Alongside high fidelity listening, I have been known to do a little bit of gaming. I’m not a hard core player by any means, but I do enjoy a bit of laid back key pressing for the sake of pushing some pixels around. So when Dan Clark Audio asked me if I would like to hear their newest combo deal for gamers, the idea left me quite intrigued. So, this is a review of the Hel Yea Gaming Bundle by Dan Clark Audio with the Schiit Audio Hel USB interface and Antlion Audio ModMic Uni.
Both DCA and Schiit have recently turned their eyes towards the robust market of video gaming. While the environment has been riddled with $200 or less headphones made of cheap plastic, the definition and spacial cues that come alive with higher fidelity cans are in demand from an audience that isn’t just filled with empty wallets and 8-year-olds. After all, the average gamer in the US is 35 according to wikipedia and only a third of all gamers are under the age of 18. That definitely leaves some wiggle room for adults with more than enough disposable income for high-end headphones, and even moreso considering the overlap from high fidelity personal audio and PC gaming that exists.
What is now available on the Dan Clark Audio site is a hifi gaming package collectively called the Hel Yea! Home Office, Gaming, Music and Video Bundle! The contents of which are discounted from their standalone separates and consists of the Schiit Hel interface, an attachable boom mic and four DCA options: Aeon Flow Open/Closed or Aeon 2 Open/Closed. The total discount for the Aeon Flow level starts at 38% off the street cost, with package price tag of $650 for the lot.
For our review experience, we selected the Aeon Flow Closed which obviously offers more outside noise isolation and bleed from the headphones drivers to possible roommates or even the ModMic Uni.
Antilion Audio ModMic Uni
The Antlion Audio Mic attaches to the side of the Dan Clark Audio Aeon Flow via a small adhesive patch. There are more replacement patches included with the packaging should the need arise. Once placed, the mic can be removed or brought up or down thanks to a magnetic connection it shares with the small adhesive base. So it’s not a permeant fixture if you want to take your new shiny headphones somewhere other than exclusively in front of your home gaming system. The boom is bendable for small adjustments and didn’t get in the way of anything in our testing.
The ModMic Uni terminates in a 3.5mm TRS jack (TRS stands for Tip/Ring/Sleeve) with an in-line mute switch. Jacks and connections in world of microphones can be a tricky thing, especially when looking at headphones + mics that dominate the mobile space – and can use TRRS terminations (Tip/Ring/Ring/Sleeve). This arrangement is good for directly plugging to the Schiit Hel, as well as your standard usage to a console gaming controller. Also included with the Hel is a TRRS-to-split-TRS adapter, in case you would like to use a pair of free, wired Apple earbuds for some reason.
Sound quality from the mic was above par, allowing for clearer voice retrieval against busy backgrounds. Proximity affect no doubt has an astute hand in isolating things, but overall focus for voices were much higher than the free mic that comes with the PS4, for example. In the below recording, you can hear a CD-quality recording through the Schiit Hel, both from the ModMic Uni and the free dongle that comes with the PS4 gaming console. In addition to this experience, we also tested out the mic in a real world setting with fellow gamers in chat and found similar reactions from even the less sound-conscious listeners. Comments of reduced background noise contributed greatly to overall heightened performance for picking out speech among the sometimes convoluted amount of noise present in any group chat.
Schiit Audio Hel
Schiit Hel offers some interesting functionality above the usual D-to-A conversion found in the rest of company’s line of extremely popular digital products. The black-and-red color scheme is unlikely to be very polarizing within the target crowd, and this reviewer found it a welcome divergence from the typically silver backdrop of audio boxes in the hobby. On the front panel the 3.5mm mic input is accompanied by an adjustable on-the-fly gain knob. There is also a switch to utilize the interface as a preamp to the variable out 3.5mm stereo analog jack located on the back panel. The final switch controls a two level gain for the headphones, typical of headphone amplification geared at high performance cans. Perhaps the best addition to the Hel for gamers is the oversized knob for headphone volume control located on the top of the device. The low profile of the casework mades this extremely accessible for quick adjustments and a welcome alternate to smaller, front panel options. In execution, it’s very easy to find the adjustment without looking. Quick changes required very little searching on the fly, something that might prove otherwise impossible without taking your eyes off the screen – a very nice bonus.
Dan Clark Audio Aeon Flow
Aeon Flow by Dan Clark Audio was welcomed with very favorable reviews upon its release a few years ago. The build is fairly lightweight for long gaming sessions and has often been described as a more open-sounding headphone than your typical closed-back design. While the cup shape is slightly unconventional, the fit around the ear is typically pretty comfortable and deep enough to avoid most types of physical fatigue that can set in from extended usage. The clamping pressure is good enough to stay on, but not so hard as to grip too tightly – overall a good match for gaming. Of course the sound is what really matters most for a rig like this and the combination of headphone plus amp was most audiophile in nature. Bass was tight and low-reaching, with spacial queues dropping around the head in focused locations. It’s also a fun listen. Not merely pigeonholed into a static, analytical corner, the collective presence is dynamic as well as accurate to source – never soft.
If you would like to read a more extended review of the first generation Aeon Closed headphone you can peruse our original 2017 evaluation by Dan Browdy. The Aeon Flow Open was reviewed in 2018, and more recently the step-up DCA Aeon 2 Open Back.
So does the package deliver? If you are looking for that audiophile touch in personal audio, this is the place to start looking. Deep, controlled bass with plenty of planar magnetic slam help set it apart from the mushy counterparts that populate the field of cheaper headphones. DCA and Schiit have been refining their formula for several focused years now. They have honed into the sound qualities that audiophiles hold dear and know how to deliver on those key aspects with better than many others. Those looking for higher build quality will find products here that contain superior parts made of specialty-picked metals with less plastic pieces in their construction. The sum total is something that delivers a refined sound quality that should last much longer than your typical mass consumer headphone. It’s a little package that sits perfectly in the center of the overlap in the Venn diagram between hifi and gaming. Absolutely lovely.
More info: Dan Clark Audio