Oh goody! Christmas came early for me this year. Joy to the Gaming Gods, today we are going to take a gander into the Dan Clark Audio Hel Yeah! Bundle, which includes the Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow RT (Closed-back version), the Schiit Hel USB DAC/Amp, and Antlion’s ModMic package that sells for $649.99!
Get your N00btube’s equipped and your proper perk setup initiated, toast a Hot Pocket or two and strap in for the Hel Yeah! Gaming Bundle: a collaboration between Schiit Audio and Dan Clark Audio!!!
Hel Yeah! Packaging & Accessories
Well, you get two boxes with the Hel Yeah! bundle. One is a hard cardboard box that contains the Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow RT Closed-Back Headphone, which is fairly standard and not really offering much beyond the stock cable of your choice and a nice hard case.
The Schiit Hel Amp/DAC box is less premium and considerably basic, which includes a power cable and USB link cable to connect to your computer. The Hel Yeah! bundle also came with an Antlion Audio Mod Mic that clips on the headphone of your choice.
They say the normal separate purchasing of each of these products is somewhere around $1038, but the Hel yeah! bundle was only $649.99 on sale. Quite a huge markdown for the bundle and worth every penny.
AEON Flow RT Design
It does not get more high quality than this. Dan Clark’s headphones always had a great build quality to them, and this newer model is no different. The headphone is a super solid-feeling, with exterior cups made of aluminum, and a dark blue finish that combines with some carbon fiber elements.
The headband rails are NiTinol in materials used it seems and the earpads are very high-quality Japanese synthetic leather. This headphone, well, you cannot really put into words how solid this really feels. It feels very robust, but at the same time due to the design and material choices, the AEON Flow RT is also beautifully light and amazingly comfortable at the same time.
Schiit Hel Design
As found in the AEON Flow RT Headphone, this Schiit Hel is also a tank, very heavy and dense. Solid aluminum here, with some perforations for what I assume to be heat venting.
The volume knob is precisely yummy, without a looming sense of being too slick on the turn, or too difficult to toggle up and down with rotation.
Glad to see someone sat down and actually thought it through, designing the interior mechanism to have a little resistance, but not too much. There is no denying Schiit’s quality…it is really good Schiit. (Ugh, sorry, I had to…)
The Schiit Hel’s DAC
The AK4490 is a good but old delta-sigma DAC chipset for 2020, even in this price tier. It can be hit and miss, depending on the implementation. The issue here is that for the normal price of $189 and that is something we consider just above Budget-Fi.
This is lower-mid-tier in pricing but performs on a normalized mid-tier level. By that, I mean it sounds better than most sub-$200 DAC and Amp combo units. The deal began before you even bought it, it was worth more than the list price.
Implementation of this DAC is good, and I feel the AEON Flow RT is a solid start for usage with the Schiit Hel. It still yearns for a better DAC, but you will see why this is not really a good idea for gaming needs in a bit.
The Hel Yeah! is properly thought out and paired for a reason, a $189 DAC, and a $499 Headphone that is actually way better than nearly every other $499 on the market? Sounds a little odd, but it is not. Trust me. It makes sense.
Sound Traits of the AEON Flow RT
I am not going to review the Hel yeah! bundle in a classic review styling. It would be far too long, and the focus of this review is for gaming applications. I will be focusing mostly on that and touching on audio fidelity as a secondary.
This AEON Flow RT is easily one of the best headphones under $1000. It does not perform at a $499 level. It performs significantly beyond that price point.
The biggest and best trait of this headphone is found in the tonality department, without a doubt. Do you enjoy smooth and very low impact in terms of dynamic kick and slam? Well, the AEON Flow RT is one of the softest and most elegant sounding headphones out there.
Seriously, you might be shocked at how low the physical strike factor is and how insanely smooth this PLANAR headphone actually feels.
Wince factor is annoying, especially in gaming mode. The truth is that most “gaming headphones” do not get designed to cater to gamer needs. You need to sit there for sometimes hours and not get fatigued or annoyed by the constant bullet rendering and explosive sounds around you. Right?
