• 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

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
7,062
Likes
6,934
Location
UK
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.
It is true that the 7506 has a lot worse bass distortion than the HD800s as Amir measured, and it did also occur to me that he was alright with giving a big bass boost to the HD800s, so praps we can't say that's why @Chagall was experiencing boominess with an Oratory EQ. I don't know why he can give a bit of a bass boost to the E3 which is already at Harman yet the HD800s he can't boost up to Harman without boominess - you'd think it wouldn't be frequency response unless for some reason he's getting an at ear bass measurement higher than what is measured in the Oratory EQ. Oratory likes to show best case bass measurement in his frequency response so it would be strange to think Chagall is getting a higher on head bass response than that. I don't know man, I don't know why the discrepancies between E3 & HD800s experience. You're quite certain, but I'm just gonna sit on the fence about it & chalk it up as "unknown", lol!
 

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
7,062
Likes
6,934
Location
UK
@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).

View attachment 349712

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.
I don't know, it's a strange situation, don't worry about it, I'm just chalking it up to "unknown".
 

solderdude

Grand Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
16,159
Likes
36,899
Location
The Neitherlands
It is true that the 7506 has a lot worse bass distortion than the HD800s as Amir measured, and it did also occur to me that he was alright with giving a big bass boost to the HD800s, so praps we can't say that's why @Chagall was experiencing boominess with an Oratory EQ. I don't know why he can give a bit of a bass boost to the E3 which is already at Harman yet the HD800s he can't boost up to Harman without boominess - you'd think it wouldn't be frequency response unless for some reason he's getting an at ear bass measurement higher than what is measured in the Oratory EQ. Oratory likes to show best case bass measurement in his frequency response so it would be strange to think Chagall is getting a higher on head bass response than that. I don't know man, I don't know why the discrepancies between E3 & HD800s experience. You're quite certain, but I'm just gonna sit on the fence about it & chalk it up as "unknown", lol!
Yep, measurements to standards are just measurements to standards and nothing more.
Fortunately there usually is decent correlation between measurements and personal experiences but certainly not always.
 

srkbear

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 16, 2021
Messages
1,043
Likes
1,465
Location
Dallas, TX
I already own seven pairs of absurdly priced headphones, and I’ve always said that my Sony Z1Rs count as my closed back option, even though I rarely touch them because their tuning is so wonky in the mids (70mm drivers?). Thus, despite Amir’s evil temptation and my aching for one of these, I promised myself I’d say no.

Then of course an open box deal with the balanced XLR cable bundle showed up today on Audio 46 (DCA is very tricky about selling their cans with either a 6.35mm single ended cable in the box or an XLR, but not both) for $1,699, and they made it so easy with Apple Pay—all I had to do is just double click, and done! It was nothing.

I need help.
 

majingotan

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 13, 2018
Messages
1,542
Likes
1,826
Location
Laguna, Philippines
I already own seven pairs of absurdly priced headphones, and I’ve always said that my Sony Z1Rs count as my closed back option, even though I rarely touch them because their tuning is so wonky in the mids (70mm drivers?). Thus, despite Amir’s evil temptation and my aching for one of these, I promised myself I’d say no.

Then of course an open box deal with the balanced XLR cable bundle showed up today on Audio 46 (DCA is very tricky about selling their cans with either a 6.35mm single ended cable in the box or an XLR, but not both) for $1,699, and they made it so easy with Apple Pay—all I had to do is just double click, and done! It was nothing.

I need help.

