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Mitchell & Johnson Electrostatz (GL2) Kickstarter Edition - Hybrid Design

  • An affordable dual driver design over-ear headphones (Electrostatic+Dynamic)

    - no external power supply or special amplification required
    - lightweight plug-and-play

    NOTE: Kickstarter project version


    Frequency Range: up to 50 kHz
    Speaker types: Hybrid Electrostatz™ Technology system
    Speaker diameter: 40 30 e-stat + 40 mm dome type Acoustic system
    Sound Pressure level: 15 dB

    T.H.D: ≦ 0.5%
    Impedance: 32 Ohms

    Design Components: cups, unique hand turned cherry wood, polished to a smooth finish
    Connectivity: detachable braided cable 1.2m with 3.5mm gold plated jack
    Weight: 269 grams
    Accessories: 6.3mmm connection, carry bag (fabric)

    Conforms to Japan Audio Society Hi-Res standard

Recent Reviews

  1. archclan
    brings music to life
    Written by archclan
    Published Oct 2, 2016
    Pros - unique aesthetic, electrostatz!, comfortable
    Cons - eapads (situational) needs better, durable cable
    I am very new to headphones and I have been slowly building my headphone collection, the best one i had was the sennheiser hd98 and these cans really blew that one out of the water and the other headphones i owned! the only downside for me is that i had to replace the ear pads because i have big ears and the stock earpads just hurts my ears. after using it for awhile now i can really hear the difference it made the music i listen to! the music felt more lively and not as dull like what i had before, I exclusively listen to KPOP and you know their music is very lively and these cans just enhanced that more!  it was an eye opener for sure! The pricing on it is really great because M&J really made it accessible for people with not much to spend like me hahaha. I look forward to their other headphones. One suggestion is i think it would be cool if we can change the plates on the sides with other designs I think that would make the product more pop, but thats just me.
      barondla, Jobbing and Nightfish like this.
    1. barondla
      Super review archclan! It is obvious you really like the Electrostatz. What pads did you get to replace the stock set? Are you happy with them? Thanks for taking the time to review the Mitchell & Johnson GL2 SE.
      barondla, Oct 2, 2016
    2. archclan
  2. barondla
    Amazing technology produces a new classic
    Written by barondla
    Published Sep 30, 2016
    Pros - Large, out of head soundstage. Extended sweet highs. Dynamic/electret 2 ways give detail and bass. Detailed without being analytical. Easy to drive.
    Cons - Bass could be slightly more focused and faster - slightly.
    My first Head-Fi review. Pledged for these on Kickstarter this year. I own full range electrostatic speakers (Acoustat 3) and electret headphones (Audio Technica AT706).
    The Mitchell & Johnson GL2SE use a dynamic low frequency driver and a electret midrange/ high frequency driver. They have a 2 way crossover built in like a home loudspeaker. Normally electret and electrostatic speakers need special adapter boxes or amps to function. The M&J GL2SE have permanently biased electret panels with matching transformers built into each ear cup. You can plug them into any 3.5mm standard headphone jack! Even a cell phone will play them easily!
    If you want rough, spitty mid and high frequencies with very forward, laser focused sound, and sledge hammer bass...forget these headphones. They're not for you. The M&J have a refined and balanced sound.
    High quality plastic and metal are used in the headband and ear cup supports. This keeps the headphones light weight. The ear cups are solid wood, and the audio cable enters the left ear cup. The cable is detachable, using the same stereo 3.5mm trs connections as the source end.This is the first electret/electrostatic headphone I have seen with interchangeable cables. This allows a short cable for portable use and a longer cable at home. If buying a different cable, take care there is enough clearance in the wooden ear cup entry hole. There isn't a lot of room. The headphones are not set up for balanced drive with a balanced capable DAP or amp.
    The ear pads are soft and supple. The cups are medium size (smaller than Sennheiser HD600/650) and fit my average size ears. They are more compact than full size headphones which aids portability.They do not fold and they do not swivel in and out when wearing. This did not affect comfort or bass. The transducers are very close to the head and the driver grills may touch larger ears. I wear these for hours and find them near the top in comfort. Velour ear pads would make them a little cooler to wear.
