MrSpeakers Aeon Over-Ear Sealed Planar Magnetic Headphones

It's pretty amazing, really. I would say Sankar Thiagasamudram of Audeze, Fang Bian of HiFiMAN, and Dan Clark of MrSpeakers—all of whom got their start within the headphone enthusiast community—have revolutionized the headphone world with their planar magnetic designs over the past ten years. HiFiMAN has a pretty diversified offering of products and provides a one-stop on-line shopping experience, but their planar magnetic designs have continued to evolve and put pressure on the other two competitors. Audeze had some some money behind it, and they've taken full advantage by assembling a tip-top R&D team focussing tightly on planar magnetic technologies and now has a crushing hold on a good chunk of the premium headphone market. Meanwhile Dan Clark at MrSpeakers has been slowly but surely evolving from one guy with a soldering iron modifying Fostex T50RPs, to a small business with a 3D printer and making the headphones for the Fostex PM driver, to a full fledged manufacturer making every component for their headphones and mightily plodding on.

I'd say all three have run a close race amongst themselves, and in the process put significant pressure on and taken market share from traditional headphone manufacturers in the $500+ headphone market. But of the three, my impression is that MrSpeakers has most reliably produced ever increasing sound quality in their development efforts. I wasn't a big fan of their original T50RP modified products (others did it better to my ears), but in the intervening years they've consistently improved product performance. It comes as no surprise to me, therefore, that the new Aeon is yet another step forward in planar magnetic performance.

What is a surprise is how damned good it is...and at a relatively affordable price relative to recent offerings from others. This one's gonna leave a mark.

MrSpeakers Aeon ($799)
The Aeon is an around-ear, sealed, planar magnetic headphone. Its carbon fiber teardrop shape is its most striking and unusual design feature...I was initially a little off-put by the alien shape, but now have grown to quite like it, mostly for its ergonomic benefits. I can't see it while it's on my head after all.

Materials are top-notch. Headband is leather and earpads are high-quality protein leather; ear-capsule covers are carbon fiber; baffle plate and gimbal arms are cast aluminum; Nitinol headband arches deliver excellent caliper pressure and headband adjustment. The serial number is laser etched inside the upper left gimbal arm; and cables, connectors, and carry case are all brutally appropriate. This is a very well built headphone.

Ear pads are soft protein leather over ample memory foam attached to the baffle plate with adhesive tape and should not be removed unless pads are being replaced. Although replacement pads are not currently on the MrSpeakers' site, they will be before too long.

Comfort is very good, if not great. I had a phone call with Dan regarding the earpiece tear drop shape, which he explained is integral to its ergonomic performance. If you run the edge of your thumb down the side of your head just in front of your ear, you'll find there is a groove running fairly straight down behind your cheek and jaw bone, and in front of the ear. The front of the ear pad seals in this groove very nicely. Adding the internal foam tuning insert does take up a little space in the earcup, and my ears do slightly touch them, but I found no discomfort as they're nice and soft.

The floating headband pad conforms very nicely to the top of your head providing a secure fit without any hot spots at the top of your head. Friction sliders adjust headband size and (if properly tightened) remain securely in place.

MrSpeakers_Aeon_Photo_TrueFlow

TrueFlow spacer is on the diaphragm side of the magnet assembly only.

The magnet structure for the Aeon is single sided and resides between the ear and diaphragm; diaphragm is rectangular in shape. The Aeon does have the TrueFlow™ waveguide technology that fills the spaces in the magnet structure with a mechanical part that makes the passage of air through the magnets less turbulent in an effort to reduce distortion, extend frequency response, and improve dynamics.

MrSpeakers_Aeon_Photo_DiaphragmCircuit

Diaphragm circuit traces on diaphragm are quite thin and finely spaced.

