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Dan Clark Expanse Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 6 2.0%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 8 2.6%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 56 18.5%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 233 76.9%

  • Total voters
    303

Twx

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The only way to really test anything is if you combine these tests, add a drop test, portability, compatibility (easy to drive, number of cables/connections), Length of warranty and a few more then add costs.

You’d have (ScoreA* ScoreB* ScoreC*Etc)/cost

Then you can start to really compare headphones. Sure add in some subjective differences there too, but that’s on top of scoring. Do they sound good etc. but you have to create a baseline
 
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amirm

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@amirm Forgive me if you've answered this but what about weight comparisons and comfort? Closed versus open back?
It felt and wore like Stealth. They have smaller cups than typical planars with giant cups. But they did fit my ears just fine.
 
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amirm

amirm

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1-4 kHz corresponds to a wavelength of ~10-30 cm. If anything this supports the idea it could be a resonance within the test fixture, as that's too large for the cavity between driver and DRP.
Modal response starts at 1/4 wavelength.
 

Cote Dazur

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$4000.00 for a pair of headphones, not interesting to me, but I really would be interested on how has the price been decided.
I have a few scenario in mind but none that will make the decision be acceptable to anyone rational.
Please, not the performance argument, or for $4000.00 this headphone would have to make listening to music a transcendental experience.
 

GaryH

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Modal response starts at 1/4 wavelength.
The 'fuzz' is consistently apparent in true 'open' back headphones but not closed back though (even of similar design by the same manufacturer):

index.php


index.php


With a corresponding difference in high-Q group delay 'messiness':

index.php


index.php
 
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Snoopy

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Well there are a few points here.
Number one is that I spent under $2,000 for all four of these headphones over the course of 5 years.
Number 2 is that they are all for different things.
The PM-2 is semi open.
The Aeon is closed.
The Ananda is fully open.
They all have their place as to when to wear them based on what is going on and what I am trying to achieve.. For example if I am waiting for someone to arrive to drop off packages or for my wife to call me when she's done with something; I'll wear the open back (Ananda)
When I want more bass but some noise isolation I'll wear the semi open (PM-2)..
When I want a fully technical sound especially for classical and jazz music; I'll wear the closed (Aeon).

When I am traveling I will use my 1More triple driver or the Denon AH-MM400 as my mobile devices can drive them fine. Especially when I work while being on trips. Or if I want to play a game on my Aya Neo at night time... The over ear is more comfortable and the Neo can drive it just fine as can my LG G8 & Velvet.

I never felt comfortable traveling with my big bulky headphones as they are not only large but obviously expensive.

If I were to sell all of my headphones to purchase this headphone I would still need $2,000 more and then I would only have one headphone. I would need ~$8,000 to have the choice of closed back and open back with similar sound quality.
Then I would still not have a semi-open as that is a rare design only made by a few mfg with OPPO being one of them (and discontinued).
All of my planars sound great with amazing distortion figures, so any additional performance provided by this headphone is not worth 8x to me over any single headphone I have purchased.

I'm sure there are some smarthome devices that would notify you with a blinking light or something if someone drops of a parcel and rings the doorbell.

Mine is my wife, she punches me in the Rips or somewhere that is not my head. (Because of the headphones).

But there are nice alternatives like a doorbell camera that you could watch on a tablet.
 

Nabussan

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Smyth Realizer is groundbreaking/breathtaking
The Realiser is very good and practical. I have mounted it on a monitor stand, together with a Stax HP amp and Wiim mini. This allows me to listen to music with (up to 5) virtual Geithain RL901K while sitting in the garden (see my Quora posting).
I'm considering to purchase an additional closed HP, perhaps one of the cheaper Dan Clark models.
 

McLenin

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Thank you Amir for the review, way above my possible budget, maybe in the future :) But the looks and parameters are stunning! And thank you Dan for the hard work. Btw. watched your presentation online on CanJam NY, great information.
 

Jave

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Is it possible to measure the FR with the seal 'broken'? Even though the are open back, I know it heavily affected the FR of electrostatic headphones and wondered whether it might affect these as well
 

Robbo99999

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You will never buy it for $4k? It's perfectly fine, that's totally up to you too, and personally I think I'm similar to you in that way.
The thing is it does not relate or affects the quality in any way. FWIW these headphones might drop in price in the future, or somehow the price goes up because components scarcity or whatever, but the performance will remain the same. Price might not be static, but the quality will pretty much always be consistent. And it was never about buying or spending our money on the headphones in the first place, it was about how good or bad these headphones are.

My point is you and me or whoever else don't wanna buy headphones at a certain price point should not matter or affect the quality or prestige of these headphones, and people who are willing to drop $4k for a pair of headphones already know it's going to cost them $4k so they don't need any warnings that the headphones are $4k. The continuous nagging about price in this forum not only happens with expensive products like this one but even way cheaper ones sometimes make me think it's not audiosciencereview but it's actually audiobudgetreview.

