• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required. There are many reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Dan Clark E3 Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 4 1.9%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 12 5.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 32 15.2%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 162 77.1%

  • Total voters
    210

Chagall

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 9, 2020
Messages
409
Likes
1,224
Except he was talking about muddiness caused by the bass boost which I didn't equate as the same thing. What he was describing sounded like too much 100-300Hz, which I thought might be caused by harmonics from bass distortion because he listens at louder levels. The "soft bass" that I was describing, I'm not sure what exactly causes that in the HD800 for me, but I don't think it's distortion as I listen at low levels, so it's something else I think. But either way, what he was describing & what I was describing I see as two seperate things. I agree with what you say though re HD800 and "soft textured bass (as in not tight/punchy)".

Ok, I'm going to try to explain this the best I can, so please bear with me...

E3, no EQ vs HD800s (oratory Harman EQ preset) - not level matched, normal listening levels

Get Lucky - Daft Punk, Tidal - Roon - intro until Pharell starts singing
The bass on the E3 is balanced in the mix, best to describe it as a wall of sound with nothing standing out. On the HD800s the bass is a bit overwhelming in the sense it is not a wall of sound but there is a clear separation between the first and more distant second layer or plan. First is the bass and it's dominating the mix, everything else falls in the second layer/plan. So this actually isn't bass bleeding into mids, but a feature of HD800s being spacious and doing its own "sound presentation". Both are tuned to Harman, but they feel different.

E3 feels a little clearer, I think I can pick up subtle details more (like bass strings vibrating), but this could all be down to bias.

Royals - Lorde, Tidal - Roon - deep bass around 23 sec
Oh, how I hate this song. A similar thing is happening here, the bass is overwhelming and I feel like HD800s are struggling a little bit here as the bass is deeper IMO than in the previous song. E3 - effortless.

Angel (2006 remaster), Massive Atack - Tidal, Roon
Again, on E3 I just have a sense of clearness and effortlessness, but HD800s with a 5.5dB boost can BASS, don't get me wrong.
The mix is bad so can't pick up if there are any distortions just from headphones.

In conclusion, just by lowering the bass shelf to 3dB on the HD800s, I get the same feel - a more balanced mix. E3 is superb, but I'm honestly even more surprised by HD800s and how they hold up against more expensive, newer headphones. Tonally they are similar/same but the HD800s are presenting the music differently if that makes sense.

I didn't push the volume up this time.
 

cheapmessiah

Active Member
Joined
Jun 10, 2021
Messages
236
Likes
388
Location
Mordor
Ok, I'm going to try to explain this the best I can, so please bear with me...

E3, no EQ vs HD800s (oratory Harman EQ preset) - not level matched, normal listening levels

Get Lucky - Daft Punk, Tidal - Roon - intro until Pharell starts singing
The bass on the E3 is balanced in the mix, best to describe it as a wall of sound with nothing standing out. On the HD800s the bass is a bit overwhelming in the sense it is not a wall of sound but there is a clear separation between the first and more distant second layer or plan. First is the bass and it's dominating the mix, everything else falls in the second layer/plan. So this actually isn't bass bleeding into mids, but a feature of HD800s being spacious and doing its own "sound presentation". Both are tuned to Harman, but they feel different.

E3 feels a little clearer, I think I can pick up subtle details more (like bass strings vibrating), but this could all be down to bias.

Royals - Lorde, Tidal - Roon - deep bass around 23 sec
Oh, how I hate this song. A similar thing is happening here, the bass is overwhelming and I feel like HD800s are struggling a little bit here as the bass is deeper IMO than in the previous song. E3 - effortless.

Angel (2006 remaster), Massive Atack - Tidal, Roon
Again, on E3 I just have a sense of clearness and effortlessness, but HD800s with a 5.5dB boost can BASS, don't get me wrong.
The mix is bad so can't pick up if there are any distortions just from headphones.

In conclusion, just by lowering the bass shelf to 3dB on the HD800s, I get the same feel - a more balanced mix. E3 is superb, but I'm honestly even more surprised by HD800s and how they hold up against more expensive, newer headphones. Tonally they are similar/same but the HD800s are presenting the music differently if that makes sense.