Like the preceding Ether products the Aeon does use the MrSpeakers V-Planar driver technology, which uses a pleated or knurled diaphragm in an effort to cause the surface to move in a more "pistonic" manner. Circuit traces on the diaphragm are quite thin and finely spaced at 0.005" and 0.004" respectively. You can read more about these two technologies here.

Alrightythen, let's have a listen...

COMPANY INFO
MrSpeakers Headphone Products
3366 Kurtz Street
info@mrspeakers.com
619.501.6313
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
robohofo's picture

Plus taxes and shipping. :-).
Though admittedly I was dancing around them for a while. Your approval sealed the deal for me.
Keep it going - love what you do.

zobel's picture

check these first;
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/HD380Pro/reviews
Great sealed cans! Tyll hasn't heard them yet evidently.

Magoo's picture

Tyll,

You don't normally see an $800 HP on the top of your lists...Been looking for a sealed HP but did not want to spend $4k+ . The new Susvara for $6K....ridiculous....

AstralStorm's picture

You must have missed Senn HD600 or Hifiman HE400s which are still on the Open list.

The closed list has much less high end competition too. Weird that ZMF headphones didn't end up there, but they are indeed rolled too much in highs.

inventionlws's picture

I noticed stronger noise isolation in the bass region in the pre-production unit. Something to note. Such a good isolation is real desirable if used as a portable. I guess it is not a issue since it is design to be only transportable.
I'd buy one without blinking in the future if they offer a stripped-down more bassy portable version with great isolation (maybe better sensitivity).

mrspeakers's picture

Pre production units had several generations of ear pads, we had a few that isolated more than the final production but it didn't use memory foam and we had stability and comfort concerns. It is possible to increase isolation, but this requires a denser foam and will almost certainly compromise comfort by feeling too hard. When we tried this people complained about the clamp force so we went with the memory foam.

Phoniac's picture

Is it poossible to adjust the clamp force by bending the headband, like with many other 'steel band inside' headphones?

mrspeakers's picture

Technically Nitinol can be "set" but it's behavior is very different from steel. It's called memory metal because it is quite resistant to deforming. While you might be able to do so you'd probably end up with a messy looking bent headband.

Phoniac's picture

Thanks!

Wick's picture

I have one of the pre-ordered units. How can I tell if my phones are among the batch that may need tuning? Frankly, I'm very pleased with the way they sound now.

mrspeakers's picture

I've wrestled a bit with how to communicate this because I want to ensure everyone is taken care of but also don't want to cause undue concern. If you don't hear from us and feel like the bass to midrange transition is smooth then you're likely not affected. If you don't hear from us but do have a concern, simply contact us at info@mrspeakers.com and we'll go from there.

Wick's picture

What is the recommended way to tighten the headband slide? Is it the black screw that attatches the headband to the slider? Don't want to over tighten.

mrspeakers's picture

Yes, a standard #2 Phillips screwdriver is all that's needed, turn 1/4 turn at a time until it resists before sliding. The material for the slider is similar to a Teflon, it's very low friction so it will never "lock" in place, but properly set it won't move when you take the headphone on or off.

Wick's picture

Really enjoying this headphone.

mrspeakers's picture

Thank you for taking the time to do such a thorough review! And I'm glad our case in no longer Fugly!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Well, I think the shape of the new case is still fugly, but the stealth black helps it remain discrete.

Truth be told, I really like the new case. It's so non-descript I really think it will remain nicely under the radar. That's a lot of good sound in that plane black case. Best not to call too much attention.

mrspeakers's picture

We'll add "ugly case for theft prevention" to the features and benefits. ;-)

steaxauce's picture

I've been looking for a good pair of high-end closed headphones for the office for a while. I've been through the Ether C Flow, MDR-Z1R and AKG K872. I never looked very closely at the Aeon because it was too cheap!

The Ether C Flow was definitely my favorite of the three, but I ended up having to get rid of them because (in spite of good isolation) they leaked too much for office use. Maybe these will be better in that regard?

jhwalker's picture

As far as I can tell, these don't leak at all. In fact, it's very easy to take them off and leave them playing, because the earpieces come together with such a great seal you can't even hear they're still playing!

