Dan Clark Audio Stealth Measurements and Thoughts

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by Vtory, Sep 26, 2022.

  1. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    [​IMG]

    I have an audio pal in my area who recently came back from Canjam Socal with some new purchases. Unfortunately, his wife disapproved him to own two similar-looking 4k headphones. Plus, my serious audio sessions (usually done with Susvara) were often bothered by some party people living around me. We found our interests coincide and I was willing to help his family crisis lol. At the end of the day, I could snag -- as per him, steal -- his pair of Stealth for myself.

    TBH, I've had prejudices for DCA and Harman target respectively. Listening with Stealth for several days made me revoke most of the bitching claims I made before. Maybe less for DCA as I still think their prior products were weaker than competitors. But for the Harman target, I should have rigorously separated my dispreference toward Harmanzing EQ from a legit target-driven product. My criticism was not based on real products. How clueless I was.

    Do they sound good to me? Yes, to the extent I immediately paypaled my friend. A tick or two behind Susvara in several major areas. But I'll update subjectives later after collecting more thoughts.
    Do they measure good? A little unexpectedly yes..

    Let me drop measurements and relevant thoughts first for the record.

    Findings and thoughts
    • Frequency response indeed conformed highly well to SBAF target as well: Deviation from the sbaf target v1.0 (Minidsp EARS) was surprisingly similar to the deviation from the Harman's one (Gras 43AG).
    • Low bass shelf ([email protected]) was neither excessive nor as evident in my perception as the graph suggested. I confirmed this by cancelling it with de-shelving eq.
    • Slight recession between 200 and 300 hz did wonder. This greatly improved soundstaging and imaging clarity at the cost of small loss in perceived notion of bass slam. But I'd also make clear Stealth was much stronger in macrodynamics compared to anything Dan Clark came up with previously.
    • Slightly nuanced upper mids around 3 khz was associated with improved presence and attacks of piano, vocal, and other major instruments.
    • Neither sibilance nor over-brightness in the brillance zone (6khz~) was heard/measured.
    • Harmonic distortions seemed low but these days I tend to distrust my distortion measurements for various reasons.
    • Spectrogram didn't look bad by any means, either.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2022
  2. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Ok, now let's look at the graphs. Here are FR plots. Results were measured at 5 different positions (center, front, back, up, down) then averaged.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2022
  3. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Comparative plot against Hifiman Susvara (stock configuration). Normalized at 500 hz.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Here are harmonic distortions and burst-decay spectrogram. Again, I don't give much trust to my measurements for these.. Please take a grain of salt.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
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  5. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    I may add more overlaid comparative plots upon requests or whenever I think of interesting pairs. But that's pretty much it for now.
     
  6. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Noise Reduction
    • Evaluation metric = Fr(f | without headphones) / Fr(f | with headphones)
    • Fr(f): Loudspeaker's response measured at 3ft by MiniDSP EARS with sine sweeps; calibrated at 80db [email protected]&3ft
    • Both channels were separately measured then averaged
    • Results were 1/1 octave smoothed for readability
    Because of the way how numerators and denominators are defined, the y axis is the strength of noise reduction. Higher value means stronger reduction.

    Compared to other models, for audiophile headphones, the Stealth exhibited good noise reduction ability contestable to mixing headphones. As per my results, better than Ollo (by 3-5 db over the entire spectrum except for upper mids) but worse than Sony (by 5-10 db over upper mids).

    Please take a grain of salt for experimental nature of these results.

    upload_2022-9-27_15-24-4.png

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    upload_2022-9-27_15-28-15.png

    upload_2022-9-27_15-29-23.png

    upload_2022-9-27_15-29-55.png
     
  7. SoupRKnowva

    SoupRKnowva Official SBAF South Korean Ambassador

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    nice measurements, im also very interested in further subjective impressions. I liked what I heard at the Texas meet, but it wasn't with music or gear I would have wanted to demo them with.
     
  8. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Stealth has been really growing on me.. Indeed I wrote up a full review but during the proofread I found it a bit too flowery or sugary for sbaf standards. So, I ended up posting it elsewhere and dropping summarized subjectives here. Still perhaps too enthusiastic. Please take a grain of salt for anything below.

