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Drop Ether CX Review (Closed Planar Headphone)

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the DROP + MRSPEAKERS ETHER CX CLOSED planar headphones (made by Dan Clark Audio for Drop). Company reached out to me a couple of years ago to see if I would review them. At the time I was not testing headphones so said no but that I could use a low impedance headphone to test headphone amps. They offered the Ether CX and that is the main role they have had. Currently the Ether CX costs US $900 from drop.com.

I have been remiss in reviewing these because I have so many loaner headphones to test. Alas, it seems every day someone reaches out to me asking when I will test them so here we are.

The Ether CX has a professional and stylistic look to it with the carbon fiber finish:

Drop Massdrop Ether CX Review planar headphone.jpg


Two sturdy XLR cables terminate in a 4-pin XLR with supplied adapters to other sockets.

Ether CX is a bit on the heavier side given its large size:

lightest palanar headphone review.png


I find them comfortable to wear despite the unique rectangular inside cup:



Inside dimensions are 58x38x16 mm (height, width, depth).

The one issue I have with comfort is how hot they wear. Due to generous pad area, they are quite warm to the point where I can't use them during summer. My lab is in the loft so heat rises and forces me to use IEMs for the most part during this time of year.

Note: The measurements you are about to see are made using a standardized Gras 45C. Headphone measurements by definition are approximate and variable so don't be surprised if other measurements even if performed with the same fixtures as mine, differ in end results. Protocols vary such as headband pressure and averaging (which I don't do). As you will see, I confirm the approximate accuracy of the measurements using Equalization and listening tests. Ultimately headphone measurements are less exact than speakers mostly in bass and above a few kilohertz so keep that in mind as you read these tests. If you think you have an exact idea of a headphone performance, you are likely wrong!

I expected difficulty in mating the Ether CX to my measurement rig due to rectangular opening but such was not the case. They fit instantly with little need for adjustments.

Ether CX Measurements
Let's start with our usual frequency response measurements:
Drop Massdrop Ether CX Frequency Response Measurements planar headphone.png


It was interesting to measure these after two years of using them without such knowledge. It was as relief to see such a well-behaved response that hugs the preference curve above 100 Hz. Below that it is not some wild response either: it is flat which shows an intent to get proper response there, albeit, not fully matching latest research.

Relative response then looks very good:
Drop Massdrop Ether CX Relative Frequency Response Measurements planar headphone.png


The best news was yet to come in the form of exceptionally low distortion:
Drop Massdrop Ether CX distortion relative Frequency Response Measurements planar headphone.png


Even when pushed to 114 dBSPL, this headphone has less distortion than many at 94 dBSPL! We should be used to that with Dan Clark headphones but still nice to see in design after design:

Drop Massdrop Ether CX distortion THD Frequency Response Measurements planar headphone.png


Now you know why this is such a powerful tool for testing headphone amplifiers. When I hear distortion, it is almost always the amplifier clipping, not the headphone.

Group delay shows very response other than bass:
Drop Massdrop Ether CX Group Delay THD Frequency Response Measurements planar headphone.png


Impedance is low and flat as expected:

Drop Massdrop Ether CX Impedance Measurements planar headphone.png


So best pay attention to my 32 ohm load testing of headphone amplifiers.

Sensitivity is slightly below average:

most efficient planar headphone review.png



Drop Ether CX Headphone Listening Tests and Equalization
Out of box tonality his fine but not exciting. So I pulled out the EQ tool to add the needed sub-bass and touch up higher up:
Drop Massdrop Ether CX Roon Player parametric EQ planar headphone.png


The performance was stellar now. Spatial qualities which were non-existent before, showed up now. I would rate it a score B on that front. Sub-bass output post EQ was exceptional producing powerful notes that put a smile on my face.

Conclusions
The Drop Ether CX is a very well engineered headphone. It has vanishingly low distortion and a frequency response that is just missing sub-bass to be a complete presentation. That is easy enough fix as is a bit of treble boosting to improve spatial effects. Once there, you have a very nice closed back headphone which blocks out external noise nicely and produces very clean and faithful performance. Without EQ, it lacks excitement for me to use it but you may be different.

I can recommend the Drop+ Ether CX and strongly so with Equalization.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Attachments

sweetchaos

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#2
To import this PEQ profile into 'Equalizer APO', use:
Preamp: -6.4 dB
Filter 1: ON LS Fc 80 Hz Gain 6.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 3000 Hz Gain 3.0 dB Q 3.0
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 5000 Hz Gain 3.0 dB Q 4.0
To import into your favorite PEQ app, enter it manually.
Otherwise, see my PEQ guide.
..................................................................................................................
For those who don't have PEQ-capable app, and want to use GEQs instead.

