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Stax versus HD800...

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hi folks.

Has anyone compared something like the Stax 3050 or 4040 Signature energiser/earspeaker to the Sennheiser HD800 and a decent headamp?

I've listened to the HD800 and found it very enjoyable, without the obvious defects that some people have written about. I was most impressed, however, with its comfort.

Electrostatic headphones, however, intrigue me. I've always had a bit of a notion to buy a set, and a new 4040 Signature set has become available at a local dealer for roughly the same price as a pair of HD800s, and I could then recover a bit of cash by selling my (very) recently purchased Graham Slee Novo head-amp, or keep it for driving my AKGs.

So, it boils down to this: I'm not going to be able to do an A/B comparison, so if I go for the Stax it will be a bit of a gamble for me. YEs, I can try to go hear it but I'm very busy over the next couple of weeks so might not manage it.

Someone here must know both systems.

The sound I like/am after:

Delicate, detailed and airy, but with decent slam and dynamic capability and accurate, deep bass. Not so interested in absolute volume as I tend to listen at moderate levels, and I want a headphone that's comfy enough that I can forget that I'm wearing it. I think thet HD800s tick all the boxes, but I can't buy both a pair of HD800s AND the Stax, and then decide, so I want to get an idea from you lot first...

Key things I need to know:

1. How detailed would the Stax 4040 or 3030/3050 sound in comparison to the HD800?
2. How comfortable are the Stax over a longer listening period?
3. Do Stax do deep bass, or are they quite light in that respect (would prefer accuracy over quantity but I don't want it to sound too 'lean');
4. What's the durability and lifespan of Stax headphones? I think the HD800s seem to be quite well made but haven't handled Stax headphones before to know.

Thanks,

John
post #2 of 18
Good question. I'm wondering the same. Some of the guys in the Phonitor roll call/appreciation thread are leaving the HD800 for Stax, and in other threads, I've encountered some who are doing the opposite -- moving from Stax to the HD800. I've never heard Stax so I don't have a basis for comparison.
post #3 of 18
The primary reason for people switching one way or the other, FWIR, seems to be preference for the electrostatic sound over the dynamic sound, and vice versa. At that point it's almost all personal preference, so try to get to some meets and listen if you get the opportunity.
post #4 of 18
Sorry to complicate things, but I would throw the 2 new high end orthos into the mix. I spend most of a meet comparing both to the HD800 and found the HE5 and LCD2 at least on par with the 800 overall (perhaps even a little better). I also found both orthos to be more detailed, slightly, and I enjoyed both more than the 800.
post #5 of 18
I'm coming from the "electrostatic-world" and currently try to decide between Beyer T1, HD800 or Stax.

I had the chance to compare the Stax 3050-set to the HD800. The Stax felt comfortable, although not as great as the carefully "styled" HD800.

The Stax seemed more "delight", while the HD800 is an unforgiving "acoustic loupe" - but I'll think sound has to be heard for yourself, words can't describe sound ;-)

Bass is not like closed cans, but both headphones deliver bass with high precision when it's on the record (I use "Saul Williams - Raw" from his "Niggy Tardust"-album which is free to download).

What really turned me off is the build-quality, it's cheaply made and propably has to be handled with care, no comparison to the HD800 - that's why I'm looking for the Omega instead.
post #6 of 18
I was one of those Phonitor guys that abandoned all my dynamic cans for STAX.

I can't get into too much detail on the lower end STAX systems as I don't have much experience with them but if you are going to look to STAX as an HD800 alternative, it will be more expensive. You really need an SRM-717 amp and a pair of O2's to really leave the 800's in the dust and that will set you back around $2,500 used. The 404LE and 717 would likely also do the trick but there it is more a matter of preference (mine is for the 404LE), the price of the rig would be around $1,650 so more comparable to an HD800 rig.

Answering some of your questions.....

The O2 has very good bass and the 404LE has excellent bass when compared to the best dynamic cans. I do not miss anything that the HD800, PS1000, or Edition 8 do over my O2 rig and iCal made exactly the same transition.

For durability, STAX products are very well built and have a proven track record of lasting for decades so you don't need to worry about that. I have more materials issues with Sennheiser products including the HE60 and HE90 then comparable upper end STAX products. The Senns are well engineered and sound great but the HE60/HE90 suffer from alarmingly quick headband/earpad/and internal rubber part degeneration. This doesn't make me not like them, you just have to keep on top of their service.

Good luck with your decision.

BTW, There was just a thread in the High-End forum asking about HD800's or STAX that you should really go read.
post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dinan View Post
I was one of those Phonitor guys that abandoned all my dynamic cans for STAX.

