The original AEON 2 garnered a lot of praise when it was initially released. Not only from us here at MajorHiFi but around the audiophile community as well. It was the first headphone to be branded as a Dan Clark product, as they were transitioning from Mr Speakers. Their planar and electrostatic models have each impressed me with their clean, crisp sound signatures, and simple, compact builds. However, I personally don’t believe they have yet to have their ace headphone. Dan Clark has now released a brand new version of their acclaimed AEON 2, called the AEON 2 Noire. This isn’t just a new coloration of the AEON 2, but a new tuning as well. The Noire looks to update the renowned experience of the AEON 2 and reintroduce it to a wider array of listeners.
What You Get
I always say the same thing whenever I see a box from Dan Clark. “How on earth does a headphone fit in there?” Then I say the exact same thing when I first saw the Noire’s protective hard case. The earcups retract into each other, making the headphones more compact and easier to pack in smaller spaces. Along with the headphones, you’ll, of course, receive its removable quarter-inch, 2m DUMMER cable which uses dual mini-XLR as headphone connectors. You also have the option to substitute that quarter-inch for four-pin XLR as well.
Aside from your usual manual, the Noire offers one more unique set of contents. This tuning kit includes three sets of different materials, black foam, black felt and two notches in white. With these materials, you’ll insert these pads in the Noire’s “ear-well” and it will help shape the tuning to your taste. They act as dampeners, with the black foam having the least effect, to the 2 notches in white having the most.
Look and Feel
Although the Noire may appear similar in structure to its predecessor, there are enough differences here to warrant an in-depth look. Of course, there’s the new paint job, which gives the Noire a fitting metallic black paint. A very goth headphone. The lightweight nature of Dan Clark’s headphone might give you the impression that they’re made from cheaper parts, but that’s not the case. The Noire opts to combine carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium, making for a more durable build. They’ve found a design philosophy that keeps their headphones strong yet ultra-light, and that can be felt when wearing the Noire.
I’ve always been a fan of the AEON’s circumaural earcups and with the addition of new perforated earpads, the Noire becomes one of the comfier over-ear headphones around. Although they may clap just a bit, and the headband might not be the easiest to adjust, the Noire rests naturally over your ears, fitting like a glove even to my giant ears.
The Noire might be closed-back, but it still keeps its planar principle that is 100% proprietary. Designed in-house at Dan Clark, this transducer uses their patented TrueFLow technology, which uses a reduced magnet size to minimize weight, as well as provide airflow through the motor, enhancing detail retrieval. The driver surface is textured using Dan Clark’s patented V-planar driver processing for improved low-frequency performance and better diaphragm stability.
Usually, I find Dan Clark headphones particularly hard to drive. Although 3.5mm connections are an option, I wouldn’t go using it with just any ordinary smartphone or laptop headphone output. The iFi Zen Can with an added 12dB of gain was able to produce a comfortable level of volume where I felt like I was getting the full experience of the Noire, where not only was the sound properly amplified, but the details too.
While the Noire might lack in some less extended width, it sure makes up for it in its layering. Most of the time I felt like the majority of the sound was too centered, even for a planar. I would say it’s more in line with what you’d expect from Audeze’s closed-back models. The Noire has a respectable amount of width, but even classical tracks have trouble articulating an exact position within the image. However, the spacing and depth are what sells me on this soundstage.
Although the Noire has some trouble with articulating busier tracks, the sense of depth is extended greatly. Whatever you cant ear in the extreme left/right space, you’ll definitely be able to hear deep within your headspace. Using the 3D feature on the ZEN CAN added some nice height to the stage, showcasing more airy qualities in the sound signature. Otherwise, the Noire sticks it pretty close here, but the image still finds ways to sound clear without having a wide stereo field.
Nothing about the bass really stuck out to me at first, but the more I listened, the more satisfying it became. It doesn’t have an immediate impact, and it certainly lacks sub-bass, but certain tracks offer a deep resonance that permeated through selections like “Among The Sef” by Colin Stetson. Here, the track emitted a low rumble that found ways to shake me. Whatever you couldn’t hear, you could definitely feel.
The midrange isn’t the biggest standout of this sound signature. Some accentuation in the low and high mids is present, but the middle appears a little thin. They’re not completely scooped out, but never really make a significant impression on the timbre as a whole. Some vocal performances have a bit of emphasis while others sound distant and relegated to the background when they should be front and center.
One of the more immediate qualities of the Noire is its treble, which isn’t for everyone. This headphone loves its sibilance and presents it with confidence. The highs have a sizzling brightness that creates an enhanced reproduction of instruments and effects. Reverbs have perceivable tails that permeate through the sound field. The timbre is respectably clean and certain elements come through with a crisp tonality. If you’re not a fan of this extension, the dampening tuning pads will definitely help smooth out those frequencies.
While showing some similarities with its previous iteration, the Noire is a worthy update to one of Dan Clark’s most notorious headphones. Exhibiting a sleek new black coloration, and unique new tuning options making this a more versatile product. When supplied with the right peripherals, the Noire will definitely deliver, but with a base price of $899.99, you might be spending more than you originally thought.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Design, deep soundstage, exciting highs
Cons: Weak output, headband adjuster
The Dan Clark AEON 2 Noire is available at Audio 46.
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