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A superb, but pricey, flagship headphone.

A Review On: Stax SR-009 Electrostatic Headphones

Stax SR-009 Electrostatic Headphones

Rated # 85 in Over-Ear
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Audio Quality
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Design
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Lan647
Posted · Updated · 22254 Views · 9 Comments

Pros: World-class build quality. Extremely comfortable. Detailed and utterly effortless sound.

Cons: Ridiculously expensive.

STAX have always been the choice when it comes to ultimate transparency through headphones, thanks to their superior electrostatic designs. When you listen to a good STAX headphone, suddenly everything sounds more like live music. The soundstage is perfectly defined, dynamics are explosive yet effortless, and the tiniest nuances and textures in the music come through clearly as can be with an absolute naturalness - all with a smoothness of sound that makes even the best dynamic headphones sound somehow rough around the edges. 

 

In some ways, the SR-009 is the best headphone STAX has ever produced, but not in every way. 

 

Starting with the build quality, its definitely a big step up from earlier models, including the SR-007. Materials and assembly exude a remarkable level of precision, with solid aluminum and soft leather of the highest quality. The earpieces are held together by the arc in a less "fixed" fashion than most headphones, which results in the SR-009 kind of hanging on the sides of your head. This makes for a loose fit, but also excellent comfort. Definitely a better fit than the SR-007, in my opinion.

 

The sound signature of the SR-009 leans more in the direction of the older Lambda series than to that of the SR-007, but with a somewhat firmer bass foundation than the Lambdas. Bass texture and definition is spectacular, and low-end impact is actually perfectly satisfactory. It just feels like the drivers are extremely well controlled, because the bass just seems so agile. Extension is also first-rate. The bass, while punchy, is lighter in mass than that of the SR-007 mk1, which gives equally airy but more substantial and in my opinion more realistic bass. 

 

To give some perspective on how much bass quantity we're talking about, expect something in between the Sennheiser HD 800 and Beyerdynamic T1. 

 

Midrange is right where it should be in the mix, with a wonderful acuity and airiness to vocals and instruments. I do feel, however, that there is something missing. There is a slight absence of warmth in the sound, leaving vocals in particular ever so slightly lacking in organic presence. It's a slight deviation, but at this price one can't be anything but picky with such details. If you find the midrange of the HD 800 to be tonally spot-on, you'll appreciate the SR-009 too. If, however, you think the midrange of the Audeze LCD-2 rev 2, SR-007 and also some Lambdas is perfectly natural, I think the SR-009 will sound just a tad sterile to you. And I do not find the clarity to be beyond what the SR-007 can accomplish when its driven to its full potential, as some people claim. But that's just me. 

 

Then there is the treble, which I think is excellent. Fast, airy, detailed and everything one can expect from a great electrostatic transducer. While some will argue about it being brighter than optimal, it's not forward relative to the midrange and bass and feels as even and extended as one can even wish for, without ever sounding sharp or strained. To my ears it's right at the spot to provide accurate imaging without overdoing high-frequency instruments. Bright or not bright, the SR-009 certainly has more sparkle and energy to its sound than the SR-007. While less warm and inviting, the SR-009 is the more lively sounding of the two.  

 

Oh and speaking of imaging, its up there with the best too. Depth of field is exemplary, almost 3D-like (kind of similar to what I heard with the Beyerdynamic T1) with very good layering. The headphone distinctly portrays all of the individual sound components in the recording with no confusion whatsoever. While the cheaper STAX models never hint at confusion during complex music pieces either, I think the SR-009 is the best of the bunch in terms of pin-point imaging. However, the shape of the soundstage itself is more spherical and less stage-like than that of the SR-007. When you listen to the SR-007 well amped, it gives a very special sense of distance and acoustic timbre, like sitting in an actual room (for a headphone, that is). The SR-009 is more enveloping, and more forward. Less room-feel and more "space" feel. Some will prefer it, and some will prefer the SR-007. 