Gamers binge for hours, sometimes. I know I do. Tossing myself into Valorant, a recent FPS release, I am met with some of the silkiest smooth and deep-reaching bass via the AEON Flow RT that I have ever heard.
This headphone sounds slicker and easier on the ear than the Stax 007. I am serious. A loud and sudden noise in the game is painful after a solid hour of grinding. We all know that. But this Dan Clark headphone is a masterpiece. It is, without a doubt, the least physically fatiguing sounding headphone I have ever heard. This is a Gamer’s dream come true.
AEON Flow RT Basic Sound Signature
Typically, planar magnetic drivers dish out a blaring low end, powerful and potent on impact. Again, such is not the case. This headphone was specifically designed to offer the opposite and some included fabric pieces can dampen the treble response and bass response even further, or allow a bit more to flow in. You have options.
The low end is very deep-reaching and responds very well to EQ. Planar Drivers are known for excellent bass quality and substance, such is still the case in this model. However, despite being closed back in design, the sound signature is marvelously open feeling and quite aired out in physical tactility.
This is hyper-rare in the headphone world. You get an open back feel in a closed-back design that does a good job with the isolation of sounds around the user. Ideal really.
You don’t want anyone to bother you right as you get a solid kill streak, that is what those Hot Pockets are for…not for eating…for throwing at those who bother you while you are wrecking house on some kid in Call of Duty who has been insisting for hours that he was dating your mom.
If I had one gripe, it is that the midrange and the entire spectrum feels a bit relaxed to me. I would think I would prefer a more forward and engaging presentation, but for the sake of silky-smooth effortless sound, I think it made sense to make the headphone feel a bit relaxed in physical placement overall.
The Schiit Hel’s VoIP Experience
This little thing lets you plug a microphone into a separate jack beyond your headphone port. This is lovely. Gamer’s pay attention please, only a few audiophile-grade amps and DAC’s out there do this now.
The Antlion ModMic sounds good, do not get me wrong, it is a great little starter microphone and it offers a solid enough audio quality to not sound terrible on VoIP apps, or the in-game voice function feature.
Most of the real Gamer Nutcases, like me, use something like the Blue Yeti, and honestly, that is fine when I am PC Gaming. But, when I want to kick back and have fun, chat with friends and play Borderlands 3 together, I’ve been opting for the Antlion Mod Mic so I can sit back on my couch and play with a controller instead of a mouse and key.
This is a preference thing. As mentioned, the Mod Mic is solid and a great option for that price. Strapped to the AEON Flow RT, it becomes a bit odd not to be able to hear yourself very clearly, due to the AEON Flow RT’s genuinely nice passive noise canceling prowess.
It is a good closed back with a great seal effect. So, having an extra thing on the already slightly bulky AEON Flow RT headphone is just making it more cumbersome. But I digress.
It is fine for hours of usage. You will not notice it unless you fling around like I do when I play. Trust me, I rage when I lose, and I hate jiggling the mic in a pouting fit only to have teammates mute me for the loud movement sounds coming through my mic.
Why The Hel is this so Good?
Honestly, look at your gaming history and how you physically play FPS games online. You sneak around a lot, especially in Call of Duty and Battlefield type games. Sadly, these games are blaring at times, so when you are on the run, you can swiftly turn the upward-facing volume knob easily and quickly until you get into a cover position.
At that point, raise it up a little in another swift movement, so you can hear enemy footsteps nearby or anyone trying to sneak up on you. If you play knives, like I do, in the middle of a war zone…this Hel is a lifesaver for my ears. With Bazookas going off nearby and absurdly loud grenades in CoD: Advanced Warfare online matches, this can take a toll on you.
Thankfully, the volume knob is in a physical position that is very easy to access and the AEON Flow RT headphone is quite soft on impact but detailed in responsiveness.
To sum that up, if you prefer stabbing to shooting and running around like a maniac tossing knives at people, this is a great silent killing rig for you. You will have even less ear fatigue over time, and you can crank up the volume when you are hiding, in an attempt to maximize the enemy footsteps.
