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Buying The Sizzle??? (HE90 Takes the crown)

post #1 of 87
Thread Starter 
The poll question was: After the National meet, what is your indisputable King of ALL Headphones? HE90 wins overwhelmingly with 32.56% of the national meet vote. Wow, I am aghast. The Stax O2 got an embarrassing 2% of the votes. Bad show Stax, go lick your wounds.

My recent discussion, with a long time member and very respected head-fier, indicated that 5 years ago, when this forum was in its infancy, electrostatic sentiment was the flip version of what it is today. At that time, according to my confidant, the Omega 2 would have won a similar poll handily by popular acclaim.

When I started my second career in sales, I learned that the way to be successful is to "Sell the sizzle". What do you think that means? I know what I think, but I am very interested in finding out what you folks think. I guess the biggest hint would be the What hot?/What's not? column from some silly magazine I was reading in the MDs office. There must be a lot going on here.

So, what's happened
post #2 of 87
I don't exactly know how to answer your question since I don't really know what you're asking... but I'm willing to bet that the Orpheus wouldn't be as popular if it weren't limited edition and price inflated to such an extent. It's the same thing I notice with the HF-1 and A900 LTD. There is a surreal hype that surrounds all of these "hard to get" items.

That said, polls usually are a bad representation of the accuracy of how people think. It's an all or nothing -- there's no way to understand why people like what except by reading the comments that people write about their experiences.
post #3 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyrilix
I don't exactly know how to answer your question since I don't really know what you're asking... but I'm willing to bet that the Orpheus wouldn't be as popular if it weren't limited edition and price inflated to such an extent. It's the same thing I notice with the HF-1 and A900 LTD. There is a surreal hype that surrounds all of these "hard to get" items.
I almost bought some A900 LTD's in asia this past week when I was there. With the exchange rate they were $180 too!! Hmm, I'm starting to think I should have.
post #4 of 87
Well, for $180, I would've definitely given them a try...but for $350+? Hell no.
post #5 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyrilix
I don't exactly know how to answer your question since I don't really know what you're asking... but I'm willing to bet that the Orpheus wouldn't be as popular if it weren't limited edition and price inflated to such an extent. It's the same thing I notice with the HF-1 and A900 LTD. There is a surreal hype that surrounds all of these "hard to get" items.

That said, polls usually are a bad representation of the accuracy of how people think. It's an all or nothing -- there's no way to understand why people like what except by reading the comments that people write about their experiences.
hey man, have you heard the orpheus? believe the hype
post #6 of 87
I don't quite understand what is being asked in the original post, so...

Crayons taste like purple.

post #7 of 87
Sell the sizzle? I think that will soon be the new Grado RSZero and will become the hottest commodity in head-fi.
post #8 of 87
I just find it difficult to believe that the HE90 is so good that it betters the O2 to the degree which some people suggest. Perhaps its more comfortable, or less posision sensitive, but the idea what it occupies an entire and exclusive uppermost tier of quality all by itself is an idea to which I do not subscribe.
post #9 of 87
For me the Orpheus is a much more meet friendly phone. It has its flaws but these aren't that clear with a short listen. Some comments about Metallica - S&M are completely true but with most music it just shines. Just like on the Turin Brakes disk I'm listening to now

The Omegas on the other hand need to be fitted to the head so not meet friendly. What at least one listener was reporting was exactly my problem with them. The bass was over damped but when I bent the headband to move the drivers further from the ears this went away. Every owner should try this because it is dependent on the listeners head size