 

As good as this headphone is - and it's excellent, no questioning it - I feel that, judging its performance relative to other STAX headphones, it doesn't justify the price. Die-hard audiophiles with hefty wallets should consider the SR-009, but if you're on a limited budget I wouldn't say the 009 is worth it. And (IMHO) a well-amped SR-007 mk1 may even be preferred. The SR-007 gives a warmer, more stage-like and somewhat more realistic presentation of music - whereas the SR-009 has a more monitor-like portrayal, a more spherical soundstage that puts music around you rather than pushing it up front and gives up some organic warmth in favor of a slightly more analytical (though not HD 800-analytical, or even SR-507 analytical) tone. I think the SR-007 does better in the midrange and in coming closer to what live music sounds like, but I think the SR-009 has more "oomph" and dynamic potency to its sound, mainly because of what I find is a more "snappy" bass and more treble presence. 

 

In short, I would say the SR-009 is a technically perfected but slightly less warm sounding headphone than the old Lambdas (I'm talking Lambda Pro, Nova signature etc), and should not be seen as better version of the SR-007. It's not, the two headphones are quite a bit different and you'll just have to decide what you want and what you value most. The SR-009 is a much fancier construction, more comfortable to my ears and its sound will appeal more to some than that of the 007. The SR-007 requires heavy amping (the STAX amps in standard setting are not powerful enough) while the SR-009 will work well with the SRM-007TII. But if I had to choose a headphone to enjoy music in the best possible way, my personal choice would be the SR-007. 

9 Comments:

You probably haven't hear them with a right amp...
And you have? :)
Did you listen to the sr009s with the bhse?
Doesn't matter, but it is uselles to listen to them with anything else than a top-notch electrostatic headphone amp, like the Woo Audio WES, almost same price as SR009. I am pretty sure they are better or at least as good than some MBL speakers man, you wouldn't hear the difference between these headphones and realism. Bad review..
Who are you to decide that when you have not even heard the gear? Do you know anything about audio electronics? Do you have enough experience to draw such conclusions about expensive gear and the impact different sources and amps have on sound? I'm sure you're just someone who watches videos and reviews and you have a perfectly clear view in your head that more expensive = better and everything is of course as simple as that. I've got news for you buddy, that's not always the case.
Stick to your Fiio and Sony's and leave this stuff to people who know what they are talking about.

zachchen1996: No
Yes, I read only reviews, not heard them, and why I am telling you this is because your opinion is very different. No need to hate me, it just seems you have heard them with (cheaper) amp or dac, so it didnt ''wow'' you like you was expecting...
I will stick to my sony's and you better find some article on the internet about What is a headphone amp, before you put on such an expensive headphone.
I see. You don't think STAX are perfectly capable of making their own amps? And just so you know, the particular STAX amp I tried them with was modified by it's owner in order to sound the absolute best. He also said that the BHSE has inferior components in his experience (he had seen the drawings and intended to build one but he decided not to because he found his own amp superior on paper).
The main reason they didn't wow me is probably because I have heard lots of other high-end headphones too, including almost a dozen STAX's. And the truth is, all the STAX headphones sound very similar (apart from the Omega 2 which is darker, creamier and more distant than the others), because they are all extremely good. I also don't own a STAX myself. If I had owned one and lived with it for years, and then comparing it to an SR-009, perhaps the difference would seem greater.
Wow, this Lan647 has attitude problems...
I agree with some of the above, the 009 needs a good amp (SRM-717 or 007t at least) AND a great source (not a Meridian Explorer BTW). These phones are so detailed they will reveal the upstream gear with all it's warts.
It is a must to hear the 009s with a fab DAC and a decent amp. In fact I would say the DAC is more important with the 009s than the 007s because of this, and also the 009s are much easier to drive.
The 007s are darker and thus more forging, plus add a bit of warmth which helps colder solid state DACs and amps. The 009s are more neutral, and I think need some tubes in the signal path, either at the DAC or in the Stat amp itself. It is no coincidence that many like the 009s with the 007t for this reason.
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