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Dan Clark Audio E3

Closed hi-fi headphones for "open" sound

In a nutshell

Dan Clark Audio’s E3 planar-magnetic hi-fi headphones are reminiscent of open-back models despite their closed-back design. The headphones also impressed us with their high-quality, long cable, great workmanship and lightweight materials. They offered wonderfully differentiated mids but were somewhat restrained in terms of volume.

Pros:
  • Finely resolved sound
  • Differentiated mids
  • High wearing comfort
  • Compact portability
  • Technology taken from more expensive models
Cons:
  • Only moderate volumes possible
  • Price-performance ratio strongly depends on expectations
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The Dan Clark Audio E3 are classy closed over-ear headphones with a high-quality interchangeable cable for detailed hi-fi enjoyment at moderate volume.

Although the price of the Dan Clark Audio E3 may already be in the premium range for many customers, the manufacturer places these closed hi-fi headphones in their mid-range segment. This is not surprising when you consider that Dan Clark Audio is known for its high-quality and not exactly inexpensive premium headphones and that the E3 incorporates the technology and ergonomic refinements of far more expensive models. With the E3, Dan Clark Audio aims to provide the same sound experience with closed headphones that is possible with the open headphones from its own portfolio. Now let’s take a look at whether the Californian manufacturer succeeds with the E3.

Dan Clark Audio E3 Package

The Dan Clark Audio E3 arrive in a cardboard box with a magnetic closure, and in addition to the headphones themselves, the package includes a soft case with a zip. A drawstring fabric bag is also included, and the enclosed 6.3 mm jack cable can be stored inside. This is a high-quality VIVO cable, which costs several hundred euros in the shops by itself. There is also a cleaning cloth to polish the glass backs of the earcups. The certificate of authenticity that comes with these headphones ensures that they are original. Last but not least, there are two stickers in the E3’s storage box. Surprisingly, these feature the logos of the amplifier company Fortin and the guitar pedal manufacturer Stone Deaf.

Material and construction of the Dan Clark Audio E3

In terms of colour, the headphones are surprising, with a black base and a few blue elements. For example, the seams of the elaborately stitched headband casing and the logo embroidered on it are in blue. The combination of materials, including titanium and aluminium, makes these headphones both robust and lightweight. Another material used in the E3 is Gorilla Glass, which is as scratch and break-resistant as it is decorative. It forms the back of the earcups. The suggestion of mesh under the glass gives an indication that these closed headphones are aiming to compete with open models. There are small holes in the glass to allow excess bass energy to escape. This is intended to prevent the bass from building up, among other things.

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Technology and values of the Dan Clark Audio E3

Inside the E3, there are planar magnetic drivers at work. They are continuously being further developed by Dan Clark Audio and are now in their fifth generation. With their patented V-planar technology, the membrane is pleated using a special knurling. This is intended to ensure lower distortion and better bass. The AMTS (Acoustic Metamaterial Tuning System) familiar from top models Corina, Stealth and Expanse is also included in front of the diaphragms. It is tuned to the headphones and prevents annoying resonances in the high-frequency range. Surprisingly, as with their top models, the manufacturer gives no indication of the frequency range covered by the Dan Clark Audio E3. We measured an average impedance of 27.75 ohms; this ensures that these high-class headphones can be used not only with high-quality headphone amplifiers but also with smartphones and laptops without any problems. They achieved a maximum sound pressure level of 91.15 dB SPL, making them among the quieter models available.

Handling of the Dan Clark Audio E3

The Dan Clark Audio E3’s cable is 3.15 metres long, giving you plenty of freedom of movement. Its four-pin connector plugs are equipped with a mechanism that secures them to the underside of the ear cups when plugged in. The E3’s headband is identical to the one on the top models Stealth and Expanse. It automatically adjusts to your head size when you put the headphones on. As the headphones are foldable, they can be reduced to a small size and transported in a manner that saves space. However, the folding mechanism of these headphones is somewhat unusual. In fact, I didn’t manage to fold them in such a way that they fitted back into the transport case on my first attempt. A little practice is required to fold them away correctly.

