• 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 daily 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 2.1%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 10 5.2%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 29 15.0%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 150 77.7%

  • Total voters
    193

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
6,819
Likes
6,633
Location
UK
We have already shipped a large order to Germany so they should start being available next week...

Yes, pads are replaceable. We essentially use a "sticker" so they just peel off and replace.
How many months or years would you expect a set of pads to last with say daily usage of couple of hours a day? Ballpark I know & factors like skin oil, etc. And would it differ between the different pads you have on your other headphones? It was one of the reasons for me holding off on the DCA Open X due to pad cost combined with importing them through life of headphone.
 

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
6,819
Likes
6,633
Location
UK
Oh boy... I currently own the Drop Closed X (2 years now), and really love them, especially EQ'd to the Harman Curve (thanks @Robbo99999 ). The earpads are wearing out, though. Looks like these will be my next purchase in mid to late 2024. Cheers for another home run, @Dan Clark . I don't see myself switching brands, especially when you keep delivering on new designs like the E3 that measure so incredibly. I'll probably order additional earpads at the same time so I'm good for 5+ years.

Thank you for all the reviews, @amirm !
How many hours do you reckon you put on those earpads before they needed replacing?
 

solderdude

Grand Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
15,768
Likes
35,645
Location
The Neitherlands
How many months or years would you expect a set of pads to last with say daily usage of couple of hours a day? Ballpark I know & factors like skin oil, etc. And would it differ between the different pads you have on your other headphones? It was one of the reasons for me holding off on the DCA Open X due to pad cost combined with importing them through life of headphone.

Very valid concern.

Could be environment and 'sweat' dependent as well so may also be hard to put a number on.
Pads... yep the biggest issue in reality.

I have seen 20 year old pads that are still in good condition and seen pads fall apart or run flat within a year.
 

Robbo99999

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
6,819
Likes
6,633
Location
UK
Not really. I've already shown that graph before, but I don't think that it's sunk in enough on ASR what this :
View attachment 331081
DCA Stealth, blocked ear canal entrance measurements (https://danishsoundcluster.dk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Olive_DSD_2022.pdf)

Means for this :
View attachment 331082

And, unless Sean's unit had issues (but my little stint with DCA's Stealth, Noire and Expanse makes me doubt that), in extenso a review like this :

Basically, to put it admittedly excessively bluntly, the above review is quite misleading, and the fixture's measurements mostly irrelevant to most if not all users. The one thing the first graph above tells me, and this time with rather high confidence, is that most people won't experience in situ what the fixture tells them, and that they'll experience something quite different between them.

This is a blind spot for most review outlets at the moment, alongside sample variation or HRTF matching (but for the Stealth I think that the latter two issues are quite likely of a much lesser importance).

Interestingly I notice that in this video Dan Clark might have tried to work on that problem with the E3 :

The Noire performed quite well in terms of inter-individual variation in Harman's tests above (possibly less well in terms of average transfer though), hopefully the E3 does as well... but that needs to be tested before any consideration of target adherence comes into play.

I can understand that it's highly impractical to perform in situ measurements for each review, like Rtings does to some degree, but some proxy measurements could already provide some clues that would increase or decrease one's confidence in what the fixture's measurements say.



Applying EQ based on measurements performed on a fixture on a pair of headphones which in situ response is unpredictable and variable is like shooting in the dark.
Good points, but like you say they seemed to have tried to address that with the E3, but also as you say that would need to be measured to confirm.
 

holdingpants01

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 18, 2023
Messages
612
Likes
905
damn, now I want to upgrade my Aeon 2 Noire, which I love the sound of when EQ-ed to the E3 curve
 

cheapmessiah

Active Member
Joined
Jun 10, 2021
Messages
231
Likes
374
Location
Mordor
The easiest example is cymbals… live cymbals make a Tangggg sound (not talking some like those with rivets etc). When the high frequency spectrum is super peaky that come off more like a Tsssss.

Our brains are pretty good at learning to process and say “that’s a cymbal” but it doesn’t sound real, it comes off as synthetic…

When you present a more complete spectrum it sounds more lifelike, and less fatiguing.

Beyond that I’m not sure what you mean by “type of headphone.” If I didn’t answer please clarify.
You are right, I didn't specify, I believe the claim was that E3 sounded like an open back headphone while being closed back.

If I understand correctly, does that mean that if we take a snapshot of the FR of a headphone when its reproducing a cymbal strike recording, for it to be an accurate representation, It should be in the form of a singular peak, and the following moments of that peak the decay should not be a brunch of sharp tall peaks too.

The initial peak being the cymbal strike, and decay used in the fashion of an attack decay sustain release style of signal filtering/analysis like in a synth.
 

