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Dan Clark Expanse Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 10 2.7%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 13 3.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 66 17.6%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 285 76.2%

  • Total voters
    374
This is my quick review of the Expanse, more of a comparison and personal experience, but I wanted to leave it in this thread for posterity or in case someone experiences the same.

I’m a mixing and mastering engineer and have been doing this for a while, and that’s what I do for a living. Headphones are a big part of my workflow. I do 50% of my work in a mixing room with a +-1 dB deviation of my target (close to Harman target for speakers) from 15Hz to 20kHz, and the other 50% on headphones, the last few months on the DCA Expanse, and before that, on a pair of Audeze LCD-X with EQ. The EQ part is very important. I wouldn't mix or master on the LCD-X without EQ, so everything I’ll say only applies to the LCD-X EQ’d. Both headphones are driven by the RME ADI-2 Pro FS R.

The first thing I noticed when I used the Expanse is that they are really comfortable, light, and well-constructed. There’s just no contest with the LCD-X, and the ability to fold them and put them in the small included case is a big plus.

On the not-so-good side, my Expanse are very sensitive to how I place them on my head. One little movement, and I can hear the frequency response changing, especially the low end so I have to keep re-adjusting, while the LCD-X, no matter how I throw them on my head, they always sound consistent. Initially, I thought the earpads on the Expanse would soften, and this wouldn’t be a problem anymore, but here I am almost six months later, and it hasn’t changed.

Sound-wise, I find them to be on the same level, but it’s a very different experience. I notice there’s some sort of a “room feeling” on the Expanse that I can’t explain, like if there are some reflections happening on the inside of the headphone that makes it feel “roomy”. My assistant tried them and immediately mentioned “it feels like you’re in a room with speakers” and honestly, it makes for a very pleasant listening experience, but it’s probably a fake one that you wouldn’t want when mixing. When comparing to the LCD-X, the LCD-X are clearly more analytical and precise, which in my line of work is extremely valuable.

When I start comparing between the room, the LCD-X, and the Expanse, all SPL measured and matched as close as I could, it becomes clear that while both headphones match the frequency response and low-end feeling of the speakers, the Expanse adds this blurriness that comes with the reflections/room I’m talking about, it feels good but once you analize it and know exactly where the source material comes from, you can tell its not real. Maybe it’s the meta-material? Or the driver being smaller and further away from the ear? I’m not 100% sure, but we tried about ten reference tracks that we know perfectly, as well as our mixes, and the feeling was consistent between all of them.

So in the end, I’m going to stick with the LCD-X as my main pair of headphones for mixing (EQ’d of course). They just have this clean analytical quality that is very valuable for my work, and they don’t change that much no matter how I wear them. Oh, and don’t get me wrong, I’ve probably done 100+ mixes using the Expanse, and they came out great, and clients are happy. They are really amazing headphones, they just add a level of uncertainty that I can’t risk having.

I’m still not sure if I’m going to sell the Expanse. I’ll probably keep them as a third reference. (But if someone wants to buy them DM me lol)

If someone knows if those reflections/roomy feeling is something that’s fixable, I would love to read your thoughts.
 
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how can I use the sensitivity value to calculate the power it need from the amp, I think target power = sensitivity * sensitivity / impedance ? so if the max power of the amp can output at this impedance is bigger than the target power, then it will be enough, or we need more than 2 times or 3 times of target power?
 
how can I use the sensitivity value to calculate the power it need from the amp, I think target power = sensitivity * sensitivity / impedance ? so if the max power of the amp can output at this impedance is bigger than the target power, then it will be enough, or we need more than 2 times or 3 times of target power?

There is an online calculator for that.

To calculate you need to know what peak SPL you want to achieve, you need to know the sensitivity (dB/V) which can be calculated from Amirs measurement but I already did below.
Then you can calculate the required voltage (dBpeak - dBsensitivity) and convert the found difference in dB to a multiplication factor (which in this case is the required voltage)
Once you know the required voltage to reach the peak SPL and knowing the impedance you can calculate the maximum power.
specs:
97dB/V @ 400Hz and 100dB/V @ 100Hz
23 ohm @1kHz, 30 ohm @ 100Hz
 
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Hope Dan will eventually release a cheaper model in the 2k-3k range with the same qualities.
C'mon, how about $200-$300! Ok, $500 or less to start with though!
 
C'mon, how about $200-$300! Ok, $500 or less to start with though!
That's funny because I've actually ordered the AEON OPEN X yesterday for 500$ (there is a closed version too). Was reading up on them and found comments comparing them to the expanse that were suggesting that they aren't that much worse after eq.
 
