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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 18.4%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 234 77.0%

  • Total voters
    304

ayane

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But that one has significantly more power than the Apple one.

I wouldn't personally trust dongles so much because if you stick them into a noisy USB port from a desktop PC you might actually get some audible noise. I also think a dedicated DAC/amp set-up gives you more features/connectivity options.
For what it's worth, both of the dongles I own - E1DA 9038S and Moondrop Moonriver 2 - are dead silent when connected to either a PC or a phone. I've even tested them as DACs feeding my SMSL SP200 amp, and they sound just as clean as my RME ADI-2 Pro in terms of noise.

I understand what you're getting at though; dongles don't have enough juice to drive some headphones (even my RME struggles every now and then with my headphones, and both of those dongles have even less power than the RME). The noise part though I have to believe is fundamentally a result of poor engineering, because some dongles are able to outshine others and hold their ground with bulky desktop equipment.
 
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Mihalis

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I haven't had time to do a direct comparison. From memory, I say spatial qualities are better. Will do a close comparison later and report back.
Hi Amir

what in the measurements of this headphone is different and would support it having superior "spatial qualities" than the Stealth?
Said differently, if you EQ'd this one to match the Stealth in the frequency report chart, would there be something in the rest of your measurements that differs between the two and supports the "spatial qualities" point? Is that a repeating measurement between closed and open headphones?

The purpose of my question is to try to understand which elements of your measurements affect which qualities. This strikes me as a potentially helpful case since the manufacturer is using similar techniques with both headphones.

Separately, there is a departure from the Harman curve here - on purpose. This is accepted as ok. I think this opens the window to other manufacturers to show up with different curves and claim these curves are more relevant for their customers (ie sound better). If those curves are not achieved by chance (ie if there is intention and matching capability/tech behind them), do we concede that the H curve should not be presented as a goal or a "good thing" but only as a reference that maybe some are familiar with?

Thank you.
Best,
Michael
 

Robbo99999

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Hi Amir

what in the measurements of this headphone is different and would support it having superior "spatial qualities" than the Stealth?
Said differently, if you EQ'd this one to match the Stealth in the frequency report chart, would there be something in the rest of your measurements that differs between the two and supports the "spatial qualities" point? Is that a repeating measurement between closed and open headphones?

The purpose of my question is to try to understand which elements of your measurements affect which qualities. This strikes me as a potentially helpful case since the manufacturer is using similar techniques with both headphones.

Separately, there is a departure from the Harman curve here - on purpose. This is accepted as ok. I think this opens the window to other manufacturers to show up with different curves and claim these curves are more relevant for their customers (ie sound better). If those curves are not achieved by chance (ie if there is intention and matching capability/tech behind them), do we concede that the H curve should not be presented as a goal or a "good thing" but only as a reference that maybe some are familiar with?

Thank you.
Best,
Michael
On the "Spatial Qualities" and soundstage front, no one really knows how a headphone adds it's spatial qualities or soundstage. The measured frequency response will certainly affect this quality, but it appears that it's not the only aspect that controls this phenomenon. Personally, and I believe a number of people hold the same view, soundstage is enhanced by large earcups that don't touch your ears and along with angled pads or angled drivers (and possibly open backed better than closed back on this front) - so that's in addition to the measured frequency response - there isn't an agreed measurement that can portray & illustrate soundstage of a headphone - so there's some voodoo associated with this.

I will say that accurate channel matching of both earcups will help accurate imaging, which is different thing compared to the soundstage which is more about it's overall size/"shape" of the stage on which the music "appears".
 

NMixes

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I got my Expanse a few days ago, and I've been trying them in a music mixing scenario. My point of reference is my room tuned by @mitchco with Audiolense to the Harman target, flat from 15 Hz to 20kHz and a pair of LCD-X, EQ'd based on @oratory1990 curves.

