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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

Rottmannash

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I has been a long time I wanted to open a post regarding this, but no need, just a comment as we have a fresh newcomer on the scene...
It's really funny to see that, at the time of writing, already 81% of reviewers (46 out of 57 posters) consider the E3 as a "Great (golfing panther) " ;-)
I am just wondering how they can rate it without having listen the device ! @amirm effect? :)

We are voting based on the measurements @amirm just presented. We aren't voting at ASR on subjective impressions, as most haven't listened to the device in question. I believe you're thinking of Head Fi.
 

IAtaman

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I am just wondering how they can rate it without having listen the device !
I am with you. For electronics and speakers, measurements are more or less it. For headphones and IEMs, rating without hearing is a fool's errand.

Amir used to have a note in his headphone reviews that read "If you think you have an exact idea of a headphone performance, you are likely wrong!". He does not include it the reviews anymore and seems like people have already forgotten.
 
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Steven Holt

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No, but I took it home and used it for three months before I left a review/rating... :)
Point taken -- but Amir does have experience with DC products, and I'm quite sure he listened to these 'phones before he reviewed them. Our membership does not take Amir's word as Scripture. He gets plenty of push - back on many products he reviews, and he always trys to give a reasoned reply to the concerns (see my question above). Look what happens when he reviews a Schiit product : if Amir does not give Schiit a 'golfing panther', he gets tons of hate mail from the Schiit - Cult threatening to burn down his house, shoot his dog, pound his audio - analyzer into little pieces, steal all his tomatoes from his garden, ect, ect -- yet he patiently tries to address all their concerns. Any time you do a review, it's tough to get it all right. But he does the best he can.
 

TK750

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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?

View attachment 331127

There seems

How do you calculate that - maybe you have written that somewhere else I can read?

Think you might have missed this mate:

I should have noted that fitment on the GRAS fixture was so good on the first try that I didn't try to optimize and match channels.
 

IAtaman

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Think you might have missed this mate:
What? Snippets you quoted confused me even more. How come Amir says he did not try to match channels and Maiky76 calculated great L/R match?
 

Dan Clark

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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.
YMMV due to the oils in your skin amd climate. Some people have more acidic skin oil, with that and high humidity and heavy use I’d expect pads to last at least two years. I live in San Diego and have pads that have lasted over five years. That said once the foam starts to feel or look different it’s time to replace.
 

TK750

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What? Snippets you quoted confused me even more. How come Amir says he did not try to match channels and Maiky76 calculated great L/R match?
You pointed out there is a small channel mismatch, I was just trying to provide a possible explanation as to why that may be. Also to point out that Amir mentioned he did not take time to try to optimise and match channels. That's all, I don't know where Malky's comment comes from but I just included your response as I deemed it related. Having said that I don't think it is too much of a stretch to say the channel matching is great from the given graph, especially considering it was just 'wacked on'. I appreciate perhaps I went too far in attempts to be concise.
 

ScepticMatt

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Thank you for the review Amir and all the other reviews that I find to be very informative.

I find it interesting how this headphone is described as being more sensitive than the Stealth and this appears true per watt. However, for a given voltage it appears that the higher impedance of these headphones may not produce much more sound. I was curious how well the Zorloo Ztella might drive these for portable use. The Ztella should output 1Vrms with an output impedance of 2Ohms. Using Amir's measurements I calculated the expected dbSPL using the Ztella of some of the DCA headphones:
  • Dan Clark E3: 99.51 dbSPL
  • Dan Clark Stealth: 98.85 dbSPL
  • Dan Clark Aeon 2 Noire: 102.42 dbSPL
  • Dan Clark Aeon RT: 96.77 dbSPL
Are those figures right? Assuming I did the calculations right, there is little difference between the E3s and the Stealth's. I figure that the HD650 would be close to around 109-110 dbSPL for reference.

