The AEON is rated at 13-ohms and 93dB sensitivity rating. Do not get too sidetracked by the low resistance rating, whilst it is a big positive for me the key is the 93dB efficiency rating because that will determine the likely ideal match up and thus how well the AEON sounds.
Your key concern with the 13-ohm rating is to really make sure whatever amp you are using has a fairly low impedance output of 1-ohm or less ideally. Sources such as the M2s DAP with its 4.8-ohm output and 130mW into 32-ohm load power rating will color the sound unnecessarily.
High gain – volume 110 – 120
The Opus#2 comes up a bit short for power, however, the sound is smooth if a little polite on the low end compared to more bombastic presentations like the Cayin i5 which offer a more weighted low end. Vocals are slightly forward in their positioning and a little more focused sounding with more space than the Alien+ pairing.
The staging on this pairing is really nice with a very spacious sound and excellent width as well as air. The detail and response on the AEON with the Opus#2 is very good. Treble is clean, articulate and very well extended with this pairing and livelier than the Alien+ with better layering and separation.
The AEON plays better on the low end with the Alien+ but at the cost of a little width which the Opus#2 shows nicely with the AEON.
Shozy Alien +
High Gain – approx. 50% of the rotary dial
This is a bit more of a musical sounding match with the AEON than the Opus#2. Not as airy or smooth up top but has a bit more low-end weight and sub-bass power with low mids guitar work sounding slightly beefier and more authoritative on the AEON.
I was also impressed with the low-end dynamics with this pairing. The Alien+/AEON has some really nice PRaT that works well with classic rock. Mids are not as wide and airy as the Opus#2 on the AEON, vocals slipped back a little in the mix and not as much space around them but I prefer the slightly better depth I got with the Alien+ pairing.
The top end has some nice lower treble energy but it’s not as smooth as the Opus#2 exhibiting a slightly harder attack and marginally less forgiving or as refined sounding.
High Gain – 95 – 105
The DX200/AEON pairing is a little more rounded and neutral with amp 1 card than either the Alien+ or Opus#2. However, the Dx200 has more power single ended than the Opus#2 and certainly a little more detailed and dynamic sounding than the Alien+.
What I like most about this pairing is the slightly fuller body the DX200 delivers from top to bottom than the Alien+ or the Opus#2. It is not quite as weighted as the Alien+ in terms of bass fullness nor is it as airy as the Opus2 but it delivers a little more body particularly in the lower mids and instrumental timbre that works better for me on the AEON.
Of particular interest to me was how the treble of the AEON would mesh with the DX200 and the answer is really well. There is no glare or harshness though not as airy and sparkling as the Opus#2 in the final octave. Imagine the body of the Alien+ and the smoother attack of the Opus#2 combined. A very natural all-rounder of a pairing.
Luxury & Precision L3PRO
Volume : 45- 53
The L3PRO signature is natural sounding and not that far from the Opus#2. However, it is not as airy and has a bit more bass warmth and a slightly richer lower pitched instrumental timbre with the AEON.
With the AEON I found the upper mids and treble performance a little more brittle and lacking in body compared to the DX200 pairing and not quite as airy and spacious sounding as the Opus#2 pairing. For the AEON to shine I think you need more treble body on your source or amp.
Vocals are a bit further forward alongside the mid-bass so it’s a little more musical with some energy and bass/treble contrast but it is not quite as refined as the DX200 or Opus#2 and lacks the power of the Alien+ for dynamics.
Amping is the key to unlocking the full potential of the AEON. Out of the DAP’s listed below it was pretty good but power was always a concern as well as voltage demands with volume rising pretty high on DAPs such as the Opus#2 and even the Alien+ which I think is a fairly good performer for full-size headphones. You got good, but not great dynamics which I think is an integral aspect of the AEON’s performance particularly with its low-end power.
Changing up to even portable amps brought a noticeable improvement in resolution and dynamic range in the AEON’s performance. Amps such as the CDM from ALO Audio might not even have the strongest amping output but it did show that a good sounding tube amp can pair very nicely with the AEON, particularly if you find pure solid-state sounds to be too thin or sterile.
My absolute favorite all-around pairing was the Cayin iHA-6 amp for a number of reasons. Firstly, the power. This is 2.2W into a single ended amp and if you can get a DUM cable with a balanced XLR then you are pushing close to 7W into the AEON and you can’t ask for more than that in terms of power.
I may have had a slightly personal preference for the Studio 6 and CDM tonal qualities of tube matched to AEON but the dynamics, micro-detail and sheer energy and pace of the AEON matched with the iHA-6 was wonderful.
ALO Audio CDM
High gain – 40-50%
A full sounding and natural delivery, quite a beautiful pairing with the AEON for my own personal preferences using line out from the DX200 or LP3PRO.
Treble response is a little more laid back than the 2.2w delivery of the Cayin iHA-6 which fill the stage a little bit more than the CDM with the AEON and shows off a little more detail. Vocals are on point, clean and clear but not overly emphasized or too sharp.
This is a more analog sweeter sound with a euphoric instrumental timbre and good separation. I am impressed by how the CDM teases out bass guitar plucks and short sequences with excellent texture and very good transient responses.
