Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 Closed Back Headphones Review
This company's AEON Flow from 2019 headphone was very impressive, so does this new model stay on the pace?
Dan Clark Audio
AEON 2 Closed Back Headphones
AUD $1,595 RRP
One of the most impressive closed-back headphones I auditioned last year came from Dan Clark Audio – the AEON Flow Closed. Back then, the company was known as MrSpeakers but changed its name to reflect its intended future direction. I was firmly impressed, as this design had some key differences that separated it from an average set of planar magnetic headphones. It ended up setting a high bar for what I have come to expect from this type of design. And now along comes this new edition, sporting some fundamental physical changes and important internal upgrades, landing at $1,595 locally.
The original AEON Flow was a rebel, swimming against the tide to great effect. What of this new version, then? While on the whole, it appears the same as its predecessor, there are some critical differences – the most obvious being the new headband design, which is now collapsible. Pushing the cups towards the headband lets the entire headphone to fold in half, significantly decreasing its storage footprint.
The cups themselves retain the teardrop shape of the previous model, but now have a striking red ring surrounding them to replace the old navy blue. Those carbon fibre inserts have made a comeback as well, which has become an iconic aesthetic of this headphone line.
This has impacted weight, too. Hitting the scales at 326 grams, the AEON 2 is slightly heftier than the average dynamic driver headphone; the Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro weighs 280 grams, for example. However, this is to be expected from planar magnetic headphones, and in this regard, it's miles lighter than its close, similarly constructed rivals. The industry standard Audeze LCD 2 for example, weighs 598 grams…
The headband is inherited from the old AEON Flow, and this is a good thing. It's a leather strap that's attached to two metal rods that sit above your head. Instead of the entire headband extending, the leather strap slides up or down the rods to adjust the fit.
When purchasing a pair of these headphones, you're presented with a plethora of cable choices, including 4-pin XLR and standard terminations, in either regular or VIVO premium cable options. Included with my review pair was the 3.5mm VIVO premium type, which is extraordinarily well manufactured. Made from silver-plated oxygen-free copper, it's chunky without being heavy and drapes beautifully. It does transmit some audible noise to the earcups if you brush against it, however.
The fine build, superb comfort and excellent accessories we've come to expect from Dan Clark Audio are ever-present with this release, which is terrific. The AEON series continues to excel with its unique styling and excellent build quality, and boldly goes where no headphone has gone before. We need more of this spontaneous pushing from the industry to keep it fresh, say I.
This headphone was born from the blueprint of the flagship award-winning Ether 2 headphones. This translates to upgraded driver technology, some smart airflow performance increases and a backwards driver. According to Dan, this 180-degree driver flip, “removes all motor structures between the driver and the ear for higher resolution and much larger soundstage”.
There was recently some minor drama online regarding the AEON 2 having mismatched drivers, which Clark himself was quick to squash. He assured the community that every single pair of AEON 2 is measured using custom fixtures using Klippel, Audio Precision, and GRAS measurement equipment to ensure every pair driver is matched within the tightest possible tolerance. I didn't detect any channel imbalance issues on this review pair, so frankly I don't see what all the fuss was about.
Using my Matrix Quattro and Chord MOJO setup, I put the AEON 2 through the wringer. My love for planar magnetics stems from the fine bass and imaging abilities these drivers often have. Having such a large transducer means there is a lot of surface area moving, which usually translates to bass that can be felt, not just heard – and this was precisely the kind of sound we're dealing with here.
When listening to gentle tracks such as Save Me by Rhye, the soft bass plucks such as the ones two minutes, twenty seconds in, are barely audible. They are gently felt and wash over your ears in a way that can only be achieved with large drivers with plenty of air moving ability. It's a bass quality that is out of reach even with most high-end dynamic driver headphones; behold physics at work.
There's a decent amount of bass here, and it is tight and punchy with plenty of depth and texture. Yet this isn't a basshead headphone – instead, the AEON 2 presents its bottom end in a tactful, tasteful and sensible manner. This is a clear contrast to the bouncier and more self-consciously fun bass you hear from its Audeze counterparts. While overall low frequency scale is a little lacking for my taste, its sheer quality makes up for things – and of course, you can always use EQ to whack up the quantity should you so wish…
Indeed planar magnetic drivers tend to react well to judicious use of equalisation, and the AEON 2's were no exception. I actually threw the rudest of EQ settings at this pair of headphones, and it didn't so much as flinch. For example, when increasing all frequencies below 300Hz by as much as 10dB and cranking out Broken by Black Sun Empire, the subtle, subdued AEON 2 turned into a bloodthirsty monster that wanted to rip my face off. The sheer slam and rumble that it put out was downright scary. After extensive bass boosting through my EQ unit, I apologised to it, resumed things to normal and then took a long cold shower.
Despite having such a large surface area, this headphone's drive units don't hang around. Transients are lightning-fast, and the high-reaching top end means that subtle details are quick to come to the surface. This ends up giving off a bright sparkle up top with plenty of energy, while retaining a full-bodied, immersive and nuanced midrange down below.
Indeed this headphone's sonic signature specialises in doing everything well, rather than just having one standout characteristic that makes it unique – it's a jack of all sonic trades if you will. Sennheiser's HD800, by comparison, slams you full of detail and body and screams hi-fi in your face. The Audeze LCD 2 plunges you deep into its aural depths. Meanwhile, the AEON 2 just floats about with nothing in particular to prove, doing everything well. It's precisely the sort of sound that unlocks the real nature of the music being played, rather than distracting from it. It's what makes headphone enthusiasts shell out on a premium priced planar magnetic driver design.
Soundstage and imaging ability is also impressive. Sorry to start bringing up old audiophile cliches, but it does a great job of placing you right in the room with the artist. Closing your eyes and drifting away is almost alarmingly easy to do with this design, so immersive is it.
Much like its predecessor, the AEON 2 also comes with tuning materials which can be slotted directly in front of the drivers. Each of these varies in density, allowing for easy customisation of the sound if you prefer to have your own spin on the flavour.
This high-performance headphone requires plenty of juice to keep it happy. My portable players struggled to keep up with my desktop gear when it came to feeding this design adequately, so you'll need a proper headphone amp to get the most from it. The internals and large cups lead to some strong isolation, too. If you sing out loud wearing these, you can barely hear yourself apparently – not that I've ever done that, of course. You can also still hear the clickety-clack of a keyboard in front of you, but only barely even when quiet music is playing.
Dan Clark Audio's new AEON 2 Closed sounds detailed, engaging, slightly bright and has stellar imaging – for this reason, its sound is difficult to fault even at this lofty price. The light build and folding headband also help to offset what is usually a hefty and bulky downside of the planar magnetic headphone category.
The original AEON Flow was a rebel and went against the grain in many ways. This new version takes these unique differences and adds some cheeky twists to make things even more special. In my opinion, this has well and truly paid off – indeed to my ears, this is one of the best planar magnetic headphones you can buy on the market right now.
For more information, visit Dan Clark Audio.
Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.