ES Labs ES1a (homage to the Stax SR Omega)
Jan 29, 2020 at 3:28 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 10

ivanrocks321

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I’ll post a few links that was sent to me they are in Chinese as there’s a few post on Erji.net with more technical details on the construction and a brief summary of how this pair came to be, basically he’s been fixing busted sr Omegas and decided to try to make a headphone after.

ES1a Build quality:
I’ll start from the cables, at first I thought ES lab was able to make flat cables or found a supplier when I got it. Thought this since the cable sleeve felt different from my SR009 and the 5 pin connector was clearly not stax one. However after email it turns out these are stax extension cables that have been modified, I’m assuming he used non stax connector on some pairs as he likely ordered the longest extension cable so some cables would need new connectors. Otherwise very nice cables, nice and low capacitance like it should be for estats.

next some comments about ear pads, they are held in place with screws. They are made of a very nice lamb skin or sheepskin leather the stitching is pretty good. On my pair their is a slight cosmetic issue with the stitching placement on part of the seams but it’s not weak or anything just a bit odd, tho this can be a pre production unit as this pad I have is a new version that will replace the other two style pads that was mentioned on his site and the Eriji.net post. The pads appear to be the same thickness as the SR009 at it’s medium thickness part, these ear pads for the ES1a are uniform in thickness so no angling like the SR009 or SR007. The foam used is nice but I’m not sure if the opening and depth on the inside is as roomy as the original omega but in either case it’s good for me and looks like it should be for most.

about headband and cups, they headband arch is printed plastic as is the lambha style slider. Compared to the Stax sigma pro on hand It might be a a straight up clone for the most part. The part of the headband assembly that forks to half circles to attach to the cups however are CNC aluminum as are the ear cups themself.

next I want to discuss the stators. ES labs decided on the same 90mm stator size and use of copper as well. Unlike the SR omega the stator are not of a mesh construction nor uses any kind of metal plating like gold plating that the SR009s and if I’m correct the SR omega used. Instead there was some kind of insulating layer applied as he described it, he mention it maybe some kind of acrylic or epoxy based coat but unsure as it was done by a company to meet this particular use case. Not sure if that mixture is secret or he never pressed for details. But a very interesting option I’m not sure what current estat does not do any plating.

other bits like dust cover is traditional stax way, no new unconventional ways here unlike the Kaldas RR1 conquest. The wood box is nice but it feels like a softer wood, I don’t have my sr009 box on hand but from memory it’s like that soft about. So dings and stuff is very possible.

the links to Erji:
http://www.erji.net/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=2172045

http://www.erji.net/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=2171070

http://www.erji.net/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=2170411

this is ES labs statement about how the SR009 and this ES1a differs from a email exchange, I’ll post my own impressions later on as I’m terrible at describing stuff.


“Thank you for your enquiry

ES-1a sounds more similar to omega than to 009. 009 has a higher density of music notes and more condensed while es1a is more airy. They two have a different bass presentation as well as soundstage presentation.”

Photos:
check out the pads to see what I mean though it may just be a rough draft as they are a new design. Also on close inspection the pads are angled but very slightly and not uniform in thickness as I thought.

Links to some photos I took here: https://imgur.com/a/sFUOz0S
 
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Jan 30, 2020 at 9:03 AM Post #2 of 10

ivanrocks321

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So today I had the pleasure of visiting a friend and doing a group testing of the ES1a along 3 different examples of the SR007mk1 and one SR009. We did listening mainly off the KGSSHv Carbon and a DIY T2. We had three pairs of SR007mk1 one mine and two his, each have different aging to the pads. I had mine replace with new ones at his place at the time so they are new, the other two are older with one being abit more broken in. With each of the SR007mk1 the tracks still held true when comparing to the ES1a. Overall he thought the ES1a had a very good build quality and was pleased with the entire package and no complaints about comfort.

Listening test part 2:

-Cassandra Wilson No more Blues and Twelve again, I felt mostly the same for part 1. in summary
1. stage size ES1a>SR009>SR007
2. general resolution equal
3. fullness or overall sense of room reverb etc SR007>SR009>ES1a
4. for timbre of instruments I don't feel im as able to make a good assessment since I can hardly claim im well train to spot what any given instruments sound like in atual real life, but one the other hand they all sound great but are different.

for my friend it seemed we have a general agreement with the exception that he feels the ES1a sounds like as if the mic was placed slightly closer giving a more pronounce feel to things while the SR007 and SR009 had mics placed a little further away. I felt it the ES1a had mics placed about the same distance away but it was just that there was a bit more depth to the how instruments was placed away from you some feel closer some further. He noted that bass sounded fuller with better kind of room reverb that should be there but was lacking in the ES1a, however you do get a nice sense of air around whats going on. He felt the cymbals sounded more realistic on the ES1a they had more of a weight on first impact vs SR007mk1 without being as bright as the SR009.