When you reach this level of performance one isn't necessarily better then the other. They have different characters and mix differently with the amps. There is also the huge volume difference between these two...
post #10 of 87
What I wonder is how long it will take for a headphone to come out to replace the Orpheus entirely; what sort of technology in dynamics will it take to surpass it completely? Or wil it never happen? Is there a cap on dynamic cans? Obviously this is all subjective, and some prefer certain dynamic cans to the Orpheus even now, but currently it's recognized as the king by the largest number of people. When will this go away, do you think? Sennheiser seems to have said that they will no longer be producing electrostatic headphones at all; Stax doesn't appear to have much in the works. So? Thoughts?
post #11 of 87
I imagine Senn does more business in one week than Stax do in a whole year. Senn is a much bigger company with much larger revenues and even though the Orphys were very expensive, I still think overall Senn took a pretty big loss on the venture overall which is why they have no plans to go stat again. Stax has to stay in business and so the designs have to be somewhat compromised to keep costs reasonable to sustain the company long term. The O2 isn't a 'signature' product to show how clever they are, it's a working model that needs to make money. There is a huge difference in the design philosophy. One was to show off, one was to have an affordable every day product. They are both top of the line but only one is sustainable... ask yourself why.

Maybe another factor is the people. Maybe the Germans are better at designing stats but not at getting a long term sales strategy in place to make money. Who knows. What I do know is that it is somewhat unfair to compare the two given their target goals and retail prices. Stax cannot easily devote the tons of cash and resources necessary to go all out on a signature model as these invariably lose money and are never designed to be more than an exercise in excellence regardless of cost. (like the Qualia series). Stax went bankrupt once and are a small-scale manufacturer. If they had the funding and people I'm sure thy could make something that was at least the equal of the orphy and maybe better.

Senn has made it clear they are not going down that road again and stax can't afford to, so we are left with waiting to see what Stax comes up with next in the hi-end stat world. Unfortunately Stax has to recoup it's development and machine costs so the products stay on the market for long periods and change is slow and subtle at times. Senn will likely stick with dynamics as this is where the quick and easy cash lives.

Ultimately I think dynamics will triumph as only 2 companys make stats and only one of those is hi-end so the competition is a little one sided... Satx Vs. the rest. Dynamics, if they keep evolving as they have been, will overtake the best stats in time in pretty much all areas unless something spectacular happens.
post #12 of 87
Now that I've heard the HE90's I think you are absolutely right...yet absolutely wrong. "Sell the sizzle" is definitely true regarding HE90's...when paired with the matching HEV90 amp. I made that complaint to Hirsch along with voicing this opinion in the meet thread.

HOWEVER!!!

The HE90's on the Singlepower ES-1 were FANTASTIC - ex-sizzle! Too forward midrange and sibilance begone! Your complaint about the HE90 sound has nothing to do with the HE90 themselves, it is quite apparently a failing of either the system synergy with their matching amp, or the fault lays on the amp completely. The HE90's on the ES-1 proved that the cans are most certainly able to deliver a fine spectral balance.

If I had to buy the HE90's paired with the HEV90 amp, I'd have to agree with you completely. NO, thank you, I think I'll skip...not much. But the HE90's aren't at fault.
post #13 of 87
For starters, let's differentiate between HE90's getting 35% of the vote from Omega II's only getting 2%.

The first, HE90's almost ALWAYS get a favourable vote after a meet. In nearly every meet thread I have read in the 5+ years Head-fi/Headwize have been going, HE90's always took down Omega II's, if not 100% than by a wide enough margin that it always led me to believe the HE90's were the be all and end all of electrostatic sound to date. After listening to the HE60's and the Omega II's side by side for months, I could see the merits of teh HE60's but preferred the Omega II's, so I felt..well, if the HE60's are 95% of the HE90's (a sentiment held for a time) then I wouldn't be in the Senn camp at all. Yet, I have been repeatedly told that the HE90's are much better than the HE60's and that the hangups I had regarding the HE60's were pretty well corrected with the HE90's. That seems to me that by and large, the HE90's simply can do it better more often than not and this was using a dated amp, with an ancient DAC in there to boot! Given the advancements over the years in the amp camp for Omega II's, one would think the gap would close, but apparently it hadn't and now iwth the new line of amps rolling out for HE90's...it seems one again the Omega II's are left in the dust.

Stax has been working on Omega III's forever now. Once they get them out there...pehaps they will best the HE90's.