The Noire's are a fair bit lighter whilst also being a bit louder. I imagine they might be most suitable for travel and more comfortable over longer periods of time in a variety of circumstances?

I'm also curious if the E3 bass ports would leak sound?

I also wonder what the value proposition of the Stealth is supposed to be given the additional $2k price over the E3?
 

solderdude

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Thank you for the review Amir and all the other reviews that I find to be very informative.

I find it interesting how this headphone is described as being more sensitive than the Stealth and this appears true per watt. However, for a given voltage it appears that the higher impedance of these headphones may not produce much more sound. I was curious how well the Zorloo Ztella might drive these for portable use. The Ztella should output 1Vrms with an output impedance of 2Ohms. Using Amir's measurements I calculated the expected dbSPL using the Ztella of some of the DCA headphones:
  • Dan Clark E3: 99.51 dbSPL
  • Dan Clark Stealth: 98.85 dbSPL
  • Dan Clark Aeon 2 Noire: 102.42 dbSPL
  • Dan Clark Aeon RT: 96.77 dbSPL
Are those figures right? Assuming I did the calculations right, there is little difference between the E3s and the Stealth's. I figure that the HD650 would be close to around 109-110 dbSPL for reference.

The Noire's are a fair bit lighter whilst also being a bit louder. I imagine they might be most suitable for travel and more comfortable over longer periods of time in a variety of circumstances?

I'm also curious if the E3 bass ports would leak sound?

I also wonder what the value proposition of the Stealth is supposed to be given the additional $2k price over the E3?
sensitivity of the HD650 is around 104dB/V

efficiency numbers indeed are very confusing as the impedance is also a factor.
As headphone amps are voltage sources it makes sense to use sensitivity numbers (dBV).
 

ScepticMatt

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efficiency numbers indeed are very confusing as the impedance is also a factor.
As headphone amps are voltage sources it makes sense to use sensitivity numbers (dBV).
Sure thing. Numbers are often reported as dB/mW which can be misleading and doesn't allow for direct comparison. Though it should be noted that the Ztella has an automatic high-impedance mode that increases to 2Vrms and I'm guessing some other amps have this which complicates things a bit more.

I find the Zorloo Ztella is powerful enough for the HD6XXs that I have (for me) and I rarely go above -10dB gain, though for very quiet tracks I might go upto around -5dB. Around 100 dBSPL is probably good enough for travel purposes. It looks like the Aeon 2 Noire might be a safer bet though the E3 could be reasonable. I could get a desktop amp for at-home listening whilst forgoing some volume or listening to louder music whilst traveling.

I do wonder if the E3's extra weight would be annoying or uncomfortable after a while, especially when moving about or lounging in certain positions. And I still don't know if the bass ports affect sound leakage. I expect that they are designed to be quiet.

Edit: I should also mention that the Ztella should give 2Vrms to the HD650/6XXs hence why I reported around 110 dBSPL.
 
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Buckchester

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Thank you for this and all your reviews. You provide a great service to the audio community.

I have a general question. How would a headphone like this compare to another one that doesn't measure as well out of the box but can be EQed effectively close to the Harman target?

For example, I own a Focal Elex and I find it sounds quite good when EQed.
 

Illtrick

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As an owner of 2 different pairs of DCA cans I’m excited to see the further development of the industrial and mechanical design.

Above all I have never personally met a better fitting ear cup and more comfortable head band than DCA cans. Other manufacturers please, for the love of god, make ear pads that are shaped and fit the average adult male ear.

The head strap adjustment mechanism on the Aeon series was unfortunately a mechanically flawed design and prone to breaking due to the force required to hold tight around the nitenol wire. While I don’t enjoy seeing elastic, as it does ultimately fail, I recognize it to be a fair compromise. In either case, the crew at DCA has next level customer service so it’s not a deal breaker.

