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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

Dealux

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I wonder if you say that the imaging of the HD 800 is not correct, what is your reference? Have you been in the studio of the original recording or how do you know what is the correct location?
The reference is other headphones. For instance, despite its flaws, the Sundara sounds more precise for most instruments. Most sounds seem closer to me (subjectively) and more defined/vivid. On the HD800, by comparison, those same sounds have a very broad ghostly like presence. And this is something I noticed after months of extensively trying to fix the HD800 with EQ. As far as I can tell this has to do with the angled drivers which cause an exaggerated notch at 9 KHz. Here's a comparison with the Sundara:
1.png

Sundara has a narrower notch and as result it does not sound as wide (oratory addresses the importance of this dip and its relationship to subjective spatial presentation aka "soundstage" in his Q&A) but on the plus side it does have a more vivid presentation (i.e. the sensation that "I am inside the music") as opposed to an exaggerated spacious sound where it is difficult to pinpoint the location of sounds subjectively. Of course, all of this is heavily dependent on your HRTF. This is just how I perceive it.

The other bad thing about the HD800 is that 11 KHz is too hot for me and causes sibilance but when I EQ-ed that out, the hollowness at 9 KHz became even more apparent and the spacious presentation was diminished somewhat.
 

Zenairis

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"The Stealth is mor detailed"? This is all FR, just EQ and the detail will be the same. And what does "gentle" mean?
EQing doesn't solve the limitations and design of the driver itself.

Gentle meaning you can crank an amp up near the maximum and listen to it without having sore ears afterwards. I almost returned the Stealth initially over this reason. I have very sensitive ears as a result there's a number of headphones I cannot use. I've listened to the Susvara for 16 hours straight with an A90D near it's maximum. That's not doable for me on almost any other headphone out there.

The only time a Susvara isn't gentle is when you're hammering it with something like a speaker amp.
 

solderdude

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I'd take a Susvara over a HD800 any day and I would take the Expanse or even the Stealth over the Susvara

We are talking € 1.5k vs € 4k, €5k and € 6,5k here. (Stealth, Expanse, Susvara)
I heard the Susvara and liked it... would I pay € 6.5k for one when I can buy a 2nd hand HD800 for around € 700.- ?
I didn't.

Have not heard either DCA so can't comment on them. I would expect at least some improvement over HD800S.
 
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solderdude

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EQing doesn't solve the limitations and design of the driver itself.

Gentle meaning you can crank an amp up near the maximum and listen to it without having sore ears afterwards. I almost returned the Stealth initially over this reason. I have very sensitive ears as a result there's a number of headphones I cannot use. I've listened to the Susvara for 16 hours straight with an A90D near it's maximum. That's not doable for me on almost any other headphone out there.

The only time a Susvara isn't gentle is when you're hammering it with something like a speaker amp.

Your 'gentle' translates to low sensitivity and lack of gain in an amplifier in technical terms.
 

Garrincha

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EQing doesn't solve the limitations and design of the driver itself.
There simply do not exist any limitations of any driver in respect to detail. All drivers, expensive or cheap, planar, dynamic or electrostatic, are able to deliver 20kHz, so it is impossible that they are not "fast" enough. Everything that people call "detail" is just FR. If a headphone has extended treble, it will be perceived as having more detail. EQed they have all the same amount of detail, given the EQ is effective.
Gentle meaning you can crank an amp up near the maximum and listen to it without having sore ears afterwards. I almost returned the Stealth initially over this reason. I have very sensitive ears as a result there's a number of headphones I cannot use. I've listened to the Susvara for 16 hours straight with an A90D near it's maximum. That's not doable for me on almost any other headphone out there.

The only time a Susvara isn't gentle is when you're hammering it with something like a speaker amp.
This is an extremely subjective and in my eyes made up criterion.
 

