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Going from Sennheiser HD800 to Stax SR-009?

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by hifihead, Nov 15, 2013.
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  1. hifihead
    I'm wondering how much better does it get than the HD800. I love my HD800 for jazz which is my main genre of music. So how does the SR-009 do for jazz? Is the SR-009 worth $5000 compared to HD800 for $1500? The SR-009 is a lot of money for a headphone, but I'm willing to pay the price if it gives me the ultimate jazz headphone in the world. Is there anybody that has made the jump from HD800 to SR-0009 and was it worth the price of admission?
    Thanks in advance.
  2. Asr
    Probably a better question to post in the High-End forum.
    I've heard both the HD800 and SR-009, the HD800 on various amps and the SR-009 on the BHSE (which it doesn't really need btw, you could get away with a KGSS for the SR-009, IMO). Although I didn't have them at the same time for a direct comparison, it seemed to me that they have a similar sound, close enough that I'd call the SR-009 a sort of electrostatic equivalent to the HD800.
    Although I'm not a big fan of the HD800, and even less so jazz music on it, I'd definitely say that if you like the HD800, then you'd probably like the SR-009. It retains a loosely similar type of sound while improving everything about the HD800 - clarity, treble & bass extension, soundstage (specifically reducing its size a bit and making it more 3D-sounding), impulse response, and more mid-range quantity. I guess I could further say that the SR-009 is like a penultimately fixed version of the HD800.
    In terms of the price difference, not sure I'd say it's worth it, but if cost isn't a particular object, then why not?
    I wrote a review of the SR-009 here btw, which compares to some other headphones: http://www.head-fi.org/t/635893/mini-review-stax-sr-009
  3. MacedonianHero Contributor
    I love both headphones and as Asr mentioned they are voiced very similarly. All I can do is share my good friend Ross' (baka1969) experience when he visited Toronto this past summer. Ross is a huge HD800 fan and has been for years, but when he tried my SR-009/KGSS/W4S DAC-2 rig, he was absolutely floored. I wasn't sure if he was going to really like them as much as he did as I knew just how much in high regard he held the HD800s.
    Since then, I've upgraded to a KGSSHV (450V, 10mA, Sanyo) and Bryston BDA-2 DAC and the SR009s have never stopped to astound me. 
  4. Maxvla Contributor
    If you enjoy the soundstage of the HD800 you will probably be disappointed by the SR-009. I know I was. It's a clean polite headphone that is superbly clear and precise, but lacks soul, and it's presentation, like most planar headphones, is nothing like HD800's near perfection. I enjoy certain aspects of electrostats, but most of them leave me wanting. I do wish the HD800 was just a bit clearer like the stats, but I'll give up a slight amount of clarity for proper soundstage and more natural sound.
  5. hifihead
    Are you saying the SR-009 doesn't have a very wide soundstage? The HD800 excels at presenting a very wide soundstage and I love it. Regarding natural sound are you saying the SR-009 does not have a very natural or neutral sound? I too think the HD800 has a very natural sound, which I love.
  6. negura
    The SR-009s are absolutely amazing with Jazz. Regarding worth that's a subjective question. For me they were worth it over the HD800s (or any other dynamic headphones for the matter) and not for one minute have I regretted the decision. It's a ton of money but this is high audiophile ground and as you already have the HD800 you likely know what you're in for in terms of what you pay. I am sure you are thinking of a solution for amplifying them as it shouldn't be expected the SR009s run optimally on just anything. That said they are NOT the most difficult Stax headphones to drive at a decent performance level.
    The level of transparency is a class or more above the HD800s. And surprisingly or not I am finding the SR009s easier to live with than the HD800s both in general and for long listening sessions.
  7. hifihead
    What astounds you and your friend the most about the SR-009? When you say voiced similiarly, do you mean that it has a similiar sound signature?
  8. negura
    Actually I disagree more than I agree with your statement. The HD800s soundstage is wider, yes, but it's not always an advantage, because the soundstage presentation of the HD800s does not sound as natural in many instances. The SR-009s have an amazing soundstage presentation, still very large in size and top tier as expected. With some genres (for example Jazz the OP enjoys) the soundstage of the SR009s should be preferred by many people over the HD800s.
    There is little point to compare the SR-009s directly to the HD800s, but I will say this: The HD800s only win in imaging, the rest goes to SR-009s and some areas by a fairly considerable margin.
  9. hifihead
    I'm glad to hear the SR-009 is an amazing jazz headphone. What makes the SR-009 excel at jazz? That's what I'm interested in most. What do you say about the previous poster saying that the SR-009 lacks soul and it's presentation leaves some to be desired?
