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Dan Clark E3 Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 4 2.0%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 10 4.9%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 32 15.6%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 159 77.6%

  • Total voters
    205

Jimster480

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I'm looking at Sennheiser headphones with a chipped and frayed vinyl headband and wondering about a refurbish/rebuild. Apparently Dan Clark offers parts. For how long?
Well I just bought some brand new pads and headband piece for my original Mr. Speakers Aeon from before it was even rebranded to Dan Clark.

So I'd say that they offer parts for quite a long time and it probably shouldn't be a concern of yours. This company has generally been quite good.
It's also important for me to note that the original cable still works perfectly fine and there is no driver, rattle, resonances or other issues with my aeon after what has to be more than 10,000 hours of use. I continue to use the headphone on an almost daily basis now for gaming. It's overall wonderful.

I really liked the E3 when I listened to it at the audio show. It is on my short list.
 

Jimster480

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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.
I would say that this is not better than the stealth. When I listened to both of them, I would say that the stealth is just still overall better in terms of the feel of the materials. Like the pads are more comfortable and the weight of the stealth is definitely much less, which adds to a better long time long time listening experience.
 

srkbear

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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.
For reasons I can’t figure for the life of me, for this open box E3 I purchased I’m finding these E3s unexpectedly anemic in the low end. I’ve reached out to Audio46 to inquire about the reason they were returned.

I’m comparing them to my Utopias and HE1000 Stealths. My only objective measure is that for the same tracks, going back and forth and back and forth, for the DCAs I’m having to fully engage the analog bass boost I have on my amp to achieve the same fullness and physicality, whereas with the other two I do not. I’ve compared them over multiple sessions over the last several days. It’s not the sub bass that feels lacking in impact, it’s the mid-bass range around 100-200hz that I’m having to boost to achieve the same fullness and heft I get from the headphones I’m accustomed to, and based on their FRC this makes no sense.

I bought these specifically based on their published FRCs and the ones measured here (along with DCA’s glowing reputation). I’m comparing the FRCs of the Utopias measured here and the DCAs, and based on what they showed on the GRAS I was expecting to be able to eschew any bass customization at all.

Again these were an open box item, and I have read that a few folks have experienced some possible channel imbalances. However, it seems unlikely that both drivers would be flawed. In every other aspect they sound terrific—but there’s just no low end to be found, and they completely lack punch—the effect is so profound that they almost sound as if I was listening to floor speakers without a woofer. I’m truly at a loss.

Other than invoking cognitive bias (which I’m very informed about), does anyone else have any thoughts or ideas? At the moment I’m tempted to return these for an A stock version, although I’m not sure what the yield would be and I’d rather not… @Dan Clark I’d certainly be grateful for your guidance as well…
 

Rhamnetin

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For reasons I can’t figure for the life of me, for this open box E3 I purchased I’m finding these E3s unexpectedly anemic in the low end. I’ve reached out to Audio46 to inquire about the reason they were returned.

I’m comparing them to my Utopias and HE1000 Stealths. My only objective measure is that for the same tracks, going back and forth and back and forth, for the DCAs I’m having to fully engage the analog bass boost I have on my amp to achieve the same fullness and physicality, whereas with the other two I do not. I’ve compared them over multiple sessions over the last several days. It’s not the sub bass that feels lacking in impact, it’s the mid-bass range around 100-200hz that I’m having to boost to achieve the same fullness and heft I get from the headphones I’m accustomed to, and based on their FRC this makes no sense.

I bought these specifically based on their published FRCs and the ones measured here (along with DCA’s glowing reputation). I’m comparing the FRCs of the Utopias measured here and the DCAs, and based on what they showed on the GRAS I was expecting to be able to eschew any bass customization at all.

Again these were an open box item, and I have read that a few folks have experienced some possible channel imbalances. However, it seems unlikely that both drivers would be flawed. In every other aspect they sound terrific—but there’s just no low end to be found, and they completely lack punch—the effect is so profound that they almost sound as if I was listening to floor speakers without a woofer. I’m truly at a loss.