Stab them or long chuck your hatchet at them, keep moving and dialing down the volume when in movement, and then reposition it back to a lower area for hiding. This works for me. I think it will work for you too if you play the same style of combat that I tend to.
Most AMP’s don’t have an upward-facing dial like this, one that is super easy to operate and that doesn’t require you to grasp and pinch it in a forward position, thusly losing time and forcing you to direct your focus off the game. I do not ever lose my focus with the Hel thanks to its physical design layout.
The Hel is not quite as good as something like my Burson Conductor 3, or the newer SMSL M400 DAC when it comes to locating sounds on the field with some accuracy. I would not expect a superb offering there for only $189, but this is more than good enough to hear pitter-patters with accuracy enough to avoid them or direct your attention to the proper place.
The AEON Flow RT + Conductor is a better pinpointing experience than with the Hel. The Hel with some other headphones, like the Shuoer Tape, is a better rig pairing that boasts enough pinpointing abilities to never have to worry.
The AEON Flow RT headphone a moderately good headphone for locating sounds accurately in the gaming void. I would say it is a better option for single-player than competitive play. But still, you will have one of the best headphones in the gaming community if you opt for the AEON Flow RT in your inventory slot. No doubt.
There are better options for roughly that price, you can grab a used Beyerdynamic T1 for this price now and that is literally the best headphone for gaming pinpoint ability ever produced…but it is wildly hostile, bright, and painfully harsh on physical strike. Whereas the AEON Flow RT is soft as butter and near fatigue-free (also significantly more clean sounding).
As mentioned, the AEON Flow RT is absurdly spacious for a closed-back headphone. I dare to call it the most freely open sounding and aired out feeling closed headphone I have ever reviewed.
I assure you; the imaging properties of this headphone exceed anything in the “gaming headphone” world. How do I know? I have owned most of the gaming headphones from Razer and Logitech. Nothing even remotely close to an audiophile planar magnetic headphone like this.
Anyone who says otherwise is not to be trusted and deserved to be Team-Fragged in-game with a well-placed rocket to the butt area of their character.
Single Player Gaming
AEON FLOW RT
The AEON Flow RT is a headphone that I would prefer not to use with extremely well recorded and non-eventful single-player games, such as The Witcher 3. Where there is a focus on dialogue and sounds…this headphone is hit and miss, and it is not the headphones fault.
Some of the more recent major releases out there now were mastered so well, that you might want a more forward sounding headphone in the midrange to offer a more engaging tactile experience.
This is a preference, of course. But dialogue-based games with some background music are not the strong point of the AEON Flow RT. It is, in my opinion, more suitable for very harsh and fast-paced gaming needs where things are blaring and very loud.
In that respect, the AEON Flow RT is so enjoyable in the physical impact strike factor, that harsh gaming is easy to get by even after hours of playing. I would think that gamers would want this headphone for FPS, action games. Doom. Borderlands. Call of Duty. Battlefront and Battlefield. Etc.
Less so for long dialogue and voice-acted games, where the hyper smooth sound signature of this headphone should, again, in my opinion, be more physically engaging. Preferences. Nothing more there.
The Schiit Hel is stubborn in the best way, it does not matter if you use a smoother or very harsh sounding headphone. It seems to be consistently smooth sounding even with painful headphones I have like the Fostex TH909 which is not the best headphone for harsh gaming needs but is one that is shockingly good with single-player games.
Here, the Hel, a $189 Amp and DAC, can pair with a $1500 headphone. If you own the more expensive Dan Clark models, the Hel actually pairs very well with them too. That is shocking.
Schiit really did a great job making sure the AK4490 DAC sounding smooth at all times. Thank the gaming gods it was not just randomly piled together, or else I fear it could have been extremely harsh-sounding.
Not the case, so that makes me really happy after playing Borderlands 3 (a harshly mastered FPS with nothing but loud explosions and yelling).
Look. My *** is 34 years old and I still game daily. This is my culture. My home. I know it well. I know how gamers who are casuals to us nutcases react to more expensive products. If you are casual and do not care about fidelity, then you are not an audiophile and you do not need this stuff.
