Dan Clark Audio Stealth Review, Interview, Measurements
Sep 11, 2021 at 7:09 AM Post #1,216 of 5,994
Lol from your first comments on this thread it seems like you are on a mission to dismiss these headphones. What a surprise, you don’t like them. It’s as if the the theories about expectation bias are all true.
To be fair, his account is basically accurate to what I heard, too. In a sense, they seemed to strive for accuracy but at the expense of enjoyment. Inoffensive is absolutely the word I'd go for, too. They're mild, rather laid back. If you're expecting or desiring any kind of bass "slam," you've come to the wrong headphone. I kept feeling the need to crank the volume to generate more dynamics but the dynamics didn't come. Try them for yourself. This kind of tuning has a market.
 
Sep 11, 2021 at 7:29 AM Post #1,217 of 5,994
To be fair, his account is basically accurate to what I heard, too. In a sense, they seemed to strive for accuracy but at the expense of enjoyment. Inoffensive is absolutely the word I'd go for, too. They're mild, rather laid back. If you're expecting or desiring any kind of bass "slam," you've come to the wrong headphone. I kept feeling the need to crank the volume to generate more dynamics but the dynamics didn't come. Try them for yourself. This kind of tuning has a market.
They aren't enjoyable. I don't foresee a single saving quality they present (Empyrean has great vocal presence, for example) especially compared to a counterpart such as VC or Rognir. They blew it with a ridiculous $4k price.
 
Sep 11, 2021 at 7:31 AM Post #1,218 of 5,994
Stealth: $4k with a somewhat flimsy build quality, although pictures don't quite match how fairly nondescript they look in person which is actually, well, nice.
The fitment is interesting as they can fit as loose as an TC which everyone always seems to bitch about. I do find these rather comfortable, very comfortable.
These may be more comfortable than an Empyrean. They fit extremely light, the coupling clamp is soft, the seal is efficient as is isolation and leakage.

These do not compete with a TC. At all. They also don't compete with a Rognir.

They sound slightly more closed in than a VC, tonal balance feels incomplete. They have a barely competent low-end (especially with a qualifier of being closed, you may argue bloom, excessive bleed would be welcomed none here just patter) with poor extension and subdued texture and detail.
Mids feel mostly neutral, lacking harmonic saturation: no recession, slightly dry, mostly inept. Treble extension is lacking so is resolution. Imaging seems perhaps its strong-est characteristic that helps bolster a clarity.

The Stealth is very inoffensive, very passive, very mediocre. They parallel the technicalities of an Empyrean in context.

Not even close to the 1%.
Yikes, brutal.
 
Sep 11, 2021 at 7:32 AM Post #1,219 of 5,994
To be fair, his account is basically accurate to what I heard, too. In a sense, they seemed to strive for accuracy but at the expense of enjoyment. Inoffensive is absolutely the word I'd go for, too. They're mild, rather laid back. If you're expecting or desiring any kind of bass "slam," you've come to the wrong headphone. I kept feeling the need to crank the volume to generate more dynamics but the dynamics didn't come. Try them for yourself. This kind of tuning has a market.
I would also agree with the inoffensive adjective, and that it has everything to be an engineering marvel, from the build to tuning to lack of distortion - but that might not be everyone's cup of tea. As someone who uses precise, flat studio speakers in the living room, I do appreciate what Stealth was able to achieve. And as someone who likes to EQ, I don't see any issue with tweaking the sound to my liking for a particular album.

I gave this example before, two albums from Chick Corea's gang: "Eye of the Beholder" and "To the Stars" (also the Ultimate Adventure). Both excellent albums, but quite different tuning of production. One is pretty flat without any mids weight, the other is the opposite. If the production would be the same and we would listen to them with two different headphones that produce the end result we are hearing now, we would probably rate the headphones differently. But actually the productions are different, and Eye of the Beholder is not as "fun" as the latter two. I frankly don't like how EotB sounds with Rögnir, but that does not mean Rögnir sounds bad. There are simply too many different combinations of frequency responses and requirements. I wouldn't rate Rögnir with EotB.

For the build: I never understood the need for a tank. For me the build is a marvel I haven't seen anywhere else. As said, it is an engineering marvel, which might not be everyone's cup of tea.
 
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Sep 11, 2021 at 7:35 AM Post #1,220 of 5,994
They aren't enjoyable. I don't foresee a single saving quality they present (Empyrean has great vocal presence, for example) especially compared to a counterpart such as VC or Rognir. They blew it with a ridiculous $4k price.
I agree. Maybe the tuning is appealing for some people, but given that I heard no technical advancements over other TOTL closed-backs (and if anything it felt lacking in this respect), I think they're way overpriced.

I strongly encourage others to demo the Stealth and make up your own mind.
 
Sep 11, 2021 at 7:43 AM Post #1,221 of 5,994
I would also agree with the inoffensive adjective, and that it has everything to be an engineering marvel, from the build to tuning to lack of distortion - but that might not be everyone's cup of tea. As someone who uses precise, flat studio speakers in the living room, I do appreciate what Stealth was able to achieve. And as someone who likes to EQ, I don't see any issue with tweaking the sound to my liking for a particular album.

I gave this example before, two albums from Chick Corea's gang: "Eye of the Beholder" and "To the Stars" (also the Ultimate Adventure). Both excellent albums, but quite different tuning of production. One is pretty flat without any mids weight, the other is the opposite. If the production would be the same and we would listen to them with two different headphones that produce the end result we are hearing now, we would probably rate the headphones differently. But actually the productions are different, and Eye of the Beholder is not as "fun" as the latter two. I frankly don't like how EotB sounds with Rögnir, but that does not mean Rögnir sounds bad. There are simply too many different combinations of frequency responses and requirements. I wouldn't rate Rögnir with EotB.

For the build: I never understood the need for a tank. For me the build is a marvel I haven't seen anywhere else. As said, it is an engineering marvel, which might not be everyone's cup of tea.
Yes, I think you've nailed the ideal clientele for the Stealth - someone who is used to flat studio speakers and likes to EQ. I didn't EQ them and generally don't EQ headphones but maybe they transform with some tweaking and otherwise remain razor flat without EQ.

People should probably be aware of this aspect before they buy them - especially given that the aesthetics of the headphone themselves (engaging, consumer oriented) don't actually match the tuning (flat, studio oriented). I think that might contribute to some confusion.

On the build, I didn't have any issue there. All felt quite solid.
 
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Sep 11, 2021 at 8:16 AM Post #1,222 of 5,994
From the information in this topic, the following picture is formed:
- in sound (overall) Stealth is better than ZMF Verite Closed and Kennerton Rognir.
Or am I drawing a wrong conclusion?

P.S. I love the sound of MrSpeakers ETHER C Flow 1.1. I wonder if the Stealth sound is similar to the ETHER C Flow?
 
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Sep 11, 2021 at 9:12 AM Post #1,223 of 5,994
I feel compelled to contribute to the thread. I know how difficult it can be to purchase headphones without the opportunity to listen to them. The Head-Fi community has helped me navigate this decision process before, so hopefully, I can help a little bit here. I currently own the Susvara, ZMF VC, and Stealth. I'm in the 15 day return period with the Stealth.

My disclaimer, I'm not a reviewer or experienced audio engineer. I'm just an old guy that likes music and is fortunate to have the resources to build a nice headphone rig (speakers are a non-started in this household). Since I'm not a reviewer or audio engineer and don't have their vocabulary, I will ramble a bit on what I like and don't like in the hope that you have heard some of the same gear and can determine how your preferences align with mine. I will end with my current impressions, but because the Stealth is so good at what it does, I plan on spending more listening time this weekend before I make the keep or return decision.