    These are ultra low distortion headphones.They have a neutral to slightly warm tonal balance. The high frequencies are sweet, fast, and extended. The Mitchell & Johnson GL2SE have a large soundstage and are capable of imaging outside the head. The tonal balance is very smooth and even. No extreme peaks or dips. The dynamic bass is nice and full, but it isn't quite as fast as the Electrostatz driver. I don't notice a crossover between the dynamic and electret drivers. There is a little loss of precision as notes descend in frequency. I have heard headphones with more focus and etched instrument outlines.They are usually more exciting in the beginning, then fatiguing. The dynamic and electret drivers sound remarkably coherent. Phenomenal performance for a sealed back headphone.
    The GL2SE sound fabulous with the Pono Player and hi res files. They reproduce subtle details without being analytical. I love the sound of these headphones and can listen to them all day. Don't know of any similar sounding headphones anywhere near this price. Highly recommended.
      trellus, Jobbing and Nightfish like this.
    1. gikigill
      The pads need a bit more padding for larger ears but otherwise for the price,they are faultless and the electret driver is good quality too. Creamy mids and sublime bass.
      gikigill, Oct 1, 2016
      mmonks likes this.
    2. Jobbing
      Thanks for the write-up, it covers the characteristics of these headphones very well. The cable enters the left ear cup on my GL2 SE. Like you I'm still very happy with these and looking forward to Mitchell & Johnson future developments.
      Jobbing, Oct 1, 2016
    3. barondla
      Thank you for pointing out the error Jobbing. I have corrected it.
      barondla, Oct 1, 2016
  3. Jobbing
    Your ticket to affordable electrostatic goodness in a CLOSED BACK design headphones, real value for money
    Written by Jobbing
    Published Feb 6, 2016
    Pros - Plug-and-play self biasing headphones, dual driver design, price/quality ratio, lightweight, neutral/flat tuning (final)
    Cons - relatively cheap materials, design doesn't stand out, needs objective measurements, portable but not foldable
    Mitchell & Johnson GL2 SE 
    Hybrid technology working its way up
    Introduction & summary
    Are you just scanning new threads on this forum for sensational news? Looking for that one tip that will get you the best value for money headphones, just not interested in reading dreadful text blocks full of audio details like below?
    Behold….you just came across the headphones thread that might rumble the market in 2016 and beyond.
    In January 2016 Mitchell & Johnson provided me with their first prototype headphones to audition these in length and give them my honest feedback*). It was the Electrostatz Kickstarter pre-production hybrid driver configuration - using an electrostatic based diaphragm and a dynamic driver. A few months later these dual driver headphones have hit the market and are now called GL2 SE (Special Edition).ñ
    At the time of the Kickstarter campaign I did a write-up and did a few comparisons. Now that I have received the Kickstarter GL2 SE and having been able to compare them with the prototype the differences seem very marginal. Therefore I have decided it would be better to amend the original impressions if needed and highlight the differences. The Kickstarter campaign has been a success for Mitchell & Johnson and the GL2 SE have been highly praised by most backers. The project has given Mitchell & Johnson the opportunity to actively build a   customer fan base and make preparations to develop their line-up for 2016/2017, including the GL2 retail version and the upcoming high-end models MJ1, MJ2 and JP1.
    This review will be about the GL2 SE which was available at an amazing GBP £99 , pre ‘Brexit’ conversion rate at that time, ~USD 140  / ~EUR 130), well worth taking advantage of and supporting this headphones startup, especially considering the extra BackerClub discount of 10% making this GBP £90 pair of headphones a tough one to resist. In my firm believe that not backing these during the campaign would be considered a felony after the first expert reviews would drop in and objective datasheets becoming available. I have encouraged people to take advantage of the campaign (Kickstarter campaign page) Current retail price is GBP £199, ~USD $264 at the today’s  exchange rate.
    What I could do here is give you my best audio terminology and talk you through preliminary ‘mountain creek clarity’ and sonic ‘waterfall rumbling bass’ waffling analogy. But I won’t *). Instead I’m giving you my honest opinion about these hybrid headphones.