Spoken like a true hobbyist! Can't help but keep FOMOing. Fortunately, Susvara alone cured my curiosity of acquiring new headphones

Side note: my 6SU7GTY tube which I only had around 1 month of use died yesterday so I'm back on the JJ 6SL7 but love the sonic presentation of the 6SU7GTY from my Susvara so much that I played the used tube lottery again splurging absurd money for a single tube hoping to get the next one without dying on me for at least 3 years
 

srkbear

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 16, 2021
Messages
1,043
Likes
1,465
Location
Dallas, TX
Spoken like a true hobbyist! Can't help but keep FOMOing. Fortunately, Susvara alone cured my curiosity of acquiring new headphones

Side note: my 6SU7GTY tube which I only had around 1 month of use died yesterday so I'm back on the JJ 6SL7 but love the sonic presentation of the 6SU7GTY from my Susvara so much that I played the used tube lottery again splurging absurd money for a single tube hoping to get the next one without dying on me for at least 3 years
Please don’t get me started on tubes—as a guitar player I’m already in recovery from my valve addiction and I won’t be tempted,

This is my first time buying an “open box” item. Audio 46 insists it comes with DCA’s full warranty and that it’s “guaranteed to perform as new”. Shipping was free and no sales tax was applied so I really did get a pair for $1,699–please offer a moment of silence for me that I don’t end up with a lemon. I’m already obsessed with imagining whose grubby hands these were once in and their motivation for returning it. I hope they were fond of washing their hair…
 

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
7,062
Likes
6,934
Location
UK
Fortunately there usually is decent correlation between measurements and personal experiences but certainly not always.
Indeed, certainly not always.
 

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
7,062
Likes
6,934
Location
UK
I already own seven pairs of absurdly priced headphones, and I’ve always said that my Sony Z1Rs count as my closed back option, even though I rarely touch them because their tuning is so wonky in the mids (70mm drivers?). Thus, despite Amir’s evil temptation and my aching for one of these, I promised myself I’d say no.

Then of course an open box deal with the balanced XLR cable bundle showed up today on Audio 46 (DCA is very tricky about selling their cans with either a 6.35mm single ended cable in the box or an XLR, but not both) for $1,699, and they made it so easy with Apple Pay—all I had to do is just double click, and done! It was nothing.

I need help.
Ha, well let us know what you think to them at least! Are you a Harman Curve fan?
 

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
7,062
Likes
6,934
Location
UK
Please don’t get me started on tubes—as a guitar player I’m already in recovery from my valve addiction and I won’t be tempted,

This is my first time buying an “open box” item. Audio 46 insists it comes with DCA’s full warranty and that it’s “guaranteed to perform as new”. Shipping was free and no sales tax was applied so I really did get a pair for $1,699–please offer a moment of silence for me that I don’t end up with a lemon. I’m already obsessed with imagining whose grubby hands these were once in and their motivation for returning it. I hope they were fond of washing their hair…
It can help to have something simple like a miniDSP EARS measurement rig to at least satisfy you that the channel matching is good (& distortion) - that prevents most lemons! Given what you spend on headphones it's probably a good investment. You can then also use the data to create channel matching EQ's to end up with perfect channel matching.
 

srkbear

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 16, 2021
Messages
1,043
Likes
1,465
Location
Dallas, TX
Hi folks, a follow up on my recent purchase of an open box pair of Dan Clark E3s for 15% off retail, no sales tax and free shipping, from Audio46’s website. I had an outstanding experience. Arrived quickly (UPS 3 day shipping), and I couldn’t tell these apart from brand new. Was sealed when I got it.

This is my first truly Harman-compliant headphone, and although I still prefer them with a bit extra bass (I use the analog bass boost on my iFi Pro iCAN Signature), the overall sound signature is so transformative compared to what I’m used to, and these don’t sound even remotely closed back—they blow the soundstage of my open-backed Utopias off the map. Now I get why Amir is so fond of them—their design is exquisite, and they’re my latest endgame headphone!

I’m not affiliated with Audio46 in any way, just wanted to pass along my experience and their terms. They define “open box” discretely from “B stock”. Open box to them means returned in pristine condition (not for any defect), a review unit, or a display item with no more than five hours of use. Unless stated in the listing, the item comes with all accessories and has no cosmetic or functional defects. Mine held true for all counts.

They used to charge restocking fees for returns. But in the latest fine print I noticed that for items purchased after August of 2023, they now allow 30 day returns with no restocking fee for open box items, and for every brand save four—iFi, Astell and Kern, Sendy Audio and SIVGA, they provide the full manufacturer’s warranty.

