E-Stat Summit: Hifiman Shangri-La vs. Stax SR-X9000 (vs. HFM Shangri-La Junior)
Jan 6, 2024 at 5:57 AM Post #211 of 232
If only I could get some HE-1s for $25k. Maybe somebody will sell them at that price. We'll see...
Nobody will. At that price like 10 of us would have one by now

Nonetheless good luck on your hunt
Jan 6, 2024 at 9:59 AM Post #212 of 232
Isn’t the model that was stolen and sent in a box of peanuts after a 20k eBay buy it now?

Nope! This is a second broken he1. Happened less than a month after that one too
Jan 6, 2024 at 7:54 PM Post #213 of 232
DCA Corina Mini-Review, STAX X9000 Revisited, and Something Old/Something New from Woo

NOTE: If you're not inclined to read a somewhat lengthy review, feel free to jump ahead to the SUMMARY section toward the end of this post.

It's been a quiet past year for me in terms of the hobby. In part, this was due to a large expenditure of capital into a new roof, solar panels, a new EV, and various structural/electrical upgrades to our house, all of which left essentially no budget for new audio gear. Additionally, I've just been extremely satisfied with my current setup, particularly since I swapped my old NAD M22 V2 power amp for a Vera Audio P150/600 this spring (about which, more later, elsewhere). All of that notwithstanding, I haven't attended a CanJam (or other show) since early 2022 (in NYC), and in the interim have mentally compiled a list of gear I'm curious to audition or revisit. Thus, I was a bit deflated when my wife and I decided to take a cruise, the dates of which will preclude my attending the upcoming CanJam SoCal. Ironically, the same exact scenario played out last year.

A couple weekends ago, we attended a wedding in San Diego, after which my wife flew home. I stuck around for a few extra days attending to some "personal business" (cough, playing golf with my father and brother-in-law), and then drove back to the Bay Area on Thursday. In a late flash of inspiration, I realized I could possibly audition the DCA Corina at my favorite headphone salon, The Source AV in Torrance, CA, en route. I emailed them on Wednesday to confirm they had a demo unit on hand, and arrived at the store shortly after they opened at 11am on Thursday morning.

To quote a previous thread of mine:

For those of you unfamiliar with The Source AV, they are a fixture at CanJam and one of the most awesome (IMHO) purveyors of high end headphones in the United States (and perhaps the world). Their store is located in the bowels of an industrial park, and would be unidentifiable as a retail outlet except for the sign out front. The building and location are a metaphor for their low key, no nonsense approach to audio. One side of the interior space is dedicated to speaker systems (notably Sonus Faber), while the (smaller) wing houses an impressive array of headphones from Focal, Audeze, Meze, DCA, STAX, Sennheiser, Raal, HEDD, SONY, etc. There are roughly a dozen listening stations with a wide variety of DACs and amps to choose from. Prospective customers are free to spend as much time auditioning gear as they desire with attentive support and zero pressure! My only slight niggle would be the level of ambient noise, but it's not really an issue once you start cranking some music on a headphone.

I was met and greeted, as usual, by Wayne, and ended up having the headphone room (and entire store) to myself for the next couple of hours. While I'd typically auditioned estats on their DAVE/BHSE setup in the past, Wayne recommended using the Weiss DAC502/Woo 3ES to evaluate the DCA Corina, and I happily took his suggestion. The DAC502 retails for about $10.7K, and has a great reputation. It's a compact, Roon-ready streaming DAC with an attractive (IMO), minimalist design aesthetic. I may have heard it (briefly!) at the Audeze booth in conjunction with the LCD-5 introduction, but have never done a focused audition of it. The Woo 3ES (non-Elite version) retails for $9K, and was likewise a rather unknown quantity to me, although I may have heard it (again, briefly) driving the STAX X9000 on my initial encounter with said headphone at CanJam NYC 2022. The Weiss was set up to stream via Ethernet, and was controlled by a wireless tablet (store equipment) running Roon/Tidal.

Wayne handed me the Corina, and then headed back to his office to work. It's always interesting to actually encounter a headphone for the first time after only viewing photos of it. To be honest, my initial impression (from photos) of the grille design of DCA's new flagship estat was somewhat negative to neutral, and this was confirmed upon finally viewing it in hand. Overall though, the headphone looked better than in photos, and it exudes quality materials and workmanship. At 465g, the Corina is one of the heavier estats on the market, but it's lighter than or on par with many of the TOTL planars. As with virtually all of the DCA headphones I've auditioned, the Corina is extremely comfortable to wear, and its clamping force was well-nigh perfect on my largish noggin. The earpad material also felt soft and comfortable against my skin.

