A few months ago, the firm formerly known as ‘MrSpeakers’ adopted a new moniker: Dan Clark Audio. All the good stuff we loved about the former brand stayed the same, but in my humble opinion the company name is greatly improved. Besides, who could make sense of a company named MrSpeakers but that didn’t make loudspeakers but instead built world-class headphones? Muy confusing, no? Fortunately, the MrSpeakers name has passed away; long live Dan Clark Audio.
Coinciding with the announcement of its new name, Dan Clark Audio also announced a major redesign of its ÆON Flow headphones, both open and closed-back versions, which are now recast as the ÆON 2 Open and ÆON 2 Closed. Several weeks back Andy Regan, President of Dan Clark Audio, gave me a call to give a preview of the firm’s then upcoming name change and to offer me access to one of the very first review samples of the ÆON 2 Closed, which I eagerly accepted. Like its predecessor, the ÆON 2 Closed is a beautifully constructed, closed-back, planar magnetic headphone that is easy to drive and sensibly priced at $899 US or £900. What this capsule description can’t tell you, however, is how very different to its forebears the ÆON 2 Closed truly is, which is why it’s the subject of the review.
To provide a necessary bit of context, let’s take a brief look at the history of Dan Clark Audio. In its earliest days the firm offered highly modified versions of the popular Fostex T50RP headphones. These were well received, but many—including Dan Clark himself—felt that the way forward was for the company to manufacture high performance headphones entirely of its own design.
Accordingly, the firm’s first 100% Dan Clark designed and built planar magnetic headphones were its ETHER models (priced between $1,599 and $1,999 US), which launched in the UK just in time to be shown at the first CanJam London event in 2015. Ever since, the ETHER product family has gone through a number of successful and continuing evolutionary iterations.
The original open-back ETHER (sporting bright metallic red ear cup frames) and closed-back ETHER C (featuring carbon-fibre ear cup enclosures) models introduced the firm’s signature V-Planar ‘knurled’ diaphragm technology, which enable linear excursion across the entire diaphragm surface—not just at the centre. Both models were praised for their tonal neutrality and striking transparency—especially the ETHER C, which came as something of a sonic revelation relative to competing closed-back headphones of the time.