Iliketrains's picture

Hi Tyll, since you like the AEONs with the inserts in, are all the measurements also done with the foam inserts in, or is it done without them?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
They're all done without filters except the one noted with filters.
jim in cheyenne's picture

Yes, stick to your guns! This is why I love your reviews and very helpful. It is not about the price, it is about the sound, comfort, build and reliability. And it introduces me to the nature of this company. Many thinks!

Spy's picture

It's strange that the NAD HP50 viso isn't on the WoF anymore.

If you compare the freq response of AEON to NAD HP50 they are very similar. Sure, the NADs may have some bass-bleed into the low midrange. Besides that their frequency response curve is strikingly similar. Both have low distortion. Both have good isolation. Sure, the AEONs may be build slightly better and probably have better comfort, but still, the NAD's are almost 1/4th the price. If you can live with the comfort of the NAD HP50's and you don't earn 100$K+ a year, it's a no-brain to go with the NAD HP50's over the AEONs.
But sure, comfort is important, so for that reason alone the AEONS might win some over, cos the NAD HP50's comfort isn't that good.

mkozlows's picture

There's a reason that reviews aren't done by looking at frequency charts without listening to the headphones, though. I have both the HP50 and the Aeon, and they sound nothing alike at all.

The HP50 is very warm, with a bloomy, loosely-defined bass, and rolled-off treble. The Aeon sounds airy and open, with bass that has tightly-controlled impact. They're just totally different.

Spy's picture

Also the AEONS require pretty expensive gear to be driven properly, while the NADs do fine with cheap gear / smartphones / laptops.

gibtg's picture

Why does the thumbnail of the measurements show different measurements than you download when clicking the preview? The thumbnail shows vastly different isolation and sensitivity figures than the pre-production unit!

tinyaudio's picture

because clicking on the image opens the booklet of ALL measurements of the Aeon that were tested, which includes pre-production units.

gibtg's picture

Thank you and I see now that with the my PDF viewer changed it is a booklet but still, what gives with these measurements? 8db variance in isolation? 28 mW variance in power required? WHAT???

Phoniac's picture

Indeed the difference in sensitivity of all production (!) units is unlogically big and needs a comment from Tyll. Typo? Wrong gone measurement?

headwhacker's picture

It looks to me the pre production is the most neutral andhas lowest distortion though have the least isolation.

Argyris's picture

I'd love to see an overlay comparison plot for the effect of the filters. I can eyeball it just by switching between the measurement sheets with and without the filter, but an overlay would make this sort of thing much clearer.

crenca's picture

I am a surprised I am the first to ask it!

My goto traveling HP's are (like so may of us) the Oppo PM-3's. From this review, besides the treble character (which I change anyway's with quality EQ) I can't tell how much of an upgrade (if any) these cans are.

Anyone done a direct comparison or otherwise have a comment?

nishelo's picture

Thanks for the review. Any comparison between the Aeon and the Audioquest Nightowl? I find the prices quite close, any recommendation or comments?

steaxauce's picture

Hey Tyll, you mention that these sound a little dynamically compressed. I know what you mean in terms of sound and I've heard that in plenty of headphones before, but I'm wondering, how does this effect measure? Surely it's not actual dynamic range compression. That would be unexpected.

Bloos's picture

Hey Tyll, in your video you said that you preferred the late production units better than the pre-production unit. Could you comment on why that is?

Morrell Photoarts's picture

Thanks to Tyll and Inner Fidelity for enabling semi-novices like me to purchase better sound. I've had the Aeons for 3 weeks, and completely agree with Tyll's early, enthusiastic review. I need to step up my power from my AK Jr. for concert-level listening, so here's a question: with $600 max, should I use the AK Jr.'s USB-out and buy a DAC/AMP (e.g. Jotunheim), or use the headphone jack and buy a better amp (e.g. Lake People G109s or RS02)? I'm assuming $200 into balance cords would bite too deeply into my budget. Pre-amp outs a plus; I listening to rock/blues and bluegrass.

