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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

BrooklynNick

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Apr 15, 2023
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Location
Brooklyn, NY
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!)

I agree. If you have only one headphone, get one that follows Harmon. If you enjoy having a few different ones, then you don't want them to all follow Harmon.

BTW, the Ether Flow 1.1 predates Harmon 2018.
 

paudio

Active Member
Joined
Sep 18, 2021
Messages
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161
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!
Any chance we may see an Ether 2 reviewed?
 

Maiky76

Senior Member
Joined
May 28, 2020
Messages
436
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3,662
Location
French, living in China
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.
View attachment 294132
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:
View attachment 294133
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:
View attachment 294134

On very good news front, there is essentially no distortion even at punishing 114 dBSP!
View attachment 294135
View attachment 294136

Group delay is not revealing of much other than some messiness:
View attachment 294137

Impedance is flat and low:
View attachment 294138

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

View attachment 294139

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:
View attachment 294140

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.

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

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/

Here are some thoughts about the EQ.

Notes about the EQ design:
  • The average L/R is used to calculate the score.
  • The resolution is 12 points per octave interpolated from the raw data (provided by @amirm)
  • A Genetic Algorithm is used to optimize the EQ.
  • The EQ Score is designed to MAXIMIZE the Score WHILE fitting the Harman target curve (and other constrains) with a fixed complexity.
    This will avoid weird results if one only optimizes for the Score.
    It will probably flatten the Error regression doing so, the tonal balance should be therefore more neutral.
  • The EQs are starting point and may require tuning (certainly at LF and maybe at HF).
  • The range around and above 10kHz is usually not EQed unless smooth enough to do so.
  • I am using PEQ (PK) as from my experience the definition is more consistent across different DSP/platform implementations than shelves.
  • With some HP/amp combo, the boosts and preamp gain (loss of Dynamic range) need to be carefully considered to avoid issues with, amongst other things, too low a Max SPL or damaging your device. You have beed warned.
  • Not all units of the same product are made equal. The EQ is based on the measurements of a single unit. YMMV with regards to the very unit you are trying this EQ on.
  • I sometimes use variations of the Harman curve for some reasons. See rational here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...pro-review-headphone.28244/page-5#post-989169
  • https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...pro-review-headphone.28244/page-6#post-992119
  • NOTE: the score then calculated is not comparable to the scores derived from the default Harman target curve if not otherwise noted.
OK L/R match.
Lots of resonances, EQ might not translate well with other units.

I have generated one EQ, the APO config file is attached.

Score no EQ: 60.7
Score Amirm: 73.2
Score with EQ: 92.8

Code:
Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1 1 open back APO Score Full EQ Flat@HF 96000Hz
July172023-135931

Preamp: -7.8 dB

Filter 1: ON PK Fc 26.79 Hz Gain 7.95 dB Q 0.40
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 214.29 Hz Gain -3.94 dB Q 0.61
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 1124.18 Hz Gain -2.46 dB Q 4.76
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 2555.58 Hz Gain 7.67 dB Q 0.35
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 3208.28 Hz Gain -5.67 dB Q 4.63
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 5808.98 Hz Gain -5.23 dB Q 5.24
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 8331.78 Hz Gain -4.82 dB Q 6.00

Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1 1 open back APO Score Full EQ Flat@HF 96000Hz.png
 

Attachments

  • Dan Clark Audio Ether Flow 1 1 open back APO Score Full EQ Flat@HF 96000Hz.txt
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BrokenEnglishGuy

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 19, 2020
Messages
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Likes
1,120
The thing that i dont understand from this review
Why amir doesnt fixed the 6600hz peak~?
Also the ETHER FLOW 1.0 is the same as the 1.1 but without the foams between the earpad and the driver, the unit reviewed was with the foams?
1674286
 
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