Garrincha

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We are talking € 1.5k vs € 4k, €5k and € 6,5k here. (Stealth, Expanse, Susvara)
I heard the Susvara and liked it... would I pay € 6.5k for one when I can buy a 2nd hand HD800 for around € 700.- ?
I didn't.
Neither would I, although the Expanse is probably a really excellent headphone, as far as I can judge, the best currently around (maybe save the HE1),
Have not heard either DCA so can't comment on them. I would expect at least some improvement over HD800S.
I love the answer as many people here in this thread judge headphones just by measurements and reviews. While for amps and DACs this might be feasible, for headphones this is clearly not the case. As we have seen here, even with good compliance to the Harman curve and low distortion, e.g. the Mark Levinson No 5909 sounds just quite dull, so there is more to it.
 

majingotan

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EQing doesn't solve the limitations and design of the driver itself.

Gentle meaning you can crank an amp up near the maximum and listen to it without having sore ears afterwards. I almost returned the Stealth initially over this reason. I have very sensitive ears as a result there's a number of headphones I cannot use. I've listened to the Susvara for 16 hours straight with an A90D near it's maximum. That's not doable for me on almost any other headphone out there.

The only time a Susvara isn't gentle is when you're hammering it with something like a speaker amp.

If you have hyperacusis, give your ears a rest from listening too loud. The Expanse will have a more bass presence than Stealth due to the slightly less treble tilt than both Harman and Stealth making the overall sound warm-neutral in my subjective opinion. My Aeon Open X is actually more conformant to the Stealth FR than the Expanse (except for subbass) and you truly can't go wrong with both unless you prefer the open-back sensation (less claustrophobic)

Regarding the Susvara, I heard it 6 times already and it's what I would call "generally likeable balanced tuning" that very few listeners will dislike (I think well trained listeners are the ones that will find faults in its tuning). Like Solderdude, I actually enjoyed my time with it albeit the price tag is a joke for the sonics it offers. In my opinion, Harman curve would be a bit more controversial to untrained listeners as they adjust from the mainstream FR curve since Susvara conforms to mainstream FR sound
 

DjBonoBobo

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Have not heard either DCA so can't comment on them. I would expect at least some improvement over HD800S.
I have not heard the Expanse yet but have been evaluating the Stealth against my HD800S recently. The great thing about the Stealth is that it sounds correct without EQ, while i can´t get the HD800S anywhere close to it with EQ. To me, the HD800S with EQ still sounds thin compared to the Stealth, and i am not able to find a EQ setting that compensates that. The "soundstage" of the Stealth seemed more precise, too. For example, in one track there was a cymbal on the right - on the HD800S it sounded as it was "somewhere far right", on the Stealth i could locate it around "2 o´ clock".

On the other hand, i find the HD800S much more comfortable and maybe even more fun to listen to. For example, i wanted to watch a movie in the evening and had to chose between Stealth and HD800S - i chose the HD800, because it was just easier to put on.

I don´t find the Stealth very comfortable, my ears and head do not fit well. Also i don´t enjoy the "closed" feeling.

What i expect of the Expanse is to be even better for me SQ-wise than the Stealth (correct, precise, but less closed and a wider soundstage, more open feeling), but still not being perfect because of the fit. So maybe still not the One Headphone to rule them all, but pretty close to it. I had some worries about the upper bass of the Expanse but from what i read i guess it could easily dialed down with the EQ recommended by Dan Clark. I tried the reversed setting (175Hz, +2.5dB, Q2.6) on the Stealth and now i think i know what to expect from the expanse - still pretty correct, but a bit more "oomph". So i will try the Expanse soon and see if it meets my expectations.

However, the HD800S is still fun. A few deficits become more apparent only in such a direct side-by-side comparison. Interesting how quickly you also get used to a certain sound.
 

Mihalis

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He's at the stage where he hasn't reached the I've been there done that (perceived differences but after level matched and A/B single blind on some circumstances sighted is enough, the pixies vanished to thin air), but because of this phase of stage in this hobby, I've come to be more actually be open minded rather than closed: there are measured/objective explanations for anecdotal subjective phenomenon as how we hear things. ASR as a whole just revealed all that so that everyone can learn though it can't be helped that the information is scattered throughout the forum, and one must take all the information, stitch them together and have an objective case with the information laid out convincingly objective

I asked a simple question: Amir is mentioning “spatial qualities”. Which measurements are reliably predictive of those qualities? This is a glaring issue when two headphones seem to measure so similarly. And are made by the same guy.

