I do not write often on this board but read quite often. I have been a fan of STAX for a number of years (since 1976). My first earspeakers were SRX MkIII with an SRD-7, these were followed by Lambda Pro’s, Lambda Pro Signature which I still use and a pair of SR-003. I also use Etymotic ER-4p & 6i’s and Klipsch S4i. One thing I always disliked about the SR-003 was that they hurt my ears physically. The sound was “good”, but not outstanding to my hearing. Fooling around on the internet one day I found an article entitled
“Tanji, K., Leopold, D.A., Ye, F.Q., Zhu, C., Malloy, M., Saunders, R.C., and Mishkin, M. Effect of sound intensity on tonotopic fMRI maps in the unanesthetized monkey. NeuroImage 49:150-157, 2010 [Epub 2009 Jul 22].
In the materials section of the article they discussed the use of the Stax SR-003 using a custom ear mold for each of the test subjects. I thought to myself that if a company could make something comfortable enough for a monkey, they could make something for me. (No, I am not a monkey, but I can imagine trying to conduct an auditory experiment on an unanaesthetized primate and getting any modicum of cooperation is no mean feat) . According to the article the company that made the ear molds was Starkey Laboratories of Eden Prairie, MN. The major benefit is that they have experience making an ear mold for the STAX SR-003 so it was not a “beta test”.
A trip to the audiologist was made for the impressions. The audiologist sent the impressions directly to Starkey and I had them within two weeks. Cost was $212.00; not inexpensive but for the comfort alone it was incredibly worth it.
As to the sound it was transformed in a number of ways. To my ears the soundstage is more focused, that is images do not wander around and relative placement from left to right is easier to pick out. Detail is presented in what appears to me to be a much clearer manner. I hear details on even garden variety recordings that I have listened to for years that I do not remember hearing before. FLAC files and other high resolution material is usually excellent (just remember that just because something is in a high resolution format it may not be a very nice sounding recording - that is my opinion) Overall tonal balance is better from top to bottom. I think that the high frequency roll off that has been mentioned here before is not objectionable at all in that the characteristic overtones of unamplified instruments sound to me like they should. Voices are incredibly clear and when I listen critically I can hear the characteristics of different microphone and positioning relative to the voice.
Bottom line I now have a very comfortable pair of excellent sounding headphones that I can wear for extended periods. If you have ever considered custom ear molds for a set of IEM’s, my experience is very positive and I will not hesitate to go this route in the future.
I look forward to the Unique Melody Miracle.
Regards to all