The Background Ramble
My preferences. My current rig is RME ADI-2 FS -> Flux FA10 (VOLOT on order, last stop before I resort to using speaker taps with the Susvara) -> Susvara, ZMF VC, Stealth (all balanced). My portable rig is Lotoo Paw S1 -> Thieaudio Clairvoyance. With the Susvara and Clairvoyance, I'm listening to some of the best music I've ever heard. My first love was the Ayre QB-9 -> Eddie Current Balancing Act - LCD-2 (original). My last love was the Ayre QB-9 DSD -> Simaudio 430ha -> Hifiman HE1000 (version 1). In the past, I found my preferences aligned with Tyll at Innerfidelity, so I bought what he liked. Between my last love and current setup, I took a break from the hobby. When I returned, Tyll was gone, and I was on my own. I discovered the Harmon Curve with Bass Shelf was my tonality preference. I prefer warmer versus brighter.

Know for what I don't like. The HD800's were too bright, and I returned them twice. The HD800S stayed a little longer, but I kicked it out too. Returning to the hobby, I felt I was missing something with the HE1000v1. I moved to the HE1000SE, but they had a little bright edge that bothered me. It was hard to return them because they were almost there, but moving to the Susvara, I hit my "just right" spot. I'm also very sensitive to resonance. My ears were picking something up with the Stellia, and I returned them after a weekend. Dan's Ether C's also didn't agree with me. If I remember right, they were too bright for me too. I've run through a lot of gear and can go on, but hopefully, this is enough for you to get a feel for my preferences.

The music I listen to; a lot of Classic Rock, Blues, and Funk. I guess everything but Country and Western.

Finally, what I think about the Stealth headphones, at $4,000 with all its new technology, I was hoping for a closed Susvara or something better, and to my ears - it's not. To my Son's younger ears, who liked the HD800, the difference is smaller. He also likes the Susvara better, but he would keep the Stealth too. I think the difference is the bass presentation which confuses the hell out of me considering the frequency curve. But like I said, I'm not an audio engineer or reviewer, so I can't explain what I'm hearing. I want more physicality in my music (if that's a thing). Maybe it's because the Stealth is so clean. My ears do not hear any distortion or resonance. You can crank these headphones, and they don't break up. And DCA clearly nailed Harman Curve with the Stealth.

So how does it compare to the ZMF Verite Closed? To my ears, it doesn't. It's different. If you love your ZMF VCs, I'm not sure you would want to replace them with the Stealth. You might want to add the Stealth to your collection. But before you do that, I would suggest listening to the HE1000se, and although I haven't heard the HE1000v2, I would give them a try too. Unfortunately, neither headphone is closed. On the other hand, if you hate your ZMF VCs, the Stealth may be what you're looking for.

For me, if making my imaginary closed Susvara is beyond the industry's engineering know-how, I would opt for Zack making a Verite Closed that hugs the Harman curve or Dan making a version of the Stealth with that "physicality thing" I can't explain.

I'm sorry for the long post, but hopefully, it helps someone make a $4,000 decision.
Nice review there sir!

I'm also a person who really sensitive about reverb from closed back, and so far couldn't enjoy any close back out there, included the Verite Close (while i love Verite Open).

Your finding about didn't hear resonance problem seems a positive news.

After more reviews coming I think stealth is more to neutral/reference character which is I'm totally fine with, curious how it compare to something like Diana Phi (which also on neutral/reference champ even though open back design).
 
Sep 11, 2021 at 10:42 AM Post #1,224 of 5,994
Nice review there sir!

I'm also a person who really sensitive about reverb from closed back, and so far couldn't enjoy any close back out there, included the Verite Close (while i love Verite Open).

Your finding about didn't hear resonance problem seems a positive news.

After more reviews coming I think stealth is more to neutral/reference character which is I'm totally fine with, curious how it compare to something like Diana Phi (which also on neutral/reference champ even though open back design).
Putting these on is like entering a well acoustic treated room.
 
Sep 11, 2021 at 12:16 PM Post #1,225 of 5,994
For me, I really need more than 3 days of listening to really reprogram my brain and get a feel for a new pair of headphones. Sure, I'll immediately notice several traits within the first 10 minutes, but grasping the full capabilities of the headset requires time.

