The Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 is a new foldable upgraded design on the original AEON closed-back planar magnetic headphones. It is priced at $899.
Disclaimer: The Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Dan Clark Audio for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about Dan Clark Audio products we reviewed on Headfonics click here.
Out with the old and in with the new, and in more way than one. This is not just the formal launch of the AEON 2 but the formal launch of the Dan Clark Audio AEON 2. Yes indeed, MrSpeakers is no more and “DC Audio” is the new brand under which all formerly MrSpeakers product lines will be sold. This is a new company to go along with a new headphone launch.
For the record, I believe there will be both open and closed-back AEON 2 headphones but the one sent to us is the closed-back version. We hope to be able to also discuss the open-back version later on down the line when it is launched.
The price is slightly higher than the original AEON headphones at $899 but still puts it right in the mix with the likes of SendyAudio’s Aiva just below and Hifiman’s Ananda just above. The sub-$1k planar headphone market is getting increasingly competitive. This I like very much.
So, what is new? A lot of things actually apart from the new company name. The first thing that leaps out is the articulated design that now allows the AEON 2 to fold into a veritable ball of cuteness compared to the static original. Going along with that is a smaller sized carry case which I just love. The AEON 2 is now a genuinely portable planar headphone.
Upgraded Driver Design
The second it the new driver structure. If I am not mistaken much of what goes into the AEON 2 is drawn from the process of building the Ether 2 which we reviewed earlier in the year. The driver structure is now flipped 180 degrees with the magnet and FLOW structures now out of the direct signal path of the ear.
The FLOW elements and drivers are now much more integrated and simplified as a result of a single construction rather than the older pieced together design. Gone is the older injection molding and in comes a machined FLOW structure that is more precise than before. This allows Dan Clark Audio to remove all the tiny air gaps that may have formed on the original design.
The final element is a new damping driver design using new materials that are purported to improve resolution and subsequently enhance the frequency response of the AEON 2.
Now we did not get a final retail sample. This is sort of an advanced unit specifically for the review and this feature. Sadly, I cannot tell you how it will all look on the retail shelf but I can show you the new logo for both the AEON 2 and Dan Clark Audio (see above and below).
We do have a fair idea of the accessories included, however. That included the rather excellent small form hexagonal printed black zipper carry case, a choice of cables in balanced or unbalanced format and the obligatory tuning pads.
No Dan Clark creation is ever complete without a set of those tuning pads. A quick check and yes, they are more or less the same type of pads that were formulated for the original AEON FLOW. That means a white pad, a black pad and a foam-type pad, all in pairs.
The white pads are softest of the three pads supplied. The black pads are made of a slightly coarser and stiffer acoustic material and slightly thinner than the white pads. The final set of pads are a thicker foam-like material. The original AEON closed-back only had one additional pad when launched so it will be interesting to see how the 3 types of pad change the tuning this time around.
The new carry case is small, cool and very handy. The picture above with the Lotoo DAP gives you some idea of how much size reduction Dan Clark Audio has been able to achieve with the new folding structure.
The size reduction does not seem to come at a cost of construction either. Its hills and valleys inside and outside perfectly form around the folder AEON 2 with enough space for a cable in a mesh canopy above and pads below. It also feels strong enough to take a knock or two in everyday use so it is good enough to throw into a bag complete with AEON 2 inside. On initial impression this a handy little touch case.
At full stretch, the AEON 2 looks almost the exact same as the original AEON save for 3 differences, one aesthetic and 2 structural. The aesthetic tweak surprised me and that is changing the color from that dark blueish tint to red.
Red I normally associated with Dan’s open back designs such as how the Ether started out. Then I remembered the Alpha Dog and Prime were quite red also and closed so perhaps this is a return to the original roots of what red meant to the company? Especially since the new Ether 2 open is now black instead of red this might make more sense.
All other areas are largely unchanged with the very lightweight NiTinol headband design, leather headband strap, and elongated or vertically tall ear cups with matching pleather pads. You may have noticed I didn’t mention the gimbal design and that is because this is where the second major tweak has been brought into the new AEON 2.
Articulated Folding Design
The change is a little more nuanced than the new splash of red color but is perhaps this is the most important design tweak. This is now an articulated joint in the gimbal of the AEON 2 and the basis of the new folding mechanism.
It allows you to push from the top down to basically cut the size of the AEON 2 in half in one clean motion. Dan Clark Audio has also retained the existing high level of cup swivel from the original AEON so the new AEON 2 is a now very flexible portable headphone.
The final tweak is the relocation of the small vent that was originally at the base of the AEON cups near the connectors to halfway up the rear of the cup sidewall. It also looks like it has a small filter applied that is different from the one on the original AEON. I will find out just how critical that new vent and filter are in the main review.
