Articulate Low End and A Fun Listening Experience
Dan Clark E3 Closed-Back Headphones Review & Comparison [Video]
- Superb low-end articulation and a natural and lively signature
- Non-fatiguing highs
- Super-comfortable, foldable, portable design
The Dan Clark Audio Experience
The new 5th-gen driver in the E3 improves upon the Stealth driver, offering a more natural and lively presentation. The driver uses DCA's patented v-Planar technology to reduce total harmonic distortion and improve low-frequency extension. Additionally, diaphragm tension is set on an all-new system for a more uniform and consistent tension, lower distortion, and better driver matching, while FEA and CFD-optimized motor structures increase driver force uniformly and smooth acoustic paths to reduce distortion.
What is Dan Clark's Acoustic Metamaterial Tuning System?
Metamaterial: A metamaterial (from the Greek word μετά , meaning "beyond," and the Latin word materia, meaning "matter" or "material") is any material engineered to have a property that is not found in naturally occurring materials. They are made from assemblies of multiple elements fashioned from composite materials such as metals and plastics. The materials are usually arranged in repeating patterns, at scales that are smaller than the wavelengths of the phenomena they influence. Metamaterials derive their properties not from the properties of the base materials, but from their newly designed structures. Their precise shape, geometry, size, orientation, and arrangement gives them their smart properties capable of manipulating electromagnetic waves: by blocking, absorbing, enhancing, or bending waves, to achieve benefits that go beyond what is possible with conventional materials. -Wikipedia
So all this is to say that the E3 sounds good, right? Color me impressed. I took a long time to find the nuances of the E3 and how it stacks up with other Dan Clark Audio headphones and some other closed-backs at around the same price. I'll try not to get too complicated here, but here's what I heard:
For reference and - my testing setup - I used the E3 with the Matrix Audio Element M2 Music Streamer and a Blue Dragon Premium Cable for Dan Clark Audio Headphones. I also paired it with the iBasso DX320 DAP for portable listening.
The E3 might be my favorite DCA headphones of the bunch here. It has wonderfully low-end detail - it's precise and articulate - the low-end response is just the first exceptional thing that stands out to me. Come Together by the Beatles - you can hear the trail off of the sustained bass, and the exact moment the signal gets muted. Despite everything else going on rhythmically in that song, it's there. There's a wonderful smooth mids presentation - the vocal range mids are what set this E3 apart from the rest of the headphones here. Reasons Why by Nickel Creek - the vocals are incredibly intimate and close in the mix. The E3 has a much cleaner presentation of this than the Liric from Meze Audio for example. It's a touch more in the forefront on the Liric, but on the E3 it's almost like you're hearing a simulated gate on the vocal - you still hear all the detail, the saliva noises - what are those called? Spittle? Sialoquacious? But it doesn't sound as hot or in the forefront. It's cleaner because you're still not missing anything but I imagine the wider soundstage plays a role in providing more room for the vocal performance to stand apart.
by The Beatles
by Nickel Creek
by Fiction Family
by Aaron Copland
Dan Clark Audio Headphone Comparisons
The Stealth and Expanse are on the top of the Dan Clark Audio totem pole with flagship-level sound - the Stealth being the closed-back headphone and the Dan Clark Expanse the open-back. The Stealth is a superb headphone for just about any occasion. Balanced sound, smooth yet highly detailed, relaxed, clean, nicely placed mids, deceptively wide soundstage, and a sound that is beautifully natural and organic. Design-wise the E3 takes a lot of cues from the Stealth, with the same updated folding mechanism, amazing comfort, and quality materials. They're both sleek-looking headphones to be sure, but they'll serve very different purposes I think - primarily with their sound and of course not to mention the price difference. The Stealth leans much more to the analytical side of things than the E3, with a plethora of detail and clarity. I was surprised that even the HD820 had a touch better bass response than the Stealth, but the thing that excels here is that the high frequencies are not fatiguing at all - thanks in large part to the AMTS. I personally preferred the E3's bass articulation, but if you like to pick out every single detail in your music, then the Stealth is one of the best headphones out there for it.
Other Headphone Comparisons
Let's compare some non-Dan Clark Audio headphones here. First up I want to take a look at what I think is the natural competitor here: the Liric from Meze Audio. It's no surprise that I'm a huge fan of Meze - I love their designs, their sound, and tuning. All of it. It's one of our favorite closed-back planars here at Moon Audio. The price-to-performance ratio is superb in our opinion and it's a stellar-looking set of cans.
The other non-DCA headphones I want to take a look at is the Sennheiser HD820 - a closed-back dynamic in the close-to $2000 range. Right off the bat, the HD820 is going to be one of the best headphones on the market for analytical listeners. For those who like an exorbitant amount of clarity and detail, the Sennheiser house sound is a detail freak's dream come true. And, like the E3, sports a Gorilla Glass covering on the outside of the earcup and chamber.
For my testing session, I paired the E3 with our Blue Dragon Premium Cable for Dan Clark Audio Headphones. The Blue Dragon Cable is a wonderful way to add clarity without coloration to your favorite audiophile headphones. With the neutrality of the Black Dragon and the clarity of the Silver Dragon, the copper-based Blue Dragon will "clean" the sound of your headphones without warming or brightening it. You can think of the Blue Dragon like a wipe for your eyeglass lenses: You're removing obstructions to the best view but not altering your prescription.
Our HiFi Audio Dragon Cables bring out more of what you love in your music and audio gear. If you love your headphones but wish they had a bit more top-end sparkle - a Silver Dragon Headphone Cable would be a great option. If your USB cables keep dying - as many stock cables do - then check out our quality USB Audio Cables. We say time and time again that materials matter, and our audio cables and custom geometries actually help to bring out those desired properties in your gear and music. We make tons of custom options for our customers so that you can get the right HiFi Audio cable for your exact needs. If you have any questions feel free to Contact Us and we'll be more than happy to help.
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What's in the Box
-Travel Hard Case