If you don’t know the answer just say “I don’t know’. No need to degrade the discussion with patronizing comments which are based on zero fact about your interlocutor.
 

JanesJr1

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When it comes to soundstage I think we're all on our own to some extent. For me the only thing I've learned is that spacious earcups that don't touch your ear combined with angled pads or angled drivers is what seperates headphones that have good soundstage vs bad soundstage - assuming you've EQ'd each headphone to the Harman Headphone Curve (because measured frequency response on a dummy head does affect the soundstage too). RTings tried to once quantify the potential soundstage of a headphone by characterising it's "pinna activation", which they based on the premise that the HD800 was the King of Soundstage, lol! No, but that's a fair assumption I guess, but I don't know how they actually quantified that variable, and in the exposure I've had to RTings I don't think they characterised that variable that well. It's just still an unknown, but me personally I stand by my observations re spacious earcups / angled pads and/or angled drivers.

My own experience, I have to say that my K702 (I have 3 units), is my best headphone for soundstage, and that's after EQ to the Harman Curve. .........

So yes, there's no real measurements associated with soundstage - it's a distilled property from personal and other's observations, there's been some crossover & agreement in what physical aspects of a headphone create good soundstage if I look around here on ASR and other places.
There may be something other than angled drivers that affects soundstage. Dan Clark claims to improve sound-staging with earpads and FR, and that may be at least partly true.

When I was doing the headphone comparisons (yes, Harman-tuned) I spent most of the time comparing the DCA Closed-X to the Noire. With soundstage, I was curious to see if DCA was able to achieve superior soundstage with the Noire (as claimed) without using angled drivers. Dan Clark said the frontally-perforated earpads (introduced on the Closed X/RT) and FR tuning (more U shaped, less mids) were the tools.

Out-of-the-box, the Closed X had the earpads, but not the tuning. I was not impressed with the soundstage. It was almost always linear from ear-to-ear, never further "outside" than the middle of my forehead, even with nicely-recorded selections. I really like the Closed-X, but I am sensitized to the ear-to-ear thing and dislike it. The pads alone don't do it for me.

The Noire is better. I never get the ear-to-ear staging that I dislike. It is most-often not a large soundstage, but it is almost always apparently outside my head, 9-3 o'clock, and does give the impression of being in the audience, with a balanced spread of instruments. With good recordings like jazz ensembles, or even things like PJ Harvey(!) I could get a very deep soundstage when the recording venue also had one and the recording was well-done, albeit as an exception rather than the rule.

I've spent a lot of time on FR impact and simply re-discovered the true benefit of a U-shaped EQ to soundstaging. Out-of-the-box, the Closed X has a more mids-forward FR balance, and that does benefit some music (like close-miking can appeal on some nice vocals). The Noire does better on recordings that require tonal balance and a wide-soundstage, such as (but not only) orchestral music.

On my Noire, I now have two EQ's. One has Oratory-like mids, the other is 2-3 dB more focused on the mid's. I thought I could toggle back and forth based on the material. I spent a lot of time optimizing the two choices. But strangely-enough, on the fly, I almost always prefer the version with more recessed mids, even for material I analytically thought was more exciting with a mid's focus.

You'd think I could reproduce Noire-like soundstaging on the Closed X by tuning it like the Noire. I did try that, but it didn't work. I don't know what the hidden variable is with that.

Anyway, I do prefer the Noire for soundstage, and unless Dan Clark has another secret ingredient in his barbecue sauce, it seems to be due mostly to tonal balance. If the front-perforated earpads also provide a bit of the benefit of angled drivers, then they may be a help to soundstage, but not sufficient by themselves to do it. The combination doesn't turn the closed-back Noire into the HD820, but it makes a real difference to me.