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These headphones are ergonomically designed, right down to the ear cups and ear pads. They are roughly the shape of the outer ears and, therefore, enclose them almost perfectly. Thanks to the soft, comfortable ear pads, you won’t notice the relatively high contact pressure (in terms of measurement technology) when wearing these headphones. This means they are comfortable to wear even during longer listening sessions. The contact pressure is also necessary, as the E3 weigh 455g without the cable. Fast head movements can cause slippage, so this pressure is certainly necessary.

Sound of the Dan Clark Audio E3

Dan Clark Audio describe the sound of the E3 as detailed, dynamic and round, with powerful bass, silky mids and high-resolution but smooth highs. However, the very first sounds that the Dan Clark Audio E3 brought to my ears made it clear to me that – depending on the audio production being listened to – its mids were very perceptible and differentiated. This was especially true when it came to the presence of vocals in some pop productions. Having said that, the mid-range of vocals, guitars and synthesizers revealed details that other headphones might conceal. They could also be used to listen to guitar-heavy music without the sound becoming too cutting.

The trebles above were rich in detail, right up to the open and wide super high-frequency range.

At the other end of the frequency range, the headphones had a rounded rather than powerful bass range. Low bass was also reproduced well. If you like powerful bass, then you are not in the right place here. This was because, in the style of planar-magnetic models, the bass reproduction was discreet compared to dynamic headphones. However, this fitted in perfectly with the overall sound of the E3.

If you listen to music with these headphones, then you will pay more attention to the sound they reproduce than to their volume. As such, the E3 offered an impressive stereo width and a fine signal resolution, which also resulted in a really good depth gradation.

In terms of dynamics, the E3 were more for quiet to moderate listening. This was because if the headphone amp outputs more than a moderate signal level, it could lead to distortion that is widely distributed across the frequency spectrum. Both the acoustic isolation from the outside and the attenuation of external noise were surprisingly low with these headphones, considering that they are a closed model. For my taste, classical music, in particular, benefited from the E3’s fine signal resolution and wide stereo width.

Conclusion

With the Dan Clark Audio E3, buyers get an ergonomically well-positioned, foldable pair of closed headphones with high wearing comfort and excellent workmanship that makes a high-quality package thanks to the cable.

The planar-magnetic drivers delivered a finely resolved sound that was very differentiated, especially in the mid-range. The bass range, by contrast, was discreet, while the treble was wide and open. In fact, the sound of this closed model was reminiscent of the sound of open headphones. The manufacturer actually uses a kind of small cheat here with bass openings in the ear cups. Even though the E3 has the technology of much more expensive models, I was not entirely happy with the price-performance ratio due to its very restrained volume and the distortion that quickly occurred. For me, personally, this severely restricted the possible uses of these headphones and also limited the signal dynamics that you can experience with them. But all that is, of course, a matter of taste. The bottom line is that Dan Clark Audio has kept their word, and with the E3, they offer classy hi-fi headphones with a sound that is very reminiscent of open headphones.

4 weeks ago by Carsten Kaiser
  • Rating: 3.88
  • Sound
  • Handling
  • Price/Quality
  • Function

Measurement Results

Frequency response:

Exterior noise damping:
More measurement results

Technical specifications

  • Ear couplingOver-ear
  • Typeclosed
  • Transducer principleplanar magnetic
  • Impedance27.75 ohms
  • Sound pressure level (SPL)91.15 dB
  • Pressure averaged from big and small head793 g
  • Weight with cable562 g
  • Weight without cable455 g
  • Cable length315 cm

What's in the box

  • 6.3 mm jack cable
  • Soft case
  • Fabric bag with drawstring
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Certificate of authenticity
  • Sticker

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