REVIEW: MR SPEAKERS AEON FLOW HEADPHONES
From humble beginnings selling modified headphones on forums to 3D printing custom cups, Mr Speakers has gone on to become one of the world's most respected headphone companies. We take a closer look at the AEON Flow Headphones.
Open or Closed Back Planar Magnetic Headphones
I first discovered the headphone brand “Mr Speakers” back in 2013. I had purchased a pair of Fostex T50RP planar magnetic headphones, and after not being satisfied with the sound, I researched how to modify them.
Low and behold, I discovered a man named Dan Clark, who was the resident expert of this research. Based on his research and following his advice, my T50RP were incredibly transformed.
I was so impressed, I eventually purchased a pre-modified pair of T50RP directly from Mr Speakers called “Mad Dogs”. They remained a favourite in my collection for a long time.
I've kept a loose eye on Mr Speakers in the years since then. From humble beginnings selling modified headphones on forums to 3D printing custom cups, Dan Clark continues to run the company which today both designs and creates headphones from the ground up out of the USA.
The AEON series is the latest offering from this brand, and after its release in 2017, it became an instant cult classic. Featuring planar magnetic drivers, a unique build and excellent tuning accessories, audiophiles across the world sing praises about the AEON. I must admit that I was also quite excited to get my hands on a pair after hearing all the hype.
Coming in at $1,395, they are head to head with other planar magnetic monsters, the Audeze LCD 2C ($999) and the HiFiMAN HE-560 ($1,249).
So, what's all the fuss about then? Let's find out.
Packaging and materials
Included in this release is:
- A hard shell carrying case
- New “DUMMER” 1/4” and 3.5mm dual-tip fabric covered headphone cable
- 4 x different sets of tuning materials
- Hand-signed certificate of authenticity
Once you open up the unusually shaped black hard case to find the AEON perched inside, you may be a little surprised by what you see.
The frame of the AEON is a teardrop shape (unlike the rounded shape of its planar magnetic cousins from HiFiMAN and Audeze) and is accentuated with a fantastic speckled blue/black paint job that looks like it would be at home on a brand new European sports car.
The headband is a two-part mechanism: the metal top section is made from nickel-titanium, which allows for rigid stability but also has some flexibility to adapt to different sized heads. The strap underneath is a dyed-through leather headband, which gently cradles the top of the head when worn. Size and fitting adjustments are made via soft gimbals either side of the headband, which has the words “Flow” gently embossed over them.
The protein leather pads are chunky but have a soft depth to them that allows the drivers to sit close to your ear. If pads were bed pillows, a noise-cancelling headphone would have the hardest pillows that you find in the cheapest hotel. AEON, however, features soft pillows that your head sinks right into, the type you find in an upmarket luxury hotel.
The headband, combined with the gentle pads allowed me to wear the AEON for hours upon hours without requiring a break, every day in the office during my testing period.
The AEON comes in both open and closed back flavours. The open back version features a sleek black honeycomb grill, with a black foam inner lining. The closed-back version sports a more aggressive carbon fibre style cup. Each of these units uses the same internals, drivers, cabling and technology; only the enclosure type is different.
Even the weight is mostly the same: 340 grams for the closed-back version, vs 321 grams for the open. Both models feature the same fabric covered removable cable, which is also compatible with the Mr Speakers Ether models.
Inside the headphone
Usually, in a pair of over-ear headphones, you would expect a pair of dynamic drivers. Mr Speakers, however, utilises planar magnetic technology (similar to Audeze, HifiMAN, and some Oppo and Fostex models). Planar magnetic technology is similar in some ways to traditional dynamic drivers, but with much larger magnets which focus on the entire diaphragm of the drivers, instead of just the voice coil.
As well as this, Mr Speakers also claim that the way they use planar magnetic technology is different, due to their “Trueflow motor optimisation” technology.
In Mr Speakers' words:
All planar magnetic drivers utilise magnets in their motors. These magnets create right-angles audio waves must pass, creating turbulence in the audio waveform that masks lower level details. Simply stated, TrueFlow technology fills in the area between magnets with perforated material so the driver is moving air through a flat, perforated surface free from right angels. The result is a remarkable increase in resolution and dynamics, and extended frequency response.