Wick's picture

Have you found any bluegrass recordings of great audio quality?

Morrell Photoarts's picture

Great question! I'm no expert (yet!). I do like Nickel Creek's "This Side" album, particularly "Smoothie Song." Do I dare mention "Jerry Garcia and David Grisman" from 25 years ago? There's a lovely intimate sound there; I suppose I'm stretching the meaning of blue-grass. I'd love to hear more contemporary suggestions.

jhwalker's picture

Alison Krauss + Union Station: Live is true demo-quality.

Wick's picture

I have the discs, and the sound is good. Audience might even be considered too enthusiastic.

Sean_S's picture

Tyll, have you heard the LCD-XC, and could you compare them to the Aeon?

crenca's picture

...during a review Tyll? The only review you did where you did this (off the top of my head) was the Elear review. Is it "controversial" somehow, or do you find it tedious?

Ra17's picture

Do you think Aeon will be a good match for the oncoming QP2R (http://www.questyleaudio.com/product-QP2R)?

mrspeakers's picture

I wanted to pass on that our shipping guy was out today and I needed his help to finish our service communications to pre-order customers. We'll get the communications out no later than Tuesday.

jim in cheyenne's picture

The problem with good reviews is they can cost me money. Still these are worth it. Great balance, great timbre, beautiful music--and comfortable.
The other 'phones that I use regularly and the NAD Viso, Senn 600/650, and Elears. (I have balanced cables only for the Senn600/650s). The Elears give a greater sense of ambience, the recording space, but that is the only dimension in which I (to this point) feel they are excelled in single ended listening. With that ambience, the Elears are more laid back, the Aeon more immediate.
Also the sound isolation is much better than the NAD Visos. Yes the NADs are attractive at their price point but musically they can't match the Aeons. All in IMHO

CraigS's picture

I’ve had my Aeon headphones for about three weeks and use them at work for 3-4 hours per day. [Computer > Wyred 4 Sound Remedy > CEntrance DACmini.] With respect to sound/build quality, I don’t have much to add to the professional and enthusiast reviews. The Aeons are awesome. Very comfortable, a real joy to listen to, and worth every penny. Thank you to Tyll for pushing me off the fence. FWIW - I also have old Senn HD650s and Mr. Speakers Alpha Primes as well as relatively new Focal Elears (quiet home office with Oppo HA-1).

What I can add to the discussion is a quick note about customer service. I sent MrSpeakers an email about a minor issue I had with the headband sliders. In less than two minutes (no, I’m not making that up) I received reply from Dan which indicated that replacement sliders would be sent. They arrived in a few days and took care of the issue. Well done. Since all of us are forced to constantly deal with poor customer service, I feel that it’s important to acknowledge those who get it right. Keep up the good work.

Holdita's picture

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elinbal's picture

HI TYLL
WHERE WOULD YOU PLACE THE EMU TEAK
IN YOUR WoF LIST?

elinbal's picture

HI TYLL
WHERE WOULD YOU PLACE THE EMU TEAK
IN YOUR WoF LIST?

elinbal's picture

Hi Tyll,
which version are we getting now (8 Augut 2017)? The
differences in isolation are very big.

MDKelly83's picture

Tyll - would you recommend the Aeon for those of us who prefer the Grado house sound but are looking for closed-back cans? I found the Audeze LCD-XC's muddy and veiled, similar to their open-back LCD line. Was considering the MS Ether C Flows till I read your latest review on the Aeon. Or perhaps Fostex? Thanks.

roon215's picture

hello sir, I had a question if, is it poossible to adjust the clamp force by bending the headband like
sarahah app saraha apk, like with many other 'steel band inside' headphones?

