Dan Clark Audio – DCA EXPANSE Review


Sound – Basics


Starting of with the lower end section, we can clearly say that the bass is lifted a bit, but that is perfectly ok. It makes the EXPANSE exciting, lively, and engaging. Bass depending on the amplifier used is bigger or smaller, but the quality always is good. Bass reaches down low to real sub levels, and it has that wonderful speaker-like impact. Bass layering is very impressive but it’s not only about its presence and impact, it’s also technically strong. I absolutely love the way the EXPANSE does bass, my favorite combo being the Auris Audio Nirvana.

The mids section sounds full and perfectly connects to the bass. Its presentation is smooth and has a nice touch of warmth. Mids are spacious and airy and the layering, note decay and fine detail are divine. The vocal presentation is a bit more upfront, and it has a slight focus on it, but it’s not too much. IT works well with the rest of EXPANSE’s tuning, and it makes things lively, contrasty and exciting.

EXPANSE’s top end is lively and energetic, and it has good extension, but not the most ultimate. Some might find the 3k lift too much, but I like it and think it works well here. I do find tube amps to control treble best in this headphone, and of course it can help you to soften the top end as well (though I personally don’t feel the need to do that).


Sound – Sources

A reasonably low impedance of 86dB means that the EXPANSE can use some good power. In general, I prefer listening to the EXPANSE on the higher end tube amps in my collection, thought the CH-AMP and OOR/Hypsos stacks make it very enjoyable as well.

The first time I listened to the EXPANSE at home was with my Technics SU-G700 speaker amp. In general it’s not a great headphone amp, though it has a special Class AA headphone amplifier with separate amplifier circuits for voltage amplification and current amplification of the audio signal. Anyway, if you like bass and fulness then you will love this combo. For me the bass in this setup is a little too much in presence, but it also is very impressive in depth and layering. You get speaker like bass in a headphone, and that’s just great. The dCS LINA stack is fabulous but I doesn’t really bring out the excitement of the EXPANSE to me. It’s lighter in presence, with smaller bass impact and it’s just not as engaging as with other amps. You do get a very refined and precise sound, but the focus here is too much on the front vocals and top end, and the balance doesn’t work for my ears. If that’s you’re thing however, you will love it.

It’s a different story with the little EarMen CH-Amp stack, combining the PSU-3 and Tradutto. Size doesn’t always matter, and the CH-Amp clearly proves that. This combo sounds fuller and weightier than the LINA and that makes the EXPANSE so much nicer to listen to. There’s still a strong focus on the forward vocals, but they do blend in better with the added weight of the mids. Bass is also fuller here and perfectly connects to the mids. If you don’t like the 3K boost, this probably isn’t the ideal combo for you. I quite like the CH-Amp and EXPANSE combo and especially the stereo imaging, tightness, and punch, but it doesn’t have the musical magic of the combos I’ll cover in a bit. Another popular (and great) solid state amp is the Ferrum OOR (with the Hypsos PSU). In this combo I recognize both the CH-Amp and LINA. It’s fuller than the dCS (but not as full as the CH-Amp) and it has the precision of the LINA. It has great positioning and 3-dimensionality, and if technicalities are your thing, you will love this setup. It you prefer a fuller sound with bigger bass impact, you probably won’t find this combo to be very engaging. I like it, but it’s not the combo I use myself.


I really feel the EXPANSE to shine and mesmerize when hooking it up to higher end tube amplifiers. In that case the following two amps come in to play: the 300B Feliks Audio Envy and the 2A3 Auris Audio Headonia. If you’ve been reading my review for the last few years, you will know that I hold the Headonia in very high regard. It’s probably the amplifier I listen to most of the time when I’m not doing review work. The combo with the DCA EXPANSE is good, but it’s not as spectacular as I expected it to be. In this combo you get very high precision with probably the best extension and sound stage of all the combinations I tried, but it’s quite light from top to bottom and the bass – in which the EXPANSE excels – just isn’t there. The quality, layering and depth is there, but it’s missing impact and presence. For the rest there really is little bad to see about this combo. It’s excellent in all many ways, but it’s not as engaging and full in the lower regions as I’d like it to be. The vocals just stand out a little bit too far for my personal taste.

This strongly improves when switching to the Feliks Audio ENVY, but there’s good and bad. While the combo here does have that oompf and engagement, you lose a little bit of precision, extension, spaciousness, as well as sound stage. Again, a stunning combo – and probably the second best I found for the EXPANSE – but it’s not as technically strong and extended as the Headonia. The solution? Easy. The Auris Nirvana! This Serbian powerhouse (using EL34) has the body, and bass weight and it combines it with a really good level of precision, musicality, and tube smoothness. It for me mixes the best of the ENVY with the best of the Headonia, though it doesn’t quite reach the same technical level. To me this is the very best amplifier for the EXPANSE, considering my listening preference.

I have tried many more combos with the EXPANSE, but I keep going back to tubes and power, like the Solaris (just to name one). Of course, your listening preference could be completely different, so do let us know in the comments section which amp you prefer with the EXPANSE.

The part on sound continues on the fourth page. Click here or use the easy jumps below.

Page 1: DCA, EXPANSE, Features, Price & Box & Accessories

Page 2: Design & Build Quality & Usability, Fit & Comfort & Isolation, Sound Intro, Sound General

Page 3: Sound Basics, Sound Synergy

Page 4: Sound Comparisons, Conclusion, Summary

4.4/5 - (125 votes)

Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.


  • Reply December 6, 2022


    Great review! As usual!

  • Reply April 9, 2023


    Amazing review! Nicely written

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