That's funny because I've actually ordered the AEON OPEN X yesterday for 500$ (there is a closed version too). Was reading up on them and found comments comparing them to the expanse that were mentioning that they aren't that much worse after eq.
I'd potentially have my eye on that headphone, it's about the only one I've got my eye on at the moment (Open X). If there's somekind of crazy sale on them I might go for it, as I'd have to factor in import fees, etc.
 
Open X will never leave my collection ever. It’s ridiculously technically good for the price, able to reproduce everything I throw at it so beautifully clean and clear
 
other headphones EQ'd to match our target on the B&K don't sound shouty
Still sure about that?
You yourself:
  • Headphones: Sennheiser HD 600
  • Source: Zahl HM-1
  • Pad age: New
  • [Headphones.com B&K target] Score before 3khz adjustment (1 is low, 5 is high): 4
  • 3khz Filter: -3dB
  • Score after 3khz adjustment: 5
So looks like just as predicted your new B&K target (and the Expanse) do contain excessive energy around 3kHz for most, described by many as 'shouty'. Of course, it would be wise to take all those users' uncontrolled, sighted listening impressions from your forum thread above with a huge pinch of salt. Case in point, I think your gushing hyperbolic nonsense 'review' of the $8000 (can you say pricing bias?) Zahl HM-1 amp (sold by...you guessed it, headphones.com!) you used for the above listening speaks for itself :D:
There’s a reason why every person I talked to at the show confidently referenced the Zähl HM1 as the best headphone amplifier they’d heard - at least for the solid state stuff - and it’s because it actually was a step above, and made the headphones I listened to off of it meaningfully better sounding than I was used to.
In any case, with the two DCAs, they mainly sounded like they had more depth to them - like in a kind of sense where in a subjective assessment I’d find them to be more ‘detailed’ sounding - but also that the sounds had an extra kind of structure to them, for whatever that means. So, overall just more engaging than what I was used to with them.
A number of other listeners who I was with also commented on those headphones sounding more punchy, impactful and ‘dynamic’ as well, although I wasn’t specifically indexing for this quality during that session. Those who didn’t like the Stealth, for example, liked it a lot better off the HM1, and the same goes for the Noire. So let’s just say the ‘technicalities’ of each headphone shone through on another level.
 
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Still sure about that?
You yourself:

So looks like just as predicted your new B&K target (and the Expanse) do contain excessive energy around 3kHz for most, described by many as 'shouty'. Of course, it would be wise to take all those users' uncontrolled, sighted listening impressions from your forum thread above with a huge pinch of salt. Case in point, I think your gushing hyperbolic nonsense 'review' of the $8000 (can you say pricing bias?) Zahl HM-1 amp (sold by...you guessed it, headphones.com!) you used for the above listening speaks for itself :D:
This is awesome though, didn't know about that Resolve headphone testing link, I'll try those EQ's out on my HD560s & HD600.

EDIT: tested this on my HD560s vs my previous two Oratory based customised EQ's that I used to flip between when listening with this headphone. For sure I needed to increase the bass on the Resolve EQ - I added a +1.5dB 70Hz Low Shelf Q0.707, I did play with applying linear slopes but I didn't really want to change the character of the treble. (I chose 70Hz Low Shelf rather than 105Hz Low Shelf as I didn't want to encroach on the bottom end of male vocals). I found the Resolve EQ to be more natural through the mids and into the treble, ultimately I found the track Supermassive Black Hole by Muse to be the track that finally made my decision (after listening through many of my other reference tracks) - with the Oratory based EQ's there was some kind of slight unnaturalness happening in the treble that was highlighted by this track when flipping between the Oratory based EQ's and the Resolve EQ - to be clear I didn't notice unnaturalness unless I flipped between the two EQ's, as in my brain accommodated the Oratory based EQ, but upon flipping between them the Resolve EQ was more natural through the mids and treble. Following the total EQ curves of each of the EQ's I was comparing.
HD560s Oratory customised.jpgHD560s MyAVGtoOrAVG -1.25dB tilt.jpgHD560s Resolve with 70Hz 1.5dB Low Shelf.jpg
The 3kHz Resolve filter didn't need to be changed at all and there was no concern that vocals were shrill or shouty. At first I was concerned about the boost above 10kHz in the Resolve EQ and I was a bit on the fence that this sounded too much, but I think it's bringing out high hats & cymbals better, and the increase I made in the bass with the 70Hz 1.5dB Low Shelf balanced the bass out with that too. (@Resolve if you want to note the details of my experience, although I did reply to your thread on headphones.com, but without the graphs)

EDIT 23/3: I think this EQ is enhancing the soundstage properties of the HD560s when listening to some of my reference tracks. Been enjoying this EQ for the past 30mins or so, haven't cross referenced to Harman EQ today though.
 
