Dan Clark Audio Stealth Review
Dan Clark Audio has been making quite a splash in the audiophile world since they started as MrSpeakers only 10 years ago. From the lightweight, extra precise Ether to the portable and moderately affordable Aeon, the company is well on its way in building a long legacy in the premium headphone market. With the company’s recent and highly acclaimed release of their open-back flagship model, Expanse, it seems appropriate for us to take a step back to the Summer of 2021 and take a look at it’s closely related closed-back flagship cousin: Dan Clark Audio Stealth. We’ll also be asking the question that brought a lot of readers to this page: is the Stealth actually worthy of its $3,999 price tag?
What’s In The Box?
-Dan Clark Audio Stealth open-back headphones
-Firm Carrying Case
-VIVO headphone cable
-Certificate of Authenticity
Look and Feel
I’m quite impressed with the flexibility present all through out the Stealth’s structure: the cans fold in on themselves deep into the headband, enabled by hinged, folding gambles made of carbon fiber that provide lightweight durability. Once folded, they fit extra snugly into the included firm carrying case. The aluminum-nickel band keeping the headphones together is unusually malleable while still retaining a natural shape even after serious bending. While I obviously don’t encourage you to intentionally push the limits of this unit’s flexibility, I’ve included a picture in this review to showcase its contortionist capabilities.
The black leather headband is stylishly stitched with the model name and a red, quilted perimeter that serves to reduce heat build up. The “self adjusting suspension system” used in the headband support is a rather appropriate description considering just how quickly and easily the Stealth took to the shape and size of my head. The clamping pressure feels finely tuned, striking a good balance of isolation and lightweight comfort. At 415 grams, the Stealth may be on the lighter end of premium audiophile headphones, though may still look heavy on paper for some listeners. To those listeners I say fear not; my very first intuitive impression of the Stealth was just how light it felt when being worn, and I was rather surprised to find out its real weight.
The headphone padding has a unique but very welcoming feel, being made out of protein-leather and composite synthetic suede. Like Dan Clark Audio’s Stealth, the cans have an enormous area, that not only engulfed my ears but even ran down to the beginning of my jawline. This wasn’t an issue for me at all and rather felt like an extra luxurious feature, creating a mini, distinct listening environment on either side of my face. While the Stealth provides some isolation, I did find it to be just a little less than what I’m used to with closed backs.
Dan Clark Audio perfected the Stealth’s physical design, resulting in a headphone that I would give the highest marks in durability, portability, and comfort all while maintaining a serious yet musical look.
There’s a lot to go over when it comes to all the innovative tech and specs contained in The Stealth. Its 4th generation planar magnetic driver is the largest planar driver in any Dan Clark Audio headphone to date. The company touts this driver for its incredibly low distortion levels that are comparable to premium electrostatic drivers, and for contributing to the highly sensitive volume dynamics of The Stealth. Working in tandem with this driver is Dan Clark Audio’s patent-pending Acoustic Metamaterial Tuning System (AMTS), a device located between a listener’s ear and the headphone transducer that utilizes waveguides, diffusion control, quarter wave and Helmholtz resonators. The AMTS and planar driver work together to kill unwanted resonant frequencies, thus optimizing the accuracy and timbre of The Stealth’s high-frequency representation. Even further enhancing the acoustic stability is the Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) optimized motor. This technology is applied in industrial design from jet engines to to air conditioners, using aerodynamics to predict and offset unwanted turbulence, leading to a more uniform and even sound. Lastly, an improved driver tensioning system was included to improve imaging and balance.
-76mm x 51mm single ended planar magnetic driver
The snaky phaser effects in “Laughing Gas” by Neon Indian immediately demonstrated the Stealth’s effortless, liquid-like left-right imaging that went so wide that it felt like it was wrapping around the back of my head. This left-right power coupled with the Stealth’s particularly sensitive volume dynamics served to create extremely realistic and spatial room and plate reverbs that could be heard decaying gently in the right ear even as the dry track played loudly in the left. While there was certainly a sense of depth in its image, I found that this depth didn’t quite meet in the middle of my face, and rather stayed constrained to the left and right side of my head.
Response was excellent, as the Stealth could execute fast and heavy silences in between the notes of even the heaviest staccato parts of a mix. Panned stereo tremolos took on a pleasurably dizzying quality and produced a deep, heady sensation.
The balance of the Stealth could simply be described as natural and true-to-the-mix, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call them analytical headphones. Though subtle, there is still a familiar yet tasteful EQ present in the headphones that adds a little extra warmth and smack without being too overdone or distracting.
While the Stealth isn’t what I would call a bassy headphone, there’s definitely a fairly wide parametric shelf lightly boosting its low end. Kick drums had some extra impact that tapped me on lightly on the forehead, while basses benefited from a little extra boom and growl as the Stealth’s bass boost seemed to be present up until around 100 Hz or so. I’m usually fairly critical of and sensitive to boosted low ends, but I really had no issue at all with how the Stealth pulled it off. It was light enough to entirely avoid masking, and it cut off at just the right point to avoid imprecise muddiness. I found the subs hit a sweet spot by being extra subtle at a lower listening volume while packing a full inner-ear impact at louder levels.
The stealth evens out in its low mids before lightly climbing back up in the high mids, giving it a bright harmonic power that isn’t too overbearing. Snare drums and twangy higher pitched electric guitars took on some extra crunch that sits well with the Stealth’s boosted bass response. While the Stealth handles layering all across the frequency band with a keen precision, I was quite impressed with just how well it was able to dissect the energetic mid-heavy parts of tracks, like rhythm guitar and vocals. The Stealth gave lots of layered breathing room to what is usually the main parts of a track, with vocals capable of producing that breathy, whispering-in-your-ear tingly feeling even with heavy middle frequency competition from guitar parts.
The Stealth begins tapering off in highs, but not so much as to impart darkness onto mixes. Though I like a nice and sweet headphone, its makes sense to me that Dan Clark Audio reigned in the highs to avoid competition with the high mids boost present in the Stealth. Also, to be fair, the attenuation sounded like it started at perhaps 12-14 kHz rather than 10 kHz, as there was still enough energy in the highs to squeal out saturated high pitched synth leads and retain hiss in hi-hats. If you really want to listen and look out for the attenuation, I would specifically point to ride cymbals and the reverbs on high pitched female vocal parts. Again, this drop off occurs pretty high up and doesn’t too significantly detract from the generally natural timbre of the Stealth.
Dan Clark Audio has produced yet another engineering feat, in regards to both the Stealth’s physical flexibility and portability as well as the innovative drivers and AMTS component that give it such a smooth and rich character. Anyone who gets a chance to try it on in all of its comfy glory is likely going to become aware that they’re wearing $3,999 headphones the moment they hit the play button. The Stealth might break the bank, but it’s absolutely premium sound and design will never let you forget that it was probably worth it.