In this feature, we review the Dan Clark Audio CORINA which is a 2nd gen flagship electrostatic headphone featuring proprietary AMTS technology. It is priced at $4499.99.
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The Dan Clark Audio CORINA has a very smooth tone and a surprisingly weighty sound signature for an electrostatic headphone. The resolution is there, and the detail is typically electrostatic in terms of articulation but this is a planted sound with more emphasis on the bass and mids rather than a heady sparkle or heavy treble overtones.
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It has been 5 years now since Dan Clark Audio launched its first electrostatic headphone, the VOCE. A headphone we reviewed and thought well of back in 2018.
Now they are back with their second electrostatic design, the CORINA. A headphone that supersedes the VOCE as their new flagship offering at $4499.99, even beyond the current planar lineup of the STEALTH and the EXPANSE.
Now, this was a softer launch compared to the aforementioned planar alternatives but it did make the rounds in most of the CanJam shows in 2023.
I did manage to get a demo of it in CanJam Singapore 2023 and my immediate impression was that there were some definite improvements over the tuning of the VOCE.
I also felt the CORINA was an accurate reflection of a lot of DCA’s current thinking on headphones much in the same way the VOCE now looks like a snapshot of where the company was 5 years ago.
Eagled-eyed readers will probably have spotted that the stated CORINA driver size is 88mm which is the exact same size as the older VOCE equivalent. And yes, Dan Clark does mention that it is indeed the same electrostatic driver inside each.
The driver itself has been tweaked so it is not simply the same rehoused. If you read carefully about their recent planar driver releases you will notice that DCA introduced a brand new tensioning system for their diaphragm construction.
For the CORINA, that same focus has been migrated to the driver with particular reference to the diaphragm performance to produce a more consistent tension and uniformity that should result in a more even and accurate performance.
One thing to note, because of the size of the driver at 88mm the CORINA will be slightly less efficient than your regular Stax electrostatic headphones or even the Audeze CRBN.
The larger the electrostatic driver the larger the stator gap needs to be to avoid the diaphragm from sticking during excursions. Smaller drivers will use somewhere around a 0.5mm gap whereas the CORINA gap is larger at 0.58mm resulting in lower efficiency.
There are some differences aside from the driver that is a major factor in the CORINA’s sound signature. Most notably in the acoustic materials being used which are drawn from their flagship planar builds.
I am not surprised DCA’s Advanced Metamaterial Tuning System (AMTS) found its way into the CORINA acoustical dampening build. It’s been a key factor in their flagship designs now for over a year.
For those new to this, AMTS looks rather like an unassuming-looking ‘honeycombed wedge’ in front of the driver. Its key strength is in giving DCA a heightened level of control over waveguide manipulation and diffusion as well as integrating quarter-wave and programmable Helmholtz resonators to control high-frequency standing waves and resonance
Thus, the programmable aspect of AMTS allows DCA to change the structural waveguides with different blocking arrays. The high-frequency damping levels are adjusted as a result to match both the changed acoustical environment and the new tuning requirements within.
And because the AMTS technology is malleable it can be tailored to fit the needs of a wide range of headphone designs, including electrostatic. So, this will not be the exact same resonator frequency arrangement as the planar headphone versions.
In this instance, it was designed with a specific focus on delivering a natural midrange free from treble spiking overtones that e-stat drivers can often be found prone to.
If the VOCE was symbolic of DCA’s headphone design language back in 2018, then the CORINA doubles down on that with some very distinctive aesthetical aspects drawn from the STEALTH and EXPANSE.
That means a wider lightweight Nitinol headband arch system and a similarly wider and thicker adjusting strap. The materials are high-quality leather with much better padding support compared to the looser VOCE strap. It is also finished in a similar blue stitching to the EXPANSE version.
Since there are no headband adjuster blocks, DCA has also given the CORINA headband Nitinol rods a similar wider spacing compared to the tighter VOCE styling which gives it more of a flamboyant aesthetic.
The half-yoke design is unchanged. However, the joining block for the headband at the top is narrower and taller. It looks simpler engineering-wise with a single screw assembly as opposed to 4 on the VOCE.
The CORINA retains the same round cup approach as the VOCE but not only is it a deeper cup to allow for the AMTS tech but it also offers a fresh and beautiful reinterpretation of that striking VOCE grill design.
The original spider web visual is now replaced by a less uniform and more Fibonacci-inspired grid pattern emanating out from a slightly larger circular center. Both cup and yolk are finished in gunmetal as opposed to silver which syncs better with the new headband and cable color scheme.
The CORINA is heavier than the VOCE weighing in at 465g compared to 330g. You may feel the difference when comparing the two in the hand and on the head. I suspect the new headband combined with the additional AMTS technology and deeper more elaborate cups, (more aluminum) are factors here.
I would contend though that the CORINA is actually comfier than the VOCE and there are a few reasons for that.
The first is the new strap system with its elastic adjuster which quite apart from making it automatically adjust to your head size also saves you from having to use your hands for minor sizing adjustments which the VOCE required.
The second is the better padding on the pressure strap which improves pressure dissipation giving it a steadier ‘calmer’ feeling on the top of your head. The thinner VOCE strap is thinner and allows more vertical or downward pressure to build up.
The final reason is the new hybrid pads which have a wider surface contact area lined with suede than the older all-leather variations from the VOCE. There are also some perforations on the inside that will help with diffusion and venting any heat buildup a bit better.
I found the combination of the softer lining of the new pads and the better strap system to adjust better to my head and lower the narrow pressure points on the nape of my neck.
One small observation with the CORINA is the easily observable ‘bump’ on the inside of the cup. It looks like an angled driver but it’s actually the AMTS wedge with the highest point away from your ear so it will not touch them or create additional pressure.
The CORINA uses the same type of cable design as the VIVO Super Premium Stealth or EXPANSE version and is attached in the same manner to the cups as the VOCE.
This is a 2m cable using a custom silver-plated OFHC copper and is a low-capacitance round wire housed in a carbon fiber style weave cloth jacket. A distinct departure from traditional e-stat cables but for me, it does handle better than those designs.
The CORINA stock cable is microphonics-free albeit a bit on the heavy side for handling but its very relaxed drape makes for easy management. The CORINA is a 580v pro bias unit so the cable is terminated with a pro bias gold-plated 5-pin jack with a matching aluminum alloy splitter barrel.
Typically, electrostatic headphone cables are not detachable for electrical safety reasons, however, you can with the CORINA, or at least you can disassemble it as once screwed-in it it is not detachable.
That has the benefit of being replaceable if ever you damage the cable and I have done that already with the VOCE, a simple 2-minute process. DCA is well aware of that possibility and has included additional screws in the accessory lineup should you ever lose them when taking off or reattaching the cable.
Packaging & Accessories
The CORINA external packaging is quite similar to the EXPANSE with a switch from the pricier faux leather finished STELATH display box to the simpler black cardboard two-piece with the chrome-colored CORINA emblem.
Inside, and instead of a carry case, you get what I could best describe as a cool-looking internal organizer that some might want to use as a temporary stand though that is not its intended use, (see picture above design section).
Aside from that, you also get a Certification of Authenticity with all your CORINA unit details as well as a soft cleaning cloth, an Allen key, and a set of spare screws for the cable socket should you need them.