Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Closed (A2c) First things first. There is a name change today. MrSpeakers is now Dan Clark Audio (more on this later under the interview section. I’ve written this review over the past three days with a bad head cold, so please excuse typos and other errors. When I arrived to pick these headphones up from the Fedex store and waiting in line, I spotted my name on a small box behind the counter. I mused to myself, “that can’t be the new Aeon 2…the box is too small.” I thought maybe I had more than one package there for pickup. Nope, the tiny box was in fact the Aeon 2 closed. Of course, not being able to wait I popped open the box right there in the store to see what this tiny package was all about. I don’t usually say too much about the packaging and presentation when it comes to reviewing headphones. But in this case, there are a few things worth mentioning here. First, there was some considerable thought and effort that went into the physical design, materials and “experience” of opening this package. Historically, MrSpeakers packaging, travel case etc., have been rather utilitarian and functional. This is a big step up from what I was expecting. Trying to conjure adjectives to explain my meaning here, the words “slick,” and “smart” come to mind. It’s reminiscent of opening a new Apple product in that you know you getting something special when the packaging and materials are this good. The travel case demonstrates this point quite well. It’s much improved over early MrSpeakers offerings. It has a nice rubber texture and seems impossibly small. Remember how small I mentioned the box was? The travel case only takes up roughly 75% of that smallish box (more on this soon). The other 25% of the outer box is taken by the sleeve for the cable. I don’t mean to bore anyone with such mundane details like packaging, but it impressed me, so I thought that I would share the experience. Now, you might be wondering how the Aeon 2 fit in that tiny travel case. Let’s open it up and find out. There are several significant new design aspects to the A2c. The most obvious one you’ll see when opening the box. The A2c now sports a collapsible hinge that when folded allows the headphone to get small, very small. Basically, the hinge allows the headband to drop straight down and hug the outside of the cups. So that in terms of girth, the folded A2c is only taking up as much space as the two cups pressed against each other. My Galaxy Note 8 is exactly the same size as the full length of the travel case. The hinge is a Marvel (pun intended and segway) of design and engineering. If Tony Stark (Avengers) were to design headphones for Iron Man, I’m pretty sure they would look a lot like the Aeon 2. Here are a few snippets from the website: *Updated driver structure flipped 180 degrees removing magnet and flow structures from the direct signal path of the ear *Streamlined flow elements converted to a single construction, removing air gaps to improve internal airflow *Higher precision machined flow structures vs. injection molded parts *Superior Driver damping for improved resolution, dynamics and a smoother frequency response Sliding the A2c onto your head feels luxurious and is just a pleasure. There are many around these parts who preferred the oblong shape of the original Aeon to the round cups of the ETHER series. While I find both are comfortable, I can’t argue with that particular preference. Oblong or tear shaped cups follow the natural shape of the ear and seem to be more accommodating regardless of your ear shape or size. A2c clamps more like original Aeon and less than ETHER 2. I know that there were some folks who felt the clamp with ETHER 2 was a little strong. If you were in that group, then you’ll appreciate the clamp on A2c, as it is noticeably lighter. SOUND All the new tech is great. And I really like the use of trickle down from ETHER 2. But how do they actually sound? In a word, “fantastic.” As I played through my first half dozen test tracks, a few thoughts came to mind. First, was damn these sound fantastic! They didn’t sound like a closed headphone at all. There was good air and a spacious stage. I was picking up on subtle depth cues and room decay which I typically don’t hear at except with better open back headphones. In fact, in terms of sound stage these may be the best that I’ve heard from a closed back headphone. The mids are gorgeous. Breathy and natural. I listen to A LOT of female vocals, so great mids are a deal breaker for me. Diana Krall, Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, Melody Gardot…all were wonderfully reproduced on A2c. I could hear subtle vocal inflection and low-level detail that I honestly wasn’t expecting from a closed headphone. I like to use Norah Jones: Live at Ronnie Scott’s for this test of late. This is an excellent live recording that isn’t overproduced and rather well mastered. Norah’s voice is front and center and has a “raw” feel. With the right gear and good headphones, you feel like you’re listening to her in a small jazz club. The A2c took me right to that performance and let Norah captivate me with her angelic voice about 5 rows back from center stage. The bass on A2c is punchy and more visceral than most open back planars. You will “feel” the bass more with this headphone. But it still retains the audiophile moniker and doesn’t venture into “fun bass” territory with bleed into the mids. In jazz trio set pieces, an upright bass still sounds very natural and detailed. Cueing up some electronic music (Scann-Tec: Unit) is where the visceral quality of the bass kicks into high gear. The treble on this headphone is quite extended and has more sparkle than something like an hd650 or even ETHER 2. Listening to Cloe Hanslip (a virtuoso of the violin) lead the orchestra in Paganini: La Campenella was a real treat. I really enjoy the sound of the violin and few make the instrument come alive like Cloe Hanslip. A2c reproduced the sound of the violin and strings with great speed, decay and with fully extended treble. And it was able to do this without causing me any fatigue even when I sat and let the album play through from start to finish (admittedly I’m sensitive to harshness in the treble region). A little Q&A with Dan Clark: Can you comment on the Dan Clark Audio name change? Is this change official along with the new website? Yes. Since we don’t make “Speakers” per se, we felt our brand was holding us back in getting into broader markets. We could have made up or coined a name, but then the new brand is literally building from zero, and since we’re self-funded and don’t have a big brand budget we decided to leverage my name as I’m already associated with the company brand. It was a real practical decision, and I think it’s a good one because Dan Clark Audio is a name that gives us “permission” to enter new markets and deploy totally new classes of product, which we will in fact be doing. Is there a new price for Aeon 2 closed? $899.99 with one DUMMER cable in 4-pin XLR or 1/4” and 3.5mm dual tip. 1,099.99 with one VIVO cable in either 1.8m or 3m 1/4” or 4-pin XLR, or 1.1m 2.5, 3.5 and 4.4mm Can you give me a brief comment on the outcome with A2c, which regard to the hinge and final sound signature? ÆON 2 is not just a minor update, it’s almost an all-new headphone. The driver is totally redesigned, and the mechanicals are re-engineered to increase function without impacting reliability, comfort or weight. All the motor technology from ETHER 2 was used in the AEON 2 driver. Personally, I really enjoy the tonal balance and coherence of these headphones, I find them to be remarkably natural sounding. As we were really able to expand the soundstage and improve imaging the headphones really sound remarkably open and to my ear there are no residual clues to indicate this is a closed headphone. Mechanically what can I say? These are a full size no compromise headphone that could fit easily in any backpack or even many purses, it’s still almost entirely metal and carbon fiber with our signature Nitinol headband so it’s also light and reliable. A cool little detail is they’re actually lighter than the first generation, by about 7 grams. Wrap Up I’ve written dozens of reviews on HF and other publications over the past 12 years since I’ve been serious about the headphone hobby. The great thing about writing this review is that when a headphone is this good, the writing is EASY. The words just flow onto the page and the review essentially writes itself. Such is the case with Aeon 2 Closed. It’s is simply a pleasure to listen to and naturally urges me to share my experience about it. So what does this headphone bring to the table? Aeon 2c is a no compromise audiophile portable headphone. You’re getting flagship level performance in a closed and portable product. The A2c is a great choice for an office/work headphone. The passive isolation is quite good (noticeably better than original Aeon closed) but might not be good if you need to hear somebody call your name while you are working. But you won’t have to worry about disturbing anyone while listening to these, whether is be coworkers or your significant other. Even when played moderately loud, the leakage is minimal and tough to detect over the usual ambient noise in an office or home environment. There is a pride of ownership with this product. Something that is this well made and sounds this good gives me a peace of mind. Finally, there are two key matters of significance with the Aeon 2c. The first is the overall performance of the headphone. The Aeon closed original was a good headphone, but categorically and sonically it belonged in “mid-fi” territory. The new Aeon 2c does not sound or perform like a mid-fi product. It sounds very much like a flag-ship product. The second key aspect that Aeon 2c brings to the table is it’s sound staging ability. This headphone throws a sound stage that it shockingly good. When I first put them on and cued up the music, I listened for about a minute and then took them off to be sure that they were the closed version and not the open, seriously. I’ve owned good headphones that were closed and offered good “open” staging. The Sony cd3000 and the Sony r10 do a good job with staging, depth cues and air. The Aeon 2c brings that level expansiveness to the presentation (possibly better but it’s been a long time since I’ve had those headphones in house). Performance and staging are breakthrough elements for this headphone. I expect that it will quickly become the best seller at Dan Clark Audio. I like where the headphone hobby is going over the past few years. Science and technology are playing a role in the advancement of what headphone manufacturers are able to offer. And also, I think that the willingness of makers of these products to listen to the community and develop products that offer a variation on the Harmon curve is very important. At the end of the day, all of us want to put on headphones that offer tonally correct reproduction of sound that have good staging and that are comfortable to wear for long periods. Dan Clark Audio has certainly hit the bullseye with the Aeon 2c.