A few years ago, I was at an audio show and had a chance to listen to some MrSpeakers headphones and speak with Dan Clark, the owner of the company. Dan invited me down to visit the MrSpeakers office in San Diego, California, which is only a couple hours away from me. During my visit, Dan was voicing some new headphones, and we spent some time listening to them and discussing the challenges that face headphone manufacturers. I found Dan to be passionate and very knowledgeable about speaker design and headphones, in particular.
In early 2017 I heard that MrSpeakers was releasing the Aeon Flow headphones, which at $799 are the least expensive headphones in the MrSpeakers lineup by a wide margin. The Aeon Flow is available in either a closed- or open-back configuration; I requested the closed-back design for this review. If you are familiar with the industrial look of MrSpeakers headphones, you will recognize the NiTinol and adjustable leather-strap headband from the Ether and Ether Flow Series. The headband design, coupled with the relatively light weight of 321 grams (without the cable), make for a comfortable fit, even for multi-hour listening sessions. The carbon fiber construction of the teardrop-shaped closed-back ear cups helps to keep the weight down, and it also makes for a clean, modern look. The carbon fiber pattern is on display at the center of the ear cups, with an attractive dark-blue metallic finish around the trim. The build quality was solid, and the finish was what I would expect to see on a high-end, luxury headphone.
The Aeon Flow headphones benefit from "trickle down" technology from the Ether Series, utilizing the company's TrueFlow Motor Optimization and V-Planar Driver Processing. In short, TrueFlow reduces air turbulence caused by audio waves passing through the magnet structure of a typical planar-magnetic assembly. The reduction in turbulence comes from inserting perforated material to smooth the airflow around the magnets. The V-Planar Driver Processing pleats or creases the surface of the planar driver, which is said to reduce the bowing that occurs with more conventional designs. The technology page on the MrSpeakers website contains more information and graphics if you are interested in further details.
MrSpeakers includes tuning pads with many of its headphones, and the Aeon Flow is no exception. I tried the headphones both with and without the pads. These headphones are definitely small and light enough for use on the road, and I mated them with Questyle's QP1R portable player for that purpose. At home, I used both Questyle's CMA800i headphone amp/DAC and Marantz's NA-11S1 network audio player/DAC with the headphones.
The Aeon Flow headphones provided taut and detailed bass with all three of the headphone amplifiers mentioned above. If you are a fan of acoustic bass, these headphones will do a great job of reproducing those bass notes without any exaggerated bloom or weight. If you install the pads, there is a shift in the tonal balance that reduces the upper frequencies, thus increasing the bass and providing added warmth in the mids and highs. With well-recorded music, I did not prefer using the pads--which kind of surprised me, as I am a fan of tubes and their midrange warmth. However, when playing tracks that are a little harsher or thinner, such as Pink's "Beautiful Trauma" off of her album by the same name (RCA Records), I found that the pads added needed warmth and smoothed out the highs (although the Marantz was already slightly warmer than the two Questyle units).
On the other end of the spectrum, with Rimsky-Korsakov's "Dance of the Tumblers" from The Snow Maiden (Reference Recordings HRx, 24/176 WAV), the bells sounded dynamic, natural, and free of any harshness without the pads installed. With or without the pads, the Aeon Flow headphones did a good job reproducing the dynamics and large, well-defined soundstage. The soundstage was large and open, but not as much as that of the Sennheiser HD 700s or the open-back offerings from Mr. Speakers or Audeze.
• The Aeon Flow closed-back headphones are very comfortable, even for extended, multi-hour listening sessions.
• The sound quality comes much closer to the company's more expensive brethren than their price would indicate. The tuning pads provide further flexibility to address personal tastes and electronics.
• Audiophiles may find this truth to be frustrating, but headphones are also a fashion statement--and the Aeon Flows do well in this regard, with their stylish design and midnight blue finish.
• The closed-back Aeon Flows simply do not sound as open and expansive as open-back headphones (but neither do they leak sound like an open-back headphone does).
• The extreme highs lack the finesse and detail of the very best headphones.
• Some may wish for more bass energy; however, I found these headphones to be well balanced and detailed throughout the bass region. They also paired well with a variety of headphone amplifiers.
Comparison and Competition
I see Audeze as a natural competitor to MrSpeakers. The Aeon Flow headphones fall between the Audeze LCD-XC ($1,799) and the Audeze Sine closed-back headphone ($499), which includes an iPhone lightning cable and folds flat. I have not spent much time with the Sine. The LCD-XC offers more refinement but is not nearly as portable or comfortable for extended listening sessions. The other headphones within the MrSpeakers line are also quite good and are worthy of consideration if your budget allows.
I have really enjoyed my time with the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow closed-back headphones. They are well balanced (both physically and sonically), and they have a fast transient response, with detailed and solid bass. Their closed-back design allows me to listen to them at night when my wife is going to sleep, and they can take advantage of the performance afforded by a good-quality headphone amplifier. I think these would pair very nicely with a tube-driven headphone amplifier, like those offered by Amps & Sound. However, since these headphones are relatively easy to drive, you can still get really good sound using only a good portable player. The removable tuning pads make it easy to adjust the sonic profile when needed.
All in all, these are great-sounding headphones that provide enough flexibility to be well suited for either portable or home use. If you are looking for closed-back headphones in this price range (or even higher), you owe it to yourself to give these a serious listen.