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Mitchell & Johnson – Electrostatz Headphones, Kickstarter Edition

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by jobbing, Feb 6, 2016.
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  1. Jobbing
     
    - Electrostatz GL2 First impressions - 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.
     
    DSC_6729.jpg       DSC_6734.jpg
     
     
    This week I received the Electrostatz Kickstarter pre-production hybrid prototype - using an electrostatic based diaphragm and a dynamic driver.
    These dual driver headphones are scheduled to hit the market around May this year. Mitchell & Johnson provided me with one of their prototypes to audition these in length and give them my honest feedback*).
    So…… why not let you guys in and give you my take on these now and do a few quick comparisons?
    What I could do here is give you my best audio terminology and talk you through preliminary ‘mountain creek clarity’ and sonic ‘waterfall rumble bass’ waffling analogy. But I won’t *). Instead I’m giving you a heads up here in my firm believe that not backing these during the campaign will be considered a felony after the first expert reviews will drop in and objective datasheets become available.
    The Kickstarter campaign has ENDED. These cans were available at an amazing GBP £99 (~USD 140  / ~EUR 130), well worth taking advantage of and supporting this headphones startup
    link to: Kickstarter campaign page 
     
    PROS                                                                            CONS
    + Dual driver design                                                      - not available yet, app. 2 months+ wait
    + incredible price/quality ratio                                       - relatively cheap materials (corrected) ^^
    + affordable way to experience electrostatic tech            - not foldable
    + neutral/flat sound (not on prototype)                          - no objective measurements available (yet)
    + expansive soundstage for closed back cans                 - design doesn’t stand out
    + plug-and-play (no external power supply)                   - no memory foam parts (yet)
    + frequency range and dynamics                                                                                  
    + detachable cable                                                                 
    + production ready
    + lightweight, versatile and small cans
    + solid wood cups, hand turned cherry wood (^^corrected)
                 
    My rating
    Audio Quality    8/10
    Comfort            7/10
    Design              8/10
    Value                9/10
     
    Based on the prototype characteristics. Given the promised changes to the tuning (to natural/flat) and possible changes to the comfort and design I expect an average of at least 8.5/10 for the production version.
     
    ^^correction: cups are made of solid wood, rating for design amended from 7 to 8

     
    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 first impressions? Either way, happy to retain your attention, let’s find out!  
     
    Kickstarter
    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.
    Two weeks ago 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, 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  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.
             
       
    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.
    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 is to raise funds for marketing and promotion of the new headphones line-up, not to fund production which has already been secured.    
     
    Electrostatz Prototype
    The Electrostatz prototype I have auditioned is the GL2 and will be named GL2 SE when they hit the market. Just like its recently introduced sibling HP-1 these 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.  
    The headphones development nears its completion, however due to popular demand by the Kickstarter community the creators decided to meet the strong backers’ request to have this first edition of Electrostatz be a neutral/flat tuned version as the technology allows for an easy tuning.  
    DSC_6729.jpg
     
    Now here’s the thing…. The prototype I received clearly isn’t neutral tuned, yet has a very appealing sound signature just like some other popular headphones. This one is different though….
    What I could do is wait for the re-tuned prototype to show up and give you my thought on those. Frankly, based on my findings and those of others who have heard the Electrostatz over the past weeks I think people should be in the know about this product now and let them decide for themselves if they want to get on this train awaiting the neutral/flat tuned production pair or pass for now.
    The electrostatz is 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 (slash: 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. Mitchell & Johnson have set up a dedicated website with additional information and background about the technology (techie and dummies-tab)
     
    Specifications
    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
    Impedance:                     32 Ohms

    Design Components:      cups, unique hand turned cherry wood, polished to a smooth finish (confirmed, see pictures)
    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 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 already given them feedback and suggestions for improvements. I encourage them to follow up on them.  
     
    Overall design
    Matte alloy look with wood finish. 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.  
     
    DSC_6747.jpg   DSC_6748.jpg   DSC_6744.jpg    DSC_6737.jpg
     
     
    Spring and headband
    Non-folding drop design for everyday use, high quality plastic and aluminium sliders, bending and twisting does not affect the
    structure, looks like a virtually indestructible construction.
    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 a few 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.  
    The inside padding on the prototype’s headband is acceptable. I wouldn’t recommend these for bald headed.
    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 will not only add to the cost, it will make them more fragile just like I experienced with the Denon AH-D2K.
    Text and embossed logo’s on the headband (and cups) look good, could be smaller for a more elegant design.
     
    Cups
    DSC_6747.jpg   DSC_6755.jpg
     
    Closed back type, supposedly made from real hand turned cherry-wood. These aren’t exactly Lawton Audio’s piano finish exotic wooden housing, but they are made of solid wood!  or even stock ones as seen on high end closed back cans. Nevertheless For someone who isn’t into wood finished headphones, these look quite modern and the matte finish giving them a nice discrete touch. I didn’t dare to take the prototype apart, to see how solid the housing really is (maybe later…). To be on the safe side of things I’d mark these as wooden veneer.  The cups are made from solid wood
    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.
     
    Earpads
    DSC_6746.jpg   DSC_6751.jpg   DSC_6752.jpg   DSC_6753.jpg
     
    The oval shaped earpads’ inner dimensions measure 6.5cm x4.5cm. My ears can be considered average-sized which fit in
    DSC_6743.jpg very easy but 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 touching the driver and have maximum exposure, the nylon fabric/mesh part of the earpad hardly has a softening effect.
    The prototype earpads inner material is made out of spongy material covered with protein leather.
    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 foam memory upgrade could solve this issue. After about 4 hours of listening at moderate volume my ears warm up, an additional pair of velour pads would make a great add-on.  DSC_6754.jpg
     
    Cable
    The prototype I was provided with has a hardwired fabric type cable (braided sheet) with 3.5mm straight jack without (no visible) strain relief whereas the production version will come with a detachable cable.
     
