Review: Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Open Back Headphones

Review of the Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Open Back Headphones.

Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Review

The newly rechristened Dan Clark Audio, formerly Mr. Speakers, has been hard at work on more than a name change. The popular Aeon Flow headphones have received what Dan Clark Audio calls more than an update, but a significant upgrade. The driver motor now bears a much greater similarity to the Ether 2, with the magnets flipped 180 degrees to remove any motor elements from between the ear and driver. There are further improvements such as a carbon fiber baffle, improved damping scheme and for the portability-minded listener, a new folding mechanism. That’s a fair amount of changes, so let’s take a closer look at what Dan has cooked up with the new Aeon 2 Open Back. 

Construction

The first thing you’ll notice about these headphones is that the cups have been changed from the old midnight blue color scheme to a deep crimson red, almost like a high-gloss lipstick color. Personally I would prefer black, but the color is a kind of an homage to the original Alpha Dog and Ether headphones that Dan made his name with. The gimbals and yolks are very similar but with a second articulating yolk attached to the first, which allows the headphones to fold up into the headband. This arrangement doesn’t save a ton of space at first, but like a russian nesting doll, the fit is snug enough to allow it fit it a case that’s almost half the size of the previous Aeon case.

In the hand the headphone does appear as a solid build. All the joints, polish, metal and plastic together leave you with an impression that the headphone will last, even with significant use. The inside of the ear cup is deep, so big ears won’t get smashed up against the drivers at any point. The triangular shape (while unconventional in these parts) is also conducive to the shape of the ear on the head and makes room for an around-the-ear fit without taking up too much room otherwise. The hardshell case is definitely above par for a more bespoke personal audio manufacturer, with all logos, sides and overall design firmly and succinctly executed. The appearance is one that presents itself as just big enough to get the job done right, without taking up an millimeter more.

Sound

Critical listening for the Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Open review was conducted with the dSC Bartok as an end-to-end system. Using the Mosaic control app, CD-quality and high resolution streaming was utilized via both Qobuz and Tidal music streaming services alongside localized files.

The sound on the Aeon 2 Open’s has been altered quite a bit. Bass is very clean and tight and hits dynamically, though it tends to be more of a finesse presentation, as the Aeon 2 doesn’t have excess bloat or flab. The lower mids are rich without being muddy, bringing in just enough texture to flatter older recordings that can sound thin, but never adding haze or cloudiness. The upper midrange and treble are smooth and extended, with an open but intimate soundstage and lots of detail. The Aeon 2 doesn’t fatigue, but seems to embrace you with a slightly inviting, but very transparent presentation. The upper treble is very extended but still in balance, and at higher volumes Dan’s new headphone works great for acoustic music, such as Neil Young’s The Needle and the Damage Done from his Harvest Album. Guitars are holographically sweet and clear and the sense of space around Young’s crooning voice is spot on. 

Transient clarity is also clearer than the old Aeons, likely due to moving the single-sided magnets to the other side of the diaphragm and the refined, single-piece flow element. Not only are dynamics improved, the sense of microdynamic contrast is higher and this also helps the imaging of the headphone, which is now much wider and more coherent, along the lines of the Ether 2. Detail retrieval, bass impact and ultimate transparency aren’t up to the levels of that headphone, but the sense of dynamic tactility is closer to the Ether 2 than the old Aeon Flow. 

Competitive Market

The price of the Aeon 2 Open has gone up however, and at $900 it’s starting to compete with headphones in the $1000+ range. Does the Aeon 2 hold up? I’d say firmly yes, with the caveat that the new headphone is less efficient than before and whereas the old Aeon’s could be powered from a phone in a pinch, the new ones require beefier amplification. In the context of Dan Clark Audio’s lineup, this is very much trickle-down technology from the Ether 2. In the context of the headphone landscape, this is straddles the line between gateway drug into the $1000+ category and high-priced entry-level gear. 

Comparisons

Compared to the also recently released Audeze LCD-1, which comes in at a much lower price point, but also represents another planar magnetic company’s best thinking when it comes to translating flagship technology into a more affordable price point. The LCD-1 has a slightly more lean bass approach and more relaxed, less energetic lower mids. In tandem with this delivery, it manages to walk away with a perpetually clean sound with a more laid back treble presentation. However, while the LCD-1 has a more even tonality, it loses in a big way to the Aeon 2 Open when it comes to everything but frequency response. The dynamic impact is tighter and more impactful on the Aeon 2, the phantom image more tactile, the sense of detail and holographic transparency are definitely in a different league with the Aeon 2 open back. 

Final Thoughts

So Dan has trimmed down some of the fat of the Aeon, and we have a focused, more balanced presentation, whereas the changes in dynamics, transient response and detail retrieval have been altogether more dramatic. These are the Baby Bear of Dan Clark’s work so far – more than the early alpha dog headphones that put him on the map, yet less expensive than the swan song Ether 2’s, the Aeon 2 Open are just right

The Aeon 2 open back headphones are a collective sum of everything Dan Clark has learned over the past few years of headphone making. Scrubbing out some of the drawbacks, the headphone is a continuation of what he is best at doing – recreating great sound. For those in the market for a portable, yet truly hifi headphone, this is one on that short list of candidates. The TDT (trickle down tech) factor is high from his more flagship efforts, and the improvements over the Aeon 1 make it a win for newcomers to the Dan Clark show. It is Dan’s show after all, and the lucky attendees who poke their heads in to see what going on are aptly rewarded for the price of admission.

More info: Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Open Back Headphones

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