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A Review On: Stax SR-009 Electrostatic Headphones

Stax SR-009 Electrostatic Headphones

Rated # 56 in Over-Ear
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Price paid: $3,800.00
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Pros: Detail, naturalness and resolution on another level above anything else out there.

Cons: You'll never have a good enough source for them and the best rig will cost as much as a quite excellent speaker rig or even a car.

Knowing where to begin describing these is hard. The closest I can come is my first experience listening to a pair of full-size swiss Piega loudspeakers back in the early '90s. The resolution of those things was so incredible I thought that they reproduced the notes of a double-bass with such amazing resoultion you could hear the detail of the strings vibrating and that's before you get an idea of what their ribbon tweeter could do! Similarly, I recently experienced the capabilities of the Linn Klimax Twin power amp on a variety of speakers. The absolute authority and perfection of its presentation was something to behold and it immediately drove me to wonder how it might be possible to afford one.

Similarly the 009s have had such an effect on friends who have listened to them. Much like the Omega IIs and a suitable high-end rig, it is possible to make out the form of the studio music was recorded in by the detail of the echo off the walls. Listening to a classical concert I can even hear the detail of the waves of echos from the instruments coming off the walls. With these earspeakers, as Stax terms them, it is as if everything is simply on another level compared to dynamic headphones. Only the more recent high-end orthos, such as the LCD-3s and Hifiman series and maybe the HD-800s, Sony R10s and my Symphones Magnums come anywhere close. Now the SR-009 takes all this to yet another level. In the same way the first time I tried Stax and compared them to my regular headphones everything was so much more clear and real, the 009s have achieved this over even the orthos, which I hold in the highest regard. Questions about resolution, harshness, distortion, ringing and other issues simply seem not to exist.

While Stax will never give quite as much impact, or slam to music as othos can (while maintaining a high level of detail), the orthos, already awesome in this regard, especially with something like a high-end hybrid amp, wont give you instruments and voices with as much clarity as 009s, if they are arguably better all-rounders. The limits are only set by your source and amp, especially the former. I could easily visualise a $25k system with a pair of these (along with a Liquid Lightening or Blue Hawaii SE and Esoteric K-01 DAC).

Tonality-wise they are similar to the old-style Omega I and Lambda, that is, quite a bit brighter than the Omega II, which was always the odd one out in terms of sound. They suffer, like other models, from the "Stax fart" where moving your jaw and breaking the seal causes the protective membranes to make a sucking sound. However, like the original Omega and unlike the Omega II, they seem to be less difficult to drive, with detailed bass even from the older amps, such as the T1S. A good combination I found was the NOS Metrum Octave DAC, which is relatively mellow but still detailed, along with the Stax 727A amp. This gave a number of people an OMG moment listening to acoustic music, though it was not quite the ticket for rock. The bass, like the power output of a Rolls Royce, is "sufficient". The LCD-3 I found more entertaining in that regard.

They are again similar to the Omega I in that they come in an elegant wooden box with the nicest foam of any box I've encountered in recent memory. Opening it up, I was greeted with a "new car" smell, suggesting they source the leather from a factory that makes car seats. The headband has a new 10-click (per side) adjustor, which is quite stiff to adjust but holds firm unlike the old Lambda headbands. Beyond that, the fit is typical Stax -- light and comfortable. The aluminium design is of the highest quality, if it does seem to contrast the rather simple headband arrangement. Like its maker, it is in many ways an understated design, its statement in its perfection of design and sound.

So, ultimately, we have our king. Long live it and its maker I reckon.

(Updated June 23, 2012)


thanks for the review Curra
did you use any Stax amp with the 9s?
Also, it $3800 what the 9s are going for now in Japan?
I placed an order today at Elusive Disc as well fro 5249
looking like Christmas 2011 or later
If you want to get "slam" from the SR 009, because you find you are not getting enough. I have a suggestion. In my system, in addition to the WES, DAC 202 and Macbook Pro, I am using the most recent incarnation of Amarra software. Amarra has a built-in equalization utility that will blow you mind! You want "slam," go there. I can almost make the SR 009 jump off my desk if I want to. But I turn off that utility because I like the SR 009 "flat."
where did you get 009's for 3800$?
The $3800 price is a little misleading - Currawong lives in Japan, and obviously he paid in JPY. If you look at Jude's 2011 Tokyo vid, you can see the prices for many 'big dollar' Head-Fi favorites : plug some of those into xe.com and you may be in for a shock.
This might be the best headphone ever made but 5 stars for value? Not sure I agree...
Fair enough, but when you consider the cost of speakers that are as resolving (and need much spent on room treatment to get sounding right) then they look like a bargain.
I don't think you can really compare the respective values of headphones and speakers. Is a $5 bag of oranges better value than a $5 bag of apples? Only if you want oranges; otherwise you've wasted your money. Personally I think multi-thousand dollar headphones can never be 5 star value.
even the SMB Diamond IV isnt a good source enough?
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