About the Dan Clark Audio (MrSpeakers) VOCE
Excellent electrostatic headphones that require a special amp
You'll need a special electrostatic energizer to power the MrSpeakers VOCE headphones.
Excellent electrostatic headphones that require a special amp
The Dan Clark Audio (MrSpeakers) VOCE headphones are the first electrostatic headphones we've offered in years. And they sound quite stunning when properly powered. At CanJam NYC, I had a chance to hear these headphones together with a stack of gear that included the iFi Pro iESL energizer. I also spoke to their creator, Dan Clark (the Mr. Speakers).
The VOCE headphones use a 5-pin, 580-volt "pro bias" connection like you'll find on that iFi energizer. Please call our personal audio experts at 1-888-322-7649 if you have any questions about amplification for these headphones.
The VOCE sound vs. the Stax sound
"There really isn't a right headphone experience," Dan Clark said to me after I auditioned the VOCE headphones in a quiet listening room, tucked away from the busy CanJam floor. When told these headphones sound less "clinical" than the famous Stax electrostats, Dan quipped, "I tried."
Dan Clark — the Mr. Speakers — shows off the VOCE headphones in a special listening room at CanJam NYC.
The Japanese audio brand Stax has long been synonymous with electrostatic headphones. They reached the height of their popularity in the '70s, and for years they were the only company still making electrostats. So Dan expects — and welcomes — the comparison. "I understand why people like the Stax," he said. "But to me, it's not an experience I have when I listen to live music. I never go to a symphony and say, 'Wow, I can hear the rosin on the bows.'"
"Tonally softer" electrostatic sound
Dan thought that electrostatic headphones often make the "micro details becomes too macro, too prominent." So he set out to make a "tonally softer" set of headphones with less-high-frequency harshness, richer dynamics, and deep, potent bass. To me, the overall listening experience was even greater than the sum of its parts.
I played bluesman Walter Wolfman Washington's duet with Irma Thomas, "Even Now," and had one of those suck-the-air-out-of-the-room moments. The track started out methodical, but built into such an earnest, urgent wave of emotion that I was left speechless for a moment. Then Dan played "Square Room," by Cowboy Junkies, the melancholy track he uses to tune his headphones. Through the VOCE, I could feel the song's emotion in my bones.
What exactly are electrostatic headphones?
MrSpeakers made their name with planar magnetic headphones. Dan Clark funded the start-up of the San Diego company by selling modifications of existing planar headphones, then quickly shifted into making original models. They've since produced some of most well-renowned planars available, like the Aeon Flow, Ether Flow, and Ether 2 headphones.
Electrostatic headphones seem similar in theory — you still have a large yet ultra-thin diaphragm moving quickly to create sound — but they actually rely on an entirely different principle. Electrostatic diaphragms are suspended between two metal stators. The diaphragms receive a fixed, high amount of voltage, while each stator receives a varying audio signal to push and pull the diaphragm back and forth.
The VOCE's supersized 88mm diaphragms are able to start and stop quickly within the electromagnetic field to deliver that realistic, dynamic sound. This process requires consistent power, which is why you'll need the special amplifier (sometimes called an "energizer") that I mentioned earlier.
Inside MrSpeakers' "cleanroom"
Before producing the VOCE headphones, Dan and company built a certified class 1 "cleanroom" from scratch inside their boutique San Diego headquarters. They wanted to keep the VOCE's delicate parts completely free of dust and contaminants. For me, this really underscores MrSpeakers' level of care.
"We 'home-brew' built the room and designed it ourselves," said Dan. "I did research and found out that it is all about turning the air in the room. So we put the air filter inlets on the far side of the room, and the outlets on the inside of the room so they could continuously circulate the air."
The perforated white "wall" behind the desk is actually a powerful laminar flow filter that keeps air moving and the workspace free of dust and debris.
"When you first enter, you step on a blue sticky pad and squish...it pulls all the contaminants off the soles of your shoes," said Dan. "Then you put on your lab coat, and walk through the plastic curtains."
Dan explained that they focused most of their efforts on keeping each workstation as clean as possible. "Each work desk has a big filter across the whole surface, its called a laminar flow filter," he said. "Air just blows through the filter across the workspace towards the [person manufacturing the VOCE headphones]."
According to Dan, the strategy paid off. "When we measure the particulate contamination of that workspace, it actually reads 'zero, zero, and zero,'" he said. "That means there are no particulates of any measurable size."
Well put-together and packaged neatly
MrSpeakers uses premium materials to create the VOCE's driver system. And since they went to such great lengths to keep those parts clean during production, Dan figured they better ensure they're protected when out in the real world, too. They designed the earcups to remain completely air tight to shield the drivers. That's especially important with electrostatic headphones, since static energy can attract some serious dust.
Premium Italian leather lines the thick memory-foam ear pads and adjustable inner headband.
The oversized headphones feel light and comfortable, thanks largely to the extra-flexible nickel-titanium outer headband that helps everything slide into place. Soft Italian Napa leather ear pads hug the side of your head but don't create too much pressure. And when you're not wearing the headphones, you can show them off inside their deluxe walnut case complete with its own display stand.
