REVIEW – Dan Clark AEON 2 Headphones

As you read into the Dan Clark website, about their new planar driver, they use the word knurly to their approach to this design. To simplify, (or you can go to their site here), other planar phones have a flat diaphragm that bows more during excursion, the DC V-Planar design looks more like a diaphragm from a ribbon tweeter with a semi-folded surface.

Where it differs from a ribbon driver, the DC driver doesn’t have the deep folds like a ribbon, it looks more like a sawtooth wave on an oscilloscope trace. If you aren’t one to use a scope, it just looks like a string of V’s. Starting my listening with Charlie Sexton’s Under the Wishing Tree, which features a lot of acoustic guitars and deep bass, it’s easy to see how well this works. These are some incredibly natural sounding phones.

Though these will be referred to as “AEON 2” throughout the review, we are talking about the AEON 2-Noire version, which has perforated ear pads, which DCA claims tunes these phones closer to the “harman curve,” gently boosting bass and treble compared to the standard AEON closed. Because headphones are such a personal thing, (pun intended) getting the perfect fit can be a big part of your listening experience. Damn, if these phones don’t fit my ears perfect. It’s like so many things, if it feels right immediately, you know you’re in for a treat.

As you unbox your AEONs, you’ll notice the quality of materials used. We’ve tried a lot of phones in this price range that are way too plastic-y. The headband and baffles are built from a titanium alloy, with aluminum and carbon fiber used throughout. Black is the only color available, but let’s face it, what doesn’t look good in black?

Looking forward, looking back

Comparing them to my ten-year old Auzeze LCD-2s, it’s a quick contrast in how far planar technology has come. Much as I love the old-school (remember headphone years are like dog years times two – this is where stuff is happening!) LCDs, the AEONs are smoother, clearer, and cleaner. Both ends of the frequency spectrum go further, it’s almost like my LCDs feel like an old pair of 80s Acoustat speakers, and the AEONs sound like a new pair of MartinLogans. All the things you like about implementation of a planar phone are in both units, but the new phones are more revealing, without ever being harsh.

It’s also worth mentioning here that the team at Dan Clark Audio had some help creating the V-Planar design from Bruce Thigpen at Eminent Technology. If you aren’t familiar, Mr. Thigpen has developed a unique line of magnetic planar loudspeakers in their own right. (Not to mention, some amazing linear track tonearms) This is all exciting enough to earn the team a patent, so this isn’t just marketing double speak.

Switching to the self-titled debut from Crosby, Stills, and Nash instantly shows off the depth that these phones are capable of. Heading straight for “Helplessly Hoping,” the AEON 2s keep these four voices, all recorded at nearly the same level, separate and distinct. You have to spend a crazy amount of money on speakers to get this. You can have it on your desk for $899. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Getting current, the killer bass line in Holli Dior’s “Gumby” is awesome. This track is infamous for making phones distort like crazy, but the AEON 2s just roll with it. Everyone has their preferences, but I love closed back phones for this reason. They always seem to have a little more grunt on the low end. You may crave something else, but the AEON 2s will impress you with your favorite bass heavy tracks. Roon sent me to DJ Sensui’s “M’s on My Mind Zawrudo’d” and that was trippy AF. Those preferring open back phones can tick the “Open” box and get the AEON 2s in an open back version.

Rather than go on with track after track, suffice to say that the AEON 2 phones have no shortcomings, and in addition to their tonal and dynamic prowess, they have great top to bottom tonal balance. A hallmark of planar speakers and phones. Just like with loudspeakers, I must confess a bias to planar drivers. The AEON 2s make for incredibly immersive listening in a way that nothing else does.

Head friendly

The AEON 2s come nicely packaged, and well built. A quick look at the carbon fiber on the back of the ear cups, the headband, and the firmness with which the cables plug in makes you feel good about the purchase. The box and case are well thought out, and well executed, but not to the point of overkill, where you might get jumpy that too much of the purchase price went to the packaging.

Only weighing 328 grams (11.569 ounces) that’s 100 grams less than a Wendy’s Baconator. Or about as much as a Baconator with three big bites out of it. Save the empty calories and pack a pair of AEON 2s on your next trip. The light weight and durable case will make these easy travel partners.

Amplifier friendly

Most listening was done with our reference Manley Absolute Headphone Amp. (Please click here if you’d like to read that review…) This seventh wonder of the tube world is fantastic, because it offers plenty of adjustment for different impedance phones, along with incredibly useful tone controls. Not to mention it looks incredible and has its own built-in headphone holder. The Absolute really enhances the desktop experience, though not everyone that purchases an $899 set of AEON 2s will spring for a $4,500 headphone amplifier. Though if you do, you will not be disappointed in the least.

So, to be fair, we enlisted the Feliks Audio Elise ($1,949 – also tubes) an old ALO Audio portable, and the output jack of my (very) vintage Nakamichi 600 II cassette deck. Even driving the AEON 2s from an older iPad isn’t hateful, though to be fair, you will lose some dynamics and low frequency grunt. However, if you value traveling light over audio obsession, you can probably live with plugging your AEONs right into your mobile device for short trips. That one’s your call.

Additionally, there are five different cable terminations available – 2.5mm, 3.5mm, 4.4mm, ¼ inch and XLR, in 1.2, 2, or 3mm lengths. There’s even a premium VIVO cable upgrade for $200-$250. So, whatever system you’re rocking, you’ll be able to connect. Thanks to the quick disconnects at the earcups, should your needs change, a cable with different termination is at your fingertips.

Excitable boy

If you aren’t a regular TONE reader, you don’t know that I’m not really a major headphone enthusiast. The Dan Clark AEON 2s are really pulling me back into the fold, and this is what’s so exciting about headphone tech. This is the kind of sound you would have paid quite a bit more to get, five years ago.

The lack of graininess and restriction the AEON 2s possess is spooky good. Thanks in part to their extreme comfort and light weight, with the cumbersome factor lifted, it’s so much easier to enjoy the music and not feel like I have a pair of cans (the tomato soup kind, not the headphone kind) on my head. I suspect that this will go a long way to entice a potential user. Even after hours of sitting in the chair listening while editing, these are lovely headphones.

One of the things I’ve always found incredibly exciting about headphones is their minimal size requirements. It’s easy to have three, five, ten (maybe more) pairs of phones for different moods, types of music, or just because you welcome change. Whether you need a single set of headphones, or just want to add one more pair to your collection, I can’t suggest these highly enough – these are an easy choice for one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2021.