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Stax SR-009S Electrostatic Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 47 20.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 63 27.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 80 34.6%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 41 17.7%

  • Total voters
    231

Henreid

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And also less parametric EQ options than the miniDSP Flex. Granted you have to buy a headphone amp to connect to the miniDSP Flex, but that's still less money than RME ADI 2. And miniDSP Flex also has optical input (TOSLINK) from the CD Player.
I believe you've found the exact piece of equipment I would need for my CD player, and the cost is reasonable. I already have a good preamplifier to power my active loudspeakers, so I could connect the miniDSP Flex to the preamp for listening with headphones. Or I could also invest in a headphone amp as you suggest. Headphone amps with great specs are not expensive, these days. I appreciate your help!
 
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Henreid

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There are quite a few headphones that perform well without EQ. The thing is... they won't sound like speakers. They will sound like good headphones. Headphones are an alternative for speakers when you cannot play loud or want high quality sound outside of the living/listening room. You would have to accept that both speakers and headphones can be high quality but differ in the way they present things.
Thanks - your points are salient and help clarify things for me. Since I'm single and live in a standalone home that's well insulated for sound I never actually need to put on headphones to avoid disturbing roommates or neighbors with my loudspeakers. I rarely (if ever) feel a strong desire to take music with me when I'm away from home. I haven't used headphones since I was a teenager in the 1970s, but I think that headphone quality must have improved vastly since then, and after reading quite a few reviews I began to wonder if I was missing something by not owning a pair. I realize that before I ask for more guidance from the conscientious folks here at ASR I need to overcome my ambivalence about the way headphones present sound, and reach a firm determination that I'm ready to make the investment. I figure it isn't fair of me to enlist the brainpower of ASR contributors in choosing a particular pair of headphones until I'm fully committed to headphone ownership. (I've also recognized that I may be on a unicorn search for headphones that sound like high-quality loudspeakers, and that becomes a rather idle quest for something that no one could help me find.) It's gratifying to see the suggestions I've received because they show me that hardware does exist to equalize the digital signal from a CD player.
 
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solderdude

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I think that headphone quality must have improved vastly since then

It has, mostly in bass extension and sensitivity. Stax headphones have just improved slightly. The 'cheaper' models are still creaky and feel cheap. The SR007 and higher models feel a bit more serious and are more comfortable.

Personally I would recommend a HD800S and apply some EQ. This (EQ-ing and driving the HD800S) is easy to do using just an RME ADI-2 DAC. Both the DAC and headphone are high quality (almost luxury) items that will last and have great support.
The HD800S feels comfortable, does not get warm, has a very good sound quality and won't disappoint.
Of course you would have to get used to headphone 'presentation' and get a more 'intimate' sound. Takes an adjustment period and learning curve.

I have measured, auditioned, and owned over a 100 headphones and the HD800 is a headphone that still is exceptional and in the 'lower' price of the luxury items and one of the few headphones I own that get the most usage.
The Stax SR007 and SR009 have some other traits that may be more desirable but also lesser aspects. The HD800S is a headphone that comes very close and has higher comfort, is much cheaper and requires less TLC.

Of course there will be recommendations to use cheaper gear but that won't have the same excellent qualities nor longevity and comfort.
 
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Robbo99999

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Of course there will be recommendations to use cheaper gear but that won't have the same excellent qualities nor longevity and comfort.
That's a very subjective statement, probably not holding a great deal of weight, which I want to point out for the readers, but fine. (I'm not gonna go into details of headphone recommendation in this thread as it's off-topic to this Stax headphone review....ok we had some earlier off-topic with general headphone discussion with @Henreid but I'm not gonna amplify it by detailed headphone recommendations).
 

solderdude

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Yes, my opinion is based on my personal experience, just like all other recommendations by others will be based on their experiences, or they just regurgitate what this or that person said (which also is just an opinion) about a headphone or draw conclusions based on plots alone.

I could also point out to readers that there is 'subjective' (not based on underlying knowledge) and 'subjective' comments actually based on experience and knowledge in a relevant field of knowledge/education. ;)

I actually held the and listened to the SR009 (don't recall if it was the S version) .... if that helps.
 