As to the examples of deep-soundstage that I sometimes get with the Noire, without an alternative explanation, I tend to ascribe that more to perceptual cues in the recording (like volume and tonal balance of voices, reverb, etc.), rather than the 'phones themselves. But when it works, it works.
 
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majingotan

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There may be something other than angled drivers that affects soundstage. Dan Clark claims to improve sound-staging with earpads and FR, and that may be at least partly true.

When I was doing the headphone comparisons (yes, Harman-tuned) I spent most of the time comparing the DCA Closed-X to the Noire. With soundstage, I was curious to see if DCA was able to achieve superior soundstage with the Noire (as claimed) without using angled drivers. Dan Clark said the perforated earpads (introduced on the Closed X/RT) and FR tuning (more U shaped, less mids) were the tools.

Out-of-the-box, the Closed X had the earpads, but not the tuning. I was not impressed with the soundstage. It was almost always linear from ear-to-ear, never further "outside" than the middle of my forehead, even with nicely-recorded selections. I really like the Closed-X, but I am sensitized to the ear-to-ear thing and dislike it. The pads alone don't do it for me.

The Noire is better. I never get the ear-to-ear staging that I dislike. It is most-often not a large soundstage, but it is almost always apparently outside my head, 9-3 o'clock, and does give the impression of being in the audience, with a balanced spread of instruments. With good recordings like jazz ensembles, or even things like PJ Harvey(!) I could get a very deep soundstage when the recording venue also had one and the recording was well-done, albeit as an exception rather than the rule.

I've spent a lot of time on FR impact and simply re-discovered the true benefit of a U-shaped EQ to soundstaging. Out-of-the-box, the Closed X has a more mids-forward FR balance, and that does benefit some music (like close-miking can appeal on some nice vocals). The Noire does better on recordings that require tonal balance and a wide-soundstage, such as (but not only) orchestral music.

On my Noire, I now have two EQ's. One has Oratory-like mids, the other is 2-3 dB more focused on the mid's. I thought I could toggle back and forth based on the material. I spent a lot of time optimizing the two choices. But strangely-enough, on the fly, I almost always prefer the version with more recessed mids, even for material I analytically thought was more exciting with a mid's focus.

You'd think I could reproduce Noire-like soundstaging on the Closed X by tuning it like the Noire. I did try that, but it didn't work. I don't know what the hidden variable is with that.

Anyway, I do prefer the Noire for soundstage, and unless Dan Clark has another secret ingredient in his barbecue sauce, it seems to be due to tonal balance. It doesn't turn the closed-back Noire into the HD800, but it makes a real difference to me.

As to the examples of deep-soundstage that I sometimes get with the Noire, I tend to ascribe that more to perceptual cues in the recording (like volume and tonal balance of voices, reverb, etc.), rather than the 'phones themselves. But when it works, it works.

Wait 'till you try the Expanse and Stealth. The Stealth is like Noire's soundstage and other technicalities turned up to 11 while the Expanse would be like Stealth but with even more soundstaging not on the width itself but lateral depth of instrument placement in the space, and slightly tonally warmer than Stealth
 

Garrincha

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I asked a simple question: Amir is mentioning “spatial qualities”. Which measurements are reliably predictive of those qualities? This is a glaring issue when two headphones seem to measure so similarly. And are made by the same guy.

If you don’t know the answer just say “I don’t know’. No need to degrade the discussion with patronizing comments which are based on zero fact about your interlocutor.
I think nobody knows for sure what exactly is responsible for the "spatial properties", just that it cannot be simply FR and low distortion. There were speculations of group delay being a relevant factor, but this has been discarded, so it seems, like many have mentioned already, angled and large drivers, together with a big distance to the pinna are the best bet.
 
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Garrincha

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There may be something other than angled drivers that affects soundstage. Dan Clark claims to improve sound-staging with earpads and FR, and that may be at least partly true.

