Originally Posted by ericfarrell85
I've never considered an ESP-950. I always thought (however mistakenly), that they were the electrostats of yore and that Stax eventually took the reins. There is nothing of substance behind that as I haven't heard either, but merely a confused idea taken from the collective impressions here on this forum. I'll definitely look into them and I have read your write up with the RS1's.
The 950s *are* relatively old as a product, they came out in something like 1992. At the time, the STAX competitor was the LNS (SR-Lambda Nova Signature), and since then we've seen the SR-Omega series (and now the SR-009) come to pass. I haven't heard any of those, mind you, but I would certainly say that STAX has stolen the thunder in the segment simply by putting out new products (the last Koss ESP before the 950 came out in 1977 and the 950 was released after they emerged from the bankruptcy). I don't know how STAX stack up (aren't I clever?
), but I think the 950 are the solid upgrade path for "I love the HD 580/6x0 and want something musical and smooth but still very detailed and fast."
The 950s aren't quite historical enough to sit up at the table with the DT48 (what is?) or even the PRO4/AA, but those few models aside, they're certainly history compared to many current headphones, and probably the longest continuous-run flagship game on the block. I'm not sure why Koss has kept them alive so long, relative to their ancestors; part of me thinks it's just the quirkiness that is Koss, but the other part of me thinks they know they got it right the first time, and don't see the need to fix something that isn't broke (and when you consider how much STAX claimed the SR-009 to cost as a development project...).
I don't own the older RS1's, but I do have a pair of RS1i's. From the brief time I spent auditioning the buttoned RS1's, I don't really remember if they are different from the newer iterations. According to some on these forums, the newer "i" version takes a detour from the original sound signature. We may, therefore, be hearing different things. I also remember UnkleErik mentioning his use of RS1's (non-"i" I believe) with jazz. I'll have it try it again, but the spirited grado sound, from a hypothetical view, doesn't seem suited to the mellow, meditative state that a solid jazz recording puts me in. Then again this hobby has proven time and again that hypothetical synergy-matching is inconsistent and unpredictable.
I'm lazy, and wrote RS-1 throughout, but mine are indeed RS-1i
. I did spell that out at the beginning, and I apologize for the confusion. I have not heard a pre-i RS series, but the pre-i SR and GS series were very good. Regarding the second half of this paragraph - I don't like the "match the genre to the headphones 1:1" idea - in other words, bassy music and bassy headphones is a recipe for a headache imho, when I want to listen to dubstep or hardstyle for a long period of time, I grab my F1s (which are one of the least bassy headphones I've ever heard, and perhaps ever made). When I want to listen to something that's fairly "thin" I'll reach for the RS-1 and their punched up bass/treble. This isn't absolute, of course, just an example. I think the RS-1 are a huge departure from the Prestige sound, they aren't a "wall of sound" - they're very 3D (if they weren't, they would not have lasted against the ESP and F1) and can do "mellow" quite well. I enjoy them very much with ambient/trance type material (Voodoo Child, AFX, etc). I think it's precisely because they AREN'T flat that they do this. The 950 is also good at this, but as I said in the comparo - the 950 are good because they put the effort in, the RS-1 because they don't.
What makes the HD650 so effective with jazz in my opinion are the combined traits of impressive "technicalities" (focused center image and overall transparency) and an unhurried, collected getalong. Where the Grados are often at a gallop the Senns are at a steadfast trot. Add to that a warmth that isn't overdone and upper frequencies that sheen and shimmer when called upon and you have the makings of a very good jazz headphone (for me at the very least). The UM Miracles rival the Senns for jazz enjoyment, but despite its superior technical know-how, is not as emotionally involving. Maybe it's the Zana/B22 pairing, but I have not heard a veil with the Senns and have never felt they were "dark" (a feeling I sometimes get with LCD's). I have to admit though that the Senns have become a one-trick pony. Once I move away from jazz and its offshoot genres the Senns are comparatively sub-standard to the others.
Based on this, the ESP/950 are probably the better choice for you. They have better treble impact/extension than the Sennheisers (it isn't harsh - they can reach higher and do it louder than the MDR-SA5000 or SR-325, but only when called upon, and even then, they're smoother and softer about it than the F1 (one of the least fatiguing headphones ever)). They're very "effortless" in their rendering of whatever goes through them - nothing becomes clashy, shrill, etc unless that's how it's meant to sound. The RS-1 aren't quite to that level - they can get a little uncouth with bad tracks, but it's not like the Prestige series or something like the SA5000 that can get downright abrasive.
The other advantage is that the 950s fit about the same as the 650s, just less clamp. They're really a logical progression imho (not just in sound, but functionally as well). And since you seem to be identifying with the strongest qualities of the Sennheiser flagships, I think the 950s are worth a shot. Expect the same good mid-bass and warm low-end, with better extension, and better mids and much better treble. They will bring up the emotion in material, but again, the Grados will put them to shame here (that's where I can't decide between the two of them - the 950 are technically better, but don't bring up as much of the emotion in music, the RS-1 do that very well - you don't listen to music, you experience it). I also think they've backed off on the pricing recently.
I also may be sitting on an exceptional jazz performer in the HE6's. Over the short time I brought out my Marantz 2285 I was startled by how refined the HE6 was. I remember remarking that they were possibly the least "flawed" of my stable and also the most versatile. I need to spend more time with them to be sure, but darnit I just keep reaching for them HD650's!
I'm not familiar with those beyond spec-sheets and anecdotes, but I'd certainly agree with plugging them into that big Marantz for power. Either on the front or on the back.