General Information



E3 is Dan Clark Audio’s revolutionary new closed-back headphone. E3’s striking black and blue aesthetic, ergonomic shape, and Gorilla Glass 3 clad cups are just a preview to the exciting upgrades within…

E3 combines meticulous tuning and state of the art engineering to achieve our legendary “open-back listening experience” in a closed headphone. Meticulous tuning and engineering integrate our patent-pending Acoustic Metamaterial Tuning System (AMTS) with an all-new 5th generation driver to achieve a listening experience that is not only incredibly musically accurate it’s also astoundingly fun!

E3 delivers the kick of mule when called upon to rock, yet teases out the finest nuances of your most detailed recordings.


Naturally E3 is as comfortable as DCA’s other headphones; DCAs signature self-adjusting headband and ergonomics simply make extended listening a joy.

By unleashing top-of-the-line sound and comfort at midrange prices, DCA has set a new standard in headphone value, making E3 one of our most exciting projects to-date by bringing uncompromising TOTL performance to a much larger audience.

Acoustic Metamaterial Tuning System (AMTS)

A critical feature of E3 is the enhanced AMTS tuning system, previously found only in our TOTL multi- award winning Stealth, Expanse, and Corina headphones. E3 not only brings this ground-breaking technology to a more affordable headphone, it does so with a new mode of implementation. All headphones are subject to high-frequency standing waves which can make treble sound harsh, fatiguing, or synthetic.

AMTS is a patent pending inline device placed between the transducer and ear that integrates waveguides, diffusion control, and resonators into one compact structure that eliminates standing waves while giving us complete control of the high-frequency response profile.

DCAs AMTS tuning architecture is "not one size fits all,” it is custom tuned for each headphone to deliver an optimized experience for each transducer.

For E3 we developed a new mode of deployment that departs from prior implementations. We won’t bore you with the details, other than to say that the AMTS in E3 delivers an absolutely superbly rendered top-end that will surprise and delight, with a tone that is simply remarkably lifelike. In fact, the new E3 AMTS even reduces sensitivity to seal for a more consistent bass experience.

Of course while AMTS renders high frequencies with a refreshingly smooth, accurate, and detailed delivery, bad recordings will probably still sound bad; we’re just humble magicians, not grand-wizards!

Planar Driver Performance Revisited

E3’s all-new 5th generation planar-magnetic driver delivers the smoothest, richest, and most detailed experience we could create to date. Its innovative diaphragms are made on an all-new tensioning system for a more uniform and consistent performance, lower distortion, and enhanced consistency.

Extensive R&D was spent optimizing E3’s planar driver. New diaphragm materials combined with highly optimized V-Planar knurling deliver a remarkably smooth frequency response with low distortion throughout the listening range for levels of detail heretofore found primarily in the top-of-the-line electrostatics, all with an exceptionally easy and fun tonal balance.

Unlike many headphones where “detail” is created through exaggerated high-frequency energy, E3’s new drivers coupled with AMTS deliver exceptionally high resolution without the fatiguing distortions and rough frequency response users may be used to.


What are those holes in the glass?

That would be the Dual-Mode Bass Port, yet another DCA innovation for E3.While it’s not unusual to find a bass port on a closed headphone, our ingenious dual-mode port delivers unrivaled control of the bass frequency response, creating a superbly balanced, impactful bass experience that is full of power yet free of bloat or midrange creep.

Ok, Enough Geek-Talk, How Does it Sound?


E3’s 5th-generation driver and AMTS deliver an amazing balance of delicacy, nuance, and explosive dynamics that will have you reaching for all your favorite recordings, and cranking them up. And it’s not just about the tone and timbre; E3s soundstage is stunningly expansive, it’s all enveloping and can compete with even the finest open headphones in depth, width, and imaging.

