• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

The science behind Stax's magic

Yoaime

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 16, 2021
Messages
13
Likes
1
Location
Belgium
#1
Hello fellow headphones (earspeaker) enthusiasts,


After, again, too much time spent on forum and other internet places I can't wrap my head around one issue. So, I reach you, the community that seems to be the most able to answer my question.

Last year I got the opportunity to compare a Stax L300 with an Audeze LCD-X, one white Grado (don't remember the name) and my EQd M1060. A few years prior to that I already could hear a Stax and the LCD-X and didn't like the Stax but loved the LCD so I had little expectations for the Stax.
But surprise, I loved the Stax. Ok the bass don't slam as much as what the Magnetic Planar could do but it had something else. There is some confusion with terms like detailed/clean/clear so I would just say that the Stax seemed more like there was nothing between me and the music. In this regard the LCD seemed barely better than my M1060 I could even be imagining it, but the Stax was definitely better.

So, I want to understand why.

Here a lot of people say that the technology behind doesn't really matter it's the implementation. I also read that the Electrostatic have thinner driver that let them move faster resulting in this effect. Some say that the Abyss can match this effect, but they don't seem to have good measurement to back that up.
Do the Stax have much lower distortion? It's difficult to find measurements of Stax and what I could find do not confirm this. Also, the LCD seems to have low distortion.
The frequency response that's better? I tried later at home to EQ my M1060 to death trying to reproduce what I heard without improvements.
My amp could be the culprit but it's a Drop O2 and the LCD or M1060 are pretty efficient and this amp does a good job as Amirm measurements revealed.

I also have a Shure SRH1840 who does worse than both ortho but this one is well known to have quite a bit of distortion.
 

MrPeabody

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Dec 19, 2020
Messages
657
Likes
829
Location
USA
#2
If you are looking for some theoretical reason why one type of headphone driver absolutely sounds superior to another, you won't likely find it. People will often point out inherent differences, such as the difference in moving mass the diaphragm of a conventional dynamic driver vs. the taut membrane of an electrostatic. Inherent differences such as this one are potential advantages of one type of driver vs. another, but they are not generally absolute advantages of one type of driver vs. another. It is important not to draw general conclusions for the differences of different classes based on casual comparative listening of one example of one type and one example of another type. It is most likely true that most of the popular notions pertaining to the supposed differences in the sound of one type of headphone driver vs. another, or of one type of amplifier vs. another, etc., originated with casual listening to a single example of each type, and strongly influenced by preconceptions of how the two types are "supposed" to sound different.
 
OP
Yoaime

Yoaime

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 16, 2021
Messages
13
Likes
1
Location
Belgium
Thread Starter #3
Yes, I understand that. In my case the two Planar Magnetic sounded similar but Monoprice seemed to have aimed at imitating the Audeze signature.
I'm more looking at what measurements could relate to this perceived sensation, for the sake of science. And in the mean time if I could make my current setup sound more like this or for future purchase know what to look for that'd be great.
 

Dealux

Active Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2019
Messages
101
Likes
105
Location
Arad, Romania
#4
Stax headphones have boosted treble and a very exposed driver (i.e. little to no front and back dampening). Presumably the advantage of this driver tech is better stability in upper frequencies which translates to better clarity subjectively.
 
Joined
Apr 12, 2021
Messages
25
Likes
67
#6
Stax headphones have boosted treble and a very exposed driver (i.e. little to no front and back dampening). Presumably the advantage of this driver tech is better stability in upper frequencies which translates to better clarity subjectively.
Why do you say they have "boosted treble"? In relation to what?

I think there is a case to be made that Stax headphones objectively sound more clear than most dynamic drivers.
 

solderdude

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
9,546
Likes
20,439
Location
The Neverlands
#7
Last edited:

thewas

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
2,800
Likes
6,053
#9
A lot of them have a substantial peak around 1-2kHz giving them a LOT of clarity.
Correct, Stax also used to offer also an (overpriced) diffused field EQ reducing that peak:

1618699893089.png


Interestingly I preferred though my ex entry Lambda (SR-207) sound without it (had the convolution file for it).
 