The cables vary in length and thickness and you can choose which one you want at the checkout. We have two samples here in balanced and 3.5mm single-ended with a quarter jack converter. The balanced is their new VIVO cable that came out with the VOCE and Ether 2. The unbalanced is their older DUMMER cable and a slightly shorter length than the VIVO.
The older DUMMER is an OFHC cable whereas the new VIVO cable is a silver-plated OFHC copper wire. It seems to be a slightly bigger gauge wire than the DUMMER given the dimensions. Certainly, it is a little bulkier than the DUMMER but it also seems much more pliant so the insulation could well be improved rather than just the wire.
The weaved cloth jacket remains the same on both however the Y-split divider is an aluminum alloy barrel compared to contoured rubber on the DUMMER. The connection we requested is a 4-pin XLR but you can get it in 6.35mm, 3.5mm, 2.5mm, and 4.4mm so plenty of options to choose from. You can also order the VIVO in 1.8m and 3m cable lengths depending on your needs.
The microphonics on the VIVO cable is much lower and with far fewer kinks and twists in its physical handling. The performance was also a significant upgrade. Far snappier, better dynamic range and more resolving than the DUMMER cable paired with the AEON 2.
MrSpeakers have stuck with those handy Hirose connectors that have been a feature of just about every headphone they have made going back to the Alpha Dogs. Continuity is an assurance for me that things are working. Especially if you have a bucketload of aftermarket hirose terminated cables lying around. They are easy to insert and lock and honestly, I have had no issues with these connectors on their headphones.
On The Head
The new AEON 2 does feel ever so slightly different on my head to the older one. There seems to be a bit of a minor weight difference that I can feel when holding both in my hands at the same time. This may well be the new gimbal folding structure. It is not that much, to be honest.
The second is clamping. The new AEON 2 feels more secure than the original one. The AEON is slightly looser on the sides whereas the new one has some stronger lateral pressure. This also may well be a direct effect of what seems to be deeper and thicker pads used on the AEON 2 compared to the original. They are very comfy indeed. The new AEON 2 does seem to have an edge over the older one for comfort and secure fitting on initial impressions.
Initial Sound Impressions
(Initial Impressions were done with a Lotoo PAW Gold Touch in both balanced VIVO using an XLR-4.4mm adaptor and unbalanced DUMMER 3.5mm. Impressions of the use of the tuning pads will be in the main review).
First of all, there seems to be little or no difference to the amount of power you need on the new AEON 2 compared to the original AEON, at least not on initial impression using the 0.5W capable LPGT.
What does that mean? You need a high gain and about a minimum of 60 on the volume so not the most efficient of headphones but there is enough in the Lotoo tank to drive it fairly well. The older AEON was rated at 13-ohms and 93dB sensitivity rating so the 13Ω AEON 2 should be close to that SPL. We shall find that out in due course in our matchability testing in the main review.
Tuning wise the very first thing that is leaping out at me right now with the AEON 2 is the treble and how it affects the harmonic balance, particularly percussion. It sounds a lot more refined, smoother and a little more life-like on those cymbal crashes, tom brushing, and hi-hat hits. In turn, the general timbre now has a better balance on the AEON 2 right down into the lower mids and sounds more coherent as a result.
It also sounds like the bass is a touch more linear on the new AEON 2 with not quite as much mid-bass to lower-mids disconnect as the original. Mids are also a little more revealing, especially in the lower-mids which seem to have more presence, perhaps as a result of that bass tweak.
Vocals also seem to benefit from the new tuning. On the few tracks, we tried female vocals had a bit more space to breathe and didn’t seem overpowered from the low-end as much as the original. Overall, this reminds me a little of the way Dan went from the narrower Alpha Dog to the more expansive Alpha Prime tuning. The AEON 2 sounds more balanced as a consequence.
I would not be surprised to learn that there is a tiny bit of fade in the amount of 8-10k treble elevation on the new AEON 2, similar to the ETHER 2’s treble tuning in some ways. This is not quite as warm and relaxed and in some ways, my initial impression is that it is more linear than the original AEON, particularly on the low-end transition into the mids. Those mids seem more balanced and engaging as a result.
Now, this is all is without the new pads being applied which is where a lot of nuanced changes can occur on a Dan Clark Audio creation so we will definitely be going into that in more detail in the main review. I also want to be hooking these up to some desktop amps just to see how well it can scale despite it being clearly targeted to a mobile audience. It can and should be able to cater to both target markets.
For now, the new design is neat, cool and very compact. It actually feels better on the head than the original also. If you are game enough, that VIVO cable option should be a winner also, particularly if you are aiming to run this from a desktop amp. All interesting stuff to look forward to so stay tuned!