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Still sure about that?
You yourself:

So looks like just as predicted your new B&K target (and the Expanse) do contain excessive energy around 3kHz for most, described by many as 'shouty'. Of course, it would be wise to take all those users' uncontrolled, sighted listening impressions from your forum thread above with a huge pinch of salt. Case in point, I think your gushing hyperbolic nonsense 'review' of the $8000 (can you say pricing bias?) Zahl HM-1 amp (sold by...you guessed it, headphones.com!) you used for the above listening speaks for itself :D:

On first reading, as it was called a 'template', I didn't think this was resolve's personal preference regarding the HD600, just an example? Looking back it's not totally clear whether this is just made up for the purposes of having a 'template', or a real reflection of his listening setup and preferences.

There was some discussion on variance measuring the Stealth, which might be seen just as much on the Expanse given the same cup size, pads, etc. Maybe less due to being 'open' though it still appears to have a closed front volume in reality. Given the large variations as low as 2khz, isn't it likely the 'shoutiness' some perceive in the Expanse is down to variation on different heads?
 
Given the large variations as low as 2khz

I'd be a little bit careful with the interpretation of that presentation's data above around 5kHz though. But indeed below 5kHz the Stealth has consistency issues for sure.
 
This is awesome though, didn't know about that Resolve headphone testing link, I'll try those EQ's out on my HD560s & HD600.

EDIT: tested this on my HD560s vs my previous two Oratory based customised EQ's that I used to flip between when listening with this headphone. For sure I needed to increase the bass on the Resolve EQ - I added a +1.5dB 70Hz Low Shelf Q0.707, I did play with applying linear slopes but I didn't really want to change the character of the treble. (I chose 70Hz Low Shelf rather than 105Hz Low Shelf as I didn't want to encroach on the bottom end of male vocals). I found the Resolve EQ to be more natural through the mids and into the treble, ultimately I found the track Supermassive Black Hole by Muse to be the track that finally made my decision (after listening through many of my other reference tracks) - with the Oratory based EQ's there was some kind of slight unnaturalness happening in the treble that was highlighted by this track when flipping between the Oratory based EQ's and the Resolve EQ - to be clear I didn't notice unnaturalness unless I flipped between the two EQ's, as in my brain accommodated the Oratory based EQ, but upon flipping between them the Resolve EQ was more natural through the mids and treble. Following the total EQ curves of each of the EQ's I was comparing.
View attachment 273764View attachment 273765View attachment 273766
The 3kHz Resolve filter didn't need to be changed at all and there was no concern that vocals were shrill or shouty. At first I was concerned about the boost above 10kHz in the Resolve EQ and I was a bit on the fence that this sounded too much, but I think it's bringing out high hats & cymbals better, and the increase I made in the bass with the 70Hz 1.5dB Low Shelf balanced the bass out with that too. (@Resolve if you want to note the details of my experience, although I did reply to your thread on headphones.com, but without the graphs)
Take a look at the actual post-EQ response for the HD560S and you'll see he didn't even match his target. It's ~1.5 dB below it around 3 kHz, and he actually decreased the response between ~3.75 and 4 kHz, taking it even further away from the target, lower in energy there than stock, all what you'd do if you're attempting to skew people's impressions to favor the 'target' by effectively concealing its most potentially objectionable region.
 
Take a look at the actual post-EQ response for the HD560S and you'll see he didn't even match his target. It's ~1.5 dB below it around 3 kHz, and he actually decreased the response between ~3.75 and 4 kHz, taking it even further away from the target, lower in energy there than stock, all what you'd do if you're attempting to skew people's impressions to favor the 'target' by effectively concealing its most potentially objectionable region.
Yeah, I noticed it was a bit below the Target at 3kHz, but hadn't considered it's even further away from Target at that dip around 3.75kHz - I can't really imagine wanting more energy in that area than what I was listening to. I'm not sure I go along with the idea that he's purposely trying to mislead people by having it below the target in that region, but it is significantly enough below target in that 2.5-4kHz region.....he should probably bare that in mind when he analyses people's feedback from that HD560s. Did you try his EQ on your HD560s? I quite liked that EQ except having to increase the bass, it'll be interesting to see if that enjoyment stays over coming days/weeks (not sure how much headphone listening time I'm gonna get over next days) - I can tend to flip preferences between EQ's over the first few days, but then generally I stabalise on one that I prefer the majority of the time.
 
Take a look at the actual post-EQ response for the HD560S and you'll see he didn't even match his target. It's ~1.5 dB below it around 3 kHz, and he actually decreased the response between ~3.75 and 4 kHz, taking it even further away from the target, lower in energy there than stock, all what you'd do if you're attempting to skew people's impressions to favor the 'target' by effectively concealing its most potentially objectionable region.
But that is the case for HD560S only isn't it. For Edition XS, HD600 and Sundara all match all the way to the target around 3K.
 
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