly when the Ether 2 came out, but I bought my Ether 2 headphones used in May 2019. It is outclassed by the Stealth, but sells for half the price new.

Edit: I checked my old email and see that I upgraded my Ether Flow 1.0 to the 1.1 back in 2017 for the very reasonable price of $29. It was a simple kit that you applied yourself. I have since sold the headphones. So the Ether 1.1 came out around six years ago.
 
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sealman

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I know this is kind of an apples to oranges thing.
So 50.00 can buy this kind of response with ZERO eq and 1800.00 can get you (the one on the bottom), seriously?

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BrooklynNick

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I know this is kind of an apples to oranges thing.
So 50.00 can buy this kind of response with ZERO eq and 1800.00 can get you (the one on the bottom), seriously?
You can't get it for $1800 because it has not been manufactured for years. I sold mine used for around $600 which was the used market price at the time.
 

sealman

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You can't get it for $1800 because it has not been manufactured for years. I sold mine used for around $600 which was the used market price at the time.
I saw that price 600.00 posted above but it still does not change anything regarding the frequency response graphs.
I guess my point is if it can be done for 50.00 wth is everyone else doing? It seems like practically every headphone measured needs EQ anymore to sound decent!
 
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Jimbob54

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I saw that price 600.00 posted above but it still does not change anything regarding the frequency response graphs.
I guess my point is if it can be done for 50.00 wth is everyone else doing? It seems like every practically every headphone measured needs EQ anymore to sound decent!
Think about an IEM, how it is built and how it interacts with one's ears. And then think about variations in those 2 flaps of cartilage and skin on our heads and how they dont look the same on any 2 people. Then think about a pair of over ear headphones.
 

sealman

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Think about an IEM, how it is built and how it interacts with one's ears. And then think about variations in those 2 flaps of cartilage and skin on our heads and how they dont look the same on any 2 people. Then think about a pair of over ear headphones.
I can just as easily say think about the science/engineering involved to shrink some transducers down small enough to fit in an IEM and then to get them placed just right etc etc.
 

Jimbob54

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I can just as easily say think about the science/engineering involved to shrink some transducers down small enough to fit in an IEM and then to get them placed just right etc etc.
You can say that about anything. But there are clearly greater challenges to hit a FR target at many individuals' eardrums with an over ear phone than an IEM. The market for iem vs oe tells you exactly that. And the lack of Harman compliant OE. Arguably the DCA stealth come closest and we know the price and engineering to get there
 

sealman

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You can say that about anything. But there are clearly greater challenges to hit a FR target at many individuals' eardrums with an over ear phone than an IEM.
There is a little more to it than that. There are several methods for testing a headphone (Amirm uses the GRAS 45CA that seem to be industry standards. Based on what I have seen they get pretty close to each other and the differences are minor in the grand scheme of things. With that knowledge or tool available to every single headphone manufacturer why can't they produce something approaching a harman curve?
If a manufacturer wants to deviate from the harman curve thats great as long as they explain what and why they are doing it and the effect it has on the harman curve as well.
 

Jimbob54

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With that knowledge or tool available to every single headphone manufacturer why can't they produce something approaching a harman curve?
They can(well, on paper and a test rig but maybe not lots of different real ears) But there are always tradeoffs. Have a trawl through the DCA review thread.

Of course, some headphone designers and models couldn't give a shit about Harman or preference models and do what they want, but that's a different story.
 

Robbo99999

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There is a little more to it than that. There are several methods for testing a headphone (Amirm uses the GRAS 45CA that seem to be industry standards. Based on what I have seen they get pretty close to each other and the differences are minor in the grand scheme of things. With that knowledge or tool available to every single headphone manufacturer why can't they produce something approaching a harman curve?
If a manufacturer wants to deviate from the harman curve thats great as long as they explain what and why they are doing it and the effect it has on the harman curve as well.
It would kill the headphone market (as it currently stands) if all manufacturers targeted the Harman Curve, because points of differentiation would be less. Besides, it's known that even in the Harman study that not everyone likes the bass level included in the Harman Curve, with a proportion of people preferring more bass or less bass - so there's still scope for manufacturers to offer different bass levels even if they were targeting the Harman Curve generally - but still I think headphone companies don't want to tie themselves down to that because again it's decreasing points of differentiation, and hence unique saleability. Personally I think the over ear Harman Curve 2018 is about as good as it gets currently, but I don't see all headphone manufacturers doggedly following it. The good thing is we have Parametric EQ, so it's not a problem! (Myself, I quite enjoy the necessary EQ journeys!)
 

Ken Tajalli

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It would kill the headphone market (as it currently stands) if all manufacturers targeted the Harman Curve, because points of differentiation would be less. Besides, it's known that even in the Harman study that not everyone likes the bass level included in the Harman Curve, with a proportion of people preferring more bass or less bass - so there's still scope for manufacturers to offer different bass levels even if they were targeting the Harman Curve generally - but still I think headphone companies don't want to tie themselves down to that because again it's decreasing points of differentiation, and hence unique saleability. Personally I think the over ear Harman Curve 2018 is about as good as it gets currently, but I don't see all headphone manufacturers doggedly following it. The good thing is we have Parametric EQ, so it's not a problem! (Myself, I quite enjoy the necessary EQ journeys!)
To add to what you have already said:
In a multidriver setup (IEMs) one can play about with crossovers and driver types to try to tune them.
It is very very difficult to successfully tune a single driver transducer to any given FR curve.
I believe, manufacturers aim for better technology in making drivers, as to reduce distortion, diaphragm breakups, resonances etc. They can also go extreme lengths in enclosure shapes and dampings to try to tune the earphone or headphones. Examples are technologies that Dan Clark uses in Stealth, and what Sennheiser does to their top of the line IEMs.
Take a look at Audeze. Their LCD-X and XS uses the same driver as far I am aware. One is closed, the other open. That alone changes the FR curve below 1kHz greatly.
Yet those who have heard both, although they agree that the FR curves are different, but yet, praise both for their sound quality! Why?
The drivers and the constructions have yielded extremely low distortion results.
To those who believe the FR is all and end all, good luck to them.
For me, and with my two IEMs, it could not be further from the truth.
Namely, Truthear Crinacle and Sennheiser IE 400 pro.
The Truthear has a good FR, and the Senns don't. I only listened to the Truthears for a week before putting them back in their boxes. The Sennheiser, I EQ and listen to them, on every flight I am on.
 
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