Having assessed the aesthetics and ergonomics of the Corina, it was time to listen to them. Honestly, I wasn't sure what my expectations were. If I've heard the Voce (DCA's previous estat) in the past, it was for a very short time, and it hadn't left any kind of lasting impression. While I own the DCA Aeon 2 Noire, and greatly admire its tuning and timbral accuracy in the realm of closed back cans, it's no secret that I've never found the Stealth (or Expanse) particularly engaging. Like DCA's planar flagships, the Corina employs the company's proprietary AMTS tuning insert, which damps resonances in the midrange and treble. I entertained the possibility that I might find the result more appealing in the context of an estat.

When I do a focused audition of gear at a show or store (as opposed to a home loaner), I always pick from a standard list of tracks I enjoy, know very well, and that will test the component in various aspects and over the full frequency range. Generally, I like to use well-recorded tracks to avoid having to discern whether perceived flaws are in the recording or reproduction equipment artifacts. If a component performs well with those, I may move on to recordings of lesser quality if time permits, which it didn't on this occasion.

I started off with the track Faith to Clay by Eric Matthews (It's Heavy in Here). I bought the album on vinyl when it was released in the mid-90s, then purchased the 20th Anniversary CD, so I know if intimately. It's largely an acoustic record (guitar, strings, piano, woodwinds, trumpet), with tasteful electric guitar and bass on some tracks. Matthews does all of the vocals, which are frequently multi-tracked, displaying lovely harmonies. Additionally, there is liberal use of reverb throughout, which lends the production a lot of space and layering. It's a great album for assessing a headphone's timbre, staging/imaging, resolution, and it tends to really shine on estats. Faith to Clay is built on arpeggiated 6-string guitar chords. harpsichord, and vocals. The shimmering overtones of a picked steel-string guitar can have a mesmerizing beauty if well-recorded, and that's the case here. What struck me immediately with the Corina was the dominance of the guitar's fundamentals and the virtual absence of overtones. Tonal balance, in general, seemed fine, but I got a sense that the trailing edges of notes were being truncated a bit. The guitar notes lacked the sustain I was accustomed to. The vocals and instruments were well-delineated in space, with good stage width. Everything seemed to be a bit further away than I prefer, and soundstage depth seemed a bit below average vs. some of my favorite headphones. There was nothing overtly wrong with what I was hearing, but I found the engagement factor rather low.

Given that the entire chain was unknown to me, I thought I should try to reduce the variables as a next step. It suddenly occurred to me that the STAX X9000 was hanging on the wall about 8 feet to my left. Since I had owned said headphone for a few months last summer, it was the logical choice for an A/B comparison with the Corina. Slipping on the X9000 and listening to the same track again, I was immediately startled (in a good way) at the difference in presentation between the two estats. I had generally come to regard the X9000 as a bit laid-back and (maybe too) polite, with a mid-hall presentation, but was immediately struck by its immediacy and tactility in this system. (As a quick aside, the Corina is just a bit less efficient than the X9000, so I adjusted the volume knob down slightly to crudely match levels.) The expected ringing guitar overtones were back in a big way! I was also sitting much closer to the performance, and stage depth/layering was clearly superior vs. the Corina. On this track and system, the X9000 sounded as good as or better than I could recall ever hearing it. In boxing terms, the challenger (Corina) had been bloodied and knocked to the mat, but there were still several rounds left in this bout...

The next test track was Find An Island by BENEE (Stella & Steve EP). This EP was brought to my attention by @Roasty a couple years ago, and I've used a few of the tracks for my headphone auditions since. It's a immaculately-produced collection of modern pop songs that showcases a headphone's acumen with female vocals, staging, and quality/dexterity of bass. I listened to the entire track on the Corina, and then again on the X9000. The differences in presentation were consistent with my impressions during the previous track. The music seemed more distant and less engaging overall on the Corina. BENEE's vocals on the X9000 sounded a bit more organic, the bass had a bit more weight and slam, and the soundstage was again notably more 3-D. In summary, this track did nothing to close the gap in my preference for the X9000.

As detailed earlier in this thread, the final catalyst for my selling my X9000 was playing Shine On, You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd (Wish You Were Here) upon returning from a vacation, and failing to connect with it emotionally. Given how impressed I was with the X9000 on this chain, it seemed like the perfect track to audition next. This time I started with the X9000, and rather to my surprise, the evocative power of the music had been restored. The bite of Gilmour's guitar riffs, in particular, was tangible. I listened until the vocals came in, and then switched to the Corina. The established trend continued, and the gap in my enjoyment seemed even a bit wider here. One very odd thing I noticed with the Corina: when the bass and drums come in at around the 4:30 mark, Nick Mason's ride cymbal sounded like faint bursts of white noise way off in the distance. The overtones that characterize an actual ride cymbal were simply not audible. (I actually went back to the X9000 again afterwards to reconfirm their existence on the recording.) Also during this section of the track, I found that I enjoyed the bass guitar sound more on the X9000. Out of curiosity, I grabbed the Audeze CRBN just for this track, as it has excellent bass weight by estat standards. This track sounded quite good overall on the CRBN, and it did have the strongest bass in comparison to the Corina and X9000, although not by a wide margin. I still have a few niggles with the frequency response of the CRBN (and returned it to the shelf), but it's still a must-audition for any basshead looking into estats.