    Weight
    Total weight is 269 grams. Very comfortable and good weight distribution. I had no problems wearing these for hours in a row.
     
    Sound
    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 let the bass bleed into the mids or give any noticeable distortion.
    These headphones are really fast, accurate and detailed even at lower volumes (no, I did not use a SPL for volume matching…)
     
    Tuning
    The current 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. I’m no engineer, but keeping this standard in mind I expect M&J’s decision to change the current tuning into a neutral/flat Kickstarter Edition will make these even better. Hooray to Mitchell & Johnson!
    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 by those not looking for the final neutral/flat. Even from my smartphone and tablet the listening is 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 to come…..]
     
    Soundstage
    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
     
    Isolation
    With the prototype earpads I’d say they block 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 was the one below
    FR_Electrostatz.jpg
     
     
     
    Not exactly a high resolution raw data graph and not very clear either: it appears to be a bumpy ride, but that’s not what I’m hearing (see tuning) on the prototype at all. What I hear is more like what I presume to be the measuring of the original tuning (blue line) in the chart below.
     
    It would be great if we could get some adequate readings on the Electrostatz.                                             
     
    Comparisons (upcoming)
    Comparing a new hybrid concept to the ‘standard’ transducer type headphone in my collection comes with a few hurdles. My STAX have the 5-pin connector and require a 580V amplifier, my dynamic ones will fit any 6.3/3.5mm amplifier connector. A/B’ng between Electrostatz and dynamic headphones isn’t an easy task. I’m not able to do a detailed comparison in the set time that still remains until the Kickstarter campaign ends. I will try to do as many relevant comparisons as I can and add them to this overview in the coming days.
     
    Contestants
    DSC_6733.jpg
     
    Planned comparisons to the Electrostatz
    1. Beyerdynamic T1 Tesla (Dynamic)
    2. STAX SR-Lambda PRO (Electrostatic)
    3. STAX SR-Sigma PRO (Electrostatic)

     
    And if anyone is interested I’ll be happy to do an Apple and Oranges:
    Flare Audio R2Pro, 1964 Audio U6, etc
     
     
     
     
     
    Beyerdynamic T1 Tesla (G1, stock) vs Electrostatz GL2 prototype
     
    My fingers are hovering over the keyboard…..Am 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
     
    DSC_6738.jpg    DSC_6739.jpg   DSC_6740.jpg
     
     
    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 sound: 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
     
    Soundstage: 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 flageolet 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 Electrostatz prototype 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.
     
    If the GL2 upper bass and mids would be a little tuned down I would be a very happy camper, the GL2 would make an everyday headphone. A professional reviewer should shed a light on these…..please    
     
     
    Note to self: reconsider selling T1 May-ish 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
     
     
    DSC_6761.jpg   DSC_6760.jpg   DSC_6762.jpg
    STAX SR-Λ Pro (Lambda)                STAX SR-Σ Pro (Sigma)                  Mitchell & Johnson GL2 Hybrid
     
    Yesterday the Electrostatz campaign has been successfully funded. 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 sound and bass response:
    Warning: 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.
     
    Due to the current tuning the Electrostatz adds 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?    
     
     
    DSC_6759.jpg 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.
    DSC_6763.jpg
    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 prototype 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.....
                                                                                                                  
    Preliminary conclusions / 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 forward.
    Electrostatz clearly fills up the gap between cluncky over ear TOTL headphones, mid-fi portable cans and exorbitant priced electrostats. 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 room for improvement before Electrostatz first production run, 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 neutral tuning as promised to me makes up for the plastics used. I would recommend these to my best friends as the current prototype already 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 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 pledged for a pair of Electrostatz, the pledge will be collected and the headphones will be send to me as a reward. You can find all about it on their company website 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 :wink:
    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 have 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
     
    Edits:
    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
     
    Mrsugarlove and gr8soundz like this.
  2. Jobbing
    Because of the tight timeframe, I decided to post my impressions now, make layout better later and add information in the coming days
     
    1. more impressions on sound characteristics
    2. comparisons
    3. more details, more photo's
    4. updates on any improvements to the original design
     
     
  3. piaudio
    Interesting review, do listed out the songs and genres in your test later so we know where this fitted in.
     
    My feedback is regardless of their attempt to create better sounds, they should at least improve the design to have a unique brand of their own since they are the new exclusive owner and this will be a long-term products. Prefer headphone painted in black.
     
  4. barondla
    Thanks for this review. I had already pledged for a set. Your review grabbed me since I have the Flare Audio R2Pro and Trinity Audio Enginering Atlas. Would love your take on the Flare vs Mitchell and Johnson.
    Thanks
     
  5. Thenewguy007
    Would definitely like to hear comparisons with the Beyer T1.
     
  6. KimbaWLion
    I have heard the Dharma's at a recent head-fi meet in the Philadelphia Area. It would be interesting to hear them A/B right in front. Either way for the Kickstarter price I backed 2 and I know I will have my money's worth! [​IMG]
     
  7. inthere
    I heard these at Headroom 2016 in London and thought they were spectacular. All due respect but I think the OP's suggestion of a retuning is completely uncalled for and I hope Mitchell & Johnson don't succumb to the pressure.

    I donated to their Kickstarter campaign once and I think I'll do so again.

    A few things grabbed my attention about these cans;

    1. LOUD with NO distortion driven only with a smartphone.
    2. BASS from Electrostatic headphones!
    3. Unmatched clarity in its price range by a very wide margin imo.
     
  8. luvmusik
    Have been interested in these and their forerunners from other companies (In2uit, