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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 2.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 56 18.6%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 231 76.7%

  • Total voters
    301

MayaTlab

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Front plate on the Stealth :
Screenshot 2022-10-03 at 09.25.53.png

Difficult to know whether or not there is a front volume vent beneath the tuning cover.
Also, not sure whether or not the hole at the top of the earcup is covered by the pads once they're glued.

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.

Since DCA headphones are so leakage intolerant, first and foremost we'd need to know what the actual response is on the head of people who report a lack of "impact". Everything else is a complete and utter moot point in comparison.

He probably wouldn't word it this way, but if Sean Olive expressed his disappointment that his Stealth lacks "impact", there could be a fairly straightforward explanation for it : Or not, if his definition of "impact" is unrelated to that phenomenon.

Even in the case of good leakage tolerance, if the FR remains different throughout the spectrum, it may still influence how bass is perceived, so...

Resolve, who published such on-head measurements, seems to appreciate Focal's open HPs for "impact", while criticising DCA headphones in that regard, despite seemingly getting a decent response out of them at lower frequencies, so in his case anything related to static pressure (which Focal's open HPs won't be capable of affecting - that's probably the case for most headphones anyway) most likely has nothing to do with his impressions.

Given that we still don't know whatever "impact" means to various people, it's a subject that's bound to lead nowhere. We'd need an operational definition of it before starting to test for it in the first place.
 

MayaTlab

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I think nobody knows for sure what exactly is responsible for the "spatial properties", just that it cannot be simply FR and low distortion.
I think it can plainly be rejected that FR has a large influence on soundstage, if any.

How are we certain that we can reject that FR has a large influence on "soundstage", if any ?
First and foremost, what is "soundstage" ?

If you accept that "soundstage" is the actual capability of locating sounds in space blind (to the point of being able to actually point towards its direction within a reasonably tight cone of confusion, or even physically move to where the sound is coming from), then this is a rather intensely studied subject at the moment given tech companies' focus on surround sound simulations and virtual reality, and FR is one of the constituents of our capability to successfully achieve these tasks.
But it also means that plain stereo recordings are inherently inappropriate to test for it and that "soundstage" rather is a product of the entire chain from recording / mix / mastering to the reproduction device, and includes the rendering engine / HRTF map / head tracking / etc..

On the other hand, the way "soundstage" is often used on audio forums might not be quite as easy to define.

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.

Speaking as an ex-HD800 owner (although that was a while ago), what if I were to tell you that one of my favourite pairs of headphones for whatever I'd personally call "spatial qualities" with usual stereo recordings (a terminology that you might apply to a different phenomenon, or not), is a pair of earbuds :D ?
 
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solderdude

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Also, not sure whether or not the hole at the top of the earcup is covered by the pads once they're glued.

That looks like a pressure equalization hole, not a port.
When you have well sealing pads this is important, and I would think even more so for DCA headphones given the way he makes the membranes.
If such a pressure equalization hole is not present the membrane could be off center when putting it on the head (and off) and during usage as air warms up.
 

Garrincha

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How are we certain that we can reject that FR has a large influence on "soundstage", if any ?
First and foremost, what is "soundstage" ?

If you accept that "soundstage" is the actual capability of locating sounds in space blind (to the point of being able to actually point towards its direction within a reasonably tight cone of confusion, or even physically move to where the sound is coming from), then this is a rather intensely studied subject at the moment given tech companies' focus on surround sound simulations and virtual reality, and FR is one of the constituents of our capability to successfully achieve these tasks.
But it also means that plain stereo recordings are inherently inappropriate to test for it and that "soundstage" rather is a product of the entire chain from recording / mix / mastering to the reproduction device.
I know many stereo recordings that on my HD800 present a gigantic soundstage, the instruments and voices come basically from all angles. It is definitely a characteristic of the headphone, all others I do or did possess (DT 1990, HD 650, Sundara, Stax Lambda 404) do not come even close. And it is present, almost indepently of the EQ applied, so FR might haven an impact, but a very small one.
Speaking as an ex-HD800 owner (although that was a while ago), what if I were to tell you that one of my favourite pairs of headphones for whatever I'd personally call "spatial qualities" with usual stereo recordings (a terminology that you might apply to a different phenomenon, or not), is a pair of earbuds :D ?
Must be crazy good earbuds, yet I don't believe it.
 
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MayaTlab

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yet I don't believe it.

You see, that's the issue with whatever people call "soundstage" as long as it isn't operationally defined in a way similar to what we're seeing right now in virtual reality / surround sound simulation research.

Since it isn't defined, and can't as a result be measured in any way, we're left to subjective impressions only.
As a result we're left to believing or not others' impressions. It's perfectly fine that you're unwilling to believe my own (after all they're subjective impressions of a totally undefined characteristic, which makes them a lot less comprehensible than "I hear a peak at 6kHz" - which would be theoretically measurable), but why should yours then become more believable than mine ?

