It has been a while since Dan Clark Audio launched one of the most sought after closed-back headphones for audiophiles. The Stealth was a huge success, and the former Mr. Speakers looks to follow it up with the new open-back Expanse. This new premium headphone follows the same price tag as the Stealth at $3,999, being quite a commitment for even some devote headphone enthusiasts. For this price, you might be expecting one of the best headphones you’ll ever hear, but does the Expanse really deliver that?
What You Get
- The Expanse open-back headphones
- Firm Carrying Case
- VIVO headphone cable
- Certificate of Authenticity
Look and Feel
Dan Clark headphones have a distinct style. Their cups fold inward and are compact, while still possessing an over-ear design. With the Expanse you can expect the same flexible yet durable craftsmanship of the Stealth that includes an open-back grille. More is changed with the addition of a self-adjusting suspension headband that abandons the rubber sliders. This way, the headphones naturally fit to your head no matter the size. I never once had to adjust the headband at all, making this the more preferable design for me going forward. The new ear pads also make the Expanse a more comfortable experience to wear for many hours. What is most dazzling about this build is the blue stitching inlay that really makes this headphone more stylish than the solid black Stealth.
The Expanse uses a 76mm x 51mm single-ended planar magnetic driver. This is their largest diaphragm to date, which they hope will increase dynamics and lower distortion. The tension of the driver is also improved for better staging and balance across all ranges of frequency. In between the transducer and is Dan Clark’s new Acoustic Metamaterial Tuning System. It incorporates many different components like diffusion control and Helmholtz resonators, and combines them into one structure that hopes to tune the Expanse even more meticulously.
If there was any aspect of the Expanse I was looking forward to the most, it was the soundstage. Even the name “Expanse” makes it sound like a hint at what the experience might entail. After listening to the headphones for many hours, “Expanse” turns out to be a fitting name in more ways than one. The way these headphones flow from left to right is nothing short of extraordinary. Its ability to present a grand open space with pinpoint accurate placement of sound elements gives all musicality incredible depth.
No matter what genre of music was being played through the Expanse, the headphones response like there was no limit to how far it could extend. This creates an image with awesome height, like the high-end elements are originating just above your headspace. It also gives the instruments a ton of room to breathe.
You can really sense the extended space between sound elements, giving each section of the music an individualized appearance in the mix. On the track “Concorde” by Black Country, New Road, the mixture of horns, piano, and clean electric guitar painted a luscious picture on the Expanse. It was almost addictive how precise and holographic these sounds became, like it was being performed live in front of me. However, nothing could compare to when I tested a few film scores with the Expanse.
Listening to Ben Salisbury’s score for “Annihilation” made me feel like I was back in the theater hearing the terrifying effects and modulated synths in the theater again. Especially on the climactic “The Alien” part of the soundtrack, the Expanse is able to perfectly replicate all of the ethereal instrumentals and haunting hymns in this spacious sonic environment. The headphones potray the track with a level of separation that makes these elements bloom outward in a realistic fashion, creating a unbelievably gripping experience.
At first you might not think much of this bass if you’re more into a low-end that slams. While the Expanse isn’t that type of headphone, the bass here is still gratifying. The headphones offer a clear amount sub-bass lift that might not have the most theatrical impact, but gives the frequencies a vibrating tone with a solid body. You get a low-end that goes for more balance than boom, but doesn’t come through as weak in any regard. Its punch is quick and natural, not favoring any particular range in the frequency response. What the Expanse might lack in volume it surely makes up for in detail. The bass can still be felt in your core without it shaking you, and it can still be as equally satisfying.
The midrange is truly the highlight of the Expanse, as it brings together all of its greatest qualities. That would be spaciousness and detail. Music appears lavish with the resolution the mids are able to communicate. I also feel like there is a touch of warmth in the low-mids that give the sound signature just enough texture to stand out in a unique way. You can sense this with some acoustic guitars and orchestral elements like cellos. What really impressed me here were the vocals. They not only come forward with energy, but they involve a ton of small intricacies that details the performance with vividness. Vocals are incredibly crisp and showcase passionate performances with uncompromised fidelity. It makes each vocal range, feel like you’re sitting with the singer in the studio.
Being a fan of high-end clarity and coloration made cemented the Expanse as one of the best for me. You shouldn’t worry about the headphones being too harsh or piercing, but don’t expect it to shy away from sharp tones either. In the Expanse, the highs are not restricted, and form some satisfying detail in the sound signature. Their profile is sleek and dynamic in their response. Cymbals and reverberating vocals propagate with a glistening shine. It’s rich and pleasant to feel the treble naturally express its tone. It even forgoes artificial sparkle to make the energetic highs easier to digest. Even when some of the timbre can be over stimulating, the Expanse known how to control its highs in a way that still feels complimentary to the mix.
We have seen a lot of great new open-back headphone’s recently, from the 109 Pro from Meze to the new Focal Utopia. However, the Expanse might just be the best of the bunch. Dan Clark has really wowed me with these new high-end open-back headphones. Its sound is nothing short of extraordinary, from its phenomenal soundstage to its exquisite detail in all areas of frequency. Its construction is top-notch, with some notable changes from the Stealth that are highly preferable. At $3,999, the Expanse is a huge commitment, but it is a worthwhile one if this is the level of quality you’re getting.
The Dan Clark Audio Expanse is available here.