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Once upon a time in a land before globally life altering virus events, I vaguely remember my scant headphone listening time as merely a fun change of pace to my beloved loudspeaker set up. Interesting how a one-time dalliance is now a mental health necessity in my house which stuffed tight with a full time working wife, two elementary-aged daughters, and a fluffy pandemic puppy. I don’t think it is a quantum leap to see why I was champing at the bit when I got wind that the new closed back Æon 2 Noire headphones from Dan Clark Audio were heading my way. Having loved my experience when reviewing the former Mr. Speakers Æon in 2018, I was highly anticipating experiencing what Dan Clark could do with more budget, a folding and a closed back design to take me far, far, far… far away from the all too familiar domestic grind.


Famed designer Dan Clark needs little to no introduction to the headphone buying world evidenced by the first production run of the new Noire line sold out instantly when launched in Dec 2020. Maybe the initial welcome has to do in part with Noire now including the highly-requested all black metallic paint colour. I had plenty of time to ogle this beautiful new finish myself while I studiously waited out the full 75+ hours break in period and have to say they do present a quietly sophisticated look paired with the unique Æon ear cup shape that is by now a standard. In many ways comparing the new Noire against the existing Æon 2 you will find that the Noire is an updated improvement rather than a radical departure from the A2’s successful design. The Noire and the A2’s are both built with Dan Clark’s personal time tested second generation 62mm × 34mm single-ended planar magnetic driver, but note that the Noire drivers show an improvement in the driver matching at +/- 1.5dV between 30Hz and 5kHz (the A2 claimed an 2dB matching of drivers). The Noire’s driver like the A2 includes some Dan Clark Audio technology standards like the Trueflow system which improves the headphones ability to produce microdetail by allowing more airflow through the motor. Afficionados will also be familiar with the extremely effective patented V-Planar driver processing, which molds the textures on the driver surface for low-frequency optimization and diaphragm stability. To round our similarities with the original A2, Noire also shares the unique folding gimbal design for the Nitinol memory metal headband. This comfortable and extremely light headband and leather strap will fold into a conveniently included lightweight custom travel case. As the world sets its sights back on normal this year the folding gimbal is a benefit that should pay buyers dividends down when you launch into your 2021 revenge travel campaign. For me, the folding gimbal mechanism took a bit of practice to master with my clumsy meathooks but ultimately just looked more fragile than it actually was. These cans will be welcome in even the smallest of carry-ons and should hold up to the rigours of travel.

Similarities with the A2 abound, but before you make this mistake of thinking the Noire is merely a recycled Æon, let me now illustrate a notable improvement where the Noire has left the A2 behind. Perhaps the most exciting refinement found new in the Noire is in a change to the perforated ear pads construction. The original Æon earpads were comprised of a solid surface on the inner wall of the pad closest to the ear. The Noire uses a newly built inner wall where half of the wall is fenestrated (perforated) synthetic Japanese protein leather, and half the wall remains solid like the old A2 pad. “What kind of tech can possibly be in a leather pad?” I hear you saying. Well, actually this new construction of the inner pad wall is responsible for the Noire’s new turning to be almost exactly aligned with the Harman Curve. Briefly, the Harman Curve is a target frequency response for what an ideal pair of well engineered headphones should exhibit. The idea was introduced to the community in 2013 when headphone whiz Sean Olive (and the Harman team) published his findings. The curve is in some ways a nexus of characteristics appreciated by the collective headphone listening community as well as specific individual measurements and Dan Clark Audio is bought in to the concept. In conversation with Mr. Clark, he expounded upon the Noire’s crucial earpad development, “the perforations allow energy at specific frequencies to be absorbed by the foam in the ear pads, which allows us to reduce the output in the midrange giving us the characteristic response of the Harmon curve.” Mr. Clark heeds that any headphone’s voicing is not something to be over-looked and few competitors prioritize this technology to give the earpads their rightful due in the final sound output.