I didn't push the volume up this time.

Are the pads on the 800s flattened by wear or ageing?
 

Jimbob54

Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
11,162
Likes
14,861
Ok, I'm going to try to explain this the best I can, so please bear with me...

E3, no EQ vs HD800s (oratory Harman EQ preset) - not level matched, normal listening levels

Get Lucky - Daft Punk, Tidal - Roon - intro until Pharell starts singing
The bass on the E3 is balanced in the mix, best to describe it as a wall of sound with nothing standing out. On the HD800s the bass is a bit overwhelming in the sense it is not a wall of sound but there is a clear separation between the first and more distant second layer or plan. First is the bass and it's dominating the mix, everything else falls in the second layer/plan. So this actually isn't bass bleeding into mids, but a feature of HD800s being spacious and doing its own "sound presentation". Both are tuned to Harman, but they feel different.

E3 feels a little clearer, I think I can pick up subtle details more (like bass strings vibrating), but this could all be down to bias.

Royals - Lorde, Tidal - Roon - deep bass around 23 sec
Oh, how I hate this song. A similar thing is happening here, the bass is overwhelming and I feel like HD800s are struggling a little bit here as the bass is deeper IMO than in the previous song. E3 - effortless.

Angel (2006 remaster), Massive Atack - Tidal, Roon
Again, on E3 I just have a sense of clearness and effortlessness, but HD800s with a 5.5dB boost can BASS, don't get me wrong.
The mix is bad so can't pick up if there are any distortions just from headphones.

In conclusion, just by lowering the bass shelf to 3dB on the HD800s, I get the same feel - a more balanced mix. E3 is superb, but I'm honestly even more surprised by HD800s and how they hold up against more expensive, newer headphones. Tonally they are similar/same but the HD800s are presenting the music differently if that makes sense.

I didn't push the volume up this time.
Harman /oratory level bass boost on my 800 just does (edit NOT) sound right to me. Couple /three dB less sounds "right", with a corresponding dip around 200.

I'd love to try something like the high end DCA with that level of bass baked in.
 
Last edited:

Chagall

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 9, 2020
Messages
409
Likes
1,224
Harman /oratory level bass boost on my 800 just does sound right to me. Couple /three dB less sounds "right", with a corresponding dip around 200.

I'd love to try something like the high end DCA with that level of bass baked in.

Wait, does sound right or doesn't? The first one :) Yes, a 2.5 - 3dB boost instead of 5.5dB sounds right to me also.
 

Jimbob54

Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
11,162
Likes
14,861
Wait, does sound right or doesn't? The first one :) Yes, a 2.5 - 3dB boost instead of 5.5dB sounds right to me also.
Dammit. Does NOT sound right. The oratory for the 800 has something like 8db. Sounds far too wooly to me even after cut around 200
 

Rhamnetin

Active Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2023
Messages
219
Likes
453
waiting for Dan Clark to release an affordable headphone

View attachment 348728

In a world of >=$1,000 smartphones being common place, the AEON RT isn't too bad.

He has cheaper models, but what drives me crazy is that some reviewers call the E3 "mid-tier" and "affordable". Such a classification for a €2500 headphone would have been unthinkable when I joined the hobby 20 years ago.

Yeah this is pure insanity. Admittedly some of that is derived from the E3's own marketing.
 

solderdude

Grand Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
16,159
Likes
36,899
Location
The Neitherlands
Except he was talking about muddiness caused by the bass boost which I didn't equate as the same thing. What he was describing sounded like too much 100-300Hz, which I thought might be caused by harmonics from bass distortion because he listens at louder levels. The "soft bass" that I was describing, I'm not sure what exactly causes that in the HD800 for me, but I don't think it's distortion as I listen at low levels, so it's something else I think. But either way, what he was describing & what I was describing I see as two seperate things. I agree with what you say though re HD800 and "soft textured bass (as in not tight/punchy)".