If you want to game and also have an absurd fidelity experience, but one that is expertly meshed with great rig pairing options (The Hel + the AEON Flow RT) then the Hel Yeah! is something you need.
Why? Because the AEON Flow RT headphone is one of the best headphones sub-$1k. Period. It is extremely musical and enjoyable. Buttery smooth and plays well with large sounding audio tracks, live recordings, and of course, gaming.
The Hel is probably the best budget-ish DAC/Amp on the market with a mic jack on it. Everything was superbly thought out for the gamer’s needs and I could not be happier with the Hel Yeah!.
To reiterate, as a non-gamer who does not play FPS online, you likely will not understand the value of a quickly toggle-friendly amplifier like this. To be able to rotate that knob accurately is important.
Overdo it, blow out your eardrum if it were most other DAC’s. Under rotate, expect to lose sight of the gameplay while trying to get the volume back to the proper level so you can actually, you know…hear the enemy nearby.
The Hel is brilliantly designed, and this physical layout is ideal for gaming. It is much easier to grab a volume knob from a top-down grasp while frantically playing an FPS than it is to aim for the volume knob that is directly parallel to the table or desk. That is much harder, and it resulted in my death in-game hundreds of times in my history.
The Antlion Mod Mic is a solid option, but I would prefer a tabletop mic. I think that is the weak point of the Hel Yeah! bundle and despite that, it is still a wonderful and worth wild mic option.
The Hel is absurdly gamer-friendly and clean for the price. Gamers will go bananas for it. But, that AEON Flow RT? It is my pick for the most gaming-friendly closed-back headphone out there right now. It really is that smooth and absolutely stunning for hours of fatigue-free audio.
Not just in gaming, but music too. If you want a very soft physical strike impact factor, this is your ticket. The bass response is fantastic. It is one of the best planar headphones for this type of sound. Undoubtedly.
Beyond that, you can tweak the tonality of its treble and bass with included fabric pieces that lay in the earcups. The headphone is a bit hard to drive, it has a planar driver so they are not efficient. That is where the Hel comes in to help, like care package for a 3x kill streak. Landing nearby to help you out and to mesh with your AEON Flow RT exactly right in terms of tonality.
Rig Pairing is important. You cannot just slap any headphones with any DAC and Amp and expect great things. Two amazing high-end products, a headphone, and a DAC, at random, offer no assurance of working together in tonality and presentation. Got to do your research.
In this case, the Hel Yeah! bundle is quite literally the most absurd audiophile “Gaming Rig” that is officially intended to be a gamer’s rig. I am impressed by how well they work together.
Hel Yeah! Specifications
AEON Flow RT Closed
Driver Type Planar Magnetic
Driver Size 62x34mm
Impedance 14 ohms
Weight 330 gr
Ear Pad Material Synthetic Protein
Shipping Dimensions 11x8x5 inches
Shipping Weight 3 lb
Schiit Audio HEL
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, +/-0.3db
Maximum Power, 16 Ohms: 1200mW RMS
Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 1000mW RMS
Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 650mW RMS
Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 200mW RMS
THD: <0.0015%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 1V RMS
IMD: <0.0015%, CCIR
SNR: >108db, A-weighted, referenced to 1V RMS
Crosstalk: >-80dB, 20Hz-20KHz
Output Impedance (headphones): 0.25 ohms
Output Impedance (line out): 75 ohms
Input Impedance (rear 1/8″ jack): 10k ohms
Gain: 1 (0dB) or 5 (14dB)
USB Receiver: C-Media CM6631A
DAC: AKM AK4490 with TI OPA1662-based filter stage
Sample Rates and Bit Depths:
Playback: 16/44.1 to 24/192 supported without drivers on Windows 10, Mac, Linux, Android (UAC 2 device)
Output Stage: TI OPA1688 (4 amp stages per channel)
Power Supply: Via USB, with +/- 12V rails via high-current dual-polarity switching regulator, with inductor filtering and local regulation