    Good to me
    • Minimal coloration. This includes both obsessively neutral tonal balance and almost zero-ish timbral/harmonic errors.
    • Detail and nuance retrievals are very good. Only tad behind Susvara.
    • Spot-on soundstage size for closed-backs. Accurately-sounding front to back depth localization.
    • Perfect midrange: a hint of liquidity + clean sounding + resolving.
    • Excellent balance between smoothness and sibilance in highs.
    • Lows sound a bit unique (like neither planars nor electrodynamics). But well-defined and delineated anyway.
    • Slightly analytical and clinical presentation = Lovely level of insipidity = Non-distracting
    Not good to me
    • Generally overdamped sounding.
    • Leading edges of transients feel a little soft or round = A bit recessed and controlled slams.
    • Very seal-dependent lows and mids = Glass wearers should avoid this.

    Overall Stealth feels like a very modern interpretation of hd650 in the high-end context, redefining to me what standard and normal sound should be like in headphones. I'm very surprised Dan Clark came up with this voicing as it's a lot different (both in tonally and technically) from anything he has developed until Ether 2/Voce.
     
  9. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    I tried the Stealth at home today and compared to my LCD-5 (EQed to Harman Target)

    Both headphones are great but I hear something a bit strange going on with the Stealth. Stealth is more ''damped'' sounding and the LCD-5 is a bit more lively.

    It looks like there's just a thin screen between the LCD5 driver and my ears and the Stealth has more damping material. I guess it could be that.

    Bass sounds more powerful and authoritative on the LCD5. Stealth sounds like music reproduction by an excellent transducer and LCD-5 sounds more like the instruments are next to my ears.

    This proves to me beyond a doubt that you cannot compare headphones with Frequency response graphs alone (like some people try to do)

    I like both but for my tastes I think the LCD-5 is more engaging.

    Congrats to Dan as the build is exquisite and puts many other brands to shame. The pads feel like no expense has been spared at all. They are the Mclaren P1 of headphones.

    Stealth is probably the best closed headphone in the world but as a TOTL home listening solution in a quiet environment I think I prefer the LCD-5.
     
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  10. Ronion

    Ronion Rando

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    Yeah, Frequency Responses are useful, but they are definitely not the only thing that is important. Anyone can EQ any headphone to a target curve and hear that they don’t sound identical.
     
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Could be some tweaks. The one I heard at the Texas meet sounded like it was voiced somewhere between SBAF target and Harmon target, which wasn't objectionable. I actually liked it quite a bit, preferring it most from the Rag 2. The amp that comes to mind that would really pair well with it would be the McIntosh MHA150. I didn't care for the Stealth with most other headamps. Like you, I felt the Stealth was a little bit overdamped sounding, and thus my thoughts on the use of the muscular sounding amps above. As usual for Dan Clark, ergonomics were top-notch. The pricing is a bit stiff though. I wish Dan Clark's pricing didn't follow Moore's law (double every few years).
     
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    Last edited: Oct 17, 2022
  12. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    I've been fairly complimentary to the Stealth on other forums.

    I spent another evening comparing them to the LCD5 and my opinion now is a bit stronger.

    There's no nice way to say this. Bass and dynamics are limp dick on the Stealth in comparison to the LCD5. LCD5 is much better to making me believe I'm listening to big speakers ( other than the soundstage of course), on the other hand the weak impact of the Stealth always reminds me that I'm using headphones.

    I wanted to like this one. If you remove the gamer red branding and red stitching you have arguably the best looking and best constructed headphone in existence.

    I sent them back today. I feel a bit bad for Dan. DMS did a real hit job on the Expanse on Youtube as well......

    I hope he sells a lot but if you compare them back to back against a hard hitting planar I don't know how anybody can pick the Stealth for musical enjoyment.
     
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  13. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Nice impression. I don't fully disagree although my mileage may vary. Here is my view.

    I seem to understand where your frustration came from. And not too much different from my own comparison against Susvara, either. Can't say much for LCD5 because of multiple reasons (only heard briefly + was quite underwhelmed in initial auditions against Sus + ergonomics wasn't good for my head). Maybe I'll give Audeze another shot when LCD6 comes out.

