It has been a constant trajectory of upward growth for Dan Clark and MrSpeakers headphone products. Only a few years out from modding T50RP headphones and his collection of original sonic creations has grown from a single model to more than eight, spanning costs from $3k for his VOCE electrostatic down to the subject of today’s analysis, the newly-opened AEON Flow ($799).
While the closed AEON has received some solid feedback from the online community, open configurations for headphones generally deliver more air and breathability (both sonically and physically). The transducer technology of the new open remains steadfast planar magnetic – in tune with the rest of Mr. Clark’s creations – but the size is notably smaller and more ovoid than run of the full-size Ether headphones. Almost triangular in nature, the odd shape fits well around the top of the ears while making room for the earlobe of even the largest of ears as it rounds out the bottom. It’s a good shape for the size, reducing the extra bulk of a circular design and redistributing the distance where it is needed most. The two-wire nickel-titanium suspension system of the review unit provided just enough pressure to hold its position on the head, without overcooking the clamping force. Hitting this squarely is a shockingly hard thing to do for many high-end headphone manufacturers and its near perfection in this example was most welcome. This tension can of course change over time as with other materials, but if the Nitinol (as the cool kids call it) is the same grade as the other MrSpeakers headphones then it should prove to be a non-issue. Initial impressions were excellent in terms of comfort and left the critical listening sessions with a solid sense of durability and longevity. The cable is removable and connects with an easy snap to the termination that can be upgraded to a balanced cable if desired. Aftermarket wire can also be utilized, but Dan also offers a few of his own cables options on his site as well.
Overall the entire headphone feels a step up in physicality from your average consumer headphone. Everything from the solid click of the cable snapping into place to the motorcycle gloss finish helps justify its upper end cost of the middle ground market. $800 is a tricky place to play. It’s not quite a mid-tier $500 headphone, but still a 20% stride away from the $1k plateau that marks a small change in the market perception. Still, that cost could present itself as a 20% discount value proposition to some, the luxury market these headphones live and breaths in hardly plays by the same set of rules as the mainstream headphone consumer.
The Aeon comes with three sets of tuning material to place inside the earcup and is designed to either increase or reduce damping. As one moves up the scale treble is slightly shifted in quantity, but there is also a slight taming of overall quality. The staging perhaps takes a small hit as things move back, but it’s easy to see how anyone could fall in love with any of the three stages. There is less of a change from the white foam two to three than there is from nothing to stage two. When all three pads are crammed into the earcup (not the intended use) the mids and treble remain surprisingly balanced within each other, but the bass seeps through like a listening position right next to a sub. This controlled variable is more complex than your run-of-the\-mill bass or treble adjustment, and may well provide useful augmentation for those willing put in the time to try out each pad.