And to be fair, Ferarri isn't trying to sell their cars to the working class, just as DCA isn't trying to sell this model to the average audio enthusiast and people who seek price/performance as their #1 priority.
I'll just add my point of view to the discussion you're having. For sure I would mark this headphone down greatly in the poll if it only measured ok or just good and still costed $4K, I would for sure mark it down extra due to the high price, but because this headphone is unprecedented and at the pinnacle of performance then I did not mark it down in the voting poll at all, I voted it great. I do factor in price when I vote in the poll. If these headphones had costed $14K like the Chord Dave, then I would have marked them down even though these headphones are at the pinnacle - so I do have limits for pricing in terms of how I'd vote.
 

Robbo99999

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The 'fuzz' is consistently apparent in true 'open' back headphones but not closed back though (even of similar design by the same manufacturer):

index.php


index.php


With a corresponding difference in high-Q group delay 'messiness':

index.php


index.php
Well, I do indeed have less/zero fine grass in my NAD HP50 (which is my only closed back headphone) between 1-4kHz when I look at the measurements now:
NAD HP50 EARS all measurements.jpg NAD HP50 EARS channel balance.jpg
So that does support your theory on outside noise causing fine grass between 1-4kHz. But the earcups of the HP50 are tiny tiny tiny (barely enough room for my ear at all), so that may be meaning that modal response is affected - so that might be the reason rather than anything to do with outside noise attenuation by the closed back.

Is there anyway for me to test this theory further with my HE4XX? I did have one idea of running sweeps on the HE4XX at a very low volume to allow any outside noise more chance to dominate the measurements - and then comparing that to sweeps done at the normal high volume (around 84dB).......of course I wouldn't move the headphone during the different sweeps so that wouldn't be a variable, and I'd overlap the two measurements at the low & high volumes to see if they overlapped perfectly - perfect overlapping would then prove that outside noise is not causing the differences. Is that a valid test do you think?
 
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solderdude

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The 'fuzz' is consistently apparent in true 'open' back headphones but not closed back though (even of similar design by the same manufacturer):

index.php


index.php


With a corresponding difference in high-Q group delay 'messiness':

index.php


index.php

I have observed the same thing in my own measurements (also easily seen in my spectrum plots) but one day I am going to plot it over a longer time period. This can show it is surrounding noise. Fuzz only in open designs or even closed ones that aren't that closed. Of course, like Amir I just measure in a relatively quiet room with only a small fan of a laptop whirring not that far from the fixture.

GD of Expanse looks fine to me. Some 'pad bounce' and the 'acoustic bump' are visible but not in a manner that I think would be detrimental.
It also shows that obviously, for an open headphone, it has decent attenuation from outside noises.

Is there anyway for me to test this theory further with my HE4XX?

The sawtooth alike response in the hifiman has a different root cause. You guys are discussing different things. That clearly is something driver related (and/or damping).
Everything above 6kHz is mostly fixture dependent.
 
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KxDx

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Colorblindness and male pattern baldness are X-chromosome traits, you get them from your mom (who carries it thanks to her dad, and so on). Women have 2 so they compensate for the other as the one without the issue overrides the one with it. That's why X-linked traits like male pattern baldness and colorblindness is so rare in them.
Wow, thanks! The more you know...
 

BDWoody

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$4000.00 for a pair of headphones, not interesting to me, but I really would be interested on how has the price been decided.
I have a few scenario in mind but none that will make the decision be acceptable to anyone rational.

Why can't it simply be where the company expects to make the most total profit? That would be the rational approach.

I'm not sure why people feel the need to challenge pricing decisions as if they are claiming some failure in morality if a man wants an exceptional product to provide exceptional profits.

He isn't running a charity.
 

_theLaughingman

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Why can't it simply be where the company expects to make the most total profit? That would be the rational approach.

I'm not sure why people feel the need to challenge pricing decisions as if they are claiming some failure in morality if a man wants an exceptional product to provide exceptional profits.

He isn't running a charity.
Well said.
 

Dealux

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Obviously Mr. Clark has sourced some protomolecule in order to create that impedance bump.
The most obvious answer is that the driver is tuned in such a way that using a passive filter that reduces all frequencies above 200 Hz would effectively create a bass shelf. So in reality, without the filter, the mids and treble would overshoot the target by quite a bit. It is a method that works because reducing mids and highs will increase the sensation of bass impact and presence but the impedance bump might also mean the filter is less effective with amps that have high output impedance.
 