Comfort is Still King

At Dan Clark Audio ergonomic design is of paramount importance. After all, what good is a great sounding headphone if you can only wear it for 30 minutes? E3 takes advantage of every ergonomic trick we’ve developed, including the acclaimed self-adjusting headband suspension system from Stealth and Expanse, as well as the convenient and stylish folding gimbals that make E3 a conveniently compact travel headphone.

Why Gorilla Glass?

The E3 is a stunning looking headphone, from the stitched headband to the all new Gorilla Glass 3 finish on the cups. Gorilla Glass 3 is a thin sheet of alkali-aluminosilicate that makes the glass stiffer and more scratch and break resistant, and the styling of the pattern under the glass evokes the mesh of an open-back headphone, a design cue to highlight the exceptionally open-back listening experience E3 delivers.

And Now for the Exciting Close!
We’ve gone all-in with E3 to deliver the most exciting possible sonic experience, regardless of price, and combined that with an exciting new look and attention to comfort that make E3 the most exciting headphone we’ve released to date.

Equally satisfying with all genres of music, E3s soundstage, punchy bass, silky midrange, utterly smooth highs, and layers of detail will keep you engaged for days on end. Never fatiguing, E3 will have you revisiting your entire music library to experience your music like never before. The E3 is just too much fun.

  • Weight: 455gr
  • Impedance: 27ohms
  • Sensitivity: ~90 dB/mW
  • Frequency response: Yes, it has one
  • Distortion: < 0.1% ref 80dB White Noise

Latest reviews


Headphoneus Supremus
The end of my closed back headphone search
Pros: Performance at every audible frequency
Wonderful, agreeable overall tuning
Very low distortion overall, extremely clear
Full range extension (20 Hz - 20 KHz)
Astonishing treble clarity
Superb spatial effects for a closed back
Very receptive to EQ due to already good FR, clean group delay, and low THD
Not too difficult to drive - Chord Mojo 2 has more than enough power
Compact, foldable - travel ready
Self adjusting headband works brilliantly for me
Best designed cable connectors in the business
Pads don't induce sweat nor stick together
Your choice of cable termination
Nicely constructed cable
Cons: Expensive, but cheap compared to flagships that are no better
Not the best nor worst at sound leakage
Most don't prefer its looks - it is pure function over form
Gorilla glass attracts fingerprints
Some will take issue with Japanese synthetic leather for the price. Hopefully it lasts unlike most synthetic leather, time will tell.
Headphones have come a long way.

I can't say anything that hasn't already been said about the E3. I'll just briefly discuss the journey that led me to it and give my subjective impressions of it.

I was searching for a new closed back headphone to go with my Chord Mojo 2, and recently I tried many: ZMF Eikon, HiFiMan Sundara closed, AKG K371, ETA Mini Closed, Focal Celestee (between this and the Utopia, it didn't seem necessary to try the Stellia and none were available for me to try easily), plus I've listened to the Audeze LCD-XC (though not the latest revision), Fostex TH900, many others though I never had the opportunity to listen to the DCA Stealth. But the DCA Stealth was simply out of my price range, so it wasn't a contender.

During my search, the DCA E3 released along with all the reviews. What timing! I had a vacation coming up in a few days and my closed back headphone search wasn't yet complete, and the E3 launched at the perfect time. Based on the reviews and taking advantage of good return policies, I bought it from my local store. After listening to those first few songs, it was clear I was hearing performance I had never heard before from a headphone.

Digging up the conversation I was having with a friend online when first listening to the E3, it went like this: "This is clearly the best headphone I'm testing, but it doesn't make the K371 sound terrible." You see, I was hoping it wouldn't blow me away, since I wanted to spend under $1k on a headphone. But then I said, "How on earth is the treble so clean? This doesn't make sense" Followed by, "This is amazing." From there I was pretty much speechless. This was all over the course of 2 hours, at which point it was clear I would not be returning it even though I had spent around 4x what I assumed I'd spend.


