There’s just sooo much choice. .
There’s just sooo much choice. .
Agree, but choice is a nice thing lol… I’m trying to build up my amp collection next I think. But time, space, and money make it tough…that and a mildly OCD wife
Hehe, my wife is the same. She just doesn’t get the whole audio/headphone thing. She just looks at me blankly whenever I try to explain anything regarding better audio. But then she’s the same with computers. To my dear wife a computer is a computer is a computer. If something is functional then it’s good enough. No need to spen extra trying to Chase improvement.
My wife is similar…she is always the pragmatist. I’m the opposite, always seeking for that next best thing lol
Ugh. I’m always looking to upgrade something. I suppose right now I am somewhat happy with my HD 800 and Yggdrasil DAC but do want a better amp. Currently using Ragnarok but I really want the new Phonitor X in the chain.
The phonitor x is a good looking bit of gear…outside my current spending allotment for audio gear
Mine too, lol. But I can still dream…
My next headphone upgrade is to restore my Stax full range estats. I got a set of Stax Lambda Pros with the SRM1/MKII driver for a Christmas gift in 1990. These headphones (or earspeakers as Stax likes to call them) spoiled me for a very long time.
I had a problem with the driver about 10 years ago and sent them in for repair. Unfortunately I am having more trouble with the SRM1/MKII driver and its time to either replace the driver or fix it again.
Since the thing is over 27 years old I am leaning towards replacing the driver box. I can replace the driver with something like a Woo Audio GES (approx $1600) and then I can upgrade the headsets themselves down the road.
I am toying with the idea of giving myself the Woo GES for Christmas and use that driver with the Lambda Pros until I buy another headset. I would love to own a set of SR-009s but that’s a bit expensive, even for Stax cans. The Stax L700 is really interesting because Stax took the research they did for the SR-009 driver membrane and applied that to the new L700 headset.
I really miss the full range estat sound and even my Focal Clears sound slow compared to my 1990 Stax Lambda Pros. I love the Clears and they are great but I have that expectation when I listen to cymbals and other high frequency stuff that doesn’t exist unless you listen to full range estats. It just ain’t there.
I know Stax stuff is very expensive but its some of the best sound in the world, speaker or headphone. I figure you are in charge of making sure you listen to the best sound you can and life is short. I know I will buy the new driver and new Stax cans unless I get called to the next dimension soon.
I want to and have to hear that sound again. The Focal Clears are amazing for dynamic headphones but after listening to full range estats for over 25 years, you get expectations and I cannot unlearn what I lived with.
I recommend that you steer clear of Stax headphones unless you want to start spending absurd amounts of money on your headphones. Yeah, they are that good. Dammit.
It really sounds like owning Stax could spoil a persons desire to listen to other headphones. I suppose that if they’re that good you would be spoilt and it would be hard not to be too judgmental on other gear. It’s in no way a criticism I am just thinking out loud as it were. I have never heard Stax and in a way I am pleased because I know I would want them and I haven’t travelled the headphone journey enough yet to own truly endgame gear.
You sound like you’ve had plenty of experience with headphone gear certainly much much more than me and you seem to know exactly what you want. Do you see yourself getting some Stax gear again?
Absolutely…I love the sound of full range estats (I still own a set of Stax Lambda Pros and a malfunctioning SRM1/MKII driver). I know they are very expensive but I love great sound. The issue with Stax headphones has never been their performance. Every audiophile that I know of, who auditioned them, ended up with the same opinion.
It is impossible to not love that kind of sound. People may be able to find fault with electrostatic speakers but IMO its very hard to ignore the excellence of estat headphones.
Dynamic and even planar magnetic drivers have the trouble of making the driver light enough and then creating a magnetic field coherent enough to precisely control the driver. To me, electrostatic drivers are the perfect solution when it comes to headphones.
An extremely light weight film with a conductive coating is fixed between two charged grids (or stators). The film has a bias voltage applied and the audio signal is applied to the stators. It is a push pull driver with extremely low moving mass.
It is a great way to create a precisely controlled driver and in a headphone, where the size of the driver is small, the issues with large electrostatic panels do not exist. It creates an extremely fast and crazy real sounding driver.
