Why I Personally Prefer STAX Electrostatic Headphones

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You’ve probably noticed that I mention my own STAX SR-507 electrostatic headphones used for testing DACs and music server equipment from time to time. So I thought it would be a good idea to let you guys know more about them.

Why I Primarily Use Headphones

First of all, let me explain why I switched to using headphones exclusively from traditional loudspeakers. The simple answer is that I’ve got a busy life with kids to take care of.

Well, truth be told I don’t have a fully optimized room with acoustic treatments. My living room acts as the hub and the last thing on earth I want to see are huge speakers and a bulky audio system. Most of my listening has to be when kids are asleep. Headphones are just perfect for kicking back with your eyes closed just focusing on the music performance.

From a technical perspective, I feel that headphones offer a cleaner more intimate sound because there are simply zero room acoustic interferences. You can enjoy great undistorted sound all the time. No complaints from neighbors. It’s just you and the music.

A few compromises are inevitable however. You won’t get that lifelike soundstage as with stereo speakers and bass won’t have any visceral impact although certain tricks such as angled drivers and crossfeed filters on headphone amplifiers help reduce the perception of a narrow soundstage.

Enter Electrostatic Headphones


A couple of years ago I came across a small Japanese manufacturer STAX who has been producing electrostatic headphones for over two decades. I was completely floored when I had a listen to them and promised myself to own a pair in the future. Yes, I had heard electrostatic speakers from Quad or Martin Logan before and I know they were fantastic but having those as headphones was a true revelation.

Nothing I heard to date compares to even the STAX entry-level model in terms of clarity, low distortions and natural sound. And I’ve listened to a most flagship headphones out there including the Sennheiser HD-800, AKG K812 as well as all the latest Audeze Planar Magnetic drivers. Your opinion may differ though if you are a fan of truly hard-hitting bass because this is where the Planar Magnetics usually excel.

Let me explain where electrostatic headphones differ from traditional moving coil magnetic drivers. Essentially, eletrostatic drivers work similar to condenser microphones. The “driver” consists of nothing more than a thin foil made of mylar sandwiched between two electrodes known as stators. When a high voltage is applied to the electrodes, the foil is within an eletric field and is either attracted or repeled causing air to move.

The advantage lies in the literally distortion-free reproduction of recorded music and a perfect transient response. All of this because the mass of the driver is so incredibly low. If you primarily listen to acoustic music (Jazz, Classical or vocal tracks) you will be shocked how revealing such a transducer can sound.

But be prepared to spend some extra cash as you need a dedicated high-voltage amplifier for these types of headphones making them not very portable. You cannot plug them into a typical headphone jack. But I’m only using them indoors anyway.

For my own listening pleasure, I picked the current flagship of their Lambda series, the SR-507. I coupled this with an acient FET/tube hybrid amplifier, the SRM T-1.

I also did some modifications to the SRM T-1 by swapping the tubes with ECC99. in addition, my SRM T1 is completely recaped.

If you want to give electrostatic headphones a try, I highly recommend their entry-level set consisting of the SR-207 headphones and a small desktop amplifier SRM 252 (both are known as the SR-2170 system). You can purchase those from Amazon.com for under 1000 Euros and even less – usually under 500 Euros if you buy them directly from Japan using eBay.

STAX Website:

Reviews on Amazon:
SR-2170 Set (Headphone and Amplifier) (advertisement)
SR-009 flagship headphone from STAX (advertisement)

2016 Update:

I sold the SR-507 for a pair of beautiful Omega 2 MK1 headphones. Still, the SR-507 is a fantastic headphone if you prefer a more crisp and analytic sound.

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1 thought on “Why I Personally Prefer STAX Electrostatic Headphones”

  1. Headphone listening itself (as with a loudspeaker/room set-up) is no different from the other; both are approximations of the real thing. No more. No less. Same can be said of photography -or even video; is it really comparable to the ‘live’ event ? No. It’s really not even close.

    HP listening is indeed personal and intimate. Yet, the lack of listening room/loudspeaker interaction impairing (or at least contributing to) sound quality of headphone listening is quickly shot-down by the even more enormous variation of the “HP/Head” interface itself; head size (and positioning), ear canal variances and the simple (yet complex) ear-pad/ear interface all represent large variations in perceived/experienced sound quality.

    Stax Hi-Fi is far older than the twenty years you specify; more like 50 + years. Why we haven’t spent 30-seconds verifying with a Google search irks me even more as I write this (as it takes me longer typing these few words due to my pathetic skill lol)

    I’m betting STAX may be even considerably older than 50 YOA.

    your appreciation/recognition of STAX is shared by many passionate audiophile/reviewer’s who always reference at least a few models (of headphone) from STAX when discussing the “best”. (If I recall correctly, as a passionate HP listener daily throughout the 1980’s, STAX was the “King of the Hill” back then as well. If we were to specify 1985, this would, naturally represent 37/8 years of production.

    A near 15-year absence from headphone listening resulted in the recent purchase of Hifiman 400i’s “can’s”. I suspect the headphone socket of my Cambridge Audio 840-E preamplifier (that I just realized had a 1/4″/6.3mm HP jack) is somewhat struggling with the 35-ohm load of the 400i’s. (I also suspect the 35-ohm load is NOT a purely resistive one -wreaking havoc on the HP’s (likely op-amp powered) socket by the inductive/capacitive impedance profile of the 400i’s.

    In any event, I (as you) first consider solid, inexpensive options, including the just released Schiit ‘Magni-3’ ($99. US$), or even the similarly recent Emotiva a-100? (50 W/C main power amplifier than can be converted to a serious headphone amp -$229. US$)

    If you have another rec., I’d be most interested.



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