originally posted on Headphiles (www.headphiles.org) on November 7, 2010
these are my impressions on the stax sr-lambda pro + stax srm-1 / mk2 combo. as always, YMMV!
i always felt these were at the pinnacle of the headphone chain. head-fi and poisonous impressions from acquaintances here at headphiles have all added to that longing for a personal electrostatic to satisfy my audio lust. weird thing being that this was actually a blind purchase as i haven't heard an electrostatic setup before. glad i went though with this
i put up this review for those who might wanna know about vintage stax, and how it stands compared to the dynamic headphones i currently have in my roster...
the package came with the lambda professional earspeakers - very comfortable, if somewhat fragile looking, the srm-1/mk-2 amplifier - long, heavy, sturdy, with separate volume controls for the left and right channels (variable voltage adjustment is a godsend!), and a bonus extension cable. the black and matte finish is a plus, as it blends well with my desktop. the amp has inputs for normal and pro bias, but the earspeakers can only plug in the pro bias slot so nothing else to tweak here. the back panel of the amp accepts two pairs of rca inputs. the voltage selector is also located out back, as well as the power plug socket. the earpeakers are surprisingly light, lighter that the beyers actually, and the circumaural pads are comfortable. my only gripe is the feeling that i am balancing a bridge-like contraption on top of my head. the beyer and hd650 clamp is much more secure, but comfort wise the level is exceptional. being open and perforated, the earspeakers do let the ears breathe out so no undue sweat accumulation to worry about
i have always wondered how the "effortless" stax sound really was. my experience with the dynamic headphones had conditioned my hearing, and detail resolution, bass slam, and highs extension were the usual things i attempt to extract for any audio gear i get to listen too. but i was not prepared for the lambda pro...
the airy soundstage was disconcerting: the sound had the feeling of drifting towards my ears instead of being pushed inside. this plus the open design contributes to a very wide soundstage. i am reminded of my brief audition of the k701. this is beyond the beyer soundstage easily
instrument separation is on a whole new level. i have always loved how the beyer dt880 600 ohms gives a separate space for each instrument. the lambda pro ups the volume of those instruments in the background, brings them closer to the vocals volume, without smearing them against each other, or bringing them forward all at once. instrument positioning is preserved, and this is so brilliantly done, to an extent past the beyer or the hd650 separation. just darn brilliant!
speed is a new concept i have just recently appreciated with the lambda pros. musical passages played fast sound really sound just as fast, in contrast to the sometimes congested feeling when listening to guitar runs on the hd650. impressive!
detail resolution is simply the best i have heard so far amongst my gear
as for the bass, i initially thought bass was the sacrificial lamb, or the weak point of vintage low end stax. well, the bass was initially lacking slam and intensity, and i even felt the dt880 to have more bass. but turning up the volume increased the bass output and now i have the bass level at a more than ample enough level. also, these cans respond to EQ easily. a simple bass boost using EQ gave me the dt990 bass quantity. superb!
mids and highs extension is excellent. these are the best-sounding of my gear so far. at times, the highs can be irritating at higher than usual volumes, especially when using the xonar as source. the udac is a far smoother and forgiving dac. the drums are crispier, the guitar is most melodic, the vocals are more alluring. nice
i love these pros for everything! alternative music, r n' b, and classical sound awesome. rock and metal seem to be less enjoyable using these compared to the dt990. but overall, the jump in SQ warrants a thorough listen to all of my music!
still expecting a source upgrade hopefully within this year. but i am totally blown away by this vintage set. this experimental purchase was a success! no regrets here. so far, only the dt990 seems to best it enjoyability wise for rock and metal. bass is also better dt990 wise but an EQ tweak solves that one pretty easily...