OP
Yoaime

Yoaime

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 16, 2021
Messages
13
Likes
1
Location
Belgium
Thread Starter #10
Stax headphones have boosted treble and a very exposed driver (i.e. little to no front and back dampening). Presumably the advantage of this driver tech is better stability in upper frequencies which translates to better clarity subjectively.
These are really interesting points. Indeed it seems to be treble related or high mid. I tried to EQ a similar FR but it didn't seemed to help though. And the Stax are more recessed from 2-4 kHz.
Better stability and exposed driver could be two big factors, unfortunately that's not something I can test easily. The pad are also really thin, so the ear being closer to the driver could have something to do with this ?

The magic is that they don't have any bass.
Can probably help, but definitely not the whole story. EQ out the treble of my headphones does not produce the same effect.

Yes they do sound more clear.. at least some do.
Not all Stax headphones are created equal.
A lot of them have a substantial peak around 1-2kHz giving them a LOT of clarity.
https://www.dropbox.com/s/sknm9lejxobvo17/Stax SR-L300 LTD.pdf?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/f92g9chd8if1qjz/Stax SR-L700.pdf?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/3tfl27gzlf6mzl6/Stax SR-009.pdf?dl=0
When I add this peak in my headphones I feel the sound get less clear. Like trying to hear music through a sea shell. A dip might even improve the situation.
I might be doing something wrong.
Untitled.png
 

solderdude

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
9,546
Likes
20,439
Location
The Neverlands
#11
EQ 6 and 8 are actually in the wrong 'direction' (didn't check 7).
Apply the reverse of 6 and 8 then have a listen to 'forwardness' and 'clarity' of voices compared to good speakers in a good room.
Then address the other 'issues' one by one.
You need to apply the reverse direction of the measured response.

That said... I once, quite briefly, auditioned a few Stax'es (L300, L500, L700, SR007) and certainly did not hear the 1.2kHz peaks. In fact to my ears they sounded quite good and think I can pick headphones out that would have a 5dB peak around 1kHz.
You also don't see those peaks on all rigs so might not be there or as severe as Oratory measurements make us believe.
To me the L300 sounded like Rtings measured it.
L300.png

In which case the 1.3kHz would only need to be pulled down 2dB max and very narrow.
One could shelve the treble a few dB above 6kHz downward a few dB but you might 'loose' some of the 'airy' and 'ethereal' properties.

Personally I would only EQ in some bass by using a wide peak filter at around 30Hz. Would not shelve it 20dB at 20Hz for certain.

Maybe lower the 10kHz a bit (quite high Q) but not too much. Bringing it down too much removes some the 'magic'. Removing just enough. Set it to a lower level and see if it get's rid of the 'sharpness' in some instruments. Get used to it for a week and then adjust the amplitude when so desired.
Measurements above 6kHz is NOT an exact science !!! despite manufacturers claiming this up to 8kHz or 10kHz.
 
Last edited:
OP
Yoaime

Yoaime

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 16, 2021
Messages
13
Likes
1
Location
Belgium
Thread Starter #12
I don't understand why my EQ would be reversed. I'm trying to add the 'Stax sound' to my current headphones. So I add the peak at 1.3 and remove the bass. But indeed when I reverse the 1.3kHz it improves, but for the bass it add more which is not what the Stax offer.
Would be nice to have the Stax at disposal to compare the result directly because memory fade away.
 

maverickronin

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 19, 2018
Messages
1,908
Likes
2,255
Location
Midwest, USA
#13
The real reasons are probably that the drivers are large and quite acoustically transparent.

Some of the higher end Hifiman planars share those qualities and have a 'stat-like sound.
 
Last edited:

solderdude

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
9,546
Likes
20,439
Location
The Neverlands
#15
I'm trying to add the 'Stax sound' to my current headphones. So I add the peak at 1.3 and remove the bass.
Ah.. I see.

Then you first would need to 'correct' your current headphones to the desired target and then apply the EQ from there towards that of the Stax.
Problem is which measurements to trust in order to achieve this ?

Your experiment basically is similar to what Olive did to test for preference of tonal balance of headphones without giving away what you are listening to.