IME adding harmonic distortion in the bass (so higher harmonics due to dynamic compression) usually does not lead to muddy bass but rather has the opposite effect on the lows. More harmonics lead to a 'tighter' bass experience in general.
Unfortunately, when this becomes severe enough to be audible the mids also become modulated by the bass in an unattractive and 'courser' overall sound.
It's the frequency response (correction) that leads to the 'muddy' bass IMO.

Getting EQ right for theHD800 on one's head is not an easy task. In any case.... bass is not the strong point of HD800 which is evident in all reviews out there.
It's best assets are excellent sound quality, comfort and imaging.... When you don't boost the bass too much the bass actually isn't bad though. Just not punchy.

It is good to hear E3 does that too (but just under HD800S it seems) and improves on bass (which is also important).
Still need to go and listen to one. Might be bad for my wallet....
 

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
7,062
Likes
6,934
Location
UK
Ok, I'm going to try to explain this the best I can, so please bear with me...

E3, no EQ vs HD800s (oratory Harman EQ preset) - not level matched, normal listening levels

Get Lucky - Daft Punk, Tidal - Roon - intro until Pharell starts singing
The bass on the E3 is balanced in the mix, best to describe it as a wall of sound with nothing standing out. On the HD800s the bass is a bit overwhelming in the sense it is not a wall of sound but there is a clear separation between the first and more distant second layer or plan. First is the bass and it's dominating the mix, everything else falls in the second layer/plan. So this actually isn't bass bleeding into mids, but a feature of HD800s being spacious and doing its own "sound presentation". Both are tuned to Harman, but they feel different.

E3 feels a little clearer, I think I can pick up subtle details more (like bass strings vibrating), but this could all be down to bias.

Royals - Lorde, Tidal - Roon - deep bass around 23 sec
Oh, how I hate this song. A similar thing is happening here, the bass is overwhelming and I feel like HD800s are struggling a little bit here as the bass is deeper IMO than in the previous song. E3 - effortless.

Angel (2006 remaster), Massive Atack - Tidal, Roon
Again, on E3 I just have a sense of clearness and effortlessness, but HD800s with a 5.5dB boost can BASS, don't get me wrong.
The mix is bad so can't pick up if there are any distortions just from headphones.

In conclusion, just by lowering the bass shelf to 3dB on the HD800s, I get the same feel - a more balanced mix. E3 is superb, but I'm honestly even more surprised by HD800s and how they hold up against more expensive, newer headphones. Tonally they are similar/same but the HD800s are presenting the music differently if that makes sense.

I didn't push the volume up this time.
Nice descriptions. As I was reading that I started to wonder if you're getting a proper seal on the E3? I say that because I never felt that "bass was dominating" in an Oratory EQ of HD800(s). Could it be you've got roll-off happening in the E3 with a less than perfect seal - so in other words maybe you just like less bass than Harman.
 

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
7,062
Likes
6,934
Location
UK
IME adding harmonic distortion in the bass (so higher harmonics due to dynamic compression) usually does not lead to muddy bass but rather has the opposite effect on the lows. More harmonics lead to a 'tighter' bass experience in general.
Unfortunately, when this becomes severe enough to be audible the mids also become modulated by the bass in an unattractive and 'courser' overall sound.
It's the frequency response (correction) that leads to the 'muddy' bass IMO.

Getting EQ right for theHD800 on one's head is not an easy task. In any case.... bass is not the strong point of HD800 which is evident in all reviews out there.
It's best assets are excellent sound quality, comfort and imaging.... When you don't boost the bass too much the bass actually isn't bad though. Just not punchy.

It is good to hear E3 does that too (but just under HD800S it seems) and improves on bass (which is also important).
Still need to go and listen to one. Might be bad for my wallet....
You could well be right re the effect of harmonic distortion in the bass, as I've not tested or experimented with it - I was instead just coming up with a theory that the harmonics would show themselves in the 100-200Hz zone thereby creating muddiness, but I can't say that with certainty because I've not knowingly experienced it or indeed experimented with it.
 