Must be crazy good earbuds

I would rather think that it's more plausible that they just happen to produce the right FR at my eardrum (or at least deviate from it in a more ideal way than other deviations) for most of the spectrum for me to subjectively find whatever I personally call "spatial qualities" or "soundstage" with stereo recordings better than other alternatives, but I would not presume that this would systematically apply to others.
 

Ken Tajalli

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You see, that's the issue with whatever people call "soundstage" as long as it isn't operationally defined in a way similar to what we're seeing right now in virtual reality / surround sound simulation research.
Since it isn't defined, and can't as a result be measured in any way, we're left to subjective impressions only.
As a result we're left to believing or not others' impressions. It's perfectly fine that you're unwilling to believe my own (after all they're subjective impressions of a totally undefined characteristic, which makes them a lot less comprehensible than "I hear a peak at 6kHz" - which would be theoretically measurable), but why should yours then become more believable than mine ?
I would rather think that it's more plausible that they just happen to produce the right FR at my eardrum (or at least deviate from it in a more ideal way than other deviations) for most of the spectrum for me to subjectively find whatever I personally call "spatial qualities" or "soundstage" with stereo recordings better than other alternatives, but I would not presume that this would systematically apply to others.
May I just drop in on this.
There was something Dan Clark said on his interview that resonated with me and my experiences.
When I first got my Sundara, I was amazed how expansive the sound stage was, and I was happy with it, till I got my Hifiman EDXS.
The EDXS sounded so expansive, it was to a fault! Indeed I became frustrated with it within the first month of owning it. I did a review on Headfi, trying to explain the phenomena as best as I could, calling it an out-of-phase kind of sound. Now this wide sound staging attribute has won over many users, but not me!
I went as far as modifying my EDXS to get a better central image, and therefore sound stage.
Open back headphones do sound open, but some of it is exaggerated, I believe Dan Clark set out to remedy that on Expanse. Chord and others, use crossfeed for headphones (not for me).
All I am saying is that, the expansive sound stage on open back headphones, may be fun but could also be a flaw.
Think of it akin having a u-shaped FR, some like it, it sounds better to them, but not everyone.
 

maverickronin

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You see, that's the issue with whatever people call "soundstage" as long as it isn't operationally defined in a way similar to what we're seeing right now in virtual reality / surround sound simulation research.

Once you get past the flowery language there's actually a quite good definition for it.

Soundstage is just the volume of space in which phantom sources can appear.
 

Robbo99999

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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.
It might just be related to boosting the most prominent vocal range frequencies might bring voices more forward in most tracks and perhaps because voices are often centralised then maybe it shifts the balance more to the middle of the headphone away from the left & right cups, but I don't know for sure if that's the mechanism,....it's not like it's an HRTF specific mod.
 

Garrincha

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You see, that's the issue with whatever people call "soundstage" as long as it isn't operationally defined in a way similar to what we're seeing right now in virtual reality / surround sound simulation research.

Since it isn't defined, and can't as a result be measured in any way, we're left to subjective impressions only.
As a result we're left to believing or not others' impressions. It's perfectly fine that you're unwilling to believe my own (after all they're subjective impressions of a totally undefined characteristic, which makes them a lot less comprehensible than "I hear a peak at 6kHz" - which would be theoretically measurable), but why should yours then become more believable than mine ?



I would rather think that it's more plausible that they just happen to produce the right FR at my eardrum (or at least deviate from it in a more ideal way than other deviations) for most of the spectrum for me to subjectively find whatever I personally call "spatial qualities" or "soundstage" with stereo recordings better than other alternatives, but I would not presume that this would systematically apply to others.
Once you get past the flowery language there's actually a quite good definition for it.

Soundstage is just the volume of space in which phantom sources can appear.
Exactly, and no IEM or earbud I ever tried had an expansive soundstage, which most likely is caused by the fact that no pinna interaction is taking place, which must be essential for it. I don't know about the Expanse, but the HD800 delivers this incredibly pronounced, having, depending on the recording, sounds wide left and half right and so on.
 

MayaTlab

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Exactly, and no IEM or earbud I ever tried had an expansive soundstage, which most likely is caused by the fact that no pinna interaction is taking place, which must be essential for it.

What do you think happens when "pinna activation" is taking place (hint : it's related to FR) ?

There is an argument to be made that some headphones may "activate" pinnae in a way that is more akin to speakers (Rtings had an interesting but IMO under-developed test on that subject, and I hope that we'll get more of that soon), but that doesn't necessarily preclude some IEMs to just happen to produce for a singular individual something just as desirable.
 

