The MrSpeakers AEON Flow headphones are lightweight and comfortable with an effortless sound.
One of the best closed-back headphones I've ever tried
Our headphone merchant handed me a sample of the MrSpeakers AEON Flow headphones and asked, "how much do you think these cost?" My guess — based on the careful packaging, heavy-duty feel, and high-end look — was a little over twice their price. If I had actually worn and listened to them at that point? My guess would've been considerably more.
Who is Mr. Speakers?
Before I share my listening experience, let's step back a bit and talk about how these headphones came to be. Company founder Dan Clark — THE Mr. Speakers — is a longtime audio engineer who made a name for himself by modifying other manufacturers' headphones. Hardcore headphone enthusiasts appreciated his semi-"outlaw" approach, and really loved Dan's sound improvements. (Funny enough, Dan says that he was initially only looking for a way to turn his open-back headphones into a closed-back set, so he wouldn't disturb his wife.)
Capitalizing on the buzz, Dan started his own brand, MrSpeakers. He gathered some talented people, and they began building headphones from scratch in their San Diego shop. Those early MrSpeakers planar magnetic headphones earned rave reviews, and their reputation has only grown.
The company's latest top-of-the-line ETHER Flow and ETHER C Flow headphones are on many "Best of" lists. Those two models informed the design of these AEON Flow headphones. They use the same specially designed planar magnetic drivers. Modern manufacturing techniques like 3D printing helps them deliver premium high-end performance at surprisingly low prices.
A new take on planar magnetic headphones
Planar magnetic designs can get complex, but the basic physics behind them are pretty simple. You have a super-sized diaphragm moving lots of air, resulting in spacious sound with better dynamics. The diaphragm is covered with a flexible circuit and trapped in a magnetic field. It moves when the circuit receives an audio signal.
MrSpeakers added a new wrinkle to this traditional design. Or perhaps more accurately, a few creases. Rather than using a completely flat diaphragm that can bounce back and forth rigidly, their V-Planar™ drivers use a more fluid-moving pleated diaphragm. This accordion-like pattern helps it start and stop quickly, pushing more air. You can really hear the extra presence on tracks with complex bass.
Lightweight and efficient
To move a diaphragm this large, most drivers have a magnet array on both sides. That's why planar magnetic headphones sound great, but are usually heavy and bulky. The V-Planar drivers use a single-sided magnet design, so they are efficient enough to plug directly into a phone. (Of course, they'll really shine when you drive them with a more robust headphone amp.) Plus they feel lighter than any other over-ear planar headphones I've ever worn.
Smoother airflow around the magnets
MrSpeakers also includes their TrueFlow™ waveguides on either side of the magnet array. These special baffles help reduce turbulence in the airflow. This lowers distortion and makes for effortless, natural sound.
Airflow around planar magnet arrays can get messy...
... so MrSpeakers added the TrueFlow waveguides to reduce turbulence.
Incredible build and comfort
The six-foot, soft-fabric-covered cable connects to each earcup using a heavy-duty locking system. I made a simple adjustment of the leather inner headband, and quickly positioned the teardrop-shaped earcups correctly. The nickel-titanium outer headband is strong, extra-flexible, and it helps everything slide into place.
As strange as it sounds for headphones this large, I could almost forget I had them on.
My weekend with the AEON Flow headphones
I've covered all the technical stuff. Now it's time to talk about the "feels."
I only had these headphones for one weekend, so I got up early Sunday and put them on. That's sort of my weekly ritual — I have a two-year-old and a five-year-old, so I carve out a little alone time in the morning. Usually I wear headphones for a little background music while I read. After about five minutes with AEON Flows, I was so sucked into what I was hearing that I put my book down.
The 'phones were connected to the TEAC UD-503 headphone amp next to my recliner. I had a Spotify playlist going of obscure 70s funk music from Africa. Everything sounded natural and exciting. Punchy bass, sparkling highs, and an amazing sense of space — I was in the middle of the "dance hall" as it were, rows back from the performers.
"Enjoy your Life" by Nigerian singer Oby Onyioha was a particular delight. Her vocals popped with life, and blended beautifully with the jazzy bass line and orchestral, "dare-you-not-to-smile" energy of the violins, horns, and keys. I had to hit replay a few times.
What makes a pair of headphones great? To me, it's not really just one trait specifically, like comfort or sound. It's how well the overall experience connects me to the music. That tinge of nostalgia in the gut when an older song brings me back to a time and place. Or the exciting rush of blood to my face when a new artist pushes boundaries I didn't know you could.
The best headphones plunge you so deep into the tunes and experience, that the world around you disappears. That's what happened here. Even with a desk full of headphones to review, I didn't want to give the MrSpeakers AEON Flow headphones back.