MR. SPEAKERS ÆON FLOW OPEN - REVIEW
- TONAL BALANCE / NEUTRALITY 89%
- PERFORMANCE FOR THE PRICE 90%
- SOUND FIDELITY 85%
- MUSICALITY 92%
- BUILD QUALITY 98%
- ERGONOMICS/COMFORT 88%
- Natural balance
- Good control and bass response
- Non-Fatiguing tonality
- Unique design and premium build quality
- Punchy musical sound
- Accurately priced
- Not the most nuanced or detailed headphone for the price
- Slightly veiled
- Poor soundstage
Special thanks to member Iceman on SBAF for sending me these headphones for review. These headphones proved to be more than worth my time and I am thankful that I got a chance to enjoy them before sending them back.
- Efficiency: 95dB Open
- Weight (without cable): 321gr Open
- Detachable 2m premium dual-entry cable with 3.5mm and 1/4″ termination
- Impedance: 13 ohms
- All new planar magnetic driver with V-Planar and Trueflow technologies
- NiTinol “memory metal” headband with hinge-free design
- Dyed-through leather headband
- New DUMMER 1/4″ and 3.5mm dual-tip fabric covered headphone cable
- Includes clamshell travel case
The Mr.Speakers Aeon Flow Open ships with their standard compact headphone travel case, their DUM cable that is either XLR plug or TRS 1/4 inch, and obviously the headphones in a simple but useful packaging.
The Aeon Flow Open uses the same technology that is found in their Ether Flow models which consists of V-planar technology and TruFlow motion optimization. The drivers are crimped or knurled which is supposed to provide better dynamics and air flow from the larger excursions allowed by the flexibility the creases in the driver are responsible for. Whether the Ether Flow is your cup of tea or not, it is hard to deny its improvements over the standard Ether. It was a bit more punchy, less hashy, and harder hitting compared to the original Ether. The TrueFlow Motor Optimization allows the air/sound to flow with less obstructions to the waveform enabling better separation and details. This is also audible between models as the Ether Flow is better layered than the original Ether. The Aeon Flow Open in my opinion is a step up from the original Ether in terms of layering and dynamics.
The Mr. Speakers headphones are undeniably of a quality build. They feel special when you hold them. In fact, even though I personally didn’t like the original Ethers, or the Flow C, I kind of wanted to own one just because of its build. The Aeon Flow Open is very similar to the Ethers in that regards with good looks and a quality build yet in a tear drop shape that looks like the ear.
With the unique shape of the Aeon Flow Open comes some slight complications to comfort that are easily overlooked. It is light but the clamp is a bit tight and creates a bit of pressure behind the earlobes. The thick pads provide good cushion and no wiggling of the head causes any sliding or loss of seal. I personally found them easy to get a good seal around my head.
- BASS EXTENSION 89%
- BASS BALANCE (ACCURACY) 89%
- LOWER MIDRANGE BALANCE 95%
- MIDRANGE PROPER BALANCE 95%
- UPPER MIDRANGE BALANCE 89%
- TREBLE BALANCE 82%
- TREBLE EXTENSION 82%
- BASS CONTROL 91%
- TONE DENSITY (TIMBRE, BODY ASIDE FROM FREQUENCY BALANCE) 94%
- MACRO DYNAMICS (SOFTS TO LOUDS) 88%
- DYNAMIC RANGE 90%
- MICRO DYNAMICS (SMALL GRADATIONS OF VOLUME) 72%
- SOUND STAGE WIDTH 70%
- SOUND STAGE DEPTH 62%
- BLACKNESS OF BACKGROUND 89%
- TONE QUALITY (REFINEMENT) 88%
*please note that in the above bar counters I use the word balance instead of presence which is a percentage of how unbiased, accurate, and neutral that aspect is. Also those aspects are totally subjective and from my point of view. Yours may differ. Also these bars and percentages are really just to give an idea of how I perceive the headphone. They are not absolute, and really just provide a visual reference of the aspects described below.
The sound signature of the Aeon Open is probably the most natural and organic signature of any open back planar I have heard. It is not neutral, has warm midbass, a full midrange and laid back treble. The closest sound signature I can recall would be the Kennerton Odin and HD650.
The bass of the AFO is very solid and the texture is wonderful for the price. I compared it to the stock HE-6 directly and the AFO didn’t give up much grounds in terms of solidity, impact, and control. Excellent Focus! Initially, because the AFO bass is pretty firm and solid, I overlooked it’s relative lack of extension which is not as uber deep as your average planar but hits harder. The AFO has probably the one of the most natural deliveries of a kick drum I have heard from a planar outside of the T50 mods; and that is with both EDM and Acoustic music. Most usually I am unsatisfied with planars there and much prefer the more energetic response of dynamic drivers but the AFO delivers the goods. This is also with the Ether line up in mind which were rather un-engaging there. The forwardness of the midbass does give a bit of pressure and warmth to the midrange. I feel some people would prefer more of a sub bass boost than the mid bass for a more linear midrange but I am not one of them. For the price you have texture, a good foundation, slam, and presence that rivals other planars, yet with decent responsiveness on the macro level akin to a dynamic driver. Compared to the recent release from Acoustic Research (review forthcoming) the AFO bass is more controlled but doesn’t seem to extend as deep and has much more presence. This is not a bass head can by any means, it is just a little more warm around the mid bass and upper bass than your average planar and that can be a good thing if your appetite for kick is anything like mine.