  10. negura
    I should firstly say I appreciate and respect the HD800s for what they do well, which is most things and a lot. They are my top 1 or 2 dynamic headphones, depending on mood/genre.
    Now to answer the points you raise regarding SR-009s:
    First of all the vocals are the most amazing I've heard. They are so natural and so full of life and extended that it is insane. Sometimes I look at the headphones and just shake my head: I can't believe this is possible. Tonight I listened to newest Pink Martini album and comparing directly the SR-009s with other headphones it's just not the same experience with the others.
    By a considerable margin I prefer the bass and body of the SR-009s over the HD800s. They have more impact, focus and the instruments are even more articulated than with the HD800s, all while staying neutral. This is where the famous Stax transients come into play.
    The integration of the entire frequency spectrum is better. This translates directly into improved transparency and realism. The SR-009s are very clean, technical and transparent sounding (like the HD800s). But there is no harshness as with the HD800s treble. After work when I get home and I put the SR-009s on my head and play some music the first impression is that there are no headphones at all. The music is directly there. This is more so than with the HD800s. Only when compared with the SR-009s the soundstage presentation of the HD800s can sound a bit artificial.
    Being so transparent, and this is not dissimilar to the HD800s, the 009s will let you know how much you like the rest of your downstream. I happen to love/enjoy mine.
  11. Maxvla Contributor
    It has a wide soundstage but it is mostly lateral from the sides of your head, very little in front, which I'm finding is routine for planar headphones. Listening to them feels like I'm listening in a box instead of hearing live music from in front of me.

    I used to be entranced by the electrostats like you seem to be, but after I heard them, I appreciate what they can do, but they aren't interesting anymore. The lone exception is the HE90 and it's clone the Jades. Something about them makes me forget about the poorer soundstage that is so unforgivable on any others.
  12. n3rdling
    They are voiced kind've similarly I guess, but the HD800 is more U-shaped in FR than the SR-009.  The HD800 does many things tremendously for a dynamic, but compared to a top flight electrostat they simply can't quite keep up.  The SR-009 is more neutral (mids aren't scooped), is cleaner, more detailed, faster, better at handling complex passages, has a much cleaner sounding treble, and has slightly better bass extension. 
    Regarding soundstage: both have large soundstages, but they have a pretty drastic difference in size of images.  The SR-009 presents images as large, tiny, or anywhere in between.  The HD800 has nothing but large images, similar to the Stax Lambda presentation.  This can be a pretty cool effect, but I find it unnatural and often times distracting.  In terms of imaging precision, I think the SR-009 is tops along with the SR-007.  The HD800 is a little fuzzy on the edges, but nothing too severe...similar to the HE90.
    Regarding "soul": this is becoming one of my least favorite buzzwords.  I've seen it attributed to headphones, amps, sources, and cables when it should be attributed to music, mood, and mindset.  I can't help but roll my eyes everytime I see somebody claiming some piece of equipment doesn't have soul.  Change the music.  Listen when you're not sick.  You should be able to enjoy your music from crappy laptop speakers or a heavily distorted PA system, let alone something as relatively accurate as the headphones being discussed.  No headphone is good enough to solve your personal problems.
    Mr.Sneis, seaice, Sorrodje and 2 others like this.
  13. bigfatpaulie
    Well that escalated quickly...
  14. Maxvla Contributor
    If I'm listening to my favorite music on a headphone I'm evaluating and it sounds perfectly fine, but doesn't keep me interested.. that's what I'm talking about. I feel like I'm listening to someone playing etudes instead of music. Mechanically correct, but lacking.
  15. negura
    n3rdling, very interesting. I haven't thought of it this way, but it does make perfect sense. I did always feel the HD800s sometimes project an unnatural large stage and this is probably wording it perfectly.
    I would also say the HD800s have something of a letter box presentation. Or think wide screen. The SR009s do not share this pecularity. In terms of imaging the HD800s have sometimes an edge through it's wider stage. For example with classical and large orchestras there's just some more space to layer stuff horizontally. Precision is tops with the stats, that's no contest.
    But I do fully agree the soundstage presentation goes to SR009s.
    When I read that from say Audeze lovers I can understand where it's coming from or what they're after, even if I do not agree. It's very interesting coming from an HD800s POV.... The realism of the SR-009s is simply so much better imho. It's almost as saying one doesn't like music, it's one and the same thing with the reproduction. :)
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