Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › What do I need to know about buying Stax headphones?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

What do I need to know about buying Stax headphones?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

So I know these electrostatic headphones are supposed to be really great sounding. I've been interested in hearing and getting some but they're uncommon and I'm not about to order some online. Locally though a guy has an older Stax 404 with a SRD-7/SB professional excitor. He's asking $300 for it all, which seemed in line (Not like I'd know though). But my thing is...what does all this mean? Excitor? What is that? How does it hook up to equipment to be listened to? Can someone tell me more about how this Stax stuff works and if this is a good deal? I'd really like to try them, but again given they're not your average headphones I am clueless what an excitor is or any of that. Anyone help me out?

post #2 of 16
The SRD-7 has wires that connect to the speaker outputs of a regular amplifier. The 404 plugs into the front of the SRD-7. There are also terminals that you can connect your speaker wires to.
Amplifier -> SRD-7 -> 404 headphone or -> speakers using the front selector switch.
post #3 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Morden View Post

 He's asking $300 for it all,


Get them! If you don't already have a hi-fi amp, buy some or other vintage one to use for now. At least that will give you an idea of what Stax are like with a lot of room for improvement. It's simply impossible to buy any kind of headphones for that price, let alone headphones and an amp, that will come anywhere close.

 

post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post




Get them! If you don't already have a hi-fi amp, buy some or other vintage one to use for now. At least that will give you an idea of what Stax are like with a lot of room for improvement. It's simply impossible to buy any kind of headphones for that price, let alone headphones and an amp, that will come anywhere close.

 

Cool - it seems pricey (I recall not too long ago being ho-hum about spending $120 on my ATH-M50's) but it does seem rather special. I hear people talk about headphone amps - is there supposed to be something special about an amp made just for headphones that makes them any better for the use than just a standard home audio power amp? Home audio (The traditional sense that is, Speakers + amp + preamp [or receiver]) is my first and still foremost passion so I'm far more apt to have some kind of receiver or power amp I can use. Off-hand I have an Adcom GFA-545 Mk II which is 100 wpc along with an Adcom GTP-400 Preamp in a secondary system I could use. Heh, I have a super rare Pioneer M25 power amp that's 120 wpc and beastly (Nearly 50 lbs) but I'm likely to sell that monster soon for something a bit more modern (which is my preference).

I thought the main thing with headphone amps is that they are just small and more reasonable as far as wattage is concerned for the application (Since as a general I'd imagine 100 + wpc isn't needed - with electrostatic headphones being perhaps the only ones that could make use of such high power in a headphone application). Still, just wondering if the difference is anything more than aesthetic or esoterics of having a dedicated headphone rack.

EDIT: OH one last thing - is there anything to beware of considering these are Stax 404's from 1982? Anything I should check out specifically or anything that would possibly be bad or anything like that?
Edited by Mr. Morden - 2/28/11 at 10:30pm
post #5 of 16

The main thing that happens is the foam dies.  Also, unlike electrostatic speakers, the stators are surrounded on either side by extremely thin membranes which can tear easily, so whatever you do, don't try the "vacuum cleaning" trick that speaker owners use. New foams are available, as the basic design hasn't changed for 3 decades just about. If they are from 1982 though, they are probably not 404s, but one of the preceding Lambda models, which all look almost the same but changed over the years. The two distinctions you might need to be aware of are the "Normal" bias voltage models with a 6-pin plug, and the "Pro" bias versions with a 5-pin plug, which are newer.  If you take a photo and post it in the huge  "Stax thread (New)" in the High-end Audio forum someone will likely be able to identify them.

 

As for regular headphone amps, headphones require voltage swing, not large amounts of current that speakers do (though now we have crazy headphones such as planar models that can take up to 15W, but that is a rare exception and hardly the norm).  Many speaker amps tend to run the headphone socket off the speaker outputs with just a resistor.  YMMV whether this sounds good or not. A great many people on the forums are young and don't come from a hi-fi background but have a computer + sound card and often more limited space requirements than regular hi-fi components will fit in to. Thus the big focus on DACs and headphone amps, or combined units.

post #6 of 16
Currawong, your new avatar is pretty awesome.
post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmdevils View Post

Currawong, your new avatar is pretty awesome.


So is my kid. o2smile.gif

post #8 of 16
I thought the thing that the Stax plugged into was an amp. What is the purpose of it then?
post #9 of 16

Keep an eye out for any channel imbalance on the phones, sometimes accompanied with a strange bass distortion/clipping sound.

Oh, and you might hear a squeaky crinkle noise when you put them on or whenever you force air in/out of the air pocket between your ears and the driver.

That's the almighty Stax fart, you'll get used to it =P

post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

The main thing that happens is the foam dies.  Also, unlike electrostatic speakers, the stators are surrounded on either side by extremely thin membranes which can tear easily, so whatever you do, don't try the "vacuum cleaning" trick that speaker owners use. New foams are available, as the basic design hasn't changed for 3 decades just about. If they are from 1982 though, they are probably not 404s, but one of the preceding Lambda models, which all look almost the same but changed over the years. The two distinctions you might need to be aware of are the "Normal" bias voltage models with a 6-pin plug, and the "Pro" bias versions with a 5-pin plug, which are newer.  If you take a photo and post it in the huge  "Stax thread (New)" in the High-end Audio forum someone will likely be able to identify them.

