Moving on from aesthetics MrSpeakers is intent on reminding you the operation of the ÆON Flow headphone owes much to the diligent development of its ETHER series headphones. The ÆON Flow Open does incorporate the two important innovative technologies that MrSpeaker drivers have come to be recognised by: the Trueflow motor optimization system and V-Planar driver diaphragms. The Trueflow system is aimed at reducing turbulent airflow distortion created by the magnets inherent to any planar magnetic motor. MrSpeakers’ Trueflow system in essence fills in the area between the driver magnets with a flat perforated material whose openings serve as smooth waveguides, so that the driver can move air freely without any unwanted distortions that would ordinarily be caused by the sharp, right-angle edges of the magnets. The smoother waveforms courtesy of Trueflow are said to help improve frequency response, dynamics, and resolution.
The V-planar driver diaphragm design for which Mr. Speakers has recently received patent approval is an equally important addition to the ÆON Flow Open headphone. Bruce Thigpen of Eminent Technology helped Dan Clark design around the reality that any inelastic driver is not a flat surface but rather a bowed one. Confronting this fact V-planar knurling or “pleating” was developed, which seeks to crease the driver surface enabling it to expand and contract like an accordion without stretching the material, while also allowing the entire diaphragm to move forward and backward in a linear way and without bowing in the centre. Dynamics again are said to be the beneficiary here, but notably this creased V-planar diaphragm can push more air at low frequencies also bettering bass response.
For this review the ÆON Flow Open was auditioned using Tidal hi-fi FLAC 16/44.1 kHz source files via an Audirvana-based music server running through a Chord Electronics Hugo TT headphone amp/DAC. Other headphones on hand for comparison purposes included Focal Elears and MrSpeakers Ether C and ÆON Flow (closed-back) models.
Northern Florida’s hometown legend MOFRO was the selection and their debut Blackwater[Fog City Records] felt like an excellent place to jump in and get the swamp party started. Blackwater’slong and spooky lead off title track has a break at about 3:45, at which point JJ Grey and the boys start to relentlessly hammer the keyboard bass tones deep into the listener’s brain, while attempting to command total submission to their deep backwoods groove. On an extended and open stretch such as this it is almost too easy to test the limits of a headphone’s bass response, and it was quickly apparent the ÆON Flow Open were aceing the exam. Through the ÆON Flow Opens, MOFRO’s bass extended far lower than I had expected, all the way down to what can only be described scientifically as “scary low” frequencies. The immediate head nodding produced by this scary low bass easily outclassed any bass extension in sub-£1,000-class headphones I have heard to date and was quite simply thrilling to experience. The low end was so tight and deep that it quickly became a focal point in the audition and added a new mystique to a favorite album that had been previously underappreciated in my listening.
The ÆON Flow Open continued to show its dynamic chops on Blackwater’sthird track appropriately titled “Air.” As the title suggests a silky reverbed electric piano is thrown like a well-placed curve-ball at the wet concrete like bass lines, all the while maintaining a spacious pocket for the midrange to squeeze into. The ÆON Flow Open didn’t miss a beat and with more to bite off showed remarkable sonic horsepower unpacking the varied and complex mix of sounds. The keyboards seemed to be barely constrained from floating away into the clouds, the mid-range was clear and well defined, and the bottom end was again satisfyingly fast and tight. The ÆON Flow Open Edition handled the spectrum so well that upon repeat listens I found that I was able to concentrate on different musical aspects every time with equal enjoyment. I suppose a connoisseur could argue the midrange was coloured slightly towards the warm end of the spectrum, but to my ears the little colouration I heard ultimately enhanced the presentation of digital tracks I was listening to in a positive way making them feel more accessible than if played through a rididly neutral headphone.