Tuning kits help tailor the sound to you
If you like the out of the box sound as much as I do, but feel like it could be tweaked just a bit, MrSpeakers includes something for you. They call them tuning kits, and it's actually three pairs of inserts that provide different levels of damping. "You can actually bring it down to the point where it's a good headphone for electronica or dance music — which is unusual for an electrostat," said Dan.
You stick the inserts into each earcup and it acts as a baffle. "There's a huge difference in perception about what's neutral," said Dan, "and since there's no such thing as a tuning that everyone will agree on, we include the tuning kits to give the customer a better experience."
He paused for a moment, then added: "You know, it's unconventional, and probably not the way big companies would approach things." I'll say.
- open-back design offers spacious, transparent sound
- electrostatic drivers offer exceptional resolution with low distortion
- tuned for clear, accurate sound with powerful dynamics
- hand-made with premium materials and metals
- designed, built, and tested in San Diego, CA
- created inside a class 1 "cleanroom" with an extremely low contaminant level
- An electrostatic headphone amplifier or energizer is required for these headphones. Please call us at 1-888-322-7649 to discuss compatibility.
- extra-large, lightweight 88mm diaphragm moves swiftly within electrostatic field
- enhanced dynamics and extended frequency response
- 2.4 micron driver for maximum stability
- ultra-thin metal stators
- delivers over-sized soundstage with pinpoint stereo imaging
- deep, realistic bass response
- durable metal frame and earcups
- air-tight earcup design keeps drivers shielded from dust
- thick, memory-foam earpads lined with Italian Napa leather
- NiTinol (nickel titanium alloy) "memory metal" headband for easy fit
- super-light, flexible material
- sturdy dual-sided headband slider for effortless adjustment
- machined Teflon amplifier plug with gold-plated copper pins for solid connection
- feels lighter than most electrostatic headphones
General info and specs:
- detachable custom-fabricated silver-plated cable terminated by 5-pin 580-volt "pro bias" plug
- lightweight design with reduced microphonics
- compatible with Stax-pro amplifiers and energizers (sold elsewhere)
- special sound tuning inserts for three levels of acoustic damping
- real walnut hardwood case with hinged acrylic front "doors"
- built-in stand for displaying your headphones
- weight: 13.1 oz.
- warranty: 2 years
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
- MFR # ES001-1
What's in the box:
- Over-ear electrostatic headphones
- 6' Signal/bias cable with 5-pin plug (installed)
- 2 Black foam inserts
- 2 Black felt inserts
- 2 White paper inserts
- Walnut storage case
- Cleaning cloth
- Quick User Guide
- Certificate of Authenticity
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More details on the Dan Clark Audio (MrSpeakers) VOCE
Features & specs
|Earcup Width x Height||4.168" x 4.168"|
|Mic For Taking Calls||No|
|Frequency Response||Not Given|
|1/4-inch Adapter Included||No|
|Parts Warranty||2 Years|
|Labor Warranty||2 Years|
Overview: The MrSpeakers VOCE is an open-back electrostatic headphone designed for superior sound quality. It is hand-made in San Diego, CA, and features luxurious leather ear pads and headband. VOCE comes with a 6' fabric-covered, silver-plated copper signal/bias cable with a 5-pin Teflon plug. The headphones can be stored in the included wooden and acrylic storage box.
Electrostatic Headphones: Electrostatic headphones, unlike dynamic headphones, require dedicated electrostatic energizers or amplifiers. Energizers take the output of a loudspeaker amplifier and increase the voltage swing, while adding the required bias voltage. Electrostatic amplifiers are typically dedicated to electrostatic headphones. The VOCE electrostatic headphones require 580V "Pro-bias", compatible with electrostatic headphone amplifiers or energizers that support "Stax-Pro" bias voltages.
Lightweight Construction: The VOCE headphones are equipped with a fully dust-shielded large 88mm (3.46") diameter full-range driver with a 2.4 micron thick diaphragm, and ultra-thin metal stators for superior sound. Like Mr. Speakers' other high-end headphones, the VOCE's headband is made of lightweight NiTinol memory metal with a vat-dyed U.S.-made leather covering. The luxurous Italian Napa leather ear pads provide hours of comfortable listening. Overall, the headphones weigh approximately 13 ounces.
Tuning Filters: The headphones come with three sets of round tuning filter inserts that can be installed by the user, depending upon the user's personal voicing preferences. Black foam, black felt, and white paper inserts are included, each with different density, allowing you to apply different degrees of sound damping, and help you find the setup that suits you best. It is recommended that, instead of going back and forth with the filters, you should listen to each option over an extended time to fully understand the differences.
Signal/Bias Cable: The detachable low-capacitance headphone cable features silver-plated copper for superior signal and voltage transfer. The cable has dual machined aluminum connectors on the headphone end, while the amplifier end is terminated with a proprietary machined Teflon and aluminum plug with 5 gold-plated solid copper pins.
Custom Storage Box: The MrSpeakers VOCE electrostatic headphones come with a custom-made, real walnut hardwood storage/presentation box. Inside, the box features an integrated stand for the headphones. The box has two hinged clear acrylic doors with magnetic closures, with a slot for the headphone cable. This allows you to store the headphones in the box while leaving them plugged in. The box has four rubber feet so it can be stood upright, or laid flat, as desired.
Specifications Note: MrSpeakers does not publish figures for frequency response, except for the fact that the lower end extends down to 10Hz at -3dB. Sensitivity and impedance figures are also not specified.