Henreid

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Personally I would recommend a HD800S and apply some EQ.
Thanks for the recommendation. I have noticed that the Sennheiser HD800S model is held in very high regard, and is worth the price.
I've reached a headphone purchasing decision that may come as a surprise - especially when I mention that I have listened to loudspeakers almost exclusively for so many years that I could describe myself (with no exaggeration) as a "soundstage addict". Just this evening I came across amirm's review of the TRUTHEAR x Crinacle Zero:RED IEM headphones https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ruthear-x-crinacle-zero-red-iem-review.44865/ The test results are so impressive and these IEMs are so inexpensive that I feel I can't go wrong by ordering them, and thereby declare my headphone search to be complete (at least for the time being). I realize I'll be investing in IEMs that will offer me zero soundstage, but I can already predict with nearly 100% certainty that no matter which headphone I buy - even a model like the HD800S that is renowned for its spaciousness - I'll want MORE. I figure it just makes sense to stop obsessing over that reduced soundstage and simply enjoy the other satisfying aspects of presentation that good IEMs can give me. Even if this proves to be a failed experiment the cost is so low it will scarcely matter, and I can always explore other headphone + DSP options in the future. I'm truly grateful for the expert advice that has been provided to me here on the ASR forum (and I apologize for my off-topic digressions...)
 
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solderdude

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Yes, if you are fine with IEM's (I don't want to shove things in my ear and don't like the pressure inside my ear canal and knowing I push earwax back into the ear canal) then the zero red will be fine. It can plug into anything.
You will have to experiment with the supplied tips. It can make or break the sound. An actual ear canal is quite different from the test tube in a test fixture.
Since you replied in the SR009S thread I assumed you were looking in that build quality/comfort direction.

Let us know (in the Zero-red thread) what your personal opinion is.
 
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Henreid

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Since you replied in the SR009S thread I assumed you were looking in that build quality/comfort direction.
Indeed, I had been considering only over-ear headphones like the Stax SR009S, but my perpetual inability to choose any single over-ear model (as well as my uncertainty about equalizing the sound signal from a CD player) launched me into an off-topic tangent, here. Again, I apologize.
 

Robbo99999

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Yes, my opinion is based on my personal experience, just like all other recommendations by others will be based on their experiences, or they just regurgitate what this or that person said (which also is just an opinion) about a headphone or draw conclusions based on plots alone.

I could also point out to readers that there is 'subjective' (not based on underlying knowledge) and 'subjective' comments actually based on experience and knowledge in a relevant field of knowledge/education. ;)

I actually held the and listened to the SR009 (don't recall if it was the S version) .... if that helps.
That's ok, I'm just putting your comment into perspective.
 

Fone

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My favourite headphones. Just so expensive.

These sound better with the more expensive third-party amplifiers IMHO.

The Stax are a bit heavier than I would like but that is not an issue but for long sessions.
 

jmillar

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@this price it has to excell beyond measure and superlative directly out of the box to justify the cost @ $4545. That price has swagger and it simply must be superb or I find it insulting.
It would have to be compared to LCD-5, Susvara, Utopia, etc
 
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fabien.56

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fabien.56

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BrooklynNick

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I've used them for the SR-009, but not the "S" model. I think the Auto EQ is an improvement, but there is a lot of unit to unit variation with STAX unfortunately. You will get more responses if you ask in the STAX III topic on Head-Fi.
 

strom

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I've used them for the SR-009, but not the "S" model. I think the Auto EQ is an improvement, but there is a lot of unit to unit variation with STAX unfortunately. You will get more responses if you ask in the STAX III topic on Head-Fi.
Is it the same EQ that they have in SoundSource (Oratory 1990 EQ Presets)?
 

preload

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I have owned several Stax Lambdas, L700, and currently own the 007s. Given enough amplification, they provide a sound that I do not hear from non-electrostatic headphones. I have owned various Sennheiser, Bose, Audio Technica electret, Grado headphones and owned and really tried to like the Dan Clark Stealth and Audeze headphones (with eq) but….they didn’t sound as good as the Stax. The Stax are terribly expensive and the amps are even more so. I had a KGSSHV amplifier and it did fine with the L700 but not the Stax 007. Only with a Blue Hawaii, with tremendous voltage swing, did the 007 come to life. I do use an RME for some digital parametric control and a big amp and I haven’t heard anything (yet) that beats it. I wish the Dan Clark would have been better for me…would have saved money and convenience for not using such a big outboard amplifier. For many, an electrostatic is not the solution but they do sound different (and much better to my ears). Value wise, they are terrible. For me, they take me to the music like no other headphone combination. Your mileage will vary.
It sounds like you preferred the 007 + Blue Hawaii better than the DCA Stealth? Were those the MK I's? What did you not like about the Stealth in comparison?
 