Now, about the 2%...well, one might assume that electrostats are inherently better than dynamics. In fact, this was a massive trend in thought going back circa 2002, early 2003 when the likes of kelly, zzz, grinch etc, were pimping Omega II's like nobody's business. If one didn't have Omega II's, or well, electrostats at all, they were sorely missing out.

Yet...so many prefered the HD600's from a Max or Blockhead (in fact some even prefered the HD600/Blockhead to the Big O!!!) Others loved the HP1000/Melos combo, or the R10/Cary or the RS1/EAR HP4. It seemed that dynamics combos had PRaT, musicality, no metallic shimmer/tone/timber but a more natural presentation and oh...they also had REAL bass

Since most advancements in both headphones and amps have been on the side of dynamic technology, it makes sense that most would prefer the systmes where the tech has greatly improved. I mean...if the fastest headphone on the planet is the Qualia, the bassiest is the PS-1, the most realistic headstage is the R10, the most natural timber the RS-1....(my opinion but seemingly in line with a good amount of Head-fiers) then it just seems the Omega II's don't have what it takes to compete anymore, at least not to dominate, ranking 1 or 2 along side the Big O.
post #14 of 87
But maybe we haven't heard O2's with just "the right" amp. As shown HE90's don't sing without the right amp synergy like the ES-1. The O2's, IFAIK, weren't shown with the option of the ES-1, they were either on the HEV90 with that amp's very noticable weaknesses or another amp that made them, very discernably, too warm for most tastes (mine, for sure). They didn't do anything "bad" but they simply never "sang", never opened up, always remaining a bit dark and warm.

Dark and warm is not a typical electrostat listener's preference, IMHO, we went electro to get open. For instance, on the HEV90, neither the HE90 nor the O2 really sounded all that "great" but if made to choose I'd definitely pick the O2's masking of the midrange error versus the HE90's too-forward presentation of it.

I just don't think "just the right amp" is commonly shown with O2's. Blue Hawaii et al, anyone??
post #15 of 87

It's a progression...

First off, a few years ago, far more Head-Fi members owned the Stax Omega II's, than those who had even heard the HE90's. It only stands to reason that the O2's were more popular at the time. As the membership grew in age & experience, those with the resources looked beyond the O2's and found ways to purchase the discontinued Orpheus system. Now you can go to a meet, and have four or five HE90's!!! Some members own more than one pair! That was but a pipedream only a few years ago.

Secondly, I also think the HE90's scale up with better equipment, beyond even what the O2's are capable. Only a few years ago, a top source around here might have been a Meridian 588, or maybe a Cary 306/200. Now those honors include names like Meitner, etc. So as members understood & obtained progressively better sources, perhaps the HE90's progressed along with them.

Third, the Orpheus ain't no sizzle! Notice I said "Orpheus", as in the system - amp AND headphones. I had heard the HE90's pitted against the O2's in the past. Always using a Gilmore e-stat amp (KGSS or Blue Hawaii). My usual opin was that both headphones were stellar, but the HE90 was a bit light in bass compared the top-of-the-line Stax offering. That is, until I finally heard the Orpheus system all together. I don't know if my tastes changed or matured, but now I find the O2's bass-bloated. If anything, the Stax is the "sizzle" (albeit a pretty nice steak too). The Orpheus system provides one of the most natural sound reproductions I've ever heard. Music simply flows, and you just experience it without listening to the gear. Wanting more bass or "sizzle" is not an issue. In no other HE90+e-stat amp combo did it do quite the same thing. Now we have new e-stat amps that challenge the venerable HEV90, and I'll leave that determination up to you for now.

The interesting thing to me is that with all of the supposed subjectiveness of audio, including headphone-dom, there seem to be far fewer deviations in opinion of these top-of-the-line models, such as the HE90's, than with lower-end models. Why is this so? I can only assume that what these models are doing are, in fact, closer to what we all actually expect to hear in the best setups, which is to provide the most true-to-life, and natural sounding musical experience. But how can that be, if we are supposedly so different in taste & physique? If there really is a true (of at least, tru-er) sound signature that we actually do agree on, where does that leave all that "subjectivity" (quotes intentional)?
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