Garrincha

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What do you think happens when "pinna activation" is taking place (hint : it's related to FR) ?
Please, you can have, at least with EQ, the identical FR with a headphone and an IEM, but apparently not the same soundstage, this is easy to disprove.
What do you think happens when "pinna activation" is taking place when you are listenting to speakers?
There is an argument to be made that some headphones may "activate" pinnae in a way that is more akin to speakers (Rtings had an interesting but IMO under-developed test on that subject, and I hope that we'll get more of that soon), but that doesn't necessarily preclude some IEMs to just happen to produce for a singular individual something just as desirable.
I think it does. Please name any IEM with wide soundstage.
 

majingotan

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Please, you can have, at least with EQ, the identical FR with a headphone and an IEM, but apparently not the same soundstage, this is easy to disprove.
What do you think happens when "pinna activation" is taking place when you are listenting to speakers?

I think it does. Please name any IEM with wide soundstage.

As @maverickronin wrote: Soundstage is just the volume of space in which phantom sources can appear.

IEMs drivers are literally the closest to our eardrums in physical space. Their volume of space is very limited that the soundstage will always be inside your head while some headphones can give that out of head illusion.

Also, earbuds have more space between the drivers and eardrums and has such provide a more open soundstage perception than IEMs and in some cases best some open back headphones.

My Airpods 3 with Spatial Audio DSP is more spacious sounding than any IEMs out there due to physical differences and DSP that maximizes the amount of space used in a given volume of space.

No FR trickery you can implement with IEMs if they literally being limited by physical space between eardrums and drivers
 

Dealux

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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.
It blows my mind that people think the HD800 has great imaging and separation. I find even the Sundara to be more precise in that regard but not as spacious obviously. To me the HD800 has always kinda sounded like a cheap headphone with a gimmick.
 

Grobbelboy

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Seriously considering to purchase the Expanse as an upgrade to my Noires - and TOTL set of cans. At the moment I have the Topping DX3 Pro+, which I don’t think are quite enough to power them sufficiently. As a cheap solution I was thinking to put it in DAC mode and add a Topping L30II as an amp. Would that work?
 

Dealux

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No FR trickery you can implement with IEMs if they literally being limited by physical space between eardrums and drivers
I don't think that's true. With certain songs that have hard panned instruments (usually with reverb added), IEMs can sound about as wide as any full size headphone in terms of total width.
 

Garrincha

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It blows my mind that people think the HD800 has great imaging and separation. I find even the Sundara to be more precise in that regard but not as spacious obviously. To me the HD800 has always kinda sounded like a cheap headphone with a gimmick.
It is so funny, I have both, the Sundara and the HD800 and just compared them, both with balanced cables and EQed to Harman, and while I like the Sundara, it is clearly inferior in soundstage.
 

Garrincha

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I don't think that's true. With certain songs that have hard panned instruments (usually with reverb added), IEMs can sound about as wide as any full size headphone in terms of total width.
Sorry, it appears everything you say is plainly wrong. No pinna, no soundstage.
 

JanesJr1

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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
I may never hear it. I don't want to spend that much and don't want to be tempted to do so anyway!
 

GaryH

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doesn't look like it: broken seal Stealth.


Stealth_air_gap.png
I don't see how that shows they have a fully sealed front volume.
That looks like a pressure equalization hole
Which means their front volume isn't fully sealed then. This hole (plus possibly the pads depending on their acoustic permeability) will result in not only a reduction in static pressure, but a reduction in infrasonic response of the headphones, due to pressure leakage occurring faster than the period of oscillation of (some of) the infrasonics. This reduces not only amplitude modulation of higher 20Hz+ frequencies by infrasonic frequencies at the eardrum and middle-ear (as described in the paper I linked to previously), but I believe would also reduce amplitude modulation of the headphone driver's membrane. As an example, here is the spectrum of the cannon section of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture:
1812 Overture.png

There's clear infrasonic content there. A headphone with an actually fully sealed front volume will have a linear response down to ~0 Hz, and so will be able to reproduce all of this infrasonic content. Because percussive sounds like cannons and kick drums are broadband, including infrasonic frequencies, as I understand these infrasonic frequencies superpose on the higher 20Hz+ frequencies and modulate their amplitude, meaning the resultant superposition will have a higher peak amplitude (and so higher peak SPL when reproduced by a transducer) than if the infrasonic frequencies were absent. So a headphone that cannot reproduce infrasonics well will not only reduce the SPL at those sub-20Hz frequencies, but at higher 20Hz+ frequencies too, via amplitude modulation. This could then (partly) explain why headphones that do not have a fully sealed front volume (including those with damped pressure equalization vents like the Stealth and Expanse), and so likely don't have a linear response through the infrasonic range down to ~0 Hz, are perceived to lack bass impact.
 
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Garrincha

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Seriously considering to purchase the Expanse as an upgrade to my Noires - and TOTL set of cans. At the moment I have the Topping DX3 Pro+, which I don’t think are quite enough to power them sufficiently. As a cheap solution I was thinking to put it in DAC mode and add a Topping L30II as an amp. Would that work?
Should be no problem using the Dx3 Pro + which provides 1.5 W into 32 Ohm. Using this calculator: https://www.headphonesty.com/headphone-power-calculator/ with 86dB/mW sensitivity and 23 Ohm impedance you need only 800mW to drive it to 115 dB.
 
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