Chagall

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 9, 2020
Messages
409
Likes
1,224
Nice descriptions. As I was reading that I started to wonder if you're getting a proper seal on the E3? I say that because I never felt that "bass was dominating" in an Oratory EQ of HD800(s). Could it be you've got roll-off happening in the E3 with a less than perfect seal - so in other words maybe you just like less bass than Harman.

I think I'm getting a proper seal. Did the test Dan posted for the seal and can't hear my fingertips rubbing together.

Edit: I don't have my HD600 with me (lent them to my father), but I'll try with them or with some other headphones (HD 419) to exclude the HD800s spatial thing.
 
Last edited:

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
7,062
Likes
6,934
Location
UK
I think I'm getting a proper seal. Did the test Dan posted for the seal and can't hear my fingertips rubbing together.

Edit: I don't have my HD600 with me (lent them to my father), but I'll try with them or with some other headphones (HD 419) to exclude the HD800s spatial thing.
That's good then. How about also just lightly pressing on the headphone cups whilst music playing to see if bass is enhanced? You wouldn't want to press too hard as it might be possible you'd get slightly more bass with increased pad compression anyway due to driver being closer to ear.
 

Chagall

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 9, 2020
Messages
409
Likes
1,224
That's good then. How about also just lightly pressing on the headphone cups whilst music playing to see if bass is enhanced? You wouldn't want to press too hard as it might be possible you'd get slightly more bass with increased pad compression anyway due to driver being closer to ear.

E3 is a bit finicky with the placement, HD800 sounds the same no matter the placement.

For me, they work best when the ears are in the center of the pads horizontally, but pulled higher so that the pad touches the lower part of the ear and behind the jaw. The image is probably an exaggeration, but something like that (pulled up) works best for me.

Frame 156.png


No change in bass when lightly compressing pads.
 
Last edited:

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
7,062
Likes
6,934
Location
UK
E3 is a bit finicky with the placement, HD800 sounds the same no matter the placement.

For me, they work best when the ears are in the center of the pads horizontally, but pulled higher so that the pad touches the lower part of the ear and behind the jaw. The image is probably an exaggeration, but something like that (pulled up) works best for me.

View attachment 348972

No change in bass when lightly compressing pads.
You're likely not getting any bass leakage then, so we could say that you do like Harman Curve bass, which does make your HD800s experience interesting and unknown re muddiness with Oratory EQ to Harman. Like I say I don't get that same experience re HD800(s), just an impression of bass lacking some impact & definition (soft textured bass).
 

Chagall

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 9, 2020
Messages
409
Likes
1,224
You're likely not getting any bass leakage then, so we could say that you do like Harman Curve bass, which does make your HD800s experience interesting and unknown re muddiness with Oratory EQ to Harman. Like I say I don't get that same experience re HD800(s), just an impression of bass lacking some impact & definition (soft textured bass).

I think so, but I may just put a slight bass boost (like 1-2dB @90Hz) on E3 in Roon. Doesn't cost me anything and when changing from Sens to E3 I need to change the profile anyway. That will alleviate placing E3 in the same spot exactly every time.
 

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
7,062
Likes
6,934
Location
UK
I think so, but I may just put a slight bass boost (like 1-2dB @90Hz) on E3 in Roon. Doesn't cost me anything and when changing from Sens to E3 I need to change the profile anyway. That will alleviate placing E3 in the same spot exactly every time.
Fair enough, is quite surprising you want to boost E3 further in the bass given what you said about HD800s, but you're right to adjust bass level to suit what sounds best.
 

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
7,062
Likes
6,934
Location
UK
IME adding harmonic distortion in the bass (so higher harmonics due to dynamic compression) usually does not lead to muddy bass but rather has the opposite effect on the lows. More harmonics lead to a 'tighter' bass experience in general.
Unfortunately, when this becomes severe enough to be audible the mids also become modulated by the bass in an unattractive and 'courser' overall sound.
It's the frequency response (correction) that leads to the 'muddy' bass IMO.