D3Buddha's picture

... I have to say, I disagree with the review. The Ether C 1.1 is still my favorite headphone of the two. The Aeon is a great headphone but there is something distinctly organic and "ethereal" about the Ether C that isn't reproduced on Dan's newest offering. The Aeon's seem to have more bass throughout the entire spectrum that weighs the music down slightly, while the Ether's bass seems more controlled and separated from the other frequency ranges. As a result, the Aeon can sound a little boring in comparison to the older Ether C, which feels airy and energetic in comparison. I also believe that the Ether C captures more micro-detail than the Aeon, or at least that is the impression I get from the unique way it resolves the upper frequency range.

roscoe11's picture

...and just in time. I was looking for sealed phones for work and timing couldn't be better. Very musical sound from my Cavalli LC and SPl phonitor mini. Thanks Dan!

Logan Yan's picture

I'm literally about to lay my hands on the Aeon when i heard about this..
Do make a review! :O

Jonabrim's picture

Hi Tyll,

First of all, I'm a big fan of your reviews. I like that you provide subjective backed by objective points.

Second, I own a pair of B&W P7s and love them. They're my first pair of audiophile grade headphones and they've opened up a whole new world of what headphones can sound like. Now I'm ready for bigger and better and I'm trying to decide between the Mr. Speakers Aeon and the Oppo PM-3. Both have made your Wall of Fame, so I know they are both good. The question is, in your opinion are the Aeros worth the $400 difference over the Oppo PM-3s?

HitsOfMisses's picture

I recently purchased 3 WoF recommended models viz. Oppo PM-3, Shure SRH1540, Mr. Speakers Aeon Closed back to perform an AB test. I believe there are a lot of people like me who wants to buy a good, versatile, travel/ office headphone & don't want to invest in an Amp yet.

For comparison, I used my trusted Sony MDR-7506 with an upgraded Beyerdynamic velour earpads & tested on iPhone X & Oppo BDP-105 blu-ray player. I must reiterate here that I did not use any dedicated HP amp. For that, I relied on Oppo's reference DAC & built-in amplifier. The music was streamed via Youtube & Pandora. Now I do agree that lossless Hi-Fi audio source can make a huge difference. But that's not the route I'll be taking anytime soon.

I don't claim myself as a professional or an audiophile. However, I love to sing & have had some training in classical vocal. Whereas my daughters, who also assisted me in this test, have undergone over 10 yrs of classical singing training & have learnt multiple instruments (Flute, Keyboard, Cymbals, etc.).

In our experiences, the PM-3 ($400) sounded slightly whereas SRH1540 ($500) was 15-20% better than the legendary MDR-7506 ($100). We all unanimously felt that it was not worth spending 5 times & ended up returning both of them.

I have been harboring a dream of owning a reference quality HP for almost 20 years. So, I was not willing to give-up easily. Even though I initially wanted to stay within $500, I reluctantly ordered Aeon - Closed back out of curiousity & to experience the Audio Nirvana everyone else is revving about.

Before I say anything further let me state that I'd to make a minor volume adjustment on iPhone from Full to 2 click down & on Oppo from 75 to 65 for Aeon & 7506 respectively. The Aeon-Closed are difficult to drive with 13 ohms & 92dB whereas MDR-7506 are at 63 Ohms & 106dB efficient. Again, we played it by ears & no scientific calculations or instruments were used to determine the exact differences. And to our sheer surprise, the difference in SQ was from insignificant to almost nothing! I'm not saying Aeons are bad. What I'm saying is that 7506s with velour upgrades are that much better & waay cheaper!

HitsOfMisses's picture

I spoke with Steve of Mr. Speakers, the Aeon Closed back requires 200mw at 16 Ω. The Oppo Headphone jack on BDP-105 delivers 187mW into 32 Ω & should be quite sufficient. Here's the link: https://www.oppodigital.com/support/blu-ray-bdp-105/

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