Just listened to 3 different Stax's
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Moonwalker

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Hi everyone!

Last week I went to shop where the Stax dealer awaited me and let me listen to 3 different Stax phones. I listened to SR-003 (standard connector version of the 001's), SR-202 Basic and SR-404 Signature phones (EARSPEAKERS, of course
)
I was using the SRM-313 solid state amp all the time, connected to the entry-level MD I know best, SONY 510 MD deck.
This was chosen because I wanted to hear the Stax's like I would be at my home, not having the ultra-expensive SACD ES players or 200 SACD discs. I had some MD with some pop/rock on them, the music I listen to about 80 percent of my listening time. Nothing excellent, Smokie live, Nazareth best of and 1 Czech singer I know very good. (J. Schelinger)

I sat to the low, comfortable black soft chair, and having fresh water and some peanuts, I was left alone by the salesman and spend almost 1 hour of listening.

The SR-003 sounded good, very nice for an earphone, but after some time, I decided they aren't for me. I was FEELING them in my ears, no matter how much I tried to get them comfortable. When they were comfortable, I was hearing little bass, and too much treble, and when they sounded OK, my ears started hurting a little. Soundwise, great detail, not much space around the head, nice midrange, overall faster than HD600, but still earphones.

Next time I plugged the 404 into the 313 amp and was surprised how flimsy they are. They produced a lot screechy plasticky sounds, the pads were a bit loose from the plastic frame, looking like the glue holding them together has dried up. When I put them on my head they feel quite heavy, surely more than my HD600. Details were nice, speed too, both a bit more than the HD600, bass goes deep, not as deep as on the HD600, midrange a bit sterile but still detailed (and a bit cold), trebles are nice if a bit prominent. Covering the frame by the hands makes a big difference on the sound - really open design! Everything was more forward than on HD600 except bass region. More recording hiss, more breathing of the singers, more metal sounding. To me, it was a bit less lifelike, like the blue-lit hospital room: everything seems clean, sterile and hard, but you don't like to live here for a long time. Resume: 404 are great resolving tool for listening for flaws of the recording, not for pleasure.

Finally I put 202 to test. Even more flimsy looking, cheap!!! plastic, hard cable, not so soft pads and uglier headband. 1 piece of the outer frame was broken, making me think it's not very durable material used on them. Much more plasticky sounds, every time you move or adjust them you get some KRRR, FSS, EEEK etc. Sound was not very diffferent from the 404, surprisingly, at least on the same 313 amp. Maybe a bit farther from the nature, more synthetic sound especially on the midrange, but only a bit more. They are almost as good as the 404, but the build quality on 202, 303 and 404 earspeakers is very poor, especially on the 202.

They are completely different phones, especially in Europe not mass marketed and they look like it. They are hi-end cans, without a doubt, but like all hi-end gear, they are sometimes too different to satisfy most people.

I was tempted to purchase them, but now I'm happy I listened to them and decided I can live happily without them.

Any comments?

Your
Moonwalker
 
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Beagle

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I would agree with the build quality. And they are waaaaaay too expensive! It is terrible or unbelievable rather, that the asking price for the 202 is $1195 CDN, when you consider the cheap plastic, flimsy build, which probably cost about $4 in parts. Sound is nice but man do they ever look like cheap dollar store crapola.
 
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smokey

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They do seem a little cheap in the build quality don't they?

You can take care of the squeeking noise by applying a very little bit of household oil at the joints. In the US this would be 3-in-1 oil, not sure what it would be in your part of the world.

Sound quality wise, a little more warm up might help. Some say that the Stax units need an hour or so to bias up the electrostatic panels. Some disagree.

Price wise, the only real option is importing them directly from Japan, through Audiocubes, or EIFL.

If you need build quality and are willing to pay a little more for it, the Omega II is the way to go.

If you get a chance listen to the Omega/717 combo. However, electrostatics do have a "house" sound. If you don't like the basic sound of the lower level units, you probably won't change your mind at the higher price levels. But you never know until you try.

Just my two cents.
 
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Music Fanatic

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Thanks so much for posting this review. It really helps abate my STAX-lust.
 
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TimSchirmer

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I'm starting to notice that the older lambadas are built a bit better. Much denser plastic that doesn't seem like it would snap as easily.
 
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Chefguru

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The amp needs to be charged WITH the headphones inside for a good 3 hours for best sound.
 
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spritzer

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Well my take on the cheap build is that the electrostatic panels them selfs are very expensive to produce so Stax must cut cost where it can. I think that the older lambdas were more expensive than the new ones so that might be a reason for them being built better. But then again equipment prices are rarely based on what they cost in production...
 
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pspivak

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This is just what I needed to read right after I found out that my new SR-404's have just cleared customs. I let you know what I think in a few days.

p.
 
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Snake

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My thoughts? I'm glad you got a chance to listen, for you now realize that they aren't your cup of tea. That's the way to do it, personal choice


Although, I will be honest, if you read all the comments here you will find that "charge up" is a very real phenomenon noted by Stax users. In my system a mininum 25 minutes is required to get them to, at least, a "listenable" state. Please note my comments in the above post - in my experience, my 404's sounded just terrible when first turned on until at least 15 minutes pass by. I was quite appalled by the "listening cold" sound they can make. They do, indeed, seem harder to charge than Lambda Pros.

I don't know if that means you would like to retry them, but there you go.

Enjoy whatever choice you make
 
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