When I was doing the headphone comparisons (yes, Harman-tuned) I spent most of the time comparing the DCA Closed-X to the Noire. With soundstage, I was curious to see if DCA was able to achieve superior soundstage with the Noire (as claimed) without using angled drivers. Dan Clark said the perforated earpads (introduced on the Closed X/RT) and FR tuning (more U shaped, less mids) were the tools.

Out-of-the-box, the Closed X had the earpads, but not the tuning. I was not impressed with the soundstage. It was almost always linear from ear-to-ear, never further "outside" than the middle of my forehead, even with nicely-recorded selections. I really like the Closed-X, but I am sensitized to the ear-to-ear thing and dislike it. The pads alone don't do it for me.

The Noire is better. I never get the ear-to-ear staging that I dislike. It is most-often not a large soundstage, but it is almost always apparently outside my head, 9-3 o'clock, and does give the impression of being in the audience, with a balanced spread of instruments. With good recordings like jazz ensembles, or even things like PJ Harvey(!) I could get a very deep soundstage when the recording venue also had one and the recording was well-done, albeit as an exception rather than the rule.

I've spent a lot of time on FR impact and simply re-discovered the true benefit of a U-shaped EQ to soundstaging. Out-of-the-box, the Closed X has a more mids-forward FR balance, and that does benefit some music (like close-miking can appeal on some nice vocals). The Noire does better on recordings that require tonal balance and a wide-soundstage, such as (but not only) orchestral music.

On my Noire, I now have two EQ's. One has Oratory-like mids, the other is 2-3 dB more focused on the mid's. I thought I could toggle back and forth based on the material. I spent a lot of time optimizing the two choices. But strangely-enough, on the fly, I almost always prefer the version with more recessed mids, even for material I analytically thought was more exciting with a mid's focus.

You'd think I could reproduce Noire-like soundstaging on the Closed X by tuning it like the Noire. I did try that, but it didn't work. I don't know what the hidden variable is with that.

Anyway, I do prefer the Noire for soundstage, and unless Dan Clark has another secret ingredient in his barbecue sauce, it seems to be due to tonal balance. It doesn't turn the closed-back Noire into the HD800, but it makes a real difference to me.

As to the examples of deep-soundstage that I sometimes get with the Noire, I tend to ascribe that more to perceptual cues in the recording (like volume and tonal balance of voices, reverb, etc.), rather than the 'phones themselves. But when it works, it works.
I think it can plainly be rejected that FR has a large influence on soundstage, if any. The "soundstage king" HD 800 has out of the box a FR quite different from Harman and offers in this tuning or EQed to Harman a large soundstage.
 

GaryH

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From the thread it is very unclear what is real sound or digital artifact.
There are many obviously real sounds there, like the pipe organ example which commonly go down to 16 Hz (there are even some which go down to 8 Hz). And here are yet two more examples, spectra of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture which includes canons and The Chemical Brothers' We Are The Night with a 14 Hz note (both normalized to remove any DC offset).
In any case I prefer my headphones to sound good in the 20Hz - 20kHz domain and accept any bad behaviour outside this range with great pleasure.
Then you're excluding part of the artists' intent, and missing out on the visceral, tactile sensation that comes from infrasound in music. And that's just the kind of sensation people describe the Expanse (and other Dan Clark headphones, and headphones with an open front volume like the HD800) as lacking. As I stated in this post, Oratory says, referring to the Dan Clark Aeon Flow:
The volume of air between the diaphragm and the ear drum together with the vent form a Helmholtz resonator, its resonance frequency depending on the volume and the length and diameter of the vent.
Below this resonance, sound pressure is „able to escape“, above this resonance the front volume can be considered „closed“. In on-ear or over-ear headphones it‘s typically not a single vent but a large damped opening, in which case one does not look at diameter and length of the vent but instead on the cross-sectional area of the opening, and the effective acoustic mass being moved.

That is the effect causing a bass drop-off in vented front volumes.