Phishin_Phool

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See if you can listen to what used to be the Stax 3100 system - a 252s energizer and L300. The 300 is a little bright and the 252s slightly underpowered with EQ, but the L300 can be improved with L500/L700 pads and a quick blue-tac mod adds back a lot of bass. To me they make excellent headphones at the computer and compliment a super eq-able headphone like an Audeze planar that can do as much bass as you want, and a relatively good all-arounder like the HD600 or HD650. The energizer is the priary reason I will never spend more than I did on electrostats than the L300 LTD despite loving the 007mk2 - I just can't use them everywhere (Stax does make all-in-one dac/amps called the D10 (portable) and D50 but they have their own setbacks as will anything Stax). Having owned the L300 regular, which I bought used, for many years in a mix of environments, I fine the special care overblown.
I am a long time lurker and I must agree here ^. I started with the Massdrop Koss ESP95x and was really amazed by the details and soundstage/imaging. I was able to find a secondhand L3100 System (like new condition) for $500 so to enter the stax environment at that price was wonderful. Out of the box I liked them a lot with a little bit of eq they became fantastic IMO and now with L700 pads and the blue tac mod they are nearly endgame for me for much of my preferred listening (I have too many other expensive hobbies such as astrophotography, computer gaming and Golf). I know the 252 is really a poor amplifier and am planning on getting a Topping EHA5 for Xmas looking to eek out that last bit of improvement. I sit at my computer desk a lot and out of all my headphones The Koss ESP50x, Stax 3100 system, Senn HD600, Hifiman Sundara, Fostex TH600 (lawton modded and damped with custom wood cups - my favorite closed back), Bowers and Wilkins P7, Beyerdynamic DT770 and DT990 pro I nearly always find myself grabbing the stax. I am a science guy who believes in measurables but I don't fully understand all the measurables in headphone audio although the more time I spend on this site the better I get. If I want flowery prose I can go to head-fi but something magical and unexplainable seems to happen whenever I put on estats - just seems to be my preference but at $4545 I am sure my standards would be higher at those ranges I would probably be looking for an Abyss 1266.
 

Svperstar

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I am a long time lurker and I must agree here ^. I started with the Massdrop Koss ESP95x and was really amazed by the details and soundstage/imaging. I was able to find a secondhand L3100 System (like new condition) for $500 so to enter the stax environment at that price was wonderful. Out of the box I liked them a lot with a little bit of eq they became fantastic IMO and now with L700 pads and the blue tac mod they are nearly endgame for me for much of my preferred listening (I have too many other expensive hobbies such as astrophotography, computer gaming and Golf). I know the 252 is really a poor amplifier and am planning on getting a Topping EHA5 for Xmas looking to eek out that last bit of improvement. I sit at my computer desk a lot and out of all my headphones The Koss ESP50x, Stax 3100 system, Senn HD600, Hifiman Sundara, Fostex TH600 (lawton modded and damped with custom wood cups - my favorite closed back), Bowers and Wilkins P7, Beyerdynamic DT770 and DT990 pro I nearly always find myself grabbing the stax. I am a science guy who believes in measurables but I don't fully understand all the measurables in headphone audio although the more time I spend on this site the better I get. If I want flowery prose I can go to head-fi but something magical and unexplainable seems to happen whenever I put on estats - just seems to be my preference but at $4545 I am sure my standards would be higher at those ranges I would probably be looking for an Abyss 1266.

You should get an adapter cable to listen to the Koss out of a different amp. It makes a huge difference. I got the Topping EHA5 and it sounds great but if driven to near max volume with EQ and you have a loud track it will shut itself off. I didn't manage to do it with any songs but then I was listening to a YouTube video with loud effects and got the Topping to toggle off. I also got in the Stax 717 amp since Stax aficionados say thats is the best amp Stax ever released and it sounds great and unlike the topping doesn't shut itself off. It was 3x as expensive tho and I got both used.
 
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