The best transportable combination was the DX200 line out to the CDM for that smooth analog sound.
Low impedance output – low gain – 25%
This is a 2.2W single ended (7w balanced) desktop amp and one of the best SS amps I have tested this year. It’s a clean sound but a natural sound and really delivers fantastic resolution with the right DAC, in this case, the Sonica DAC from Oppo.
Paired with the AEON this was a huge leap in dynamics with a much fuller sound, quicker paced transient response and an altogether more engaging and articulate performance than any DAP can offer.
Tonally I still love the CDM sound, it’s a little fatter, richer in the mids and more musical to my ears than the cleaner Cayin but it’s not quite as resolving or as snappy sounding as the iHA-6 pure power play so I tend to use the Cayin a bit more when at home for the AEON.
OTG (X7ii) – volume sky blue
The Mojo has no issues driving the AEON whatsoever. It’s a cleaner sounding pairing than the CDM but did not present quite as much dynamic range as the Cayin iHA-6 paired with the AEON.
What it did do well is add a little low-end emphasis and deliver some solid fundamentals to lower mids guitar work. It didn’t thicken the AEON note necessarily just added some nice additional sub-bass power so it sounds a bit more planted than the CDM with the AEON.
Line out – X7ii – volume 2/5
Solid state sound, good energy with the use of its dialed EQ and low-end dynamics but the sound was not as natural sounding the further up compared to the CDM or as resolving as the Mojo.
What I did find was tinkering with the hard EQ brought some interesting results with the AEON. The treble to +3 sounded more engaging with bass at +1. I felt this produced a far more fun signature with a bit more bite whereas the stock sound was a bit more boring.
More efficient than the Prime which needs a bit more power to be driven optimally with those older Fostex drivers.
The Prime has a fuller mid to upper bass region but has more sub-bass roll-off than the AEON and lacks the same level of power the AEON can deliver to kick drums and fundamental harmonics in general on lower-pitched instruments.
THE Prime though will sound a bit more expansive in the lower mids and perhaps a little more open in the mids in general. Its timbre though is more brittle to my ears and maybe a little more attenuated than the AEON’s more natural presentation. Vocals on the AEON are further forward and fuller sounding with better texture than the Prime.
Both have a lively treble but again the Prime, articulate as it is, runs a little hot and with less body so it’s not as smooth or refined sounding as the AEON’s treble (with the pads).
Audeze EL8 (V1)
The EL8 is a more efficient planar than the AEON and can run a bit easier off weaker sources but still scales well with proper amping much like the AEON.
The EL8 rolls off a bit earlier than the AEON so it doesn’t have the same level of sub-bass power and instead opts for a more pronounced 50-200hz mid-bass elevation and warmth to fill the low end compared to the little drop the AEON exhibits in the same area.
That being said the EL8 drops pretty quickly at 200Hz with a slow but pointed rise to about 2k so lower pitched instrumental work has some nice warmth but further up slightly the timbre is a little thinner and colder for me compared to the more natural sounding AEON.
Vocal presence is a bit more elevated but it is not as clear sounding as the AEON. The lower treble has a sever downwards dip taking a lot of air from the upper mids to around 7k so it’s not as lively or involving as the AEON.
The AEON will seem the brighter of the two in that respect but its perceptibly more articulate with better extension making it sound the more coherent of the two.
The PM3 is much easier to drive than the AEON so it will drive a little easier off regular DAPs or weaker amping sources. It doesn’t scale though quite as well as the AEON with desktop amping so dynamics wise the AEON has the edge the higher up you go in amping.
The PM3 sounds a bit more closed in and less airy in its presentation than the AEON. Its beefier in its upper bass and lower mids but bleeds a bit more than the AEON which retains a bit more clarity and detail but not as full sounding.
Despite its meatier mid to upper bass the PM3 it doesn’t generate the same level of sub-bass power as the AEON which rumbles that bit harder in comparison. It also lacks the same tight definition, texture, and pace of the AEON sub-bass performance.
Vocal presence is a similar affair with the PM-3 offering the slightly fuller and smoother sound but it doesn’t yield the same amount of spacing and separation so it’s not as detailed or as airy sounding.
Treble on the AEON is a bit more elevated and contrasts a bit more with the sub-bass response. The PM-3 is more even-handed and laid back with its own treble response. Some might prefer that slightly laid back feel to the PM-3 top-end response, others might prefer the more detailed, articulate and energetic response of the AEON treble.
I think Dan and the team can be rightly proud of the AEON. Not only did they find a glaring gap in the planar market and take price off the table as a distracting point of discussion they also managed to produce a really competent closed planar and pitch it successfully into that gap. Quite a few other companies have either ignored this opportunity (sticking with open) or had initial forays with slightly disappointing results.
I also got to give a shout out to the design and comfort of the AEON which is just superb. The lightweight teardrop design is maximum comfort for me as well as providing an excellent seal without having to resort to huge pads or massive pressure to achieve that seal.
In a way, the AEON replaces the Dogs and Prime and what they initially set out to do which was an affordable but high performing closed circumaural planar. I am particularly pleased that a lot of his TOTL technologies from the Ether line trickled down into the AEON as part of that process. I think a lot of people are going to enjoy this headphone because of that.