The first day, my first impression was "no bass" and harshness, it was really weird, I almost took them back to the store. I also took them to 3 other studios, and the opinion of all engineers was the same before me saying anything. Then today doing an in depth comparison I actually like the amount of bass on them, no clue what changed, maybe they do need to burn-in? I never believed in braking in a pair of headphones, but something definitely changed.
Another thing that could've contributed to that is the ear pads. From day 1 I felt that if I pushed the headphones in just a couple of milimeters, the seal was better and I was listening to a familiar amount of bass, and when released I got back that feeling of "no bass" and harshness, so maybe the earpads need to soften a little to provide a good seal?

Right now with the followiing EQ, I'm happy and confident I can mix with them, and I'm getting a very familiar tone when comparing to my monitors/room. Maybe the Harman target for headphones is to bright for me?

Screen Shot 2022-09-26 at 13.37.17.png


Anyway, I'm keeping the headphones and I'm sure that EQ will change (or disappear) as I get used to them, the imaging and detail is something I've never heard before on headphones.

IMG_8659.png


If anyone is interested, I'm using an RME ADI-2 PRO FS R in balanced mode and it has more than enough power to drive them to ridiculous levels without distortion.

IMPORTANT EDIT:

I just found this small screw on the inside of the gimbal, I dont know if this is its intended use but after unscrewing it a little bit the headphone fits tighter and the weak bass and harshness is completely gone. I'm even going to start using it without EQ. Can't believe I didn't see it before! haha made a huge difference for me. Make sure you adjust it!

IMG_8660.png
 
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Doodski

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I got my Expanse a few days ago, and I've been trying them in a music mixing scenario. My point of reference is my room tuned by @mitchco with Audiolense to the Harman target, flat from 15 Hz to 20kHz and a pair of LCD-X, EQ'd based on @oratory1990 curves.

The first day, my first impression was "no bass" and harshness, it was really weird, I almost took them back to the store. I also took them to 3 other studios, and the opinion of all engineers was the same before me saying anything. Then today doing an in depth comparison I actually like the amount of bass on them, no clue what changed, maybe they do need to burn-in? I never believed in braking in a pair of headphones, but something definitely changed.
Another thing that could've contributed to that is the ear pads. From day 1 I felt that if I pushed the headphones in just a couple of milimeters, the seal was better and I was listening to a familiar amount of bass, and when released I got back that feeling of "no bass" and harshness, so maybe the earpads need to soften a little to provide a good seal?

Right now with the followiing EQ, I'm happy and confident I can mix with them, and I'm getting a very familiar tone when comparing to my monitors/room. Maybe the Harman target for headphones is to bright for me?

View attachment 233402

Anyway, I'm keeping the headphones and I'm sure that EQ will change (or disappear) as I get used to them, the imaging and detail is something I've never heard before on headphones.

View attachment 233403

If anyone is interested, I'm using an RME ADI-2 PRO FS R in balanced mode and it has more than enough power to drive them to ridiculous levels without distortion.
Gorgeous headphones/electronics. The cup mesh is beautiful.
 

Dan Clark

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Thanks for the answer! What does this mean for the test listening before buying? Can I get a good impression even if the headphones are brand new?
The nature of the headphone doesn't change drastically, but the bass will become a bit tighter and more focused and soundstage depth and clarity improve. We do the majority of burn-in before matching but it does continue to a lesser degree for the first week or two of listening.
 

Garrincha

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Anyway, I'm keeping the headphones and I'm sure that EQ will change (or disappear) as I get used to them, the imaging and detail is something I've never heard before on headphones.
Have you ever listened to the Sennheiser HD 800 (S) ? I would be interested in a comparison of imaging and soundstage.
 

Robbo99999

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I got my Expanse a few days ago, and I've been trying them in a music mixing scenario. My point of reference is my room tuned by @mitchco with Audiolense to the Harman target, flat from 15 Hz to 20kHz and a pair of LCD-X, EQ'd based on @oratory1990 curves.

The first day, my first impression was "no bass" and harshness, it was really weird, I almost took them back to the store. I also took them to 3 other studios, and the opinion of all engineers was the same before me saying anything. Then today doing an in depth comparison I actually like the amount of bass on them, no clue what changed, maybe they do need to burn-in? I never believed in braking in a pair of headphones, but something definitely changed.
Another thing that could've contributed to that is the ear pads. From day 1 I felt that if I pushed the headphones in just a couple of milimeters, the seal was better and I was listening to a familiar amount of bass, and when released I got back that feeling of "no bass" and harshness, so maybe the earpads need to soften a little to provide a good seal?