 

As for regular headphone amps, headphones require voltage swing, not large amounts of current that speakers do (though now we have crazy headphones such as planar models that can take up to 15W, but that is a rare exception and hardly the norm).  Many speaker amps tend to run the headphone socket off the speaker outputs with just a resistor.  YMMV whether this sounds good or not. A great many people on the forums are young and don't come from a hi-fi background but have a computer + sound card and often more limited space requirements than regular hi-fi components will fit in to. Thus the big focus on DACs and headphone amps, or combined units.

Okay, what do you mean by foam? My knowledge of electrostatic speakers again comes from big speakers such as Magnepans and Martin Logans - which don't have anything but the metal which is actuated to produce the sound. So when you say foam, are there actually foam surrounds on these or is it foam somewhere else?

If I were to use my amp I'd wire it straight out the back (that's the only way to connect this particular excitor through speaker leads) so that shouldn't be a problem. I know about headphone jacks being special - even though I have a nice Denon receiver (AVR-4802) it has a crappy chip amp for the headphone which takes out so much warmth and bass compared to a very vintage JVC receiver I used (Circa '71) which as I found from others when I asked was likely directly using the main speaker amplification to drive the headphones. A shame that, but wouldn't be a problem again considering how the Stax is connected via speaker leads.

Heh, I'm young (20) - I got into the hi-fi scene when I was 14. The headphones are something much more recent, maybe since I've been 18 or shortly thereafter (When I started going to college and having lots of time to sit around and listen to music away from my stereo). The first ones I bought were the Head Direct RE0's - really liked (and do still) those, my nice compact IEM's that go with me generally every day. I then bought some ATH-M50's last fall - I love these headphones. As I type this I'm at school on my laptop listening to them - great sound, and to be honest my strong preference over the RE0's because of their sound and their comfort - I hate sticking those IEM's in my ear compared to just slipping headphones over my head (They're just not compact - I only bring them with me some times). The Stax would obviously be an at home listening kind of thing - I would likely make a dedicated mini-system just for them, but very well could wire them into one of my current main systems. I have limited space, but not so limited that I can't find a place for amps and speakers (I'm not in a dorm or anything like that). My main focus still is on standard home audio stuff - but I really like being able to stick a nice pair of headphones on and not have to worry about how loud it is to anyone else and to totally do away with the acoustics of my room which I'm sure isn't ideal. Plus it totally shuts everyone else out - whereas I can still hear other people with my speakers on (I don't blast them that loud to drown them out lol).

I just question whether this is wise, mostly considering the age. The guy seems knowledgeable about what he has, which makes it surprising if they aren't 404's. So if they truly are 404's does he have their age wrong? From experience, I just find it less likely when someone gives a specific and correct model that it isn't the very model that they mentioned. But maybe so - just would be highly unusual.
Edited by Mr. Morden - 3/1/11 at 7:19am
post #11 of 16

As Currawong says, buy these - you have an absolute bargain there. This combination should sell for double that. Stax refers to their SRD-7 as an adaptor for (an) earspeaker.

The foam degeneration referred to has nothing to do with speaker surrounds. The foam is part of the ear pads. If the foam between your ears and the drivers has degenerated, tear the pads off, clean up any residual stickum with methylated spirits, stick on a new set of ear pads (these come with the foam + stickum on them). Good as new.

This combination has huge potential, depending on what amplifier you pair it with.

PS Magneplanars aren't electrostatic speakers. Similar principle, however, and sound great.


Edited by John Buchanan - 3/1/11 at 3:32pm
post #12 of 16

Just get the Stax dude. The more quality you have on the amp side, the better since the energizer will sap on it. It's just amazing and i don't know where I was all these +25 years of audiophile thingy and only recently have I scooped my first (and only) pair of Stax.

 

As for deterioration... well, maybe I'm lucky, but my pair is from the 70s and the pads and foam is just looking great :)

post #13 of 16

Stax used to manufacture both adaptors (SRD series) and amplifiers (either SRA or SRM series).

The adaptors were a transformer interface between your own amplifier and the earspeakers. The SRA series were an integrated pre/power amplifier combination and had phono as well as line inputs. The SRM series only have line inputs.

Both the SRA and SRD series have been out of production for approximately 15 years (when Stax briefly closed its doors), leaving only the SRM series manufactured by new Stax.


Edited by John Buchanan - 3/1/11 at 3:45pm
post #14 of 16

404 wasn't out in 1982.  Your normal headphone amp can't provide near enough voltage swing to drive electrostatic speakers, the energizer is a transformer for speaker amp outputs only.  I think you'll like them a lot though.

post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 

Okay, the guy is also a headphone enthusiast - not a surprise considering he has Stax though! Always nice to talk to someone else who doesn't mind talking about this a lot (I deal with home audio and some people just don't wanna talk about their speakers or amp at all - I enjoy the discussion personally). He said they are Lambda Pro's - so whoever said that was indeed correct. Now I still have one question - where can you buy that foam at? I can't find anywhere online selling it, as I was trying to price it. There are a lot of people saying they sound better without the foam. Any truth to this claim?

 

Also - right John, I forgot Mangepan is Planar. Apogees, the Carver Amazing Speakers, and Martin Logans are all electrostats though if I'm not mistaken again.


Edited by Mr. Morden - 3/1/11 at 4:25pm
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Headphones (full-size)
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › What do I need to know about buying Stax headphones?