The Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 Closed is a portable headphone with a secret. Actually, it’s not very secret: while it’s primary selling point is Hi-Fi portability, the secret is that it’s also one of the best all around closed-back headphones under $1000. Let’s take a dive into the AEON 2 Closed to see what makes it such a standout.
The Build and Design
The AEON 2 doesn’t have a particularly flashy look to it, but it is sleek, sturdy, and well constructed. One of its appeals is it’s high level of portability. The headphones themselves fold up into a small carrying case, and their well sealed closed-back design makes them ideal for listening on the go or in the office. They’re lightweight and quite comfortable. The shape of the earcups enables a good seal with a fairly compact size. Well, when I say “compact,” they’re compact compared to most high-end audiophile headphones, but on the larger side when compared to most mainstream portable headphones.
The included package contains all the good stuff like a case and 3.5mm/6.3mm cable/adapter. The cable is a little stiff, but high quality and feels pretty premium. Dan Clark Audio uses a proprietary version of the miniXLR for the headphone connections, so replacement and upgrade cables are only available from Dan Clark and a limited number of other vendors. There are also a number of filters included, which seems a little bit strange at first, but we’ll get to those later.
Noise isolation is one of the key features of portable closed back headphones, so how good is the isolation on the AEON 2? Let me tell you a story. I was listening to some music with the AEON 2 Closed at a fairly high volume for this review. A FedEx delivery arrived. I had no idea. He knocked, he (apparently) yelled “Delivery for Bloom Audio!” and I had no clue until someone came over from the office next door to wave their hands around like a madman until I saw them and took off my headphones. When I placed the headphones down, the left and right earpads sealed on each other. I received the FedEx shipment, updated a number of things on my laptop – inches away from the headphones – and finally got back to listening ten minutes later. The music had been playing the whole time. I had no idea.
The AEON 2 Closed provides a neutral sound signature with all around solid characteristics. The bass has a tight punch, the mids are well detailed and layered, and the treble is just the slightest bit on the smooth side with a good amount of air. The soundstage is somewhat small, as you might expect with a closed-back headphone, but the imaging is very good within that space. The instrument and vocal timbre are generally neutral, with fast response and attack.
Starting from the bottom with its frequency response, the AEON 2 Closed has a good rumble and mostly linear extension into the subbass. There’s plenty of impact coming from the midbass and you can get some nice slam with bass heavy songs. The midrange feels generally neutral, with a small but broad midrange cut bringing the mids as a whole back a little bit in the mix. The treble is well defined, but not sharp or sibilant. There’s a little bit of sparkle on the top, and it doesn’t really roll off until the very top end, but the overall character is more smooth than bright.
In a bit of a unique move, Dan Clark Audio provides three sets of filters which each affect the sound signature. The thin black foam filter suppresses mids slightly to create a more V-shaped sound signature. The black felt which provides broader dampening which tends more towards U-shaped with good low bass, and treble, but more recessions in the mids. The white felt seemed to balance everything out better than the black felt. There’s just a little more treble and bass that are rolled down along with the mids to create a sound that’s neutral to slightly bright, but that retains the bass impact. Personally, I had the strongest preference towards the thin black foam, but the white was also really good. To my taste, both those options provided a more engaging sound to me than the sound out of the box.
While the filters make some subtle changes, the core sound of the AEON 2 Closed remains the same. It’s a broadly neutral headphone, with a well-controlled but powerful low-end, and a surprising amount of detail. It’s speed and dynamics make for highly engaging listening sessions, and I found the tuning to be overall quite addicting. The combination of the tuning and comfort level made for headphones that are great for extended listening sessions, and the isolation puts you in your own little world. Taking the AEON 2 off my head at the end of a listening session is much the same feeling as getting out of a warm bed on winter morning. You just want to press that snooze button and stay for one more song.
Power and Performance
The AEON 2 performs very well with low power sources. I tested it using the headphone jack on my laptop and while the headphone out on most phones might not have enough power, most “dongle” style portable DACs will get the job done no problem. With the phone in particular, I needed it turned up quite loud to achieve good performance, but I was still able to get solid response and some physical energy from the drivers. I also tested it with a handful of DAPs, and got solid dynamics without needing to push the volume too hard.
Of course, it’s all relative. While the AEON 2 may be among the easier to drive planars, there’s still a lot of potential to unlock. Going from standard devices, to lower powered portable DAPs and DACs, and then to more powerful desktop units, there was a strong sense of scaling as you added detail at the source and as you added power. When you plug it into a high end DAC/amp like the Questyle CMA Twelve, there’s a massive improvement in the dynamics, soundstage, and detail. The AEON 2 is equally capable of making due with a little and making use of a lot.
The Bottom Line
The Dan Clark AEON 2 Closed is a jack of all trades – and a master of quite a few. It’s a flat out great headphone for the price, and it delivers dynamics and sound quality on lower powered devices that few planar magnetic headphones can match. With a high level of performance, comfort, and convenience, the AEON 2 Closed is a headphone with something to offer for just about anyone.