At home, I listen to music on active 3-way monitors: ADAM Audio S3V and I did the best I could with my listening room to maintain its linear frequency response thanks to Dirac Live digital room correction. I want maximum accuracy from my audio systems... except maybe with somewhat elevated sub-bass. Prior to the DCA E3, my favorite headphone was the Stax SR-009 which I had owned with a KGSSHV Carbon. That blew me away, but only the DCA E3 at all reminds me of listening to music on my S3V.

The main reason for this is its frequency response which is similar between the two systems: in my room, even with the EQ the S3V still has a bit of a spike centered on 50 Hz. The E3 is mostly neutral, but with an elevated bass response to the Harman 2018 preference curve - the frequency response that Harman has discovered satisfies the highest amount of people.

So the E3's general tonality is: a bit "warm", strong dynamics (bass slams and rumbles the headphone), very articulated highs, superb extension in both directions. "Warm" referring to the elevated bass response that ends at just after 150 Hz, which results in most people hearing a closer, more "forward" presentation (opposed to distant) presumably caused by being able to more strongly hear the lower frequencies in everything.

But also the sound stage presentation of the E3 is weirdly speaker-like - not to delve into hyperbole, but it just has this centered presentation that reminds me of listening to my speakers. This, combined with its stellar full range performance (no bottom or top frequency weirdness nor rolloff here), and the unusually clean treble performance blew my mind.

To date, I find it difficult to wrap my head around how clean its treble performance is! I've never heard anything like it from a headphone. I can't wait to try the Expanse and especially Corina some day just to sate my curiosity.


Never before have I heard such linear and clean treble performance from a headphone - headphones always do something wrong here (even if it's a pleasant exaggeration or pleasant recession), but with the E3 I can't find any real faults. Measurements do show a resonance of sorts after 10 KHz, but using tone generators I don't hear anything that really stands out.

During my comparisons to the aforementioned headphones (especially the dynamic driver ones: Focal Celestee, ETA Mini Closed, AKG K371), I was doing my best to pay attention to the "dynamics" since some claimed the DCA Stealth is lacking here. Some claim lackluster performance in this area (without clearly defining what they mean) is an attribute of highly damped, neutral, planar magnetic headphones like these. I don't know about that, but I can say I noticed no difference in dynamics. The E3 does not have a "softer" presentation, nor is it lacking in bass slam compared to those. No, if there's any high end headphone lineup I've heard with what I perceive to be reduced dynamics, it's the HiFiMan HE1000s with their recessed upper mids and flat bass response, creating a more "distant" sound presentation which has its appeal too.

But you can feel the headphone rumble in bassy tracks with the E3. It slams. The dynamics are no weaker to me compared to the above dynamic headphones.


The E3 is the least congested sounded closed back headphone I've heard, with surprisingly good spatial properties and it really excels at separation. It really outclassed every other closed back headphone I tested recently, and has overall surpassed every headphone I've heard period due to its evenness and articulation across the entire spectrum. But I look forward to doing more comparisons going forward. I have no need for EQ with this headphone, and it really was a revelation in headphone listening for me. I didn't want to spend $2k or even $1k on a headphone, but you win Dan Clark. I had to have this.

After some time, I finally got around to experimenting with EQ. Not that I felt it was necessary, but just for curiosity's sake. I started by creating an EQ preset that adheres to the Harman linear in-room response; this is the neutral headphone response curve, it's what Harman's research says is an average representation of what people hear with a flat/linear speaker frequency response.

Using TechPowerUp's VSG database, this is what I came up with. Note, this graph doesn't show my actual target curve (Harman linear in-room) since TechPowerUp doesn't reference it. Also, this is an imperfect EQ because I'm not taking measurements of my E3. It will give me a general idea of how this tuning sounds though.

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All of this EQ'd listening was done using Equalizer APO + Peace on my home system, consisting of an SMSL SU-X DAC and Topping A70 Pro amplifier, all balanced, using low gain on the amplifier as that's most appropriate for the E3 between its two gain options (6 dB in this case).