-Jimmy Hendricks Little Wing:

the pattern of what I heard in the all three was the same as before. Here I asked him what he thought of timbre, for him he was impressed with how the ES1a rendered the electric guitar for him he thought the SR007 and SR009 was a bit soft for electric guitar and the ES1a did not have this issue, but here he finds the bass not full enough as he feels the room acoustics might have been traded for a more spacious presentation.

Final thoughts we think this is a fantastic headphone! He has tried several current totl estats and was never truly impressed, however I was sure I was not struck with new gear syndrome when he put them on and was just smiling for good while. His opinion of these are the ES1a are absolutely right up there with some of the best estats. At the end of the day he still prefers the SR007mk1 and its presentation due his preference for that sense of a sound of a room but he can happily recommend them to anyone. All three was excellent and they all do things very well, there are some differences in presentation here and there but try them if you can to see whats a good fit for you. Another note the pricing on these he feels is very good for what you get, they are the least if you get a new pair of SR007 even bigger margin the SR009/SR009s.
 
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Sep 12, 2020 at 8:01 PM Post #3 of 10

Mshenay

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3lub6EE.jpg


First off I have to say these are even more stunning in person! An so far I'm really enjoying them with the "Dark" pads, nice full timbre without losing any of that eStat speed and texture!
 
Feb 22, 2021 at 10:57 AM Post #5 of 10

Dingding123

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I've been using the ES-1a almost daily for about 4 months now. I feel that these are underrated and the audiophile community deserves to know them.

Before I start my review, I just wanna declare that I have no conflict of interest with anybody in the headphone industry. I bought the ES-1a at the price of 12800HKD (1650USD) which is listed as the default price on ES Lab's web store. The ES-1a maker does not have prior knowledge about this review.

A little bit about myself
I like to listen to music - from pop to classical, from jazz to rock, and I am conversant in both English and Mandarin. I chanced upon this pair of headphones while I was browsing the Chinese Headfi equivalent - erji.net, and decided to purchase based on reviews of some big time Chinese audiophiles claiming that the ES-1a sits somewhere between the Stax 007 and 009s. It was a risky blind purchase (which I believe isn't uncommon among head-fi'ers), and I was just hoping that those Chinese reviewers weren't shills.

The amp came in a week after I placed my orders via EMS. It came in a nice looking wooden box. Definitely an A for the effort in making the unboxing experience ceremonial, but it's a painful space-occupying lesion in my room, yet I can't bear the pain of throwing the box away. So now I'm just wondering what to do with the box. If you have any ideas, just let me know.

vNajiIP.jpg
gFK6HTf.jpg
It6GvkH.jpg


The Chinese forum reported that the ES-1a tuning could be altered between bright and balanced by swapping earpads. I only used it with the balanced earpads, which according to the maker, was the finalised tuning. He also mentioned that the ES-1a is best paired with a solid state amp. I didn't care about his recommendations one bit. If the headphones sound good on solid state amps, wouldn't they be wonderful if I pair them with a healthy dose of tubey goodness?

The ES-1a got its looks from the legendary STAX Omega. I've not seen an Omega in real life, but from Google they look pretty similar apart from the anodization color. The ES-1a is made with black anodized aluminium housing and a has aluminium ring that seemed unnecessary if not to copy the looks of the Omega. The see-through metal mesh reveals a bronze driver under the housing, and the unit is accented with some golden screws. The wire is apparently adapted from a Stax sre-725H copper cable, with a little 3D printed Y-split that bears the brand name.

Now let's talk about sound.
Bass- authoritative.
Mids - seductive.
Treble - beautiful.
Imaging - stellar.
Tonality - natural.
That's it. I don't see the point to elaborate more because
1) my impression is subjective, and reading this review does not give you a direct idea of how the ES-1a sounds like
2) I feel that Headfi has enough overwhelmingly positive reviews on audiophile products, and this humble review wants to stand apart from the rest
3) if you insist on seeing some reviews, I would like to suggest you Google with search terms "head", "case", "es1a". Read the reviews there with discretion.