I wanted the DCA with the balanced XLR cable, and had to wait a bit until one went on sale (the DCAs come bundled with either a 6.35mm unbalanced connector or a balanced XLR cable, not both—and far more folks seem to return the unbalanced version for some reason, perhaps due to weak amp pairings?). 15% off $1,999 with no sales tax or shipping costs really turns out to be a great deal!

Of course I want to support Dan Clark and encourage anyone to buy A stock items in that spirit if they can, but if anyone on a budget runs across a similar item they’ve had their eyes on, with this store I think you’re safe! Peace…
 
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
55
Likes
148
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....
The E3 are the best headphone I own by a clear margin. The level of realism with recordings of classical music is stunning. And that without EQ. Beats the HD800, which by comparison is a bit diffuse (I was shocked the first time I did a direct comparison).

With a lot of non-acoustic music the E3 reveal how little low-level detail there is, and how much "empty space" is in the recording. The effect is that I wonder "Is that all there is to this?" and sometimes lose interest in a track. So not ideal for all music - but I have other headphones for that.
 

solderdude

Grand Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
16,159
Likes
36,899
Location
The Neitherlands
The thing with the DCA headphones is that Dan seems to have been thinking out of the box a bit.
I mean .... all headphones are just the same old dynamic drivers with just a little variation in materials used, positioning and tuning.
All planars are very similar too.
Some have a different shape/size and different pads but all are similar in certain ways.
Some are thinner, different magnet positions etc. Very few went the isodynamic way.

Not so with Dan's creations. He really addressed some of the downsides and am glad he got past the T50RP driver which does not have much going for it.
In the dynamic driver scene only the HD8-series driver is really different (ring driver, huge voice coil and connection point to membrane).

Focal and Hedd did try to change tweeter tech to full range and did something different than most other 'put an off the shelf driver in a headphone trick.

I think this pays off in certain aspects.

Dan's headphones are interesting to say the least and seems to be on the right track.
Waiting for trickle down even further towards the Drop versions price range.
 

Zoide

Active Member
Joined
Oct 20, 2018
Messages
101
Likes
76
Yes, I look forward to some trickle down too! €2500+ for the E3 in Europe is just crazy.
 
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
55
Likes
148
They're technically exciting headphones, as well as practical:
You can pack them up small because of that great hinge mechanism. Comfort is a priority, and with the E3 dealing with partially broken seal was a consideration in the design, so great for glasses-wearers like me. And then there's the AMTS which may be responsible for the incredibly clean treble and is just soo cool a concept. The progress from the Aeon 2 is immense and it's a joy to listen to Dan talk about how they workin on improving their designs - https://www.head-fi.org/threads/dan-clark-audio-e3-review-interview-measurements-impressions.970772/ (head-fi, but the interview is really good)
 

phoenixdogfan

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 6, 2018
Messages
3,358
Likes
5,323
Location
Nashville
The thing with the DCA headphones is that Dan seems to have been thinking out of the box a bit.
I mean .... all headphones are just the same old dynamic drivers with just a little variation in materials used, positioning and tuning.
All planars are very similar too.
Some have a different shape/size and different pads but all are similar in certain ways.
Some are thinner, different magnet positions etc. Very few went the isodynamic way.

Not so with Dan's creations. He really addressed some of the downsides and am glad he got past the T50RP driver which does not have much going for it.
In the dynamic driver scene only the HD8-series driver is really different (ring driver, huge voice coil and connection point to membrane).

Focal and Hedd did try to change tweeter tech to full range and did something different than most other 'put an off the shelf driver in a headphone trick.

I think this pays off in certain aspects.