    PROS                                                                            CONS
    + Dual driver design                                                      - not foldable (if you want)
    + incredible price/quality ratio                                       - no objective measurements (yet)
    + affordable way to experience electrostatic tech         - design doesn’t stand out
    + expansive soundstage for closed back cans             - no memory foam parts
    + plug-and-play (no external power supply)                  
    + frequency range and dynamics
    + detachable cable (3.5mm)                                                                 
    + lightweight, versatile and small cans
    + solid wooden cups, hand turned
    My rating
    Audio Quality    8/10
    Comfort             8/10
    Design              8/10
    Value                9/10

    Still here are you? Great! Whether you are a seasoned fellow member or a newbie to the scene, apparently the header of this write-up and the obtrusive introduction didn’t scare you off or have these cans dismissed by the term ‘electrostatic’. Quite understandable as most of us tend to follow directions given by headphone supremuses or just go and purchase the most expensive ones to be ‘on the safe side’. I don’t blame you for not taking my word for granted and that you want that extra information to even bother to go ahead reading. Or are you staying with me to find arguments to set the torch on my impressions? Either way, happy to retain your attention, let’s find out!  
    Quite a few potential crowdfunding startups have brought us some excellent audio products. Successful new kids on the block like Flare Audio, EarWerkz (Empire Ears) and Trinity Audio Engineering went skyrocket after their first project. When the Electrostatz hybrid headphones project came on my radar and I knew this one would be well worth backing. Having had many electrets and classic electrostatics, these could bring some new pep to the electrostatic category. Admitted the project launch timing could have been better from the start, it looks like Michell & Johnson’s headphones are here to stay, the project is funded way beyond initial goal. When the UK based Mitchell & Johnson company launched the Electrostatz campaign they were at the Las Vegas CES. They got some exposure from Innerfidelity over there by experts like Tyll Hertsens, WHAT HI*FI, Hifipig.com and people like Dave Guttenberg asking for a review sample. Just when they were about to pick up on the crowdfunding campaign again London’s first HeadRoom Exhibition was on. Since they have made a great effort in exhibiting on many audio shows worldwide including both CanJam London events in 2016.
    As with many Kickstarter projects the project and the process are under a magnifying glass and M&J, they had to take care of some of the obstacles and had to deal with some shipping issues (mainly EU) which have all been taken care of and resolved. Also there was an issue with the extra curled 5 meter cable on delivery (which was added for free!), which did not properly fit the connector due to the plug base being slightly big, faulty ones have been replaced by Mitchell & Johnson. Job well done.
    Mitchell & Johnson
    The company’s founders - Paul Mitchell and David Johnson - have been active in the audio, electronics and music scene for decades. In 2011 they started their own audio business with the intention to bring high quality audio to the market that doesn’t cost you a rib or a kidney. Their audio products are available through a growing worldwide network of retailers and new products to be revealed later this year. Well connected, they managed to get the exclusive license for the patent used in the Electrostatz hybrid technology. Convinced of their future plans and product with groundbreaking technology, M&J joined forces with heavyweights like Sony Europe’s former MD Haydn Abbott and recruited other highly specialized people. Reason for Mitchell & Johnson to start a crowdfunding campaign was to raise funds for marketing and promotion of the new headphones line-up, not to fund production which had already been secured.    
    GL2 SE and Electrostatz Prototype
    The final product is named GL2 SE and is almost identical to the Electrostatz prototype I have auditioned earlier. They are full size over-ear and closed back headphones, drivers consisting of an electrostatic diaphragm and a dynamic dome shaped driver. The original working prototype was conceived in 2014, then it took another 6 months of fine tuning to meet Mitchell & Johnson’s level of consumer market perfection, involving US patents 8,559,660 B2. 7,732,547 B2.7,879,446 B2.7,498,699 B2  
    Actually, it was four different prototypes each tuned differently and aimed at different target groups. M&J then decided to get feedback from the market first before ramping up for production.  
    Due to popular demand by the Kickstarter community, during the campaign the creators decided to meet the strong backers’ request to have the GL2 SE be tuned to the neutral/flat side as the technology allows for an easy tuning.  
    GL2 SE - left
    The GL2 SE did not turn out entirely flat/neutral, yet has a very appealing sound signature just like some other popular headphones. This one is different though….
    The GL2 SE is a hybrid concept called Electrostatz, an OEM/ODM based headphone and stuffed with technology based on similar hybrid tech as the ENIGMAcoustics Dharma D1000.
    Technology and comparison.
