I've been happy with my Stax SR-007 (Omega 2 mk1) and KGSS amp for over 3 years now. I used to have a few dynamic headphones and amps, but I sold all of my dynamic headphones and most of my amps when I started using the SR-007. There was just no point in keeping the dynamic stuff because the SR-007 was much better.
I recently decided to check out a couple of new headphones - the HE-6 and the HD800 to see if stats really have some competition now.
I've had only limited time to listen to these new headphones, but here are my impressions:
- The HE-6 is powered well by the headphones amp in the Benchmark DAC1 HDR which I use as my source. A comfortable listening level is achieved with the pot at the 12 o'clock position. This is with the internal jumpers set to 0dB of attenuation for the headphones amp. The DAC1 amp can provide 250mA of current, which seems sufficient. My Gilmore Lite, on the other hand, doesn't do very well with the HE-6. It can reach high volume, but it doesn't sound as good as the DAC1 with the HE-6 (the Gilmore Lite is lower power).
- The HD800 works well with both the DAC1 headphones amp and the Gilmore Lite. I think I have a slight preference for the Gilmore Lite with these headphones, but the difference is very slight.
- The HE-6 has a lusher but somewhat less detailed sound than the SR-007 and HD800.
- The HE-6 has more bass "kick" than the other two.
- Acoustic instruments sound best on the SR-007, then HD800, then HE-6. This hierarchy is quite noticeable when listening to piano, violin, trumpet, etc.
- Close-miked female vocals sound slightly less intimate on the HE-6 than on the other two. They sound intimate on the HD800, but there's some tendency to approach sibilance sometimes. The SR-007 is again best on this.
- The HD800 has a larger soundstage than the other two. The SR-007 is second, and the HE-6 is third.
Overall, the SR-007 is definitely ahead of the other two on my music. It really doesn't take long to figure this out - it's apparent pretty much right away when listening to orchestral classical music, for example. The HD800 is excellent and definitely better than any dynamic headphones that I heard 3 years ago, but it's just not quite as good as the SR-007, and the increased soundstage of the HD800 doesn't really make much of a difference since it still sounds like the soundstage of headphones.
From a purely technical point of view, I think the HE-6 are third in this comparison. However, if I could only keep two of these three, I would keep the SR-007 and the HE-6. The reason is that the HE-6 sounds quite different from the SR-007. The HE-6 adds some lushness and weight to the sound, so it's a nice complement to the SR-007 which is more neutral. Basically, there's something that's very pleasant about the sound of the HE-6 even if it doesn't get things quite right (such as the sound of acoustic instruments which is not 100% right, but not at all bad).
These are my impressions so far. I'll try the HE-6 and HD800 on a couple of higher-end balanced amps in the future (they're both balanced headphones). I don't really expect much difference when changing amps because I feel that my HE-6 and HD800 are already amped quite well by the DAC1 and the Gilmore Lite, respectively.
Bottom line: the Stax SR-007 keeps its position at the top, but there are now non-electrostatics that come closer than ever before. Fortunately, there's a new high-end electrostatic coming: the Stax C32.