Pros: Midrange, midrange, ... oh, and did I say ... midrange? Sounds great even on a basic setup, but really transforms on a good one.
Cons: Still a bit bright, mediocre bass and imaging, not that easy to get in decent shape
So, you were researching this headphone...and wondered: "Should I go for it?"
Do you like acoustic, vocal or classical music?
Well, if you do, firstly, I would say you should probably pull the trigger before someone else does. And then you may continue reading this - in a more relaxed matter :)
You should pay attention the condition though, some of the pairs I've seen here had a rough life, and might not be a faithful representative of what these are capable of.
Killing a Stax is not easy, but it is possible unfortunately. Mine was't in a nice shape either. But a standard head- and earpad replacement really gave it a new lease of life. Being an early pair, you just wouldn't believe that it is now probably more than 30 years old, let alone hear how it can just simply crush almost any modern headphones with the types of music I mentioned.
I mean it, seriously. Calling this a great value headphone is somewhat of an understatement.
For my taste it is one of the best I've heard. Why? Making an instrument sound like an instrument on playback can't be that difficult, right?
But the truth is, the midrange is really hard to get right. And I am happy to report that this headphone pulls this one off.
Guitars, vocals, etc. are just magical on this thing, but not because they are immerged in some virtual mass of sound trickery, it is simply because they are presented in a natural way.
The detail is there, but not in your face. The speed is very good, but does not go to extremes, very nice transients thanks to the damping. The soundstage is airy, but does not get too diffused, so you can always keep an eye - I mean two ears - on what's going on.
And here is the best thing: making an SR Lambda sounding bad is no easy task (if you like it's basic character, that is). Even when paired with a cheap (but well-thought-out) system using an adapter, it still sings beautifully.
But give it the source it deserves and drive it with a top tier amp, and everything becomes bigger and clearer, even the bass gains some snap as well.
So, what's not to like?
Somewhat bright sounding, so some people may find it glaring and a bit tiresome after a while. The imaging isn't nearly as good as the best out there (although more than holds its own in its price range).
Also, the damping does lower the bass output and quality somewhat. It does extend lower than you'd expect, but it is not for bass-heads. So don't put a bright DAC before it.
And really, its main positive far outweigh these on its own.
Not much to say on the comfort front. With new pads, I am finding them to be very comfortable. The older style headband allows a bit better angle adjustment than the newer ones.
Maybe I should deduct a little on the design because of it looks and its plastic construction. But, since I am not sure it would sound quite the same with this and that changed, I won't.
All in all, I am not quite sure of the reason why moving to the Pro standard, improving the technicalities also made a backwards step in naturalness - maybe the reason why it was still being produced until finally coming to a halt in 1994.
I don't mean at all that the rest of that Lambdas are bad, far from it - that said, I am not a huge fan of the current ones...
And imho neither of the others really seem to have that...something that this one does. And sometimes...something...means...everything. Or not?
Anyway, it's time to end, thanks for reading :)