Aeon Flow 2 Open Review Gear: PC —> Bifrost 2 —> Saga + —> Oblivion Amp Headphones: Verum One Hifiman Ananda Aeon Flow 2 Open Build: The new iteration of Dan's Aeon Flow build falls in line with all of his previous headphones. They're all well made, they're light, and personally look great. Both Aeon Flow 2 models have the collapsible hinges that make it go from a full sized to being very portable. I'm surprised at how much smaller the case that these headphones came in compared to the original. It is easily half the size of the Aeon Flow Open case and can be tossed in your back pack's small pocket. The case itself is sturdy enough to protect it from bumps and scratches. I think the one thing that I was really happy about is that the earpads felt like they were better built. That seriously irked me from the previous model is that the right earpad would deform constantly and I could not get a proper seal. I would have to massage the foam back to shape of the pleather weekly. After about 75 hours of total listening (100 hours of burn time) the AF2O earpads were as good as day one. My only complaint is that there wasn't enough space inside the case to comfortably fit the headphone cable. You'd have to do some pretty good finagling to get it in there while making sure the metal connectors didn't scratch the cups. Sound: The tonality of this headphone tilts warm and somewhat dark. It's warmer than both planars that I'll be comparing it to with a roll off at the top end. This is with my chain of course, and it could be that an amp like the Gilmore Lite MK2, which I've successfully used with the Aeon Flow Open, can add that extra bit of treble sparkle. It's a forgiving headphone that puts lipstick on Youtube music videos and makes badly recorded music palatable. Transients are rounded but still give a satisfying thwack while instrumental timbre is good. Instrumental notes have some real weight behind them in comparison to either the Ananda or Verum One. I think out of all of three headphones the Verum One resolves small details the best while the other two trail behind it with the exception of bass texture. The HD650 beats all of these headphones in micro dynamics but the AF2O beats them all in macro dynamics. The sound really reminds me of the AirPod 2s but in planar form. Sound Stage: In the first few hours of putting on the headphone you'll notice 2-blob headstage. Left ear cup that extends out around the size of a baseball, ditto with the right, and then a line connecting the two right between your eyes. It's a bit jarring at first before any burn in has happened. Fortunately, after 50+ hours the sound stage opens up more, the line between your eyes moves forward to in front of your face and both ends connect in a more rounded fashion. It sounds much more natural at this point and I never gave it another thought. There's a marked improvement in the sound stage going form the AFO to the AF2O. It's bigger, breathes better, and does not feel as claustrophobic as its older brother. Bass feels foward compared to the other frequencies while the rest of the frequency sits a bit further back. It's not as laid back as the Ananda but around the same as the Verum One. Depth/Layering/Imaging/Separation: There's two parts to it's depth - depth from each earcup and depth in front of your eyes. The depth in each earcup goes from behind your ear to the front of your face. Instruments placed in either left or right earcups have great depth and layering. You'll hear deep into the sound stage here and can place where each instrument is relative to each other. Then an instrument is placed in front of you and it's all kind of on the same plane. So if a reverb goes from the front to the back, you'll hear it move along with plenty of space. If you have a reverb that is close to the front of the stage and moves to the front it then abruptly stops in front of your face. One thing that did surprise me is its separation. Even with the headphone being warm there was not an instant that I recall where the bass drowned out another instrument or melded instruments together to where it made anything indistinct. Really, every note popped out of a place and felt distinct. The Ananda does as well as the Auteur at times where multiple instruments are playing and you can hear distinct notes of some but others just kind of meld together. The AF2O just makes it easy to follow each instrument. Each image of the instrument displays great texture especially bass. Each instrument also feels rounded out almost 3D in the place they occupy. Bass: On tracks like Daft Punk's - Doing it Right, the sub bass notes give a nice low end rumble. It's not significant but it's definitely nice to feel it. Sub bass is more neutral compared to low-mid and mid bass. Low-mid bass to mid bass is forward, hits hard, and has great texture. Really, the bass on this is extremely satisfying. Very punchy and tight. This is a great headphones for Jazz, EDM, Hip-Hop, and Metal. Saying that, I feel that the low-mid to mid bass can be a bit too much at times in other genres. As an example - Blues Traveler’s Hook spotlight is on John Popper’s harmonica and vocals. It feels like the bass and the harmonica/vocals are fighting for the spotlight. On the flip side of this coin, songs like Frederick Robinson’s, Kordz’s - We’ve Been are so satisfying to hear from this headphone. The bass in this track really shows off the texture and instrument separation. Mids: Mids are great almost in all areas except for male vocals. Not sure where on the FR this is but in Daft Punk’s Fragment of Time, it sounds like the singer has a stuffy nose. Other songs that I used for separation like Tennyson’s - 7AM didn’t have this stuffy sound. Kick drums are satisfying to hear but snare drums can be a bit muted to some because of the honey filter. Treble: Treble is slightly rolled off at the top but female singers like Norah Jones and Miriah Carey sound beautiful. Cymbal crashes still sound great but again with my gear it was missing that extra zing. I think there’s an opportunity here to pair it up with an amp that adds an extra bit of sparkle up top. It’s possible at that point it would give it the needed extra bit of crunch and zing to some of these instruments. Headphone Comparison: Ananda: Taller and wider sound stage. Instruments may not be as distinct as on the AF2O but they never feel crowded. Similar speed. Doesn’t separate instruments as well. Breathes better. Guitars and vocals sound ethereal on this headphone. Has a more laid back sound. Doesn’t have the weight behind instruments as the AF2O. Pianos, bass lines, and kick drums have a lighter attack and sound. Both have rounded transients. Bass is not as textured as the AF2O. It can sound almost one note at times. Both are very light and comfortable. Not as well built as the AF2O and I feel more confident with Dan’s headphone than the Ananda. Not as easy to transport in its big case. Cable is cheap compared to the cable on the AF2O and the cable fits more secure on AF2O. Verum One: Snappier and livelier transients. Very close to sounding like the Auteurs. Both exhibit the same planar speed. Has a more live sound to its presentation. More neutral sounding than the AF2O. Instruments are more forward in both but the bass is more neutral and more in line with the rest. Can be bright with the wrong gear while the AF2O can be dark with the wrong gear. Bass isn’t as punchy as the AF2O nor is it as textured. Not forgiving to badly recorded tracks. Has a bigger sound stage than the AF2O but smaller than the Ananda. Heavier than all the other headphones. The Verum One is nowhere near as comfortable as the AF2O. Not as easy to transport and doesn’t come with a case. Cable is cheap compared to the cable on the AF2O and the cable fits more secure. Conclusion: It is an evolutionary step forward from the AFO and better in every way. This headphone is fantastic for EDM, Hip-Hop, and Metal. Bass texture is also fantastic compared to any of the other planars and separation is top notch. At this point you have to ask yourself what are you looking for in a headphone. If you want a very well built headphone, that’s very light and comfortable, sweet, has great note density, and is forgiving, then this is a good move. I was hoping these would replace the other two headphones and I could consolidate but that wasn’t the case.I think the pairing with the Oblivion is not the best. Possibly pairing it with a solid state from the likes of Cayin, Auralic, or the bright version of Schiit’s Jotunheim, can really get them in a good place. I still feel that the bass is tipped up too much when it comes to the rest of the FR but it does take EQ well. I find that the Verum One is still a great steal for the price if you pair it up with a more forgiving amp and I haven’t been able to find a planar like the Ananda. It’s a coherent headphone that’s a jack-of-all trades and a master of none.