The Dan Clark Audio website states about the Noire that “the result of all the updates is a ‘lighter’ sounding midrange and a soundstage that moves the ‘stage’ a bit further from the listener for a wider and deeper space.” In my 2 months with the Noires I can confirm this assertion is deadly accurate. In fact, I will take it one step further to scientifically suggest Noire listening feels like having your brain and music fused together in a honey waterfall and laid on a candy cane bed adorned with marshmallow pillows. A moment of levity, but the intention is sincere. Even the screeching raw punk music and the shredding heavy metal I threw at the Noire’s seemed to have more ‘do-able’ presentation I could actually relax and enjoy as opposed to white knuckles and gritting of teeth usually required. I knew in about 45 seconds of donning the Noires that by a long shot these were most effective anti-fatigue headphones I had ever had on my dome. The sound is in fact strikingly ‘pretty,’ but this is not at all meant to imply the Noire detracted from earest music. In fact, it rather enhanced some of my favourite intensity-soaked recordings by finally enabling me to at last add more volume without cringing.


To further draw out this point let me point you to some good old fashioned 1992 Seattle grunge courtesy of the Screaming Trees Sweet Oblivion [Epic]. So yes, the Trees aren’t going to unseat the Rolling Stones any time soon as the worlds most talented rock band, but damnit all if this record isn’t class A, kick-the-amplifier-off-the-stage Rock N’ Roll. At about 2:40 into Troubled Times (24bit/192kHz via Qobuz and through my Oppo HA-1 headphone amplifier) when St. Lanegan is getting his pipes nice and lubed up in time with the jet fueled guitar the Noire’s assets plainly made their worth known. Few headphones I have auditioned can gift this often stale chunky grunge such a mesmerizing top end extension that it so desperately needs to breath. This track can easily fall into the dull sound of just another 90’s record, but Noire kept pumping it full of space at the top which kept every second fresh and lively. In an A/B comparison with my reference open back set of Focal Elears I had gotten used to allowing this track to become a turn it down and save my ear drums situation and it never gripped me the way it deserved. Listening with the Noire I felt like I could finally lean into the music, and lean hard. Yes some small subtleties were missing in a head to head with the capable Elears, but not enough to panic or disparage. I also never felt myself missing the open design of the Elear. The sound from the Noire was plenty open and spacious for a noise blocking closed back design. It was not just hard rock where the Noire’s excelled, but well recorded Jazz percussion that seemed to continually garner my review notes throughout the Noire audition. Flip on the track Contemplation (24bit/192kHz) from McCoy Tyner’s The Real McCoy [Blue Note] and enjoy a truly excellent percussion recording Elvin Jones & Rudy Van Gelder have left for us. The relaxed essence of Elvin’s drum line to my ears found new life and much more space than I was expecting. Contemplation has always been a great track to monitor how much and what quality of ‘air’ a good pair of cans can pick up around a drum kit. Noire’s contributed noticeable pockets of additional space around the cymbals. Irresistible cat-nip if you happen to be a jazz cymbal head like myself. Again I just had more fun listening to the Noire and top to bottom and gave just about every piece of music I tried a very pleasing spin on what I was used to previously.

I appreciated the fact that Dan Clark further bolstered the Æon 2 design and sound while still holding onto the very attractive price point. At this price I think Noire makes a very attractive purchase for a serious listener who knows more often than naught their listening sessions will extend past the hour long mark. If you live in a quiet controlled environment, yes you probably can seek out and find a headphone that does any one thing better than the Noire, but interacting in the real world at this price you aren’t going to find anything as close to as enjoyable, comfortable, and convenient as the finished product you get with the Noire.



  • Type: Circum-aural
  • Drivers: Single-Ended Planar Magnetic Driver
  • Frequency response: not listed
  • Distortion: not listed
  • Weight: not listed
  • Price: £899

Manufacturer: Dan Clark

URL: danclarkaudio.com

Tel: +1 (619) 501-6313


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