Included in the package are tuning materials which fit into the earcups of each ear (right in front of the driver). These materials have a range of density and thicknesses so that you can tailor the sound ever-so-slightly to your liking. An expanded tuning materials package is also available for purchase if you feel so inclined.
Using the headphone
With an impedance of 13 ohms and an efficiency rating of 92dB/mW (94dB/mW for the open type), these things are thirsty for power. While the days of large, old planar magnetic headphones that require a petrol generator to drive them are gone, you'll still need something with some horsepower behind it to drive these to perfection. My Matrix Quattro did the job beautifully, but the AEON's also sing a brilliant song when matched with the Arcam rHead amplifier.
The teardrop-shaped enclosures seem like an unusual fit at first, but after a few minutes of listening, the shape very quickly makes plenty of sense. It contours neatly around the edge of the jawline, leaving more of your face exposed to air than a pair of regular over-ear headphones.
The isolation (with the closed-back version) is adequate for what you would expect; not quite as isolating as the Beyerdynamic DT770, but also not as open as the old Denon D5000. But, as you can tell by its non-folding frame and generous proportions, this isn't a travel headphone. What we have here is very much a “stay at home and relax on the couch” pair of headphones.
After firing up the Arcam rHead amplifier, I started things off with the London Music Works version of STAY, from the Interstellar soundtrack. As soon as I hit play, the AEON flexed its dynamic range capability as if to invite me to challenge it further. As the organ comes in at around the 1:40 mark, it's incredibly easy to not only pinpoint its exact location in the mix but also admire the haunting timbre of the instrument itself. The delicate reverb tails from each instrument are replicated perfectly, all the way into pitch black. The track sounds detailed and powerful, and more of an enjoyable listen, rather than a clinical one. The soundstage here is relatively good but doesn't deliver as many crazy “out of the head” moments as say, the Sennheiser HD800.
Next was the epic sounds of Adieu by What So Not. As the bass slams its way into your head at around 35 seconds, the AEON shows off that famous tight planar bass. It may not have the same slam as some of its cousins from Audeze, so I threw in a little touch of EQ. To my delight, the AEON loved every bit of EQ I threw at them, allowing me to tune them to any sound signature I please. Even with a juicy, driving bassline of this song, the AEON retained all of its composure and delicacy in the midrange, whilst showing off a few “back of the mix” details at the same time that I've missed in the past with other headphones.
To quench the thirst for bass, I headed over to Percee Scan by SCNTST and buckled myself in. This song has a particularly fun start, with a constant kick drum that ever so gently becomes heavier after the 20-second mark. If you're listening to a pair of headphones without much detail or control in the low end, this bass change is often easy to miss. However, the detail in the low end of the AEON makes this change easily detectable. I did find myself reaching for the EQ to enjoy the full bass slam of this song, but the frankly ridiculous photocopier samples peppered throughout this track were both engaging and fun with the AEON's midrange. So much so, I found myself listening to this song on repeat for way too long with the AEON.
In my opinion, there are a few properties that a well made planar magnetic headphone should exhibit: Bass that is tight and flat, a midrange that is detailed, deep and engrossing, and a top-end that shouldn't burn your face off. I'm happy to report that the AEON checks these three boxes with ease. Vocals sound realistic but not too bright, instruments sound natural and realistic, bass down low is tight and punchy, there's no painful sibilance up top, and overall there are plenty of toe-tapping moments to be had.
As far as planar magnetics go, this one is a golden child. It ticks all of the boxes that many more expensive planars don't. With unique but charming physical styling, excellent accessories, a two-year warranty and a sound signature that is almost perfect, the AEON Flow from Mr Speakers have found their way to my top ten “desert island” list.
- Frequency response: Yes (Sorry, this specification is abused to the point of silliness, so we don't publish one - Mr Speakers.)
- Efficiency: 97dB/mW
- Weight (without cable): 340g
- Cable: Dual entry
For more information, visit Mr Speakers.
Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.
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