The exact shape of the drop-off then depends on how well this resonance is damped - with a critically damped vent like on the Aeon Flow you can achieve static pressure reduction while still keeping the bass response linear down to 10 Hz.
I believe it's this static pressure reduction (as well as reduced infrasound response above the 0 Hz of static pressure) that results in a reduction in perceived bass impact, through several potential mechanisms, related to physiological changes in the auditory system caused by static pressure (see for example here and here), but also amplitude modulation of higher 20Hz+ sound by infrasound, as described in the paper I linked to in a previous comment.
 
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Garrincha

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There are many obviously real sounds there, like the pipe organ example which commonly go down to 16 Hz (there are even some which go down to 8 Hz). And here are yet two more examples, spectra of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture which includes canons and The Chemical Brothers' We Are The Night with a 14 Hz note (both normalized to remove any DC offset).

Then you're excluding part of the artists' intent, and missing out on the visceral, tactile sensation that comes from infrasound in music. And that's just the kind of sensation people describe the Expanse (and other Dan Clark headphones, and headphones with an open front volume like the HD800) as lacking. As I stated in this post, Oratory says, referring to the Dan Clark Aeon Flow:

I believe it's this static pressure reduction (as well as reduced infrasound response above the 0 Hz of static pressure) that results in a reduction in perceived bass impact, through several potential mechanisms, related to physiological changes in the auditory system caused by static pressure (see forc example here and here), but also amplitude modulation of higher 20Hz+ sound by infrasound, as described in the paper I linked to in a previous comment.
Sure, every time I buy a new TV, I mostly focus on the infrared behaviour of the screen as well. There are so many aspects how this influences subconsciously the visual expercience, it is often unjustly neglected! So I tried to listen to the Chemical Brothers' song, even as I really dislike the band, but I could not hear anything, my HD800 just remained silent.
 

solderdude

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I have not heard the Expanse yet but have been evaluating the Stealth against my HD800S recently. The great thing about the Stealth is that it sounds correct without EQ, while i can´t get the HD800S anywhere close to it with EQ. To me, the HD800S with EQ still sounds thin compared to the Stealth, and i am not able to find a EQ setting that compensates that. The "soundstage" of the Stealth seemed more precise, too. For example, in one track there was a cymbal on the right - on the HD800S it sounded as it was "somewhere far right", on the Stealth i could locate it around "2 o´ clock".

On the other hand, i find the HD800S much more comfortable and maybe even more fun to listen to. For example, i wanted to watch a movie in the evening and had to chose between Stealth and HD800S - i chose the HD800, because it was just easier to put on.

I don´t find the Stealth very comfortable, my ears and head do not fit well. Also i don´t enjoy the "closed" feeling.

What i expect of the Expanse is to be even better for me SQ-wise than the Stealth (correct, precise, but less closed and a wider soundstage, more open feeling), but still not being perfect because of the fit. So maybe still not the One Headphone to rule them all, but pretty close to it. I had some worries about the upper bass of the Expanse but from what i read i guess it could easily dialed down with the EQ recommended by Dan Clark. I tried the reversed setting (175Hz, +2.5dB, Q2.6) on the Stealth and now i think i know what to expect from the expanse - still pretty correct, but a bit more "oomph". So i will try the Expanse soon and see if it meets my expectations.

However, the HD800S is still fun. A few deficits become more apparent only in such a direct side-by-side comparison. Interesting how quickly you also get used to a certain sound.

The HD800 is fully open and has intentional bass leakage. The Stealth is fully closed with a sealed front volume and back volume (maybe some rear porting... dunno)
The Expanse is semi-open and has a fully sealed front volume. This is why it can go so low and has a different feel in the bass, even when EQ'ed to a similar response on measurement gear (you can't get the same subbass though).

The HD800 has a bigger driver-ear distance, different type of driver, different angle and is fully open. The Expanse is semi-open and has some trickery in front of the driver.
I do not know if it is angled and the driver-ear distance.

There will always be some differences in sound between open and closed due to how the rear sound is 'handled'. This is the most difficult part to get right in closed headphones.