Amp pairing
Amps do play a significant role on the sound. With the KGHVSS Carbon ES-1a sounds more monitor-like, more detailed and more extended in both bass and treble, while with my tube amps, ES-1a sounds more holographic and trades some bass extension for a life-like presentation. Even with the lesser amps like my SRM XH, the ES-1a retains a pleasant sound signature despite detail and treble extension being completely thrown out of the window.

wmEPOFL.jpg
auDRMEv.jpg


Comparison with Stax 007A
Read this section with a pinch of salt, as I clearly prefer the ES-1a over the Stax flagships. I find them comparable in terms of details when driven with some of the amps I have. I wish I have some Stax branded amps or the BHSE for the purpose of this comparison, as I believe that they are the sound many readers here can relate to.
The Stax 007A here does not have the blue tac mod, as I enjoy the fun mid-bass in the Stax 007 mkii. It just makes the headphone what they are.

The most obvious difference is in the treble. ES-1a is definitely brighter, and details in music are more upfront compared to the Stax 007A's slightly laidback presentation. ES-1a feels more passionate and more aggressive compared to the 007A. If you are used to the 007A/mkii sound signature, you might find the ES-1a slightly bright. If you are used to the 007mkii with blue tac mod (which I find bland), you would either find the ES-1a very fun sounding or a tad too aggressive.

Bass rumbles harder on the ES-1a than on the 007A while on KGHVSS Carbon. Extension is slightly deeper too. I don't miss my planar headphones on CFA3 while I listen to Zedd or Daft Punk on the ES-1a. But I would defer listening to such tracks altogether while on the 007A.

Mids on the ES-1a is detailed, but somehow the 007A does it better. On jazz tracks, 007A does things nicely by giving a smooth and slightly dark rendition to vocals. The details of the ES-1a is cuts through the overall presentation a tad too strongly. The ES-1a has a little bit of bite or impact, which might work well for some music, and backfire on some others.

Soundstage feels bigger and more spread-out on the ES-1a, and this concurs with some of the Chinese reviews.

Tonality-wise, both ES1a and Stax 007A sounds very natural. ES1a has slightly more defined edges and the 007A sounds smoother.

Regrettably, I didn't have the chance to compare the ES1a to either the 009 or 009s for a long enough period of time to yield a reliable comparison.
 
Feb 23, 2021 at 10:22 AM Post #6 of 10

bwck2000

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The ES-1a got its looks from the legendary STAX Omega. I've not seen an Omega in real life, but from Google they look pretty similar apart from the anodization color. The ES-1a is made with black anodized aluminium housing and a has aluminium ring that seemed unnecessary if not to copy the looks of the Omega. The see-through metal mesh reveals a bronze driver under the housing, and the unit is accented with some golden screws. The wire is apparently adapted from a Stax sre-725H copper cable, with a little 3D printed Y-split that bears the brand name.

Nice write up~ comprehensive and honest.
It is what I thought that the outer ring only has cosmetic purpose. But if you remove it the sound loss control by a bit. You can try it out.
 
Mar 14, 2021 at 8:55 PM Post #7 of 10

dedminton

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I've been using the ES-1a almost daily for about 4 months now. I feel that these are underrated and the audiophile community deserves to know them.

Before I start my review, I just wanna declare that I have no conflict of interest with anybody in the headphone industry. I bought the ES-1a at the price of 12800HKD (1650USD) which is listed as the default price on ES Lab's web store. The ES-1a maker does not have prior knowledge about this review.

A little bit about myself
I like to listen to music - from pop to classical, from jazz to rock, and I am conversant in both English and Mandarin. I chanced upon this pair of headphones while I was browsing the Chinese Headfi equivalent - erji.net, and decided to purchase based on reviews of some big time Chinese audiophiles claiming that the ES-1a sits somewhere between the Stax 007 and 009s. It was a risky blind purchase (which I believe isn't uncommon among head-fi'ers), and I was just hoping that those Chinese reviewers weren't shills.

The amp came in a week after I placed my orders via EMS. It came in a nice looking wooden box. Definitely an A for the effort in making the unboxing experience ceremonial, but it's a painful space-occupying lesion in my room, yet I can't bear the pain of throwing the box away. So now I'm just wondering what to do with the box. If you have any ideas, just let me know.

vNajiIP.jpg
gFK6HTf.jpg
It6GvkH.jpg


The Chinese forum reported that the ES-1a tuning could be altered between bright and balanced by swapping earpads. I only used it with the balanced earpads, which according to the maker, was the finalised tuning. He also mentioned that the ES-1a is best paired with a solid state amp. I didn't care about his recommendations one bit. If the headphones sound good on solid state amps, wouldn't they be wonderful if I pair them with a healthy dose of tubey goodness?