I continued my comparative audition of the Corina vs. X9000 with the following jazz, classical, and electronica tracks:
  • Joshua by Miles Davis (Seven Steps to Heaven)
  • Brandenburg Concerto #4 by Christopher Hogwood/Academy of Ancient Music
  • Home Computer by Kraftwerk (Computer World)
With these tracks, I shut down my analytical brain to a degree, and listened mostly for musical enjoyment. In the end analysis, the X9000 was clearly my preferred headphone regardless of track or genre. Music simply sounded more engaging and live on the STAX flagship, whereas I had more the impression of listening to recordings with the Corina. Music had more presence/verve on the X9000, and (on this system) the listener was situated much closer to the performance. The rendition of timbre on the X9000 is superb, about 95% of the Susvara's, which I consider a reference in that department. The timbre of the Corina is a bit harder for me to assess. There's nothing overtly wrong with its frequency response, but other anomalies could diminish the Corina's ability to convey a convincing illusion of live instruments... to my ear.


I recently auditioned the DCA Corina on a system comprised of the Woo Audio 3ES and Weiss DAC502 (streaming via Ethernet). I listened to a series of tracks in various musical genres, switching between the Corina and the STAX X9000 for each track. Across all genres, I had an overwhelming preference for the X9000. The DCA Corina (on this chain, anyway) was simply not my sonic cup of tea. Note that I'm not a huge fan of the other DCA headphones (Stealth, Expanse) that employ their proprietary AMTS tuning technology, but I didn't find the performance gap between those planars and the Susvara to be quite as large as between the Corina and X9000. The Corina is a bit less efficient than the X9000, and it's possible that the Woo amp was not a great match for the DCA estat, although there seemed to be ample headroom (I was never much above 1pm on the volume dial), even at "realistic" listening levels. As always, anyone potentially interested in the Corina (or any other expensive headphone) should audition it personally, and not treat one person's subjective opinion as anything more than that.

Another takeaway from this audition was that I need to seriously reconsider re-acquiring an X9000. It might very well be that my iESL chain simply wasn't realizing its full potential. Whenever I have the chance (likely at a CanJam sometime next year), I plan to listen to the X9000 on the Eksonic DIY T2 and other flagship estat amps (including the Woo Audio 3ES again). FWIW, the final track I played on the X9000 (Home Computer by Kraftwerk) made my jaw drop, even though I've heard it on a variety of great systems (speakers, headphones, and live!) over the years. Definitely the sonic highlight of that particular listening session, and a reminder of the great synergy between electronica and estats.

ADDENDUM: Quick Thoughts on the WA7e Fireflies Electrostatic Headphone Amplifier / DAC

Wayne had pointed out the new Woo WA7e estat amp (and DAC) when I arrived at the store, so I thought I'd give it a quick listen before heading out. This is a very compact (5.25" H x 4.8" W x 6" D) estat amp, based on a pair of 12AU7 tubes, that retails for $1400. It has a single pair of RCA inputs, and both balanced and unbalanced preamp outputs. It also features a USB input to drive an internal DAC (switchable on the rear with the analog input). It's available in silver or black (pictured below), and I find it very attractive.

Having established a clear preference for the STAX X9000, and running a bit short on time, that was the only headphone I auditioned on the WA7e. Note that I ran a USB cable from my laptop to the WA7e's internal DAC input, and streamed via Tidal. Whereas the volume knob on the Woo 3ES was typically around 12 o'clock with the X9000, on the WA7e it was more like 3 to 4 o'clock to achieve similar volume levels. You may not be able to headbang with the WA7e, particularly with less efficient estats. I went through a few of the same tracks used during the main audition earlier, starting with the Kraftwerk track that had wowed me a few minutes before. In a nutshell, no one will ever confuse the Woo WA7e with the Woo 3ES, but the former provided a surprising amount of performance and enjoyment given its reasonable cost and petite footprint. The WA7e wasn't the technical tour de force of its much bigger brother, but by comparison, its "sins" were those of omission . This made it eminently listenable and musical, but without much wow factor in contrast to the 3ES. I came away rather impressed with the WA7e as a potential travel amp, and plan to audition my Shangri-la Junior with it whenever the opportunity may present itself.