Spocko

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This is a review, listening tests and measurements of the Dan Clark Expanse open-back planar magnetic headphone. It was loaned to me by the company and costs US $3999.
View attachment 230421
The design takes that of Stealth headphone to another level with nicely done grill on the outside. It is very comfortable to wear, nicely molding to my head. You have a choice of cable connectors (I received the balanced XLR one). The cable itself is quite thick and sturdy but nicely drapes so no complaints there.

Dan Clark Expanse Measurements
Let's start with our frequency response and comparison to target:
View attachment 230424
Prior to measurement company had told me that it complied with the target but that they had dialed in a boost in that 100 too 300 Hz region as you see. We will evaluate this in the listening tests. For now, compliance to the target is the best of any open-back headphone that I have tested. It is only approximated by the company's own closed back Stealth headphone.

If you do want to create an EQ, here is the relative frequency response:
View attachment 230427

Note that measurements above 7 to 8 kHz are generally not accurate but I put a cursor there in case you want to play with that dip. Here is the group delay as areas to avoid (sharp spikes):
View attachment 230428
Vast majority of headphones show very messy group delay indicating mixing of phase due to reflections and or resonances in the headphone. Dan Clark headphones are an exception showing clear attention to keep these factors at bay.

Distortion at two playback levels is exceptionally low:
View attachment 230429

We get a SINAD of 86 dB which is limited by the measurement noise rather than true distortion of the headphone. For a transducer, it is basically distortion-less. There is a hump at 114 dBSPL but note that this headphone requires no boosting in low frequencies so that again, is excellent. Here is our absolute distortion at 94 dBSPL:
View attachment 230431

We have so much margin in the critical audible band of 2 to 5 kHz.

Impedance is a departure from typical planar headphone by showing some variation in low frequencies:
View attachment 230432

So likely some electronic components are in the path to provide the bass response we saw in the frequency response graph. Not an issue though as the variation is relatively small.

Sensitivity is very low so you better have good headphone amplification:
View attachment 230433

On my RME ADI-2 Pro, average listening level was about -6 dB. I could get more volume but even at max volume, I could not get the headphone to distort.

Edit: here is the impulse response:
View attachment 230797

Dan Clark Expanse Listening Tests
The small deviation in bass made subjective testing critical to assess whether that is or is not a good idea. I developed a correction for the filter (initially at -3 dB but later changed to -2 dB):
View attachment 230446

Listening with stock tuning, I enjoyed warmth that it added to my reference female vocals. Defeating it using EQ caused the vocals to stand out more, with slightly more spatial qualities. But the tonality comparatively could be said to be a bit bright. I preferred it without EQ. Moving to other clips, I occasionally would hear a bit of tubbiness which was made better with EQ. This was in cases where the tubbiness was already in the music and the boost in the response of the headphone exaggerated it a bit. Overall, I would say 70% of time of I preferred no EQ. For the others, if I didn't have EQ, it would still be delightful to listen to headphone. We are talking small differences here.

That bit aside, the superbly clean sound with very good spatial qualities and tonality that was right on the money, made the experience super enjoyable. On tonality the sound was familiar as in the sense of listening to a reference studio monitor but with none of the room modes. Low level detail was stunning at times in the way they would stand out with superb clarity.

Conclusions
What more could you ask for when a company delivers a headphone that both objectively and subjectively delivers on tonality, spatiality (instrument separation) and vanishingly low distortion? I know, you want it cheaper. :) But this is the price right now for this unique offering in open back planar magnetic headphones. It is times like this that makes my "job" a delight!

It is my pleasure to recommend Dan Clark Expanse headphone. Delivering on best of audio science matters and matters a lot. Company's commitment to this is admirable.

----------
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/
Now waiting for the closed back version!
 

Spocko

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4 grand for a headphone is laughable regardless of how it measures. there is nothing in materials that justifies this cost!
It's called staying in business to feed your family. This reply is for non business owners, who don't realize how many of these darn things need to be sold every day to keep the lights on and pay the employees, taxes, insurance, rent, etc. This post (promoted by @amirm ) about the cost of running an audio company is SPOT ON

All of these independent "premium" headphone makers are living hand to mouth and wishing they could raise prices even more. Just the raw materials alone, these small batch makers are paying way more than Monoprice because of the small volume.

People complain about why these small independent high end producers have to charge such high prices, and then are suddenly "not surprised" when those same brands go out of business. Ask independent small volume makers of speakers, amplifiers, DACs, etc. Why do they do what they do? It's NOT to be rich I'll tell you that.
 
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DjBonoBobo

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By the way, price in Germany for the Expanse is 4,899 EUR. Stealth went up from 4,099 to 4,899 as well since yesterday. Thomann.de has the Stealth still for the old price, probably not for long.
 

Dro

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Understandable, considering the sales price in Europe contains VAT (19% in Germany) and one USD pretty much equals one EUR now. When I bought my Stealth living in California, I had to pay sales tax on top of the $3400 price tag for Club DCA members. There is no foul play here.
 
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