The stubborn choice of connectors still perplexes me. Yes, they are awesome little connectors when examining them in isolation but as a component of the whole design I don’t believe the benefits out weigh their inconvenience. For example I’d travel with my Noirs if I wasn’t required to disconnect and reconnect the wires every time I wanted to put/remove them from the case. Simplifying the connector to something that can be integrated further into the earcup would allow a more traditional design that would let me go from a few hours of use a week to my everyday everywhere design.
Regardless, keep up the great work @Dan Clark !
 
OP
amirm

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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?
It is either no-issue or no-choice. As frequencies go up, slightest asymmetry in how you mount the two earphones causes that kind of mistmatch in measurements. How you put on the headphone on your head will likewise cause the same. In grand scheme of things, I don't think we need to worry about them especially when Dan tells me that they match the two drivers to close tolerance.
 
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amirm

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Strong with the knowledge of all the literature, you should then logically conclude that a statement like this is incorrect :
Absolutely not. I am confident if you ask Sean he will tell you the same thing. You are setting a standard of 100% accuracy and such a thing simply doesn't exist. It doesn't exist for speakers and certainly doesn't exist for headphones where our measurement abilities are more limited. I have said repeatedly that objective headphone assessments are 60 to 70% prescriptive. That is heck of a lot more than zero and at the risk of stating the obvious, it is not 100%.

Dan Clark headphones have self adjusting cup pressure. So clearly you can come up with scenarios that show large variations in response. If someone's face is very narrow for example, there may be leakage effects. Or you may have inability to mount it on their head in the optimal position. This is a given compromise in the whole category. That can't be determinative or normative relative to my work.

Speaking of my work, I measure and then apply and test the measurements on a sample of one: me. If both the measurements and I agree, then that is a high confidence assessment. Not remotely a guarantee, but high confidence. When someone then asks me if they should buy a headphone that I recommend, I can say with confidence that they can but should have the option to return. Likewise, when both measurements and I say something sounds bad, then you have high confidence that it does. Again, not a guarantee.

You have been linking to Sean's powerpoint. I have trouble accepting all that there is there without a paper to read with all the detail. Personally, I have always disliked testing that shows the range of responses and then averaging them. It is trivial to misposition a headphone on a fixture, or on your head. It makes no sense to show that, nor does it make sense to average that in some kind of final response. Averaging is a lousy low pass filter anyway. As you probably know, there is no exact science on how you put a headphone on someone's head. There is variability in that very thing. But sure, I can design a headphone with adjustable clamping pressure and soft enough pads to get lower variance. Dan Clark headphones don't have that but what they do have is comfort for many that fit in its automatic tension range.

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.
I don't know how in the context of going over literature, we all of a sudden want to rationalize such statements made by someone in totally uncontrolled and anecdotal experience. No way can you assign cause and effect there unless you test the person and even then there are pitfalls as I mentioned above. I hear those comments day in and day out from owners of products. It is not something I can act on or value in my testing. Can they be right? Sure. But since we can't put any weight behind such subjective remarks, that is that.

The proper way to respond to that is not to believe them then. But to help them conduct a controlled test with equalization.

Getting back to what I said: "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."

That is absolutely correct. It even addresses your concern by saying you may have to adjust things. But that you start with a very good starting point that should be close to optimal as opposed to getting a headphone with wild frequency response. Surely that headphone doesn't magically get better with moving a few mm here and there on your head.
 

Robbo99999

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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 ?
Sure, that would be interesting. Ulitimately I'd be content with just seeing placement variation and blocked ear canal variation measurements between different people of the E3, rather than having to know how the headphone design achieved that goal, but it would be interesting still. We'll have to wait a bit until RTings and some other people do the work on that I guess.
 

Robbo99999

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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
I'd imagine Dan Clark would say that the "Metamaterial Tuning" will make the above 10kHz smoother than your Aeon 2 Noire - and that's not something you can fix with EQ. I'm fairly confident you wouldn't be able to get your Aeon 2 Noire to sound exactly like an E3.
 
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