Some headphones make you feel impressed from the moment you slide them on, and many others grow on you the more you listen to them and understand their strengths. This happened for me with the Meze Empyreans and the Abyss 1266 TCs. The former took a while for me to live with and enjoy while the later amazed me with the soundstage and bass awesomeness the first time I head them.

I'll have to wait for 4 weeks for my Stealths, but thanks to everyone who currently have a pair, I'm enjoying reading about them for now! :beyersmile:
 
Sep 11, 2021 at 12:34 PM Post #1,226 of 5,994
Stealth: $4k with a somewhat flimsy build quality, although pictures don't quite match how fairly nondescript they look in person which is actually, well, nice.
The fitment is interesting as they can fit as loose as an TC which everyone always seems to bitch about. I do find these rather comfortable, very comfortable.
These may be more comfortable than an Empyrean. They fit extremely light, the coupling clamp is soft, the seal is efficient as is isolation and leakage.

These do not compete with a TC. At all. They also don't compete with a Rognir.

They sound slightly more closed in than a VC, tonal balance feels incomplete. They have a barely competent low-end (especially with a qualifier of being closed, you may argue bloom, excessive bleed would be welcomed none here just patter) with poor extension and subdued texture and detail.
Mids feel mostly neutral, lacking harmonic saturation: no recession, slightly dry, mostly inept. Treble extension is lacking so is resolution. Imaging seems perhaps its strong-est characteristic that helps bolster a clarity.

The Stealth is very inoffensive, very passive, very mediocre. They parallel the technicalities of an Empyrean in context.

Not even close to the 1%.

What is flimsy about the build to you?

Any examples that might make it easier to for people to understand your impressions for the FR?
 
Sep 11, 2021 at 12:50 PM Post #1,227 of 5,994
What is flimsy about the build to you?

Any examples that might make it easier to for people to understand your impressions for the FR?
The general feel of the headphone. For $4k you expect something more substantial. Of note, I don't particularly feel the tension rods are built to last.
Completely passable overall but underwhelming at the same time.

You'll need to hear yourself. There is an overt smoothness and lightness to everything.

With a foundation of softened bass response coupled with a limp transient response with the smoothing over-everything, you're left top to bottom with mush.
 
Sep 11, 2021 at 1:03 PM Post #1,228 of 5,994
I dunno about limp transient response-- whatever that is supposed to mean. Amir at audio science review measured the Stealth to settle extremely fast. For 'less limp' and more 'hard and girthy,' you can EQ in some 10khz treble spike, so you can feel more of a penetrating sound.
 
Sep 11, 2021 at 1:03 PM Post #1,229 of 5,994
With a foundation of softened bass response coupled with a limp transient response with the smoothing over-everything, you're left top to bottom with mush.
I own them and that is not what I am hearing. I am in the middle of a move, though. So I cannot compare to any of my other headphones. I'll report back in a few weeks once I am settled.

Short of TC and Susvara, what would you recommend in this price range?
 
Sep 11, 2021 at 1:14 PM Post #1,230 of 5,994
The general feel of the headphone. For $4k you expect something more substantial. Of note, I don't particularly feel the tension rods are built to last.
Completely passable overall but underwhelming at the same time.
For me TC is the pinnacle of how unlikable and overly designed a headphone build can be. It is like driving a muscle car in the city and claiming a BMW is not sturdy enough. You may, of course, not like the build of Stealth, but I don't plan on playing football with them. I would take this design over TC and even Rögnir any time.

With a foundation of softened bass response coupled with a limp transient response with the smoothing over-everything, you're left top to bottom with mush.
It is not softened, it is accurate. I can hear the difference of previously similarly "punchy" sounding bass better with Stealth. And I can hear the textures of a bowed bass or an electric bass clearer. It is not a HP to impress with the "slam" or "impact" or how ever you define it. And it does not claim that. It claims accuracy and it does it perfectly.
 

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