    That being said, after owning Stealth for one month, it is still doing great job to me in balancing various bass qualities without distractions. Maybe it's synergy, preference, genres, or whatever. While it's clearly not the most hard hitting sound (which I can easily agree with), I didn't feel like I lacked punchiness or hard-hitting-ness when I listened to a bunch of bass-oriented tracks with double bass or pipe organs. It's just good enough to me, even compared to all the other totls I heard. For example, quoted from my listening memo:

    At this point, I really couldn't find any valid reason to eliminate Stealth from my collection. My overall preference still slightly leans toward Sus for the luxurious sounding in certain areas but if I hypothetically should keep only one pair (finance. econ, etc) or start over from scratch, I'm afraid to admit I would take Sealth over Sus, even without considering env noise isolation. It's clearly a better pick for me as it aligns better with what defines my musical enjoyment.

    PS. I'm thinking pretty much the opposite for your thought on speakers analogy btw. Possibly due to different experience. I really don't want to wrap up 2ch speaker experience as one (too many confounders) from my personal auditions/observations though.
     
  14. Johnston98

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    As a wearer of glasses, the Stealths are fine. After the memory foam warms up a bit, it will conform to the glasses frame pretty well. You can’t wear thick bow frames though.

    I agree that the bass slam isn’t nearly as good as other planars. If you are a heavy into EDM, these aren’t the best choice. Every other genre I threw at them is nothing short of amazing. The detail, air, sub bass are exceptional for not only a closed back, but any headphone period.

    Although they are driven adequately with lower power sources, they do shine the best with the extra headroom provided by higher power headphone amps. I’m currently using them with the Naim Uniti Headphone edition since I’m a huge Roon user. I haven’t tried them with the Folkvangr yet.
     
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  15. Tiradentes

    Tiradentes Rando

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    Anyone know how it compares with its much cheaper brother the Noire in bass impact and slam-wise?
     
  16. Martigane

    Martigane Rando

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    I'd be interested in the attack/decay 10 wave burst response to see if the meta material has any effect.
    I expect burst decay to be fast as measured above, but would be curious on the impact on the attack.
     
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  17. Johnston98

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    Okay, as for EDM and these. I'm using the Mojo 2 and Stealth. With the 20Hz and 125Hz DSP at max, these cans thump! Non distorted bass. Plenty of slam. Great weight to the bass. I thought the Mojo 2 DSP was a gimmick, but it really isn't. I'm sure you can achieve the same results with EQ.
     
  18. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Interesting. Glad you found a good synergy by making use of eq.

    I personally don't want to boost bass by any means although I listen to various edms meaningfully much. To me Stealth has already plenty of bass (borderline too much) and no additional compensation in quantity was necessary to my taste. Maybe it's just me because I seem very sensitive to excessiveness in any criterion in lows and look after delicacy all the time, independently from genres.

    But I really believe nothing wrong with using eq to dial in. Indeed I've witnessed some pals around me persistently love boosting bass for certain tracks or genres even when headphones are pretty neutral in lows. Not my style of audiophiling but I'd respect.
     
  19. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    After spending additional healthy weeks with Stealth, I found myself gravitate more toward Stealth than Susvara.

    Because these two headphones are equivalently great to me in their own lights, it becomes harder and harder to make bold claims of one pair winning over the other. Indeed in many technical areas they seem to end in a tie. Susvara sounds livelier and airier, let alone openness. Squarer in resolving leading edges. Nonetheless Stealth's tonality and timbre better align with the exact ways how I think things should sound. Plus, distinction between fore- and back-grounds, separation within each local cluster, and very delicate lateral definition are not only what Stealth outdoes but also one of the best experience Stealth offered me over any other headphones I heard to date. Very enthralling and hard to resist.

    These days my head time allocation between Stealth and Sus roughly converges to 75-25. Of course env noise or ergonomics played non-trivial roles tho.
     
  20. Johnston98

    Johnston98 Facebook Friend

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    I agree with you about EQ and Stealth. I’ve never been an EQ person. I feel the for 95% of my music preferences, Stealth has more than enough bass. I’ll just change to bassier headphones/sources when I feel the rare occasion to listen to EDM/Trance/Dance.

    My comment was more of an observation. The “limp dick” bass could be easily overcome by EQ. The Stealths appear to EQ very well. I went stupidly overboard with the bass boost. But, they handled it without issue.
     

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