Comfort and weight can be an issue with longer listening sessions and head geometry/size.

I like my EQ'ed HD800 (not Oratory EQ though) but also like to rotate headphones now and then. Only to come back to HD800 later to find it being 'effortless' and being able to pinpoint instruments more easily.

The DCA and Susvara are at price levels I don't want to spend money on. I can afford it but do not think it is worth it and see headphones as a consumable that depreciates in value the moment you buy it.
I don't really need to wring out the last bit of performance to enjoy music (more)
 

Robbo99999

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There may be something other than angled drivers that affects soundstage. Dan Clark claims to improve sound-staging with earpads and FR, and that may be at least partly true.

When I was doing the headphone comparisons (yes, Harman-tuned) I spent most of the time comparing the DCA Closed-X to the Noire. With soundstage, I was curious to see if DCA was able to achieve superior soundstage with the Noire (as claimed) without using angled drivers. Dan Clark said the perforated earpads (introduced on the Closed X/RT) and FR tuning (more U shaped, less mids) were the tools.

Out-of-the-box, the Closed X had the earpads, but not the tuning. I was not impressed with the soundstage. It was almost always linear from ear-to-ear, never further "outside" than the middle of my forehead, even with nicely-recorded selections. I really like the Closed-X, but I am sensitized to the ear-to-ear thing and dislike it. The pads alone don't do it for me.

The Noire is better. I never get the ear-to-ear staging that I dislike. It is most-often not a large soundstage, but it is almost always apparently outside my head, 9-3 o'clock, and does give the impression of being in the audience, with a balanced spread of instruments. With good recordings like jazz ensembles, or even things like PJ Harvey(!) I could get a very deep soundstage when the recording venue also had one and the recording was well-done, albeit as an exception rather than the rule.

I've spent a lot of time on FR impact and simply re-discovered the true benefit of a U-shaped EQ to soundstaging. Out-of-the-box, the Closed X has a more mids-forward FR balance, and that does benefit some music (like close-miking can appeal on some nice vocals). The Noire does better on recordings that require tonal balance and a wide-soundstage, such as (but not only) orchestral music.

On my Noire, I now have two EQ's. One has Oratory-like mids, the other is 2-3 dB more focused on the mid's. I thought I could toggle back and forth based on the material. I spent a lot of time optimizing the two choices. But strangely-enough, on the fly, I almost always prefer the version with more recessed mids, even for material I analytically thought was more exciting with a mid's focus.

You'd think I could reproduce Noire-like soundstaging on the Closed X by tuning it like the Noire. I did try that, but it didn't work. I don't know what the hidden variable is with that.

Anyway, I do prefer the Noire for soundstage, and unless Dan Clark has another secret ingredient in his barbecue sauce, it seems to be due to tonal balance. It doesn't turn the closed-back Noire into the HD800, but it makes a real difference to me.

As to the examples of deep-soundstage that I sometimes get with the Noire, I tend to ascribe that more to perceptual cues in the recording (like volume and tonal balance of voices, reverb, etc.), rather than the 'phones themselves. But when it works, it works.
Yep, I agree that measured frequency response will affect soundstage (which I mentioned briefly in my earlier post) - I also think like you that increasing the pinna gain a bit earlier and to a greater amplitude can make it smaller. But yes, we're left with individual headphone designs seeming to have a specific maximum potential for soundstage.
 

GaryH

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The Stealth...with a sealed front volume
The Expanse...has a fully sealed front volume.
Are you sure about that? I thought they have a critically-damped vented front volume like other Dan Clark headphones.
 

solderdude

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Garrincha

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Yep, I agree that measured frequency response will affect soundstage (which I mentioned briefly in my earlier post) - I also think like you that increasing the pinna gain a bit earlier and to a greater amplitude can make it smaller. But yes, we're left with individual headphone designs seeming to have a specific maximum potential for soundstage.
This would mean applying a specific EQ would change/improve the soundstage of any headphone. I have never experienced this, so this must be a very special FR.
 
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