Mac Arthur

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 31, 2023
Messages
20
Likes
10
No, it is the effect of half a decade of research into what makes a good sounding headphone. When the response resembles the dashed line, you can have high confidence that you will like the sound. If not, you can apply a bit of EQ but the response should be close.
Well if you look at my signature you will understand that some of my "key purchases" have been made following your analysis :)
 

Dro

Active Member
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Messages
221
Likes
203
How many months or years would you expect a set of pads to last with say daily usage of couple of hours a day? Ballpark I know & factors like skin oil, etc. And would it differ between the different pads you have on your other headphones? It was one of the reasons for me holding off on the DCA Open X due to pad cost combined with importing them through life of headphone.
Because of how the pads touch when the headphone (Stealth/Expanse/E3/Aeon) is not in use, one thing that you can do is put a piece of paper between the pads over night, which will absorb most of the skin oils and smell. I have used the pads on on my Stealth for about 11 months now with this trick and they are still in fairly good shape. They certainly don't feel fatty when I put the Stealth on. And it was a fairly hot year with many weeks over 28°C room temperature. During they day when you take them off, make sure the pads are offset and do not cover each other, allowing them to ventilate.

Most other headphone designs with non-touching pads don't allow you to do that and would feel questionable already.
 

IAtaman

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 29, 2021
Messages
2,229
Likes
3,721
If you don't have a protocol for fixture mounting, you will get wild variations.
Well, when I asked the same question to Oratory1990, his response was :
protocol for what? "move the headphone a few mm up"?

So what exactly is your protocol?
 

IAtaman

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 29, 2021
Messages
2,229
Likes
3,721
Well some yes. The Stealth did vary a lot with positioning for me.

Besides a pair of headphones can be quite stable on your head and yet still shows high inter-individual variation. Ie the K371 varies less in situ on my head with repeated seatings than the inter-individual variation shown in Rtings' review. This could be explained by a number of variables, such as geometry of one's head where the pads sit.
As amazing as AMT tech is, I think it might be also prone to variations and instability caused by the imperfections of the real world, like a high accuracy and high speed oscilator would be, maybe in a similar way how you need to make sure trace lengths are matched for PCI Express x16 slots to work at max speed?

In any case, glad to see via the head-fi review that more attention is being paid to minimizing real world usage variation . As good as the FR graph looks, I'd wait for more listening tests before I commit to getting me one.
 

IAtaman

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 29, 2021
Messages
2,229
Likes
3,721
damn, now I want to upgrade my Aeon 2 Noire, which I love the sound of when EQ-ed to the E3 curve
Well, if we are to believe we can trust FR graphs to tell us almost all we need to know about a headphone, then you don't need to get the E3 to check how it sounds. Just EQ your low distortion headphone to Harman target and there you have it.
 

IAtaman

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 29, 2021
Messages
2,229
Likes
3,721
Very nice. Thank you for the review Amir. Harman does not (can not?) design headphones as compliant to Harman as DCA does.

Looks wise, Stealth looks better in my view but it might be the photos not doing justice to E3.

There seems to be a 2db mismatch between channels from ca 2.5K to 3.5K. Would that have any impact on spatial qualities or is this a non-issue?

1701519601729.png


There seems
 

IXOYE

Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2023
Messages
38
Likes
63
Tempting, but they seem very hard to drive, I suspect that my RME ADI-2 is not powerful enough, then I wonder if the problems with the pads they had on previous models still remain.
 

MayaTlab

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Aug 15, 2020
Messages
916
Likes
1,470
In my view there is no 10dB+ variation without extraneous factors.

In the same test (https://danishsoundcluster.dk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Olive_DSD_2022.pdf), these hypothetical extraneous factors did not seem to impact to the same extent the inter-individual variability of the K702, Sundara or, to a lesser extent, the DCA noire. And the Stealth performed rather similarly to most of the other closed backs at low frequencies. It isn't an outlier.

Screenshot 2023-12-02 at 14.08.19.png
Screenshot 2023-12-02 at 14.08.37.png
Screenshot 2023-12-02 at 14.09.02.png
Screenshot 2023-12-02 at 14.09.12.png


When I read your responses I get the feeling that you think that it's just a question of "belief" that such variation occurs, but the literature (and Rtings for that matter) - which I note you have read all of it apparently - has measured that phenomenon for decades already, including Harman's own articles. It is something that we already know. It's just that a) we didn't have much data for DCA headphones until recently (and here I find it interesting that the Noire performed better across that sample of listeners - so what aspects of its physical and acoustical design could lead to this better performance ?), and b) it's all the more interesting given what seems like a sincere intent from DCA to aim for a target that acknowledges Harman's research (I personally couldn't care less if a pair of headphones with a completely zany response to begin with exhibits high inter-individual variability).

