Dan Clark Audio – DCA E3 Review

In this article we look at the DCA E3 closed back headphone, selling for $1,999 USD. 


Disclaimer: The DCA E3 was sent to us by DCA directly, in exchange for our honest review. DCA is not related to Headfonia in any way. 


Dan Clark Audio ought to be a familiar name to retuning Headfonia readers and aficionados of high-end personal audio. Hailing from San Diego, California, the boutique manufacturer led by former electrical engineer Dan Clark first made a name for themselves by modding Fostex headphones, and later for developing their own line of planar-magnetic (and later electrostatic) headphones.

If you’re curious about DCA and want to know more about them, you can do so here.

We’ve had the pleasure to review a multiple of the brand’s headphones. We covered the good old Alpha Dog and Mad Dog, the Aeon Open and Closed, the Ether 2, the Aeon 2, the Aeon 2 Noire, the DCA Stealth and the award winning Corina.

The headphone we’re looking at today is the latest closed-back headphone from DCA, the E3. I first heard it at last year’s SoCal Canjam show and I remember it really impressed me during that 15m listen. Fast forward a few months and the E3 has been one of my to go to headphones whenever I needed a closed back headphone.

Let’s find out all about it.


The Dan Clark Audio aka DCA E3 is Dan’s midrange closed-back headphone. It’s not easy to say that a headphone selling for $1,999 USDis mid-fi, but if you look at the positioning of the Expanse, selling at $3,999 USD, it does make sense.

According to DCA, the E3 delivers a stunning level of performance and value, incorporating all the technological and ergonomic achievements of our flagship headphones, but at a more accessible price point.

DCA Dan Clark Audio E3

Equally satisfying with all genres of music, E3s soundstage, punchy bass, silky midrange, utterly smooth highs, and layers of detail will keep you engaged for days on end. Never fatiguing, E3 will have you revisiting your entire music library to experience your music like never before. The E3 is just too much fun. E3 delivers a true flagship performance, without the flagship cost.

The DCA E3 incorporates DCA’s all-new 5th generation driver and their Acoustic Metamaterial Tuning System (AMTS), which we’ll get into in the next chapter of this article. One thing I always like from DCA’s headphones is how small they fold up. They really take up little space, and that combined with the titanium, aluminum and carbon materials, really makes them the perfect reference headphones for on the go.

The DCA E3’s dedicated web page can be found here. You can buy the E3 directly from DCA, or via one of its official dealers.

DCA Dan Clark Audio E3

DCA E3 features

One the E3’s most important features is DCA’s AMTS tuning system which previously was found in their higher end Expanse and Corina headphones. We always love to see technology trickling down to lower models, so we can only applaud this. If you’re not familiar yet with DCA’s AMTS tech, here’s the short rundown:

All headphones are subject to high-frequency standing waves which can make treble sound harsh, fatiguing, or synthetic. AMTS is a patent pending inline device placed between the transducer and ear that integrates waveguides, diffusion control, and resonators into one compact structure that eliminates standing waves while giving us complete control of the high-frequency response profile. DCA’s AMTS tuning architecture is not “one size fits all,” it is custom tuned for each headphone to deliver an optimized experience for each transducer.

The AMTS system in the E3 is implemented in a different way compared to before. According to DCA, the AMTS in E3 delivers an absolutely superbly rendered top-end that will surprise and delight, with a tone that is simply remarkably lifelike. In fact, the new E3 AMTS even reduces sensitivity to seal for a more consistent bass experience. DCA also mentions that while AMTS renders high frequencies with a refreshingly smooth, accurate, and detailed delivery, bad recordings will probably still sound bad. This is something we’ll be checking out later in this review.

DCA Dan Clark Audio E3

The second important E3 feature is the all-new 5th generation planar-magnetic driver. According to Dan Clark Audio it delivers the smoothest, richest, and most detailed experience they could create to date. Its innovative diaphragms are made on an all-new tensioning system for a more uniform and consistent performance, lower distortion, and enhanced consistency.

Extensive R&D was spent optimizing E3’s planar driver. New diaphragm materials combined with highly optimized V-Planar knurling deliver a remarkably smooth frequency response with low distortion throughout the listening range for levels of detail heretofore found primarily in the top-of-the-line electrostatics, all with an exceptionally easy and fun tonal balance.

The third and last feature we’re getting into is the Gorilla glass 3 combined with the Dual-Mode bass ports. While it’s not unusual to find a bass port on a closed headphone, DCA states that their ingenious dual-mode port delivers unrivalled control of the bass frequency response, creating a superbly balanced, impactful bass experience that is full of power yet free of bloat or midrange creep.

We have a lot of things to check out, that’s for sure.

DCA Dan Clark Audio E3

Box & Accessories

The DCA E3 comes in a simple box as you can see in the pictures in this article. On the inside we find:

  • 1 x headphone
  • 1 x VIVO cable, with dedicated pouch
  • 1 x Compact hard case with a zipper
  • 1 x Certificate of Authenticity
  • Warranty leaflet
  • Quick start guide

The DCA VIVO cable  is a silver-plated OFHC copper wire, and during check out you can select your favourite termination as well as the cable length. For the 3m cable option, there is an extra $50 USD charge. 

All-in all it is a nice package but for $2k, some people might expect a fancier, or more luxurious unboxing experience with a larger selection of included accessories.

The review continues on the second page: Click here or use the jumps below.

Page 1: DCA, DCA E3, Features, Box & Accessories

Page 2: Design & Build Quality, Comfort & Isolation, Sound Pt. 1 & Pt. 2

Page 3: Sound Comparisons

Page 4: Sound Synergy, Conclusion, Summary


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