The ES-1a got its looks from the legendary STAX Omega. I've not seen an Omega in real life, but from Google they look pretty similar apart from the anodization color. The ES-1a is made with black anodized aluminium housing and a has aluminium ring that seemed unnecessary if not to copy the looks of the Omega. The see-through metal mesh reveals a bronze driver under the housing, and the unit is accented with some golden screws. The wire is apparently adapted from a Stax sre-725H copper cable, with a little 3D printed Y-split that bears the brand name.

Now let's talk about sound.
Bass- authoritative.
Mids - seductive.
Treble - beautiful.
Imaging - stellar.
Tonality - natural.
That's it. I don't see the point to elaborate more because
1) my impression is subjective, and reading this review does not give you a direct idea of how the ES-1a sounds like
2) I feel that Headfi has enough overwhelmingly positive reviews on audiophile products, and this humble review wants to stand apart from the rest
3) if you insist on seeing some reviews, I would like to suggest you Google with search terms "head", "case", "es1a". Read the reviews there with discretion.

Amp pairing
Amps do play a significant role on the sound. With the KGHVSS Carbon ES-1a sounds more monitor-like, more detailed and more extended in both bass and treble, while with my tube amps, ES-1a sounds more holographic and trades some bass extension for a life-like presentation. Even with the lesser amps like my SRM XH, the ES-1a retains a pleasant sound signature despite detail and treble extension being completely thrown out of the window.

wmEPOFL.jpg
auDRMEv.jpg


Comparison with Stax 007A
Read this section with a pinch of salt, as I clearly prefer the ES-1a over the Stax flagships. I find them comparable in terms of details when driven with some of the amps I have. I wish I have some Stax branded amps or the BHSE for the purpose of this comparison, as I believe that they are the sound many readers here can relate to.
The Stax 007A here does not have the blue tac mod, as I enjoy the fun mid-bass in the Stax 007 mkii. It just makes the headphone what they are.

The most obvious difference is in the treble. ES-1a is definitely brighter, and details in music are more upfront compared to the Stax 007A's slightly laidback presentation. ES-1a feels more passionate and more aggressive compared to the 007A. If you are used to the 007A/mkii sound signature, you might find the ES-1a slightly bright. If you are used to the 007mkii with blue tac mod (which I find bland), you would either find the ES-1a very fun sounding or a tad too aggressive.

Bass rumbles harder on the ES-1a than on the 007A while on KGHVSS Carbon. Extension is slightly deeper too. I don't miss my planar headphones on CFA3 while I listen to Zedd or Daft Punk on the ES-1a. But I would defer listening to such tracks altogether while on the 007A.

Mids on the ES-1a is detailed, but somehow the 007A does it better. On jazz tracks, 007A does things nicely by giving a smooth and slightly dark rendition to vocals. The details of the ES-1a is cuts through the overall presentation a tad too strongly. The ES-1a has a little bit of bite or impact, which might work well for some music, and backfire on some others.

Soundstage feels bigger and more spread-out on the ES-1a, and this concurs with some of the Chinese reviews.

Tonality-wise, both ES1a and Stax 007A sounds very natural. ES1a has slightly more defined edges and the 007A sounds smoother.

Regrettably, I didn't have the chance to compare the ES1a to either the 009 or 009s for a long enough period of time to yield a reliable comparison.
Great review!

I'm curious, how is the weight/comfort? Everything I've read is that they are pretty heavy and prone to falling off if you bend down (while the 007 is incredibly comfortable to me). That's the only thing keeping me from buying them
 
Mar 17, 2021 at 6:32 AM Post #8 of 10

Dingding123

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Thanks!
It's significantly heavier than the 007, but it doesn't feel uncomfortable to wear due to the wide headband.
The clamping force isn't as strong. I usually remain seated at my desk when I listen to music through headphones, but if I were to bend down, then yes, the clamping force isn't strong enough to keep the ES-1a in position.
 
Jun 14, 2021 at 7:55 AM Post #9 of 10

streamenterer

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Just got a pair of these w/silver cable. What I noticed is the efficiency rating--95 dB vs. 100-101 for current Stax. Well on my all-tube Konka amp, they get significantly louder than my L-300, LNS and 407s. 12:00 on the volume control = 3:00 for the Staxes.
 
Jul 17, 2021 at 5:12 AM Post #10 of 10

arjuna93

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Hmm, these look interesting. Will try to catch them “used”.
 

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