Switching back and forth between this EQ preset and stock, what a difference! And with no audible distortion penalties! The E3 is a chameleon. With this EQ, it becomes considerably less forward. The "warmth" is totally gone, so I'm no longer hearing nearly as much bass frequencies in vocals, instruments, etc, giving the illusion of everything being further away. The slam is also gone, the headphone no longer rumbles in bassy tracks. Definitely not my preference.

If I add some 1-3 KHz recession, then I suspect this will sound like a better HE1000 series headphone to me thanks to more linear treble. That's not to my taste though, and I don't have one on hand to compare.

I also experimented with just those 5.25 KHz and 6.5 KHz filters on their own, which made no audible difference to me. Then I did some listening with that low shelf filter turned down to -4 dB instead of -9-10 dB (and perhaps one other filter to flatten it more), which aligned the bass response with TechPowerUp's illustrated curve in that graph. That made for the expected subtle change: a bit less warmth, but not enough to make a noticeable change in perceived forwardness, and not much of a change in slam or dynamics.

The main point here is, because of how excellent the E3's technical performance is (low distortion, lack of problematic phase errors/reflections/resonances, and no major FR oddities by default), using PEQ you can really transform it into many different headphones. From forward and dynamic to distant and neutral, laid back treble character shouldn't be a problem either (I didn't try this). But I'll be going forward without any EQ.


Moving on, in my closed back headphone search, portability was a significant factor. I only really use headphones for on the go listening, and ones that fold and come with a fitted case have a huge advantage here. My AKG K371 and ETA Mini Closed fold, but I can't find a fitted hard case for them - all the cases I can find are way bigger than necessary which is harder to pack. The E3 solves that issue. Despite its large drivers and cups, it folds very compact and the case is perfectly fitted, making it very easy to pack.


I will keep an eye on the synthetic leather condition over time, hopefully I won't be disappointed. The comfort is perfect for me; the self-adjusting headband is the best design I've come across. Note that due to the size of the cups and the space inside the ear pads, you can move this headphone around to adjust the sound signature slightly (brighter/bassier depending on position). Gorilla glass isn't my preferred material though due to the fingerprints, but I don't let it bother me.

The E3 isolates you from your surroundings fairly well as it is fully circumaural and has a nice moderate clamp (not enough for soreness, but also not enough to remain in place when you move/turn your head). It is no champion in sound leakage but it's also not unusable here; when right next to an E3 user, you might hear loud bass notes, but you won't continuously hear music playing from my experience.

As for power requirements, the E3 isn't highly sensitive but it also isn't very demanding. I use it with a Chord Mojo 2 and I never have to push the volume past the green color range which is far from the maximum. But to drive this point home, I got a second DCA VIVO cable with XLR termination to use on my old home system: Bricasti M1 SE DAC + HeadAmp GS-X Mini combo. I didn't blind test this since I have no way to conveniently switch between both systems (headphone has to be unplugged, recabled, and plugged in elsewhere), but I couldn't reliably pinpoint any differences between either system.

So many high priced headphones sound off and disappointing to me whether due to blatant sub-bass rolloff, high frequency recession or rolloff, weird peaks and/or dips in the frequency response, weird resonances, but I find that the E3 is a rare exception that is actually worth its price.
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Strange that this is the only formal review thus far.
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@Cecala - It may be strange that it's the only review so far, but then it really is the only review that is needed. From my own experience, everything in the review is true, and nothing is really missing. The E3 perform stunningly good and have no real weak points.
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> It is no champion in sound leakage but it's also not unusable here; when right next to an E3 user, you might hear loud bass notes, but you won't continuously hear music playing from my experience.

I'm sorry but this quote makes no sense. As someone who just bought these I have to make this correction.

The bass ports leak high frequencies, not low frequencies like bass. And they leak a lot more than the Aeon 2 Noire, which comparatively have minimal sound leakage.

It wouldn't be physically possible for bass to leak out of headphones.


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