Many thanks for a fascinating series of posts - it's refreshing to read impressions that steer clear of categorical assessments. Like you, I've been a fan of the iESL in the past - although in my case I was particularly interested in the access it gave me to crossfeed circuits in other headphone amps - my personal favourite being the Moon 430HA. Your posts reminded me of my own interest in the e-stat 'sound' when I first encountered it. I've own several Stax phones, ending with the SR-009S, which I think is tremendously good. But I could never shake the sense that the presentation was in some fundamental sense 'synthetic' in character - and I felt this most specifically in relation to timbre (I listen to classical music). I find magnetic planars share this quality - and are a bit less refined on the whole (for what it's worth, I found the Susvara or perhaps the Elite the most engaging). But more important for me was the realization that good dynamic phones invariably presented me with a more convincing and engaging image of the music I listen to. I write this not to convince anyone of anything, simply to suggest that at this rarified level personal taste seems to be everything. For me, planars (whether electrostatic or planar dynamic) simply sound slightly 'off'. Dynamic phones sound more 'organic' to me. Apparently tiny differences seem to mean, for example, that the ADX5000 is significantly more convincing to me than the SR-009S or Susvara - despite my feeling that all three are excellent.
Last edited:
Jan 6, 2024 at 8:07 PM Post #214 of 232
Dynamic phones simply sound more 'organic' to me. And the range of associated amplification is wider, which can be a great advantage in 'tweaking'. Apparently tiny differences seem to mean that the ADX5000 is significantly more convincing

the ADX5000 was profoundly changed for me when I paired it with the Decware/ZMF OTL -- the impact amp choice (and tube choices) can have on these headphones is significant. In fact, out of 9 amps it's the only one I like with these headphones, but I do like this combo very much..
Jan 6, 2024 at 8:19 PM Post #215 of 232
the ADX5000 was profoundly changed for me when I paired it with the Decware/ZMF OTL -- the impact amp choice (and tube choices) can have on these headphones is significant. In fact, out of 9 amps it's the only one I like with these headphones, but I do like this combo very much..
Many thanks. I'll look into this.
Jan 6, 2024 at 9:33 PM Post #216 of 232
I'm actualy going to be in Arlington! Living by balston and commuting on days I need to go in (thank God I finaly have a hybrid job)
That's hilarious actually. I lived in Ballston. It's a great walk around area. You'll like it. It's close to the trains too, so getting into DC is real easy. I kinda miss Arlington
Jan 7, 2024 at 9:54 AM Post #217 of 232
That's hilarious actually. I lived in Ballston. It's a great walk around area. You'll like it. It's close to the trains too, so getting into DC is real easy. I kinda miss Arlington
yah, it seemed like a great area. Absolute steal price wise compared to properly in the city as well. Only real disappointment sofar (prior to move in) is that I kinda wish the buildings were like 2x+ as tall (realy wanted to live somewhere mega high up and realized that 20 stories doesnt feel very tall when everything else is similar height) but is what it is. At least i get to brag to my cali friends cause I can see the washington monument from my room which is pretty dope tbh
Apr 10, 2024 at 5:46 PM Post #218 of 232
I do not see the Hifiman Shangri-la anymore on Hifiman's Web site !? Only the Junior version is listed ! Is it discontinued ?
Apr 10, 2024 at 7:41 PM Post #219 of 232
Apr 10, 2024 at 8:23 PM Post #220 of 232
May 20, 2024 at 10:08 PM Post #222 of 232
WTS BYOM (bring your own marbel) HE-1 - 25k
If you don't mind me asking, how it got that way
I mean, the marble's almost all gone, what happened
May 21, 2024 at 9:51 AM Post #223 of 232
If you don't mind me asking, how it got that way
I mean, the marble's almost all gone, what happened
Happened durring shipping with ups. Never got a straight answer, but the marbel wasn't even in the crate, so it seems like the unit was dropped outside of the crate and then shoved back into it with the missing pieces thrown away
May 27, 2024 at 3:34 AM Post #224 of 232
Happened durring shipping with ups. Never got a straight answer, but the marbel wasn't even in the crate, so it seems like the unit was dropped outside of the crate and then shoved back into it with the missing pieces thrown away
Sorry to hear that... It's hard to imagine that a 60k system was handled in this way..
May 27, 2024 at 3:37 AM Post #225 of 232
Happened durring shipping with ups. Never got a straight answer, but the marbel wasn't even in the crate, so it seems like the unit was dropped outside of the crate and then shoved back into it with the missing pieces thrown away
How long is the wait time for the replacement?

Users who are viewing this thread