Right now with the followiing EQ, I'm happy and confident I can mix with them, and I'm getting a very familiar tone when comparing to my monitors/room. Maybe the Harman target for headphones is to bright for me?

View attachment 233402

Anyway, I'm keeping the headphones and I'm sure that EQ will change (or disappear) as I get used to them, the imaging and detail is something I've never heard before on headphones.

View attachment 233403

If anyone is interested, I'm using an RME ADI-2 PRO FS R in balanced mode and it has more than enough power to drive them to ridiculous levels without distortion.

IMPORTANT EDIT:

I just found this small screw on the inside of the gimbal, I dont know if this is its intended use but after unscrewing it a little bit the headphone fits tighter and the weak bass and harshness is completely gone. I'm even going to start using it without EQ. Can't believe I didn't see it before! haha made a huge difference for me. Make sure you adjust it!

View attachment 233422
Ah, so seal it was! Glad you're enjoying them now & live up to your expectations.
 

srkbear

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You really don't need to worry about burn-in with DCA headphones. In this old Innerfidelity video, Dan explains how drivers are burned in for "a minimum of 48 hours" (11:05) before drivers are matched. It's take care of during manufacturing.
Did you see Mr. Clark’s own description of the subtle changes that occur with his headphones post factory-burn in about five posts up from yours?
 

srkbear

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I have to admit I did buy these headphones. I would not say 'burn-in' is necessary to enjoy them out of the box, at all. That said over the past week I (unreliably, subjectively) do feel as if it the sound may be growing touch more... warm? relaxed? But I can't really trust my own perceptions there. In any case really don't worry about it. I think if they didn't include that line people who believe in burn-in would notice and people who don't, probably wouldn't. It would be nice to have some hard data/measurements available on their web site or something that demonstrate the before/after difference I guess. But I wouldn't factor this into either my purchasing decision or how to go about listening to them afterwards.
How are yours doing in the low end? Are you finding you need to add any EQ to get a punch (assuming we’re talking about punchable music here)?
 

coptician

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So I spent quite some time listening to the Expanse at a shop today. For comparison, I brought my HD800S, EQ'd with my ADI-2. Here are a few thoughts:

These things are very power-hungry. I don't see how a dongle could power them at decent volume, and didn't have the adapters to try. My ADI-2 ran at around -6 dB (in normal gain mode) for critical listening, compared to -12dB or so for my HD800S. This varied a little, and it's hard to equate the volume between different headphones, especially with switching EQ on and off at the same time.

They do sound different from the HD800S, even if they are EQ'd to the same target. The imaging feels similar, but tone-wise they're a little different. My biggest gripe, and the reason I didn't decide to buy them (at least brand-new full-price) is that Paul Simon's voice on Graceland (the song) sounded... rough. It might be because of it being an older recording, but it was an actual downgrade for me in terms of how pleasant it was. I worry or wonder that such a thing might happen more often.

Other things did sound a little 'better', but it's all preference at the end of the day. That's another reason I decided not to buy them - they weren't so clearly ahead of an EQ'd HD800S that it was worth the money to me.

Lastly, comfort-wise: They are definitely above-average in terms of comfort. My left ear especially was fine. My right though did have some discomfort, maybe from hitting the driver cover. Might just take getting used to and might be remedied by learning to wear them 'correctly', as well as some pad wear. But the HD800S is the comfort king for my head.

I also listened to the Nutopia, and I wasn't impressed. It felt cheap in comparison in every way, it was uncomfortable to me and it sounded noticeably worse (without EQ). Was not impressed.

I was about 75% of the way to buying these, but now I guess I get to save a euro. Or 4500 of them...
 