Preamp: -6.7db
32 5.8
64 2.6
125 -0.3
250 -0.6
500 -0.5
1000 -0.7
2000 -0.2
4000 2.2
8000 -0.8
16000 -0.9
Preamp: -6.3db
20 3.9
25 4.8
32 3.9
40 3.5
50 3.3
63 2.7
80 1.7
100 0.7
125 -0.0
160 -0.3
200 -0.2
250 -0.5
315 -0.5
400 -0.5
500 -0.5
630 -0.5
800 -0.5
1000 -0.5
1250 -0.5
1600 -0.4
2000 -0.5
2500 0.7
3150 2.4
4000 -0.1
5000 2.6
6300 -0.3
8000 -0.5
10000 -0.6
12500 -0.8
16000 -1.0
20000 -0.5
If you want to import into "Wavelet" (Android App):
GraphicEQ: 20 -0.2; 21 -0.2; 22 -0.2; 23 -0.2; 24 -0.2; 26 -0.3; 27 -0.3; 29 -0.3; 30 -0.3; 32 -0.4; 34 -0.4; 36 -0.5; 38 -0.6; 40 -0.6; 43 -0.8; 45 -0.9; 48 -1.0; 50 -1.1; 53 -1.3; 56 -1.5; 59 -1.7; 63 -2.0; 66 -2.2; 70 -2.5; 74 -2.7; 78 -3.0; 83 -3.3; 87 -3.6; 92 -3.9; 97 -4.1; 103 -4.4; 109 -4.6; 115 -4.8; 121 -5.0; 128 -5.1; 136 -5.3; 143 -5.4; 151 -5.5; 160 -5.6; 169 -5.7; 178 -5.8; 188 -5.8; 199 -5.9; 210 -5.9; 222 -5.9; 235 -6.0; 248 -6.0; 262 -6.0; 277 -6.0; 292 -6.0; 309 -6.0; 326 -6.0; 345 -6.1; 364 -6.1; 385 -6.1; 406 -6.1; 429 -6.1; 453 -6.1; 479 -6.1; 506 -6.1; 534 -6.1; 565 -6.1; 596 -6.1; 630 -6.1; 665 -6.1; 703 -6.1; 743 -6.1; 784 -6.1; 829 -6.1; 875 -6.1; 924 -6.1; 977 -6.1; 1032 -6.1; 1090 -6.0; 1151 -6.0; 1216 -6.0; 1284 -6.0; 1357 -6.0; 1433 -6.0; 1514 -5.9; 1599 -5.9; 1689 -5.9; 1784 -5.8; 1885 -5.8; 1991 -5.7; 2103 -5.5; 2221 -5.4; 2347 -5.1; 2479 -4.7; 2618 -4.2; 2766 -3.6; 2921 -3.1; 3086 -3.0; 3260 -3.5; 3443 -4.1; 3637 -4.5; 3842 -4.7; 4058 -4.7; 4287 -4.4; 4528 -3.9; 4783 -3.1; 5052 -2.9; 5337 -3.6; 5637 -4.4; 5955 -5.0; 6290 -5.3; 6644 -5.6; 7018 -5.7; 7414 -5.8; 7831 -5.9; 8272 -5.9; 8738 -5.9; 9230 -6.0; 9749 -6.0; 10298 -6.0; 10878 -6.0; 11490 -6.0; 12137 -6.1; 12821 -6.1; 13543 -6.1; 14305 -6.1; 15110 -6.1; 15961 -6.1; 16860 -6.1; 17809 -6.1; 18812 -6.0; 19871 -5.7
Otherwise, see my GEQ guide.
 
Last edited:

ayane

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#4
I'm a happy customer of DCA headphones, and these consistently positive results just make me respect the engineering even more
 
Last edited:

solderdude

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#5
Dan Clark makes some excellent headphones and is truly pioneering.
Especially the curling in the membrane makes a LOT of sense to me and think is responsible for the excellent response.
Ever since the first Ether came out I was impressed.
He started out with the familiar T50RP modding but I think Dan realized these drivers were holding it back. There is only so much that can be done.

How's the clamping force on these ? The ones I tried all worked nice for me.
 

NYfan2

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#6
Wow, 4th review in 2 days and all good to excellent products!
(Ofcourse the end of june was a bit said with all the broken products tested :facepalm:)

Thanks Armir !!
 

The Jniac

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#7
Rather nice indeed. I am curious about the isolation though, and how well they can handle a small breach in the seal, such as from very thin-armed glasses.
 
OP
amirm

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Thread Starter #8
Rather nice indeed. I am curious about the isolation though, and how well they can handle a small breach in the seal, such as from very thin-armed glasses.
I wear glasses and isolation is very good. It is worlds better than any open back but not as good as noise cancelling headphone.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #9

vkvedam

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#10
Excellent, I really want to be able to buy the AEON RT but it's way too expensive by the time I get it imported into the UK :rolleyes:
 

solderdude

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#11
Excellent, I really want to be able to buy the AEON RT but it's way too expensive by the time I get it imported into the UK :rolleyes:
Unfortunately sometimes there is a relation between price and quality.
If it weren't for Drop some would be even more expensive.
 

respice finem

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#12
Last edited:
OP
amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #16
The RT has a sensitivity of 677 mv and this is only 182 mv. Is that because the RT has more bass?
I measure sensitivity at 425 Hz. So how much output there is at that frequency has a major impact.
 