Other than invoking cognitive bias (which I’m very informed about), does anyone else have any thoughts or ideas? At the moment I’m tempted to return these for an A stock version, although I’m not sure what the yield would be and I’d rather not… @Dan Clark I’d certainly be grateful for your guidance as well…

That is indeed truly bizarre, the only other thing I can think of besides a defect is a bad seal. Are you by any chance wearing it with glasses on?
 

srkbear

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That is indeed truly bizarre, the only other thing I can think of besides a defect is a bad seal. Are you by any chance wearing it with glasses on?
Actually I think I at least on one occasion was listening to it fully naked, but then you really didn’t need to know that. I’ve even tried cupping my hands around the pads and pushing them to the sides of my head, and there was no difference. I swear it isn’t my imagination—the contrast between my other cans (which have rolled off FRCs) is unmistakeable. I just don’t get it. I’m truly bummed because as much as I looked forward to these headphones I know I won’t end up listening to them as they are. :oops:
 

majingotan

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You're hearing the E3 as intended by its tuning. Comparing Utopia 2022 and E3 normalized at 500 Hz shows this

1708719870141.png


Between 100-120 Hz alone Utopia has significantly more mid to upper bass presence hence you do need to boost that with E3 f you're accustomed to Utopia or even Hifiman's tuning. Add the relative drop in bass extension from Utopia and you get a mid-centric sound signature with mid-bass punch being highlighted a lot and because of the boost from mid-bass to sub-bass in the E3, you get that boost in the full bass to subbass presence but it becomes thin and lacking presence when the higher bass tones in the bass guitar are now being presented
 

Robbo99999

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Actually I think I at least on one occasion was listening to it fully naked, but then you really didn’t need to know that. I’ve even tried cupping my hands around the pads and pushing them to the sides of my head, and there was no difference. I swear it isn’t my imagination—the contrast between my other cans (which have rolled off FRCs) is unmistakeable. I just don’t get it. I’m truly bummed because as much as I looked forward to these headphones I know I won’t end up listening to them as they are. :oops:
You did really like them in your first post when you talked about them, you were finding them excellent sounding, but I know what a "honeymoon period" can be like with headphones & different EQ's too. It's not all that easy to compare headphones as perceptions can change through the day or from day to day. Eventually though, I find it begins to stabalise though in terms of which headphones & EQ's you most often come back to & find yourself spending the most time with, so I think it is possible to eventually stabalise on a headphone & EQ, but it's a rocky road & even then there's still the occasional bump to be found down the line!
 

Rhamnetin

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You're hearing the E3 as intended by its tuning. Comparing Utopia 2022 and E3 normalized at 500 Hz shows this

View attachment 351770

Between 100-120 Hz alone Utopia has significantly more mid to upper bass presence hence you do need to boost that with E3 f you're accustomed to Utopia or even Hifiman's tuning. Add the relative drop in bass extension from Utopia and you get a mid-centric sound signature with mid-bass punch being highlighted a lot and because of the boost from mid-bass to sub-bass in the E3, you get that boost in the full bass to subbass presence but it becomes thin and lacking presence when the higher bass tones in the bass guitar are now being presented

I definitely should've checked. There's a similar but less significant pattern with the HE1000 Stealth.