If executed well, the electrostatic driver is capable of reproducing any audible sound because it is faster than anything else in nature. The reality of the sound is stunning. In a dynamic headphone you sometimes hear sound that is very close to real. The electrostatic headphone makes this a more common occurrence. They are capable of examining every flaw in a recording.
I remember the first time I heard a set and sat gobsmacked at what I was hearing. The reality was hard to believe. A recording where you can hear every musician’s performance but you also hear them handling their instruments and you can sometimes hear them breathing or shifting in their seats. If the recording is excellent there is no limit as to what you can hear.
Stax has been in the estat headphone business for a long time now and has the technology down. Yeah…I’ll get another one.
To be totally honest you can find fault with Stax headphones but that fault has nothing to do with their performance. You can say that they cost too much. You can say they aren’t compatible with regular headphone equipment (you can’t plug them into a standard 1/4 jack). You can also say you can’t use them with portable players.
Stax electrostatic headphones require an estat driver which hooks up to your stereo system via RCA type ICs. Some drivers also have balanced connections. What you cannot say is they sound bad in any way. Sound quality is not a problem with Stax electrostatic headphones. It is their strength.
Yes I have also heard people complain of the build quality of some of the lower end models. But they always seem to hold up well enough. I suppose that people expect build quality as well as sound quality too. But to be honest most headphones are made from one type of plastic or another.
The Stax sound seems that it would really gel with me. I like to hear lots of detail and have always been fond of treble. Resolution and imaging are also important. I want to hear it all. I especially would love to hear the Stax for the attack and speed they are renowned for. Your other set of headphones are also high on my wanted list. The Focal Clears they are the best looking headphones on the market IMO. They to seem like they would tick all my boxes. I would have to hear them first though. I would love the clarity and speed/attack the posess. But they do seem like my next pair if and when i have the cash.
As you’ve mentioned all headphones have faults and a major thing for me is that by their very nature being Estats they need the Energiser to go with it.
On the whole I would say that the benefits seem to outweigh the downsides. The only other one being the cost of ownership. But I suppose that’s the price of the top sound quality and Stax experience that people covet.
I have heard very few people say they don’t like them but there are some around and that as always is down to personal choice.
That’s the part I relate to the most. I’ve had and still do, great gear in my career. Yet, when I hear awesome sound from some of my gear, I still chase some thing more. As they say it is hard to " unring the bell ".
Let me add a bit to what @EdAInWestOC says. I too, strongly favor electrostatic sound.
Faults with electrostatic headphones. They’re not real good in a dirty environment. If they get exposed to dust or powders they can be ruined. See the parts and used commentary on https://mjolnir-audio.com for an explanation.
Because they use special connection equipment - an energizer box or headphone amp for e-stats, it can be tricky to diagnose a problem - especially if you have only one of each. I sent my SR-5N’s for repair, only to find they were fine (yay!) and the energizer was bad - a much cheaper fix.
Most audiophiles will tell you that the energizer boxes that have transformers won’t give you the best possible sound. I lived with one since 1982 or so, and it was still the best sound I’d heard. I’m looking forward to the replacement I ordered as a result of this forum, which made me want to get those phones hooked up again. In the last upgrade to my amplification, I lost the 2nd set of speaker outs I had used for the energizer. The tube amp replacement can connect to a preamp out.
I really like electrostatic speakers. They take up a lot of room. They aren’t quite as loud, generally as dynamic speakers. You need really big panels for deep bass. They aren’t cheap. Martin-Logan solves the bass problem with a sub, often integrated. I prefer the Quads - the 2912.
I don’t know if I’ll ever buy a set. They’re hard to place in a room, and to convince the better half that it’s OK to spend $15K or so for a set of speakers. But the sound is gorgeous.
The first e-stat phones I heard were Koss estats in about 1975. They sound great, but the phones themselves are ghastly. Heavy and a terrible band that has little to recommend it over Uncle Fester’s wooden vise headache cure.