    When I started this hobby it didn’t take me long before I got my hands on electret combo’s (in any denotation) because they are relatively affordable. Hooking the energisers or transformer box to the amplifier, plugging the on ear headphones (aka: Earspeakers) I discovered a huge difference compared to the dynamic headphones in terms of clarity and speed. I then got the hang of it and moved ‘up’ to the classic STAX Pro Bias electrostatic series and a bought myself a matching STAX dedicated tube amplifier. Although electrostatic headphones are a real joy to listen to they have their obvious downsides. There are lots of online sources about transducer types and on electrostatic technology in specific (no Wikiphonia link, sorry [​IMG]  ). All electrostatic have a few things in common though:
    To get started you need to spend a fair amount on the headphones and a matching (dedicated) amplifier (or energizer in worst case scenario) to have them sing. However, due to their price, exclusivity and fragility they tend to be placed in a (closed) cabinet by its owner, far away from curious guests, damply cleaning cloths and flappy children’s hands. Thus hardly getting any headroom/time and when they do they can sound just brilliant! Besides the financial and practical aspects, electrostatic headphones are commonly known to be lacking in the bass department and very genre specific matching. They aren’t exactly flattering on your head either, thinking Jecklin Float and classic STAX.
    As mentioned, Mitchell & Johnson are not the first to enter the market with a hybrid headphone. Last year ENIGMAcoustics launched a similar hybrid based headphone called Dharma D1000  - unfortunately I haven’t been in the position to audition them -
    The non-conductive electrostatic membrane is permanently impregnated with electrons, therefore it doesn’t require an external power source. Detailed information can be found on the website
    Frequency Range:          up to 50 kHz
    Speaker types:               Hybrid Electrostatz™ Technology system
    Speaker diameter:          40 30 e-stat + 40 mm dome type Acoustic system
    Sound Pressure level:    15 dB
    T.H.D:                             ≦ 0.5% 
    Impedance:                     32 Ohms
    Design Components:      cups, unique hand turned cherry wood, polished to a smooth finish 
    Connectivity:                   detachable braided cable 1.2m with 3.5mm gold plated jack
    Weight:                           269 grams
    Accessories:                   6.3mmm connection, carry bag (fabric)
    Conforms to Japan Audio Society Hi-Res standard
    (source: Mitchell & Johnson)
    Build, comfort and fit
    At first glance the Electrostatz have a nice, slick design and look like well build cans. I can’t deny that depending on your expectations, standards and level of perception, this can be deceptive to some. If you’re digging heavy shiny solid wooden cups, expensive metals and leather types or if it’s other luxurious materials you’re after……. you won’t find it here and it may even be a let off to some. But…. as they say: ‘good things come at a price’ the GL2 SE Electrostatz is no exception. Is that a bad thing? Not in my opinion, as the materials used for the Electrostatz make a strong product all together and less prone to damage. Most importantly they make these a lightweight set that can be worn for hours. Mitchell & Johnsons strategy to do a prototype and feedback tour first have given them good feedback and suggestions for improvements of which some made it to the production model. I encourage them to keep improving the design.  
    Overall design
    The design is wood and alu look design. The materials used are mainly high quality plastics, solid(!) wood and what looks like protein leather. In my opinion replacing the padding by good quality memory foam ones would be of great benefit.
    Spring and headband
    Non-folding drop design for everyday use, high quality plastic and aluminum sliders, bending and twisting does not affect the structure, looks like a good construction.  In fact, when accidentally stepped on the prototype causing the headband to bend, it was then very easy to put back into place. Clamping force is average/moderate yet comfortable, especially when compared to STAX norms that do hardly have any force risking them falling to the ground. Admitted, my head isn’t exactly the smallest, I perceive average clamping force and it is comfortable to wear for hours in a row.The hinges allow the earcups to move freely up and down and hitting the spring on both sides which then gives a clear audible clicking sound. As a consequence the earcups may get damaged over time and finish to chip off. I highly recommend Mitchell & Johnson to apply a rubberized ring covering the inside of the open frame part to prevent the cups hitting the frame and dampening any noise (which luckily is not audible when on the head). The inside padding of the headband is acceptable.
    I wouldn’t recommend these for bald headed, although a few owners have reported this not to be no issue at all. There are no gimbals or swivels to correct the back and forward position of the cups. Personally I had no need at all to adjust the cups in any of these directions. Adding gimbals/swivels would not only add to the cost, It would make them more fragile just like I experienced with the Denon AH-D2K. The headband is plain, it doesn’t have screaming logos or screaming markings on it.
    Cups & Earpads
    Closed back type, made from real hand turned wood. These aren’t exactly Lawton Audio’s piano finish exotic wooden housing, but they are made of solid wood! For someone who isn’t into wood finished headphones, these look quite modern. The brushed aluminum cap is not prone to scratching or finger prints, the matte finish giving them a nice discrete touch. Like with vintage electrets the driver is placed next to the ear, meaning there’s very little to no distance to the ear therefore maximum resolution due to minimum loss in sound transmission. Based on the first feedback the initial cup depth has been adjusted by ‘thickening up’ the side of the cups allowing for better fit and comfort compared to the prototype.  
    collagemj7.jpg collagemj9.jpg
    The oval shaped earpads’ inner dimensions measure 6.5cm x 4.5cm. My ears can be considered average-sized which fit in very easy, as mentioned above the distance to the driver is limited by design which is a good thing from a sound quality point of view. My ears are hardly touching the driver and have maximum exposure, the nylon fabric/mesh part of the earpad hardly has a softening effect. The earpads inner material is made out of spongy material covered with protein leather, the final version seems to be more dense than the prototype, still not of the memory foam type. Replacing the current earpads filling by high quality memory foam would not only increase the comfort and fixed distance to the driver, it will increase the passive noise isolation and minimize leakage even further.
    Wearing glasses myself the current earpads cover the springs of my spectacle frame. As a consequence there’s an audible noise every time my head or jaw is moving and rubbing the spectacle frame. Aforementioned improvement of the earpads have in fact decreased that, expecting a foam memory upgrade to solve this. After about 4 hours of listening at moderate volume my ears warm up, an additional pair of velour pads would be of added value here.
    The GL2 SE comes with a fabric and braided sheet type cable, detachable and directional Its jack plug is standard but with hardly any step up, very slim with barrel diameter less than 6mm.
    For Kickstarter backers a 5 meter curled OCC copper cable with visible strain relief was added gratis.
    Total weight of the production version is 284 grams (excl. 6 gr. for cable). Comfort wise the GL2 SE clearly benefits from the thickened up cups which added ‘only’ ~20 grams. Very comfortable and good weight distribution. I have no problems wearing these for long listening sessions.
    The synergy of electrostatic principles and dynamic driver bass make these headphones combine speed and clarity with tight and impactful body down low. The cross over to me seems well executed and does not lead to the bass to bleed into the mids or give any noticeable distortion. No noises or hiss, background is pitch black on every device tested with. These headphones are really fast, accurate and detailed even at lower volumes (no, I did not use a SPL for volume matching…)
    The tuning of the sound to me is focused midcentric with plenty of sparkle in the upper region. There is good body in the bass department, not prominent (no bass ‘monster') yet impressive deep, hard hitting and tight response. After intensive listening to the prototype I discovered the headphones opened up as I haven’t experienced before on my other headphones and I came to the conclusion that the GL2 SE sound quality was improving noticeably, it did continue to do so over a period of two weeks. I then responded to Mitchell & Johnson telling them that completely flatten the sound signature might take the soul from these headphones, for them to consider whether or not to change the tuning. Agreed with the general consensus a pair of headphones should not need an equalizer to get to the desired sound signature (fire suit on), these are very easy to drive and EQ’d if required. The headphones do benefit from a good amp/dac, but even from my smartphone and tablet they are a joy to listen to. Detailed yet forgiving: clear audible wooden tones, natural sounding knocks and finger plucking on Ben Howard’s guitar, background noises and piano pedal on albums from Yamagata, Nobel and Henson.
    More than average soundstage (width and depth), slightly out of the head presentation: quite an achievement considering the fact that these are closed back cans. Personally I would prefer a bit forward tilt. A comparison to the STAX SR-4070 closed back earspeakers would be nice.
    The earpads are blocking around 90% for the people around me at ‘moderate’ volume. At that same volume I was able to pick up quite a lot of ambient noise. The isolation is expected to increase with the use of denser (memory) foam in the final product.
    Frequency Response
    The chart that Mitchell & Johnson posted during the campaign was the one below
    Not exactly a high resolution raw data graph and not very clear either: it appears to be a bumpy ride. Recently a more detailed FR-chart was released with a dip at 2K, but that’s not what I’m perceiving.
    It would be great if we could get reliable third party readings on the Electrostatz.
    Comparing a new hybrid concept to the ‘standard’ transducer type headphone in my collection comes with a few hurdles as my STAX have the 5-pin connector and require a 580V amplifier, while the dynamic ones will fit any 6.3/3.5mm amplifier connector.
    Comparisons to the Electrostatz
    Beyerdynamic T1 Tesla (Dynamic)
    STAX SR-Lambda PRO (Electrostatic)
    STAX SR-Sigma PRO (Electrostatic)
    Beyerdynamic T1 Tesla (G1, stock) vs Electrostatz GL2 SE
    My fingers are hovering over the keyboard…..Am I really doing a comparison here between a $1,000 -ish half-open back German built 600 Ohm dynamic flagship and a sub $150 Kickstarter edition closed-back 32 Ohm portable set (prototype) from a startup company entering the headphone market? A quick one and then moving on to the next? This is going to get me into trouble……. Shoot me, doing it anyway  

    Album:  “Natalie Merchant” by … herself. (24-88.2), Foobar2000 EQ flat
    Tracks:  “Texas”, “Go Down Moses”, “Giving up everything”, “Black Sheep”, “It’s A-coming” and (how appropriate…) “The End”
    Why?:    for the powerful female vocals, strings, saxophone/clarinet, deep bass
    Vocals:   Natalie’s voice is more upfront on the T1, sounding a bit ‘thinner’ and harsh on treble when she really hits it (The End 3:34), not so on the GL2 where the vocals are less forward yet more pronounced and not harsh. Reverb on “Go down Moses” (3:46) is clearly audible
    Overall:  bass and mids are more lush on the T1, fast on the GL2 the latter being more coherent and fuller sound without adding extra ‘warmth’. Bass and strings are more intense and engaging on the GL2 (The End), bass deep and tight on “Giving up everything” (2:45). Going back, T1’s sound ‘thinner’ and distant.
    Stage:    both have a more than average soundstage just a tad more ‘airiness’ on the T1.
    Imaging: T1 is more ‘above/slightly out of the head’ where the GL2 is the same just marginal more forward ‘out of the head’. Not like the Flare Audio forward presentation which I like so much.

    Album:   “Acoustic Live” by Nils Lofgren (16-44 , c 900kbps), Foobar2000 EQ flat
    Tracks:  “You”, “Some must dream” and “Keith must go”
    Why?:    imaging, acoustic guitar(s), male vocal(s), recording, uh..magic?
    Like with the Natalie Merchant album, both headphones go head to head, GL2 again giving that extra body/elevation on each track without emphasizing, not doing anything wrong to my ears. Actually the GL2 to me sounds even more engaging yet equally natural (there’s a contradiction there I know) - even the single flagpole on “You” (3:30) and string bending on “Some must dream” (4:50) and high male notes on “Keith must go” (5:34). Personally I like the T1’s more neutral bass better as it makes it more easy to focus on the strings on this particular album.

    For a few months ago I decided that the T1 was the one dynamic I should keep because it meets my expectation in terms of wide soundstage, slightly out of the head presentation, neutral sound with the exact amount and tightness of bass just a little north. Excellent highs and never bothered by the treble peak. Build and comfort wise T1 beats the GL2, non-disputable.
    The GL2 SE has about the same soundstage, imaging/presentation and detail retrieval compared to the T1 (*pinching in the arm*). Now here comes the difficult part…. As for tonality GL2 seems to be elevated over the entire range and still keep the coherency and neutral sound. Bass is better (not quantity, not bloated at all, just deeper, tighter and faster), mids are a little emphasized but clean and highs are simply better, no harshness at all. I have tried to find flaws in the GL2’s, but frankly I can understand why these have been tuned as they are now, I can hear why a broader audience would prefer the GL2 over the T1’s. Don’t get me wrong here T1 is an awesome headphone and I did not expect the GL2 (not even marketed as M&J flagship, closed back) to be even close to the T1’s. I'm well aware that placing these in the same ballpark is a bold statement by itself.
    One could say the GL2’s upper bass and mids could be a little tuned down when listening out of the box, however non-existent after a proper burn. A professional reviewer should shed a light on these…..please    
    Note to self: reconsider selling T1 and don’t tell the wife
    Note to M&J: get these measured by Tyll or other headphone-whisperer asap!
    Note to Beyer: watch your six
    STAX SR-Λ (Lambda) Pro and STAX SR-Σ (Sigma) Pro
    STAX SR-Λ Pro (Lambda)                                         STAX SR-Σ Pro (Sigma)                  
    Time to do a post Kickstarter comparison with the Japanese STAX Earspeakers from the classic generation and 5 pin PRO biased 580V. Mind you, unlike the Electrostatz these lightweight STAX are completely open headphones for ultimate panoramic sound (‘3-D’) and leak sound like ****. For good performance the STAX need ‘heating up’.
    Again the question rises whether or not the Electrostatz deserves this comparison and if so could it be a worthy competitor to headphones that are still considered among the most unforgiving, spacious and detailed EVER. I’m aware that the Pro Lambda and Sigma are two different earspeakers and they each deserve their own comparison, for the sake of the length of this comparison I decided not to. Also I was planning on using two albums, yet after hearing the first the result was evident For anyone interested, the album that didn’t make it to the comparison is “Romantic Works” by Keaton Henson (highly recommended)

    Album:   “Fish out of Water” by Chris Squire (R.I.P.) (PCM 16-44, 1411kbps), Foobar2000 EQ flat
    Tracks:   All 5 of them, “Lucky Seven” in 7/8 being my personal favorite
    Why?:     I’ve had this album for ages and had it imported from Japan. It’s an amazing 70’ prog harmonic rock album that sounds brilliant on the 70’s STAX Earspeakers and I expect it to be on 2016 Hybrids as well. Firstly soundstage and imaging, this album requires listening all the tracks in a row to have it be an experience: tight and clear bass response, speed and separation, harmonics/distortion, no coloration. Look at the list of people that worked on this album….
    Vocals:   for the average listener, needs a little time to get used to that’s all :wink: Never harsh sounding on any of the headphones in this test.
    Overall:  As for the overall sound and bass response, please not that if your current headphones present the bass bloated on any of the tracks, please stop the playback of this album.
    If you listen to this album for the first time it seems like you’re gradually sucked into a cacophony of instruments and sounds. After a single session you should have accustomed to the sound. Second time will show you that this album is an adventure. On all three headphones the bass response is excellent: fast, clear and tight as it should be. So is instrument separation and stereo image.
    The Electrostatz add a little richness and extra bass impact to the sound compared to the Lambda Pro. Not bad at all - just not my personal preference - it makes the GL2 more dynamic and gives slightly more harmony to the tracks without smearing any of the frequency ranges or decrease the level of detail retrieval and instrument separation. When going back it *feels* to make the Lambda Pro sound more recessed in the mids and thinner in the highs, almost ‘metallic’, which I'm sure it isn't as it's the result of the GL2 tuning.
    When it wasn’t for the switching between the Sigma Pro and GL2 I don’t think I could tell a distinct difference between them in a blind test as far as tonality is concerned. Serious? Yes. Now….There must have been a reason for me to invest in the STAX equipment and other devices that are supposed to enhance its sound quality.
    Soundstage and imaging:
    Now here’s the part where David meets Goliath.
    Are you with me? Please follow my instructions (at your own risk) ….
    Sit up straight on a chair knees in 90d angle, place your arms horizontally while holding your hands vertically and now do a stretch to your back until you feel your   breast expand and strain on your arms - now stop -. See your fingers? Way beyond the 180d mark. That’s about where you’ll find the extremes of perceived soundstage of the your music on the Electrostatz and Lambda Pro. Impressive huh? You *DO* still remember that the GL2 is a closed back pair of headphones… and not of the expensive electrostatic transducer type, right? Ah..okay you do….
    Now keep pushing your hands backwards where we left off until you feel resistance coming from your back and shoulders - stop - If you can still see your fingers,    tadaaahhh!....that’s where the Sigma Pro magic ends.
    Now playback the last track (‘Safe’) on the album. Enjoy the music until you get to 4:58 - press ‘pause’ - . Did I mention this is a 1975 recording? Resume playback and wait until you hear the flutes playing on the right side followed by the horn. Did you hear that? Maybe you didn’t… then start again from 4:58…. now where does your mind tell you the horn is at 5:11? 

    After several STAX electet combo’s (30/40/80+all (SB-)energisers) I decided to go the Electrostatic route with the PRO classic Sigma, Lambda and Gamma (sold). They need a STAX dedicated tube amplifier: big size, expensive tubes and can’t drive any other headphone transducer type. How unfortunate. The form factor of the classic series is highly debatable, they look goofy but who cares when you’re enjoying your music at 11 PM?  
    For night-time listening sessions these are my go-to headphones. Just because…. At daytime people around me see the enjoyment of me listening to the earspeakers while they are literally sitting next to two open speakers (agitated). I’m attached to the STAX Classics because of the ‘out-of-head’ presentation and the imaging. I still regret selling the Gamma Pro’s a joy to listen to with rock albums.
    As the term ‘panoramic’ suggests, the STAX have a huge soundstage. They are highly unpractical and rather expensive when you factor in the equipment required to get the most out of these.
    The Electrostatz headphones don’t and although they will not surpass the STAX, to me they are the best next thing to enjoy my music, affordable and without the fuzz. Makes me wonder what Mitchell & Johnson could achieve with an open back design.....
    Final words
    The launch of the Electrostatz reminds me of the revival of the vinyl, tube amps, classic razors and what more: quality products my parents and grandparent considered to be good or best. Some manufacturers have ‘rediscovered’ these markets and identified opportunities to improve the original technology and give it a modern twist. As did the Mitchell & Johnson company.The Electrostatz offer a highly affordable renewed chance to get ‘that’ electrostatic feeling combining the best of electrostatic principles with a wider dynamic range and that extra remarkable bass response. These don’t come with the usual downsides of the electrostatic open back headphones, to me the big bonus here is the Electrostatz being closed back with an excellent ambient sound. Plug-and-play capabilities at low impendence make these a true versatile and mobile Hi-Fi companion. I don’t expect these to outclass TOTL electrostatic setups (still TBD!), do not underestimate them either, I expect this technology to keep going forward.
    Electrostatz clearly fills up the gap between cluncky over ear TOTL headphones, mid-fi portable cans and exorbitant priced electrostatic earspeakers. Perhaps even electrostatic enthusiasts will judge these on their merits and see them as a daily-toss-away substitute and listening pleasure rather than an alternative/upgrade to the vintage electrets. I can imagine people will want to see professional measuring and reviews of which I’m sure many will follow. There is still room for improvement, especially with regard to the padding/earpads. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the earcups are made from solid wood, hand turned cherry wood. The sound quality and the tuning to me makes up for the plastics used. I would recommend these to my best friends as it performs well beyond its price point. Looks like Mitchell & Johnson are definitely here to stay and take up the glove to challenge acclaimed headphones manufacturers. They’ve got my vote!
    link to: Kickstarter campaign page 

    Disclaimer & About me
    Mitchell & Johnson supplied the Electrostatz headphones for the purpose of honest feedback and agreed on sharing that with the Head-Fi community. I paid nothing for this prototype and will be returned to Mitchell & Johnson. As Kickstarter early bird backer I have pledged for my own pair of GL2SEs which in return have been send to me as a reward. You can find all about it on their company website http://mitchellandjohnson.com/ or visit their campaign . I'm in no way affiliated with the company (or any other) nor have I been paid for writing this piece.
    *) I don’t consider myself an audiophile with golden ears nor am I able to provide you with a scientific approach, but I’m sure there are lots of (self-acclaimed) experts willing to do so with excellent measuring gear. I’m just giving you my honest opinion. This overview can be subject to changes :wink:
    About me
    Over the years I have owned and listened to quite a few headphones. Not because of audiophile aspirations, just for the fun of it and simply finding many ways to enjoy my music listening experience. Being an avid Kickstarter backer this has proven to be a risky hobby, as I tend to support as many viable audio projects as I possibly can. Since I have been a member on this forum I have tried to keep away from writing reviews, just did some quick impressions and helping people where I could. English is not my native language and I’m very critical towards any product on the market even so that before starting to write a review I was afraid I would torch the headphones on hand and do more harm than good. Now this is going to change now……
    My gear and tracks used  
    See my profile
    08-01: comparison with T1
    08-01: US patents# added 
    09-01: cups are made of solid wood not veneer
    09-01: pictures added
    11-01: comparison with STAX PRO
    11-01: Kickstarter project successfully funded, content amended
    21-04: Final Kickstarter version will be named GL2 SE
    29-09: First impressions revised, pictures added
    03-10: picture editing and lay out
    1. View previous replies...
    2. foreverzer0
    3. Jobbing
      @foreverzer0 : there's a thread what seems to be dedicated to the Mitchell & Johnson HP-1 http://www.head-fi.org/t/776806/mitchell-and-johnson-hp1

      however the impressions of the M&J HP-1 and the Verisonix equivalent (original OEM) are mixed up in that thread, quite confusing. I know a few have reported back very positively from last HeadRoom, M&J being exhibiting their prototypes, one of them being @inthere.

      I'll make sure to audition the HP-1 at CanJam next month
      Jobbing, Jul 20, 2016
    4. ajheyl
      Dude, you write a kick-ass review. Thanks for taking the time!
      ajheyl, Apr 13, 2018


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