Dan's headphones are interesting to say the least and seems to be on the right track.
Waiting for trickle down even further towards the Drop versions price range.
I want an open back version. I'm willing to pay the tariff, but not for a closed back.
 

srkbear

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 16, 2021
Messages
1,043
Likes
1,465
Location
Dallas, TX
They're technically exciting headphones, as well as practical:
You can pack them up small because of that great hinge mechanism. Comfort is a priority, and with the E3 dealing with partially broken seal was a consideration in the design, so great for glasses-wearers like me. And then there's the AMTS which may be responsible for the incredibly clean treble and is just soo cool a concept. The progress from the Aeon 2 is immense and it's a joy to listen to Dan talk about how they workin on improving their designs - https://www.head-fi.org/threads/dan-clark-audio-e3-review-interview-measurements-impressions.970772/ (head-fi, but the interview is really good)
I agree that their folding mechanism is really clever, and they look mighty cool origami’d down to their sleek case silhouette with the radiant blue accents. I was shocked when I got the package in the mail because the box was so minuscule compared to every other headphone I own, and the case is so discreet that they’re truly portable. Opened up fully they look highly substantial and feel impenetrable. Also they’re really designed to be indestructible—you can twist them any which way to the point that they seem like they would snap, but nope.

I had a hard time figuring out which side was which—maybe I missed the designation somewhere but I went by the ear shaped cutouts in the pads. It’s remarkable how intimate the seal is on these—the pad apertures are literally in the shape of an ear, and once on your head there’s very little opportunity for any air to escape from the pad—yet they breathe nicely and feel very comfortable to me.

It’s rare to see a mass market headphone manufacturer pay such keen attention to just about every aspect of the design—ergonomics, comfort, aesthetics, and innovative technology. I was somewhat dismissive of DCAs flagship wares due to the high cost and very low sensitivity, even if I was highly curious about the Harman tuning and Amir’s reviews. These E3’s won me over for certain.
 

sonitus mirus

Active Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2021
Messages
292
Likes
386
The thing with the DCA headphones is that Dan seems to have been thinking out of the box a bit.
I mean .... all headphones are just the same old dynamic drivers with just a little variation in materials used, positioning and tuning.
All planars are very similar too.
Some have a different shape/size and different pads but all are similar in certain ways.
Some are thinner, different magnet positions etc. Very few went the isodynamic way.

Not so with Dan's creations. He really addressed some of the downsides and am glad he got past the T50RP driver which does not have much going for it.
In the dynamic driver scene only the HD8-series driver is really different (ring driver, huge voice coil and connection point to membrane).

Focal and Hedd did try to change tweeter tech to full range and did something different than most other 'put an off the shelf driver in a headphone trick.

I think this pays off in certain aspects.

Dan's headphones are interesting to say the least and seems to be on the right track.
Waiting for trickle down even further towards the Drop versions price range.
Are you busting on the Mr. Speakers Mad Dogs? Ha! I absolutely love my Stealth with the RME ADI-2/4 balanced Pentaconn connection. I'm afraid to try this E3, as I might enjoy it better than my Stealth. Could possibly be a better product for significantly less money.
 

srkbear

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 16, 2021
Messages
1,043
Likes
1,465
Location
Dallas, TX
So does anyone own both the E3 and the Stealth who could offer some subjective and objective contrasts between them? Given how great these E3s sound (and look), I’m wondering what about the Stealth warrants double the price. Their FRCs appear pretty comparable, and although I can tell from photos of the Stealth that its design is perhaps a bit more “luxuriant”, I’m plenty thrilled with the design of these E3s, and I’m quite pleased that they don’t demand as much power…
 

Rhamnetin

Active Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2023
Messages
219
Likes
453
So does anyone own both the E3 and the Stealth who could offer some subjective and objective contrasts between them? Given how great these E3s sound (and look), I’m wondering what about the Stealth warrants double the price. Their FRCs appear pretty comparable, and although I can tell from photos of the Stealth that its design is perhaps a bit more “luxuriant”, I’m plenty thrilled with the design of these E3s, and I’m quite pleased that they don’t demand as much power…

Objective analysis comes from the reviews of each on this site. Subjectively, I haven't seen many comparisons here but there are many in the Head-Fi thread, albeit most of those come from people who don't look at/care for objective data.

But as for the price, the E3 is the result of technological trickle down. Objectively, they perform almost identically in every metric. DCA is all about progress, imagine the AEON 3 when the time comes.
 
Top Bottom