I have never been able to accurately emulate a HD800 with other headphones but could get them close to it in tonal balance.
 

maverickronin

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 19, 2018
Messages
1,908
Likes
2,255
Location
Midwest, USA
#16
The Arya for exemple ?
I haven't heard that one in particular but it seems like it might.

To be more specific, the various incarnations of the HE1000 that I've heard and the Susvara have quite a bit of the 'stat sound for being planar magnetics.
 

Maki

Active Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2018
Messages
226
Likes
398
#17
Closest thing I've heard to stax is the HE6 when you pull the drivers away from your ears so there's no seal and you position them just right. Bass goes way up, but it adds a sense of effortlessness to the sound that I've only heard in stax. Aryas on the other hand don't sound very much like stax at all in my experience.
 

jonfitch

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Messages
316
Likes
355
#18
Tyll Hertsen's of Inner Fidelity's theory behind electrostatics, particularly the SR-009/007 sounding so good is because the driver has a very fast initial transient, and then because there's no voice coil to bring the driver to a stop once the initial transient begins, will ring at low amplitudes for a very long time, which can be seen in impulse response graphs. Essentially he described it as an addition of pleasant sounding errors, perhaps a type of additive euphonics like what you get with tube amps.
 
OP
Yoaime

Yoaime

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 16, 2021
Messages
13
Likes
1
Location
Belgium
Thread Starter #19
Ah.. I see.

Then you first would need to 'correct' your current headphones to the desired target and then apply the EQ from there towards that of the Stax.
Problem is which measurements to trust in order to achieve this ?

Your experiment basically is similar to what Olive did to test for preference of tonal balance of headphones without giving away what you are listening to.

I have never been able to accurately emulate a HD800 with other headphones but could get them close to it in tonal balance.
Yes, exactly.
I compensated my headphones based on this result : https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/Au...arman_over-ear_2018/Monoprice M1060/README.md
And since I had to swap the pads because they became bad the sound changed a little bit so I made some more modifications by ear. And then applied what I've shown previously.
But I know this is far from perfect. I wanted to make my 1060 sound like my SRH1840 this way, it got closer but still far from the real deal.
Olive was very confident in his method, my methodology is less scientific and precise but still I find weird to have results this disappointing. Anyway I keep trying.

I haven't heard that one in particular but it seems like it might.

To be more specific, the various incarnations of the HE1000 that I've heard and the Susvara have quite a bit of the 'stat sound for being planar magnetics.
Closest thing I've heard to stax is the HE6 when you pull the drivers away from your ears so there's no seal and you position them just right. Bass goes way up, but it adds a sense of effortlessness to the sound that I've only heard in stax. Aryas on the other hand don't sound very much like stax at all in my experience.
So you mean that the Stax sound is more technology related and only the best ortho can achieve something similar ? That's what I see the most often on this subject, in the end it might be the truth. Have someone EQd some Stax and never really lost this type of sound, it might help to confirm it ?

Tyll Hertsen's of Inner Fidelity's theory behind electrostatics, particularly the SR-009/007 sounding so good is because the driver has a very fast initial transient, and then because there's no voice coil to bring the driver to a stop once the initial transient begins, will ring at low amplitudes for a very long time, which can be seen in impulse response graphs. Essentially he described it as an addition of pleasant sounding errors, perhaps a type of additive euphonics like what you get with tube amps.
It's weird to think that some errors would make it feel more realistic. I can conceive that it might happen though.


So I would guess that there is no real consensus, it's kind of the thing in this field.
Whenever it's possible I will try to find a store with these headphones and do some experiments, but seems like it won't happen before a while.
 

Maki

Active Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2018
Messages
226
Likes
398
#20
So you mean that the Stax sound is more technology related and only the best ortho can achieve something similar ? That's what I see the most often on this subject, in the end it might be the truth. Have someone EQd some Stax and never really lost this type of sound, it might help to confirm it ?
Yeah I EQ all my headphones, still enjoy estats more. I've tried for years to replicate the experience on high end planars, dynamics, etc. Some do come close but it's not the same. Mind you, this might all be psychological, no way to really determine that unless someone makes in ear mics and special headphones for DBT purposes.
 
Top Bottom