bigjacko

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#17
Thank you Amir for another great measurement. What made you suddenly realise there is a headphone sit on your desk that you have not reviewed? Not blaming you but just curious, why you measure it so late? Glad it turns out to be a good performer like He6se. What is your opinions on sound stage and overall sound and build quality compare to He6se?
 

tential

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#18
Thank you Amir for another great measurement. What made you suddenly realise there is a headphone sit on your desk that you have not reviewed? Not blaming you but just curious, why you measure it so late? Glad it turns out to be a good performer like He6se. What is your opinions on sound stage and overall sound and build quality compare to He6se?
He had others that were loaned and needed to be returned. He's got a huge backlog of people he doesn't want to keep waiting vs this which he owned, but people really want a review of.
 
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#19
Can't wait to see how the Aeon 2 Noire preforms :)
I second this. In my opinion, the Aeon Noire is an important headphone to test, as other tests have shown it to be incredibly close to the Harman target. If that was verified and engineering is at least as good as other Dan Clark models, it would surely become our reference for what good looks like.

@amirm do you have a Noire sitting in the queue somewhere or do we still need someone to submit one for testing?
 

YSC

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#20
This is a review and detailed measurements of the DROP + MRSPEAKERS ETHER CX CLOSED planar headphones (made by Dan Clark Audio for Drop). Company reached out to me a couple of years ago to see if I would review them. At the time I was not testing headphones so said no but that I could use a low impedance headphone to test headphone amps. They offered the Ether CX and that is the main role they have had. Currently the Ether CX costs US $900 from drop.com.

I have been remiss in reviewing these because I have so many loaner headphones to test. Alas, it seems every day someone reaches out to me asking when I will test them so here we are.

The Ether CX has a professional and stylistic look to it with the carbon fiber finish:

View attachment 138605

Two sturdy XLR cables terminate in a 4-pin XLR with supplied adapters to other sockets.

Ether CX is a bit on the heavier side given its large size:

View attachment 138608

I find them comfortable to wear despite the unique rectangular inside cup:



Inside dimensions are 58x38x16 mm (height, width, depth).

The one issue I have with comfort is how hot they wear. Due to generous pad area, they are quite warm to the point where I can't use them during summer. My lab is in the loft so heat rises and forces me to use IEMs for the most part during this time of year.

Note: The measurements you are about to see are made using a standardized Gras 45C. Headphone measurements by definition are approximate and variable so don't be surprised if other measurements even if performed with the same fixtures as mine, differ in end results. Protocols vary such as headband pressure and averaging (which I don't do). As you will see, I confirm the approximate accuracy of the measurements using Equalization and listening tests. Ultimately headphone measurements are less exact than speakers mostly in bass and above a few kilohertz so keep that in mind as you read these tests. If you think you have an exact idea of a headphone performance, you are likely wrong!

I expected difficulty in mating the Ether CX to my measurement rig due to rectangular opening but such was not the case. They fit instantly with little need for adjustments.

Ether CX Measurements
Let's start with our usual frequency response measurements:
View attachment 138609

It was interesting to measure these after two years of using them without such knowledge. It was as relief to see such a well-behaved response that hugs the preference curve above 100 Hz. Below that it is not some wild response either: it is flat which shows an intent to get proper response there, albeit, not fully matching latest research.

Relative response then looks very good:
View attachment 138610

The best news was yet to come in the form of exceptionally low distortion:
View attachment 138611

Even when pushed to 114 dBSPL, this headphone has less distortion than many at 94 dBSPL! We should be used to that with Dan Clark headphones but still nice to see in design after design:

View attachment 138612

Now you know why this is such a powerful tool for testing headphone amplifiers. When I hear distortion, it is almost always the amplifier clipping, not the headphone.

Group delay shows very response other than bass:
View attachment 138613

Impedance is low and flat as expected:

View attachment 138614

So best pay attention to my 32 ohm load testing of headphone amplifiers.

Sensitivity is slightly below average:

View attachment 138615


Drop Ether CX Headphone Listening Tests and Equalization
Out of box tonality his fine but not exciting. So I pulled out the EQ tool to add the needed sub-bass and touch up higher up:
View attachment 138616

The performance was stellar now. Spatial qualities which were non-existent before, showed up now. I would rate it a score B on that front. Sub-bass output post EQ was exceptional producing powerful notes that put a smile on my face.

Conclusions
The Drop Ether CX is a very well engineered headphone. It has vanishingly low distortion and a frequency response that is just missing sub-bass to be a complete presentation. That is easy enough fix as is a bit of treble boosting to improve spatial effects. Once there, you have a very nice closed back headphone which blocks out external noise nicely and produces very clean and faithful performance. Without EQ, it lacks excitement for me to use it but you may be different.

I can recommend the Drop+ Ether CX and strongly so with Equalization.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
Really nicely measured, and it amazed me also with past experience where I saw you enjoying this cx closed quite a bit! Somehow the bass preference might be kind of psychologically influenced a bit of your own preference?
 
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