Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Open Headphones Page 2

The 'sound' of these headphones is usefully illustrated by a couple of recent Harmonia Mundi releases: a period instruments account of the 'Storm' movement from Beethoven's 'Pastoral' Symphony [Akademie für Alte Music Berlin; HMM902425] and the finale of Schoenberg's Violin Concerto, with its extended writing for solo violin then crashing forte coda [Isabelle Faust, Swedish RSO/Daniel Harding; HMM902341]. The Beethoven is interesting in that the players are seated (based on historic precedent) with strings to the left, winds to the right, horns and timpani centred behind. With Audirvana 3.5 on my MacBook Pro and the AudioQuest Cobalt DAC/headphone amp [HFN Oct '19], the Aeon 2 made an attractive complement for laptop listening at close quarters.

One strong virtue of this headphone is its pinpoint and detailed soundstaging, albeit imaging very much within the head with no impression of spanning out further. And with the Beethoven the drums made a massive impact, given the bass response of the Aeon 2, although these are not brought forward by the record producer. With Faust every tiny inflection in her playing made its clean mark. I also listened to Beethoven's last String Quartet, Op.135, in the new Chandos/Brodsky Quartet recording [CHAN 20114(3)] – a well-balanced Potton Hall production – and, again, you could readily follow the interplay and contribution of each player.

Benchmark Test
Switching to the more critical Benchmark HPA4 headphone amp [HFN Oct '18] and DAC3 B [HFN May '17] – S/PDIF via iFi Audio's iLink – and rather than Faust playing solo I tested the first-movement cadenza in Johan Dalene's auspicious debut recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto [BIS-2440; 96kHz/24-bit]. Compared with a more neutral headphone the Aeon 2 rather blunted the sense of openness, even if you could still appreciate Dalene's skills.


When listening to Dave Brubeck's 'Blue Rondo À La Turk' [Time Out; Columbia Legacy CH 65122] with the Abyss AB-1266 headphones [HFN Feb '20] and before that the HiFi Man Susvara [HFN Dec '18], I puzzled over where the struck metal percussion had gone; and it was the same here – especially around the 2m mark. The playing motored along enjoyably but those contributions were notably muted.

As this month's From The Vault is a reprise of our interview with Mitsuko Uchida, I played as my pianoforte example one of her early Philips Mozart recordings: the dramatic C-minor Sonata K457, produced in 1984 at Henry Wood Hall [Philips 468 3562]. Here, notwithstanding a slight thickening of the sound, given the Aeon 2's tonal balance, I was immediately drawn into the fluency of Uchida's playing and all of her subtle expressive nuances.

Changing tack: I doubt that with 'On The Run', from Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon [EMI 582136 2], you'd pick out all the lyrics whatever your system, and only the odd word registered here. But the Aeon 2s made an engaging job of all those electronic sound effects buzzing around, just as the swearing was clear in the 'Speak To Me' intro – so a pleasing result again here.

Magnificent Mono
With mono, and The Beatles' 'Please Mister Postman' [With The Beatles; EMI CDP 7 46436 2] the words were clear and the exuberance of this track immediately found me 'head-bobbing', caught up with the rhythmic flow. Turning the clock back to Duke Ellington and the 1930s, I reprised a favourite track with singer Ivie Anderson and Ivor Mills' 'It Don't Mean A Thing…' [Columbia Legacy/Jazz Moods 516425 2]. With its swirling, 'talking' brass and (uncredited) trombone/sax solos by Joe Nanton and Johnny Hodges I enjoyed this with the Dan Clark 'phones, and there was no suggestion that this was a historic 78rpm transfer.


More up to date (2007) and Claire Martin's intimate title track from He Never Mentioned Love [Linn AKD295, SACD] came across well, with a bloom to the piano and bass, every syllable crystal-clear and – although the voice is set forward – nothing to mar the confiding nature of her performance.

But the really big moment where I truly bonded with the Aeon 2s came with the huge orchestra Richard Strauss employed for his Alpine Symphony and some thrilling conducting and playing by the Oslo Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko [Lawo LWC1192; 192kHz/24-bit]. Particularly, I might add, in the passage where a storm threatens and then engulfs the climbers.

Here the Aeon 2s did rather favour the lower-register instruments thus suiting the intensity of the thunder. As the storm passes Strauss writes a peaceful section with a warming character – by then I was hooked and stayed with the piece to its final 'Nacht' some 15m later.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Offering good value, the Aeon 2 headphones are finished to a high standard and at 326g are comfortable to wear. A longer cable might have helped reduce clothes-rub microphony, and 2m is perhaps a compromise length for home use, but the spacious and insightful sound is right on the money. Classical listeners might want a more extended treble but if electronic music is your thing, don't hesitate!

Dan Clark Audio
San Diego, USA
Supplied by: Electromod, Bucks, UK
01494 956 558