Arnas

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"Currawong" has no idea what he is talking about, his "experience" is meaningless in this regard. Please do yourself a favour and stop watching these clowns. It is all nonsense. Topping A90D is more than enough, as is the DX7 Pro+ and even DX5. All you need to do is plug the specs (sensitivity and either nominal or peak/trough impedance) into a headphone calculator, using a generous SPL for loudness. Remember to factor in EQ preamp if you are using EQ, although most people will not be EQing the expanse or would EQ it minimally. I like to use 120 dB as a benchmark. But the amp is fine if it can manage 108-116 dB for the headphone. If money is no object I would personally get the upcoming RME ADI-2/4 PRO SE DAC. Otherwise the current PRO version would do OK, and probably most of the latest Topping all-in-one units will be more than enough.
Guy is one of the biggest tools in head fi.
 
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Mihalis

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On the "Spatial Qualities" and soundstage front, no one really knows how a headphone adds it's spatial qualities or soundstage. The measured frequency response will certainly affect this quality, but it appears that it's not the only aspect that controls this phenomenon. Personally, and I believe a number of people hold the same view, soundstage is enhanced by large earcups that don't touch your ears and along with angled pads or angled drivers (and possibly open backed better than closed back on this front) - so that's in addition to the measured frequency response - there isn't an agreed measurement that can portray & illustrate soundstage of a headphone - so there's some voodoo associated with this.

I will say that accurate channel matching of both earcups will help accurate imaging, which is different thing compared to the soundstage which is more about it's overall size/"shape" of the stage on which the music "appears".
Thank you. This corroborates my point ie that one could use these two to try to figure it out. Or else concede to what audiophiles have said all along ie that measurements don’t explain everything. And this is a major quality not a minor point for headphone performance.
Having said that I do own a processor that measures my ears with two microphones and then can be used to make most audio sound like it’s coming from outside the head and from the room. So I suspect that “spatial qualities” has a lot to do with how the ear interacts with the cup, the distance from the driver (?) etc. But why not use headphone measurement heads to assess that somehow.
 

JanesJr1

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Thank you. This corroborates my point ie that one could use these two to try to figure it out. Or else concede to what audiophiles have said all along ie that measurements don’t explain everything. And this is a major quality not a minor point for headphone performance.
Having said that I do own a processor that measures my ears with two microphones and then can be used to make most audio sound like it’s coming from outside the head and from the room. So I suspect that “spatial qualities” has a lot to do with how the ear interacts with the cup, the distance from the driver (?) etc. But why not use headphone measurement heads to assess that somehow.
I don't disagree, but this prompts me to suggest that while measurements don't NOW explain everything, that doesn't mean they couldn't if the applicable research existed. I've gained the impression elsewhere that while there was until a few years back pubicly-funded and open research on audio and acoustics (especially in Canada), that the privatization of that research team and the absence of publicly-funded research now means that certain questions seem to be frequently-asked but never answered. Like the mechanisms of imaging, or the true nature of "slam", etc. etc. If the research is being done, much of it may now be proprietary.

The Expanse is the result of years of proprietary research, and I get why that's so. But I'm also curious if there are places where the cutting edge topics are actually being addressed in the open? Are there either small shops or proto-Harman teams out there pursuing these questions that seem to persist on ASR and elsewhere?
 

majingotan

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Have you ever listened to the Sennheiser HD 800 (S) ? I would be interested in a comparison of imaging and soundstage.

I haven't heard any headphones that have larger soundstage than the HD800, including the Stealth, Expanse, Raal SR1a (the closest to HD800), Susvara and HEDDphone and electrostatics like the Stax SR-X9000, Warwick Aperio and Warwick Bravura

PS. Got to see the genius @Dan Clark behind the Expanse and Stealth designs during my demo with it

Capture.JPG
 
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Garrincha

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I haven't heard any headphones that have larger soundstage than the HD800, including the Stealth, Expanse, Raal SR1a (the closest to HD800), Susvara and HEDDphone and electrostatics like the Stax SR-X9000, Warwick Aperio and Warwick Bravura
Thanks for the info. That is good to know as I recently bought a used HD 800. EQ works fine, so it looks there isn't any model to crave anymore, or am I missing something?
 

majingotan

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Thanks for the info. That is good to know as I recently bought a used HD 800. EQ works fine, so it looks there isn't any model to crave anymore, or am I missing something?

It's endgame headphone seriously unless you want to collect different headphone driver technologies yourself
 
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