Dan Clark Audio answers with a resounding “yes” with its newly designed AEON 2 open and closed-back headphones. The AEON 2 headset I’m reviewing here is the open-back model. It combines very high quality with long term comfort, not something I can say about every headset I’ve reviewed over the years. The AEON 2 headsets are a continuation of the original AEON headset, which has been highly praised in audiophile circles.
The newest model is a significant update to the original AEON design. The planar drivers have been upgraded, with superior damping, a wider soundstage, and reduced air gaps. Following other Dan Clark designs, the ear cups are shaped like ears, making for a good fit without extra, unneeded space; while a unique folding design lets the headphones travel easily in a semi-rigid case. I found the AEON 2 Headphones to be a superior reproducer of all kinds of music, and one of the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn.
Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 Headphones
- The AEON 2 Headphones are beautifully finished.
- Amongst the most comfortable headphones I’ve experienced.
- Build quality is very high.
- The soundstage is wide and realistic.
The AEON 2 Headphones come from Dan Clark Audio, originally established as the MrSpeakers line of quality headphones. It’s odd for a company called MrSpeakers to only make headphones, but there you are. The company was founded by Dan Clark, an electrical engineer who sought to bring high quality and high-value headphones to the market. Over the years, MrSpeakers, now Dan Clark Audio, have produced some well-reviewed products that have given them a notable place among high-end audio transducers.
Weight (without cable):
Detachable 2m premium dual-entry cable
with 3.5mm and 1/4″ termination
Not Published. Dan Clark Audio believes frequency response specifications are generally not real-world numbers and often exaggerated by many vendors to impress. I have my own comments on the response of the AEON 2 headphones below.
The AEON 2 headphones have a unique, cantilevered headband that folds down close to the top of the ear cups. This allows a full-size headphone to occupy a smaller space when folded.
Dan Clark Audio states that with the headphones in their case it’s about half the size of comparable headphones in travel cases. I can concur. With more than a few headphones in my collection, the AEON 2 case is far more compact than comparably priced headphones that I have.
Here’s the AEON 2 in its case on the right with a Focal Headphone case on the left.
The headphone ear cups are a deep crimson, high gloss material. They are striking to see, but not gaudy. They do make a statement though. I like the color choice, but I could see some customers wanting something more basic like black or grey.
In the carrying case are some tuning felt pads that let a listener adjust the sound to individual preferences, mainly tweaking the high frequencies. I tried them briefly but found the changes subtle and hard to define, so for testing, I left them out of the sound path.
The headphones are lightweight, adding up to 327 grams, or less than 3/4 of a pound. The headband is made of nitinol, so it’s very light. Nitinol is an interesting and smart choice for the headband. The alloy is famous for keeping its shape under stress. It’s often used for heart valves. I would expect the hardware to last a long time.
The ear cups are plush and fit well against my head with high-quality leather surrounds. The area for my ears is deep, and the leather never pushes uncomfortably against my ear.
These headphones use magnetic planar drivers, specifically designed by Dan Clark Audio. Planars are a choice many high-end manufacturers are making.
These headphones are offered in two designs, either open or closed. I prefer the sound of open headphones, so that is what I have tested here. Some prefer a closed design that keeps any sounds from leaking into your room or leaking from your room. A closed design is perhaps a better choice if you are listening with others nearby. In my experience, open-back headphones offer a bit more presence and airiness in the higher frequencies that I prefer.
There’s nothing at all to getting the headphones fired up and ready to go. Unzip the case. Plug in the included audio cord which is color-coded for left and right; then plug into either a 3.5 mm jack or use the included adaptor for a 1/4” jack. The headphones are also available with a 4 pin XLR plug.
I can truly say it was a pleasure to audition these phones. They are not hugely efficient, but I was able to drive them to satisfying levels through an Emotiva processor, the headphone jack of my MacBook Pro, and listening through my dedicated Schiit Valhalla headphone tube amplifier. If you are going to listen on a smartphone or from most DAPs, I would suggest to potential buyers that they have a better amp. As many will want to travel, I think some of the better portable digital players would be a good choice, such as the players from HiFiMan, the latest Fiio players or products from Astell and Kern.
I checked out the AEON 2 headphones with a variety of material, both CD quality and with high-resolution files. Most of my listening was through the Schiit Valhalla amp fed by a HiFiMan R2R2000 DAP.
Mark Nauseef “With Space in Mind”
A great test of headphones is With Space in Mind, a CD by Mark Nauseef. This is contemporary percussion music recorded in a live space with a variety of drums and other instruments. The dynamic range of the recording is superb, and the CD is excellent at demonstrating transient response as well as frequency response. Even though I’ve heard the album many times when a mallet struck an instrument I jumped at the realism. The AEON 2 Headphones acquitted themselves with a startlingly good performance on very difficult material.
Joe Hisaishi “Best of Cinema Music”
This is a lovely CD of film compositions by one of Japans greatest composers. The soundstage on the AEON 2 Headphones was wide and deep. With the full orchestra playing, aided by a large chorus, there was not a hint of strain or distortion.
Frank Sinatra “Ultimate Sinatra”
I listened to this high-resolution re-master. The audio quality varies a bit, as it is a collection from different studios and different orchestras. I think Sinatra was at his best with Nelson Riddle, and that proved true on this recording. Sinatra is nicely centered in the mix, and on the best tracks, the AEON 2 gave me a sense of the studio sound, with pinpoint separation of the instruments in a real-sounding space.
Pentangle “Cruel Sister”
A 1970 recording remastered. I think un-amplified voices are among the bests tests of a transducer’s realism. Listening with the AEON 2 headphones, the position of the soloists was rock steady, and they sounded like real voices in a real space. The AEON 2 headphones brought this CD back to life in a most realistic way.
“Tron Legacy Soundtrack”
The film wasn’t much, but the music by Daft Punk was memorable. The track Disc Wars is a great test of low end mixed with high-frequency electronic instruments. The AEON 2 headphones put me inside the music, leaving no part of the frequency spectrum shortchanged.
Rebecca Pidgeon “The Raven”
Still, a first-rate disc to test an un-amplified female voice with acoustic accompaniment. I have this album as a high-resolution FLAC file. The AEON 2 headphones did a great job with it.
There are a lot of headphones in the $750 to $1000 price range. At $899.99 the DAN CLARK AUDIO AEON 2 HEADSETS would be a top choice among the many headsets I’ve heard at similar price points. For portability, they are, by virtue of their innovative and fresh design, at the head of the pack.
- Visually striking
- Excellent construction
- In the folded position, they fit in a much smaller case than other headphones.
- Very realistic soundstage
- High dynamic range
- Different color options
I’ve heard a lot of impressive headphones over the years. Some are standouts, most are very good. The Dan Clark AEON 2 Headphones are standouts. In terms of audio, it checks all the boxes. They equal any headphone I have heard at or well above this price range. In terms of comfort and design, they are the best headphones I have experienced. The folding of the headband to keep it close to the transducers is a small stroke of genius that makes you want to take the Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 headphones along on your next trip.