My hifi dealer in the 80s stocked a nice range of Stax phones. And Sennheisers. One day, he made me listen to the Stax Lambdas. It was all over. There is a remarkable similarity from lowest to highest in the Stax range of phones, or was at that time. As you stepped up in the range, it was the same, but just more so. I don’t know how to explain this or why it is. The bottom of the line earspeakers were remarkable. Excellent transients. As you got more driver area, the whole thing improves. More range, more detail. The SR-5Ns were the top of my budget. $499 in 1982 and came with an energizer. I think the Lambdas were $699. I also preferred the smaller normal look of the SR-5Ns instead of the boxy look of many of the Stax. I think the Pro-Bias was just coming out that year. I can’t really speak to the difference because I haven’t listened to many of the newer phones.
I recall reviews of the early pro-bias phones as being not precisely harsher, but perhaps more revelatory and less forgiving of recording issues in the mid to high end. With the newer models, I don’t hear that whiff of criticism in the reviews. One of the other reasons I decided to pull the trigger on @spritzer 's modified T1S is that it has both normal and pro-bias output in case I want to buy $$omething newer in the future.
I’d recommend buying a Lambda Professional or Nova with an SRD7 Pro or SRM252 if you’re interested. You might be able to get away with a set for under $400.
The Stax sound has always been kind of a disappointment to me. I bought an SR-007 SZ2 and modded it, hoping it would be my end game but I honestly didn’t end up using it at all. The speed is super interesting but in the end the very strange bodiless bass presentation and ethereal positioning distracted me enough that I could never actually relax listening to my music because it was just so bizarre. It’s a trait that I’ve heard universally through at Stax line from the normal bias Lambda to the SR-009. I can see the appeal of the presentation because it makes music seem weightless, but it’s too strange for me to enjoy with anything other than simple acoustic.
The ESP950 manages to retain a lot of speed while sounding less ethereal though.
Thanks guys for educating me. I don’t think I will be going down the Stax road quite yet. I need to try out more dynamic and planar headphones yet. Plus I do have a real passion for iem’s as well. My problem is that I want to hear them all but I aren’t a millionaire. I will have to chip away and buy when I can. I think that used gear might make more sense if I am wanting to sample a wider variety of gear.
I would definitely go down the route that @Ishcabible mentions if and when I do reach out for Stax. As always you guys are very helpful thank you.
I’m not sure if this counts for this thread, but here goes. Tubes. Buying, rolling are serious upgrades. My Woo Wa6 Se is totally dependent on them. An upgrade to my rectifier tube for this amp from stock rectifier to " Sophia Princess " was one he’ll of an upgrade.They are quite expensive. Made a huge difference in my sound. I guess you sometimes do get what you pay for.
Thanks for your feedback. I would like to tube roll in the future but that’s a whole new area to get caught up in. At the moment it’s on my to do list with lots of others. I’ve always fancied getting the Bottlehead Crack. @DarthPool has recently built one but alas I lack the skills to build one myself. When I have enough funds saved I can look for a used one but they’re like hens teeth very hard to find. Once again thanks for your input.
All these years, I couldn’t imagine a solder iron iron in my hands. My hands shake at the very thought of it. I leave that to the pros who know how to do it. Maybe I could add it to my bucket list.
Haha yes it’s definitely one for the bucket list. To be honest I can just about wire a plug. Sad I know but it’s not a skill I have ever needed before. It’s one I suppose I could pick up if I try but then as I say I know nothing in regards to electrical circuitry and that part has never held my interest. Though I do understand that a good few active members do posess these skills. I sometimes feel at a disadvantage not being of a particularly scientific ilk.
I feel like my biggest disadvantage is never learning how to play an instrument (always wanted to learn piano/trumpet/drums) I may attempt it when my daughter is old enough to take lessons (maybe a fun learning experience we could do together). I was very worried about doing the soldering part of the Bottlehead Crack build… But I think by making sure I had generally good tools to get the job done and then patience and watching YouTube videos, and following the instructions to the T helped (still made a couple of mistakes). It is very rewarding getting it done and listening to it. You guys might look into maker spaces near you that could walk you through it or build it for you.