The Lower mids of the Aeon Open as mentioned above have some pressure from the upper bass that gives them some warmth there but not unpleasantly so. The middle midrange is natural and clear with excellent density. Pianos resonate with good strength and the music has a vigor and energy about it that is far from dull. The excellent dynamic range is most easily heard here as I was caught off guard on a few songs when a singer got loud or a crescendo climaxed. It reminds me a lot of the HD650 here but with much less airflow behind a voice. They sound full and clear but just a little strained to me from the lack of air. Vocals is where I find them to sound less open and a little over-dampened at times but with good body but a slight upper midrange dip. Compared to the Klipsch HP3 to the Aeon sounds more natural in the midrange and less distant, just slightly less clear. Compared to the Atticus the Aeon has more upper mids but more grain.
However, the sound is addicting to me. Of most of the headphones I had here during this time of review I consistently reached for this headphone because every time it brought the realism of the music directly to my soul with very solid tones and tangible notes. Were this in my personal stable, it would get lots of head time. It just sounds very right in a lot of ways even with some of its flaws. The midrange presentation on the Aeon Flow connects me straight to the mood of the music and I never feel like I have to analyze it. This is probably one of the most natural and inviting midranges of any open planar headphone besides the Kennerton Odin but the Aeon Flow sounds even more cohesive overall with even better dynamic range but less details. Now, there is a bit of roughness to the timbre and grain as well. And for the price the Acoustic Research H1 is more nuanced and detailed in the midrange, but it is also more analytical (more thin and less musical). The Aeon does not suffer of such issues but is a bit more grainy than the H1. Also in comparison, the H1 is able to resolve electric guitar crunch and texture better, whereas the Aeon kind of takes a bit of the edge off.
The AFO treble is almost close to sounding balanced but it is a little relaxed. Thankfully the tonal accents sound firmly edged, dense, and hard. There is just a bit of details that seem missing sometimes in the treble. Compared to the Atticus the treble is just a hair more in presence but less nuanced and resolved. However also compared to the Atticus the treble is more solid, tangible, and hits harder. Whereas something like the HE-500 or my modified T50 gives more sparkle, the Aeon makes the treble sound like it has more body but less nuance and articulation, and also a little less problems. Think; some hash but less than a T50, a little bit of grit, and decent body. There are no sibilance issues with the Aeon Open and I can listen a very long time without fatigue. *There is an occasional mid-treble bulge that can be highlighted by the wrong pairing as was easily heard with the Jot. This is my cup of tea though and I think Dan tuned the treble wisely I just wish for a bit more resolution here.
I think the Aeon Flow suffers the most here. The width is tolerable but the depth is pretty weird. It is like the head stage cannot extend beyond my cheeks. It is pretty tough to get a good feel for the venue space as everything is separated well enough but hard left and hard right. Almost like in ears. The other issue is that the Aeon needs to sound a little more open with better air flow through the cups.
The details are there but if someone is looking for the most resolving headphone for their money then I don’t think this is the one. In terms of sheer technicalities, it is not a bad headphone; it sounds controlled and realistic which are performance merits in and of themselves. It is just that it needs some more plankton and micro dynamics as well for it to be competitive for the price there. The HD650 has more inner nuance and fine gradations by just a bit but is less composed, has more distortion, and is less heavy-handed.
The Aeon is not the fastest sounding planar out there. That is partly the reason it is able to sound so solid or weighted. The notes resonate and sound strong and vigorous. There is a visceral quality to the sound of the AFO that packs enough punch and weight to make the music wallop. The control is excellent as well, especially in the bass. The AFO is a very well behaved headphone.
Overall, while something like the Acoustic Research H1 is more open, spacious, and detailed; the Aeon is more cohesive. Very few headphones pull off overall cohesion and sound composure like this Aeon Flow Open. It even bests my favorite closed back, the Atticus for balance but still falls some ways in terms of nuance and finesse. The separation is pretty good though and the overall distortion and haze sounds very low on the AFO, giving it a high fidelity sound that is more about overall enjoyment than analyzation. It has good inner transparency as well but just a bit of a veil from the laid back treble and slightly over-dampened sound.
The Aeon Flow Open is going to be one of those headphones that I feel benefit from amps that have extended treble and good power to open it up a bit. I tried it on the Schiit Jotenheim and the amps lower treble glare was easily heard through the Aeon. It did not ‘lift the veil’ but only a little, yet the *lower-mid treble became fatiguing right away. I just recommend staying away from anything slow, syrupy, and thick sounding. The AFO doesn’t need any of that. Nor does it need any more grain. My bet is that something fast like the Cayin iHA-6 may sound good. The Eddie Current Black widow I heard it on briefly, as well as the Wells Audio Milo make it a little bit too much of a good thing. Give the AFO some speed and air and you will be good to go. It doesn’t need tons of power but it does like it.
The first impressions I had of the AFO had me smiling from ear to ear. I think this is the best tuned headphone I have heard from Dan easily and as mentioned above, the best tuned open back planar I have heard besides the LFF Code-X. I haven’t been a fan of the Ether line but this one is special. After a while the soundstage started to bother me a bit but not enough to change my mind from wanting to purchase one. A lot of people have been wanting the Sennheiser HD650 balance but with a different driver type and I recommend trying this one to quench a little of that thirst. Every headphone has shortcomings though, and tons of manufacturers try their absolute best to get it right. While the Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow Open isn’t perfect, no headphone is and I will be recommending it to those looking for a natural sounding planar. The Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow Open is going to be my top choice open back planar under a grand. I am updating this post wishing I didn’t have to send it back, as I would be listening to it right now. Redphiled