1708721142731.png
 

srkbear

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You're hearing the E3 as intended by its tuning. Comparing Utopia 2022 and E3 normalized at 500 Hz shows this

View attachment 351770

Between 100-120 Hz alone Utopia has significantly more mid to upper bass presence hence you do need to boost that with E3 f you're accustomed to Utopia or even Hifiman's tuning. Add the relative drop in bass extension from Utopia and you get a mid-centric sound signature with mid-bass punch being highlighted a lot and because of the boost from mid-bass to sub-bass in the E3, you get that boost in the full bass to subbass presence but it becomes thin and lacking presence when the higher bass tones in the bass guitar are now being presented
This is extraordinarily helpful, thank you. I’m used to PEQing all my cans anyway so I’m just about to have a go at it through Roon for the E3s. I’m admittedly a bit of a bass head, although not in the Beats Pro sense!
 

srkbear

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You did really like them in your first post when you talked about them, you were finding them excellent sounding, but I know what a "honeymoon period" can be like with headphones & different EQ's too. It's not all that easy to compare headphones as perceptions can change through the day or from day to day. Eventually though, I find it begins to stabalise though in terms of which headphones & EQ's you most often come back to & find yourself spending the most time with, so I think it is possible to eventually stabalise on a headphone & EQ, but it's a rocky road & even then there's still the occasional bump to be found down the line!
I still think they’re extraordinary, I just hadn’t compared them to any other cans until yesterday. @majingotan cleared up the issue for me nicely and I’m fixing to haul out the PEQ—I just have a helpless preference for a surfeit of mid bass! As I mentioned their sub bass assets are clearly audible and I expect to be dazzled when I tweak them a bit. I collect headphones, and these things are so wicked-cool in their design that I wouldn’t dare part ways with them unless they were unlistenable. I’ll follow up with my impressions after I dial up the mid bass a bit.
 

isostasy

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I still think they’re extraordinary, I just hadn’t compared them to any other cans until yesterday. @majingotan cleared up the issue for me nicely and I’m fixing to haul out the PEQ—I just have a helpless preference for a surfeit of mid bass! As I mentioned their sub bass assets are clearly audible and I expect to be dazzled when I tweak them a bit. I collect headphones, and these things are so wicked-cool in their design that I wouldn’t dare part ways with them unless they were unlistenable. I’ll follow up with my impressions after I dial up the mid bass a bit.
I would definitely invest in making a simple flat plate coupler if I were into collecting high-end headphones as much as you are. Would make it trivial to diagnose any obvious problems and in the bass you could even make direct comparisons with other headphones to some extent (less so with closed backs but still useful).
 

srkbear

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I would definitely invest in making a simple flat plate coupler if I were into collecting high-end headphones as much as you are. Would make it trivial to diagnose any obvious problems and in the bass you could even make direct comparisons with other headphones to some extent (less so with closed backs but still useful).
Thanks, you mean as a mount to hang them? That’s the only definition of that term I’m familiar with—would you mind elaborating please?
 

srkbear

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I definitely should've checked. There's a similar but less significant pattern with the HE1000 Stealth.

View attachment 351778
Just for fun, in lieu of tweaking the PEQ myself as I typically do, I decided to ask ChatGPT for a recommendation, and gave it a shot. Turns out it nailed it. N=1 for ChatGPT PEQ accuracy. Admittedly these are pretty basic parameters, but it was an interesting experiment nonetheless…
IMG_0001.png
 

srkbear

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Final analysis, the E3’s sound terrific, with a touch of PEQ to fill out the mid bass. A worthy addition to my collection that I’m glad I purchased. The Hifiman HE1000 Stealth remains unmatched by a wide margin. Nothing else out there right now touches them, irrespective of price (and they’re a steal). They’re just thrilling.
 

Robbo99999

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Final analysis, the E3’s sound terrific, with a touch of PEQ to fill out the mid bass. A worthy addition to my collection that I’m glad I purchased. The Hifiman HE1000 Stealth remains unmatched by a wide margin. Nothing else out there right now touches them, irrespective of price (and they’re a steal). They’re just thrilling.
So exactly what EQ filters did you end up using, all the ones listed by ChatGPT or just one or some?
 

srkbear

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So exactly what EQ filters did you end up using, all the ones listed by ChatGPT or just one or some?
I goofed around with several. The ChatGPT one was actually pretty good! As always I had to fight clipping in Roon with the bass emphasis and kept having to balance the bass gain settings on the peak/dip bands with the global gain level to keep
it out of the red. I played around with a low shelf first band, but honestly the E3s perform so impeccably in the sub bass that adding a low shelf was overkill. i jettisoned the 200hz band and finally settled on boosts at 100 hz and 180 with wider Q widths. It brought up the fullness and warmth where I like it without bleeding over into the mids or getting too boomy.

It’s great! I tend to pick one headphone over another for certain tracks/genres, and I’m certain I’ll find a selection that complement the E3s nicely.

I realize that headphones are very personal, and that everyone has their own tastes and preferences. But for me, the HE1000 Stealth is just flawless. Perfect tuning, impeccable comfort, premium build, a vast proscenium and lifelike timbre, and an energy/physicality that is just exciting as all hell.

I have zero reservations with it, and I see the brand as analogous to the praise we lavish on comparable Chinese manufacturers such as Topping, SMSL, Gustard etc. Hifiman has come a long, long way in recent years, and similar to Topping et al, they produce SOTA headphones at honest prices (save for the Susvara, which is a relic of their past). I wish some folks would submit their recent wares for review on here—perhaps I will. Although I fear that if they aren’t 100% Harman-compliant they won’t pass muster. Now that I’ve heard a headphone that is, I am inclined to ponder whether Hifiman improved upon it…
 

Robbo99999

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I goofed around with several. The ChatGPT one was actually pretty good! As always I had to fight clipping in Roon with the bass emphasis and kept having to balance the bass gain settings on the peak/dip bands with the global gain level to keep
it out of the red. I played around with a low shelf first band, but honestly the E3s perform so impeccably in the sub bass that adding a low shelf was overkill. i jettisoned the 200hz band and finally settled on boosts at 100 hz and 180 with wider Q widths. It brought up the fullness and warmth where I like it without bleeding over into the mids or getting too boomy.

It’s great! I tend to pick one headphone over another for certain tracks/genres, and I’m certain I’ll find a selection that complement the E3s nicely.

I realize that headphones are very personal, and that everyone has their own tastes and preferences. But for me, the HE1000 Stealth is just flawless. Perfect tuning, impeccable comfort, premium build, a vast proscenium and lifelike timbre, and an energy/physicality that is just exciting as all hell.

I have zero reservations with it, and I see the brand as analogous to the praise we lavish on comparable Chinese manufacturers such as Topping, SMSL, Gustard etc. Hifiman has come a long, long way in recent years, and similar to Topping et al, they produce SOTA headphones at honest prices (save for the Susvara, which is a relic of their past). I wish some folks would submit their recent wares for review on here—perhaps I will. Although I fear that if they aren’t 100% Harman-compliant they won’t pass muster. Now that I’ve heard a headphone that is, I am inclined to ponder whether Hifiman improved upon it…
It looks like you like a headphone that is warmer than Harman given your 100Hz & 180Hz wide boosts combined with the fact that the E3 is already below Harman in the pinna gain area from 1-5kHz.
 

Jimster480

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It looks like you like a headphone that is warmer than Harman given your 100Hz & 180Hz wide boosts combined with the fact that the E3 is already below Harman in the pinna gain area from 1-5kHz.
Yep, I mean the graph shown by the other two posts basically confirmed this.
 

srkbear

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Yep, I mean the graph shown by the other two posts basically confirmed this.
I’ve long since had to come to terms with the fact that I seem destined to make the most straightforward things on Earth a complicated mess. Z-scores +/- 3 is where you’ll always find me. :rolleyes:
 

Jimster480

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I’ve long since had to come to terms with the fact that I seem destined to make the most straightforward things on Earth a complicated mess. Z-scores +/- 3 is where you’ll always find me. :rolleyes:
LOL nothing wrong with that. Just finding some EQ you like is part of the journey.
 
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