Getting EQ right for theHD800 on one's head is not an easy task. In any case.... bass is not the strong point of HD800 which is evident in all reviews out there.
It's best assets are excellent sound quality, comfort and imaging.... When you don't boost the bass too much the bass actually isn't bad though. Just not punchy.

It is good to hear E3 does that too (but just under HD800S it seems) and improves on bass (which is also important).
Still need to go and listen to one. Might be bad for my wallet....
Hi Solderdude, I've already replied to this message a few days ago, but I was just browsing the Sony MDR-7506 thread as someone new had replied there and I saw the following in Amir's review in his listening test:
"I initially boosted the sub-bass and it became ugly. It became boomy (harmonics travel to upper bass and cause that) with the notes not being clean and sharp at all."
So Amir's thinking went along with my ideas on effects of bass distortion, and indeed he uses the word "boomy" which is also the same word that @Chagall used earlier when talking about his experience of bass boosting the HD800. I didn't experience the same but we established that I listen at low levels and Chagall listens at quite loud levels.
 

solderdude

Grand Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
16,159
Likes
36,899
Location
The Neitherlands
Consider that the bass of the 7506 is already (clearly seen in the plots) at Harman level (one channel seems to leak or is faulty ?).
So boosting the bass even more makes it boomy and bloated. With HD800 (which has much lower distortion and much less subbass) the effect will be very different.

This is what Amir said about the HD800 with (his and not Oratory) EQ:

But if you do use it (as you must with any headphone), and can afford it, the HD800S is a delightful way to experience music. I am going to put The HD 800 S on my recommended list.

That is a totally different conclusion than the one Amir drew on the 7506. Also the 7506 is a studio tool and not a hifi headphone.
Amir did not say anything about 'boomy' bass on the HD800 nor about the quality, only about it being bass-light as is. And yet we know he drives headphones loud when testing and has no less than 12dB low bass boost to get to Harman target where the 7606 already follows that bass boost and adding more low bass thus will make it boomy.
So I still believe it is a tonal balance issue and not massive distortion.

Boomy bass is in the 100Hz-200Hz region. When looking at the HD800S at 50Hz a 3rd harmonic would fall in the 150Hz range and would increase the 150Hz region 0.2dB (if that were all 3rd harmonic only so will be lower as it will be mostly 2nd harm).
Just use a software EQ slider in the 150Hz region with a low Q (say 0.5) and turn the volume up by 0.2dB and listen if that will make it sound boomy. You will need to increase that region a lot more for that to happen.

For 7506 this is massively different. The 20% distortion at 50Hz will be mostly 3rd harm (and 5th) and 150Hz Hz presence (assuming phase is the same) will lead to about +1.5dB in that region which would be quite audible. In that case the overall sound will really be awful anyway.
 
Last edited:

Chagall

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 9, 2020
Messages
409
Likes
1,224
@Robbo99999 @solderdude

Think Solderdude is right that it is a balance issue. At first listening to E3 sounded balanced. Maybe it still is, but comparing it to HD800s (with Oratory Harman EQ), the bass on E3 does go deeper, but in the mix, it isn't as dominant as the bass on HD800s (+5.5dB @105Hz). I thought it might be the distortion, but honestly not sure as I don't always listen that loud.

The seal on the E3 on my head is as good as can be - I can't get it to have more bass no matter if I change position or compress the pads.
To make them sound (balance) more similar I can either lower the bass shelf on HD800s to +2.5dB (and that is my preferred EQ with them anyway) or put a high shelf -2dB, Q 0.7 on E3 @ 2500Hz (still not on the same level as +5.5dB HD800s but closer).

With this measurement, I can more easily describe what I think I hear with E3 and what high-shelf @ 2500 is doing approximately (red dashed line).

Group 130.png


But this can all be said the other way around - E3 is the reference, and the +5.5dB bass shelf on HD 800s is too much.

Of course, take what I'm saying with a grain of salt. The problem is that it's not level-matched, and isn't very quick to change headphones, change the output, and change the Roon profile - takes 10 sec minimum.
 
Top Bottom