I can't get into too much detail on the lower end STAX systems as I don't have much experience with them but if you are going to look to STAX as an HD800 alternative, it will be more expensive. You really need an SRM-717 amp and a pair of O2's to really leave the 800's in the dust
Agree to disagree. I don't even think the HE90/A10 leaves the HD800/Beta22 in the dust. They are different flavors and I personally feel the HD800 is still the technically superior headphone over any Stax headphone.
post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by IPodPJ View Post
Agree to disagree. I don't even think the HE90/A10 leaves the HD800/Beta22 in the dust. They are different flavors and I personally feel the HD800 is still the technically superior headphone over any Stax headphone.
That's why you have to love audio....it is very subjective!

But from my experience with these, the OP is going to have to go to O2 territory. Best thing to do is pick up the best STAX rig you can afford and the best dynamic rig you can afford, live with them both for a while, and keep the one you love (worked for me). In truth, I could have easily kept my Phonitor and lived happily ever after with the HD800's but I simply prefer the O2's, HE90's, and properly driven HE60's (if you look past the lack of bass by comparison). So don't get me wrong, I LOVE the HD800 and it is my favorite dynamic can but I obviously prefer SOME stats to the 800. The 800 will easily outperform any non-flagship STAX offering that I have heard.
post #9 of 18
I tend to like the Stax Pro Headphones far better than the Sennheisers. I have had a chance to listen to the HD 800s and am also an owner of the HD 650s and 600s as well. As you can tell I am additionally an owner of many Stax Pro headphones. I find the Sennheiser sound to be slightly muffled in comparison to the Stax Pro sound. Since the HD 800s retail for almost the same amount as the Stax Omegas or the Stax 4070s, I think I prefer the Stax sound. The detail available on the Stax Headphones are far greater than that of the Sennheiser's. I can not vouch for the sound on the lesser models of Stax though! You really have to compare Apples ot Apples and Oranges to Oranges. I head it said that you buy Sennheiser only because you haven't heard Stax. Of course I do like the Sennheiser Orpheus far better than the Stax Omega for its sound quality but since the Orpheus is almost four times the price of the Stax Omegas, I will take the Omegas. I have had the opportunity to listen the both the Omegas and the Orpheus and find that the only real difference in sound is that the Orpheus has a closer sound stage than the Omegas.

Scottsmrnyc
post #10 of 18
I remember auditioning some 4040s a few years back against a pair of ancient Senn 540Refs with an OBH21se amp. I expected the Stax to walk all over the Senn/OBH combo, and was more than a little surprised when I preferred the dynamic combo.
As already stated, you really do need to go listen. I can understand why each side will chose as there are clear differences in presentation between the two, you just need to work out which you prefer.
post #11 of 18
I've taken the HD800's farther than my O2/BGed KGSS system could ever go (which I owned for 2+ years).

I don't know where the continuous idea that the O2 has more detail than the HD800 comes from. From my experience the O2 can be very detailed in certain freq ranges (mid bass down) but I would not say it is more detailed overall than the HD800s. The amp for the HD800s do matter quite a bit to how they will sound though and what kind of detail you get out of it.
post #12 of 18
The two questions that come to mind for me when people ask questions like these are: What music do you listen to? What's your source going to be? If you don't have an ultra-resolving DAC, then I'm not so sure O2s are really going to be better in that respect than HD-800s.

My favourite Stax rig so far, not having any chance to use better than a 717 is one with the Lambda Nova Signatures or 404s (haven't tried the 404LE yet). The LNS + 007t (with tube dampers) or 717 have considerable amounts of bass and beat the HD-800s in detail, if they are physically incapable of matching their epic headstage. Early on during my HD-800 ownership, I felt they were better than the LNS, yet later have gone back to them, simply because of how effortlessly electrostats can present music. Now if the more expensive amps (Beta 22 and Balancing Act, for example) are even faster (and more detailed) with the HD-800 than my Phoenix, then that'd tip the scales again I reckon, but at a considerably higher price point that matches the cost of a KGSS and O2. Overall, I think it comes down to a matter of preference as to what "sound" you prefer and how much you're willing to spend, as you're heading into the crazy-spending territory, where the big-guns of amps lure you with guarantees of amazing sound.
post #13 of 18
I have both ...
HD800 = monitor ... flat, cold/neutral. Bass don't surround us because it's coming from a distant point like a live show.
Stax = colored, smooth, and warm. The bass surround us and give studio sound.
post #14 of 18
I had the HD800's and couldnt stand their clinical non-musical render, for me well amped O2's or even the 404's are way more resolving, musical and involving than any hd800 rig I tried, and I tried many. I dont think the hd800's are worth their asking price, period!

We have discussed a lot about this in the forum, you should do a search....
post #15 of 18
Guy: You have 4070s, which I reckon are the best headphones with vocals, bar none, so that doesn't surprise me.
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