Strong with the knowledge of all the literature, you should then logically conclude that a statement like this is incorrect :
When the response resembles the dashed line, you can have high confidence that you will like the sound. If not, you can apply a bit of EQ but the response should be close.
Without any attempt at evaluating whether the pair of headphones under review is more or less susceptible to in situ variation, just like questions of, for example, sample variation or pad wear, will have an impact on the confidence you can have in such statement.

I'm glad that ASR exists and I think that it's overall providing a great service to the community, and you'll do whatever you want anyway, but don't be surprised whenever someone writes in a thread like the Stealth's review "I don't like how the Harman target sounds" or "my experience doesn't seem to match the measurements", as there are tangible, measurable factors that could lead to these impressions, other than mere psychoacoustics.
 

MayaTlab

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Aug 15, 2020
Messages
916
Likes
1,470
Good points, but like you say they seemed to have tried to address that with the E3, but also as you say that would need to be measured to confirm.

This is something I'd genuinely like to know : which aspects of the DCA Noire above lead to better performance (different clamping force ? Different pad geometry ? Different yoke design ? Different venting schemes ? Etc.), and which solutions did DCA bring to the table to try to reduce that issue with the E3 ?
 

Maiky76

Senior Member
Joined
May 28, 2020
Messages
436
Likes
3,662
Location
French, living in China
This is a review, listening tests, and detailed measurements of the Dan Clark E3 closed back headphone. It was sent to me by the company and costs US $1,999.
View attachment 330967
As you see, the E3 has quite large cups which makes fitment on your ears quite easy. I used the headphone for about 2 weeks with good comfort. Compared to the Stealth, I thought it felt a bit heavier. On the looks, I find it kind of simple compared to the complex geometry of Stealth/Expanse headphones.

Let's measure it to see how it responds.

Dan Clark E3 Headphone Measurement
I expect compliance with our target and that is exactly what we have:
View attachment 330968
Indeed, it seems to comply a bit better than Stealth (as if those small differences matter!). Relative response then doesn't leave much to EQ:

View attachment 330969

There is some distortion at low frequencies but then quiets down quite well:
View attachment 330970

View attachment 330971
As you see, distortion is very low where our hearing is most sensitive (2 to 5 kHz).

Group delay was very clean indicating lack of internal reflections:
View attachment 330972

Impedance is flat and low:
View attachment 330973

Sensitivity is improved compared to Stealth/Expanse making the headphone an easier load to drive:
View attachment 330974
You still need a high-performance of headphone amplifier.

Dan Clark E3 Listening Tests
When Dan sent the E3 to me, he asked that I not measure it and just listen and that is what I did. The first impression was a familiar and accurate sound I am used to in both headphones and studio monitors. I then spent good amount of time swapping between Stealth and E3. There were audible differences to be sure but none that I could quantify other than the E3 having a bit more highs resulting in slightly more spacious and satisfying sound. The switchover between headphones was just too long to give you quantification beyond this.

I then spent the next 10 to 14 days using the E3 as my everyday headphone. I enjoy it every bit as much as my Stealth. I did find that my neck got a hair tired. Dan tells me it is a bit heavier but it may be weight distribution as I am used to wearing heavy headphones.

Conclusions
With E3, Dan Clark once again exemplifies complying with the latest research into proper frequency response of a headphone while at the same time innovating with design and performance. The headphone sounds accurate while being very enjoyable. With the cost being half of Stealth and sound potentially even more pleasing (combined with ease of drive), the E3 is even a more exciting development. Yes, you do give up some in looks department in my opinion but heck, you don't watch yourself in the mirror as you listen! :)

I am happy to put the Dan Clark E3 on my recommended list.

------------
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 which is probably not needed...


Please report your findings, positive or negative!





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.
Great L/R match.

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

Score no EQ: 84.6
Score with EQ: 89.3
Dan Clark E3 EQ Flat 96000Hz.png
 

Attachments

  • Dan Clark E3 EQ Flat 96000Hz.txt
    318 bytes · Views: 27

holdingpants01

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 18, 2023
Messages
612
Likes
905
Well, if we are to believe we can trust FR graphs to tell us almost all we need to know about a headphone, then you don't need to get the E3 to check how it sounds. Just EQ your low distortion headphone to Harman target and there you have it.

I'm doing exactly that, but precise EQing is not always possible and around half of the time I'm forced to use them without it. I would also much prefer the satin pads. I know and like the sound of DCA Stealth, I like the sound of my AEON 2 Noire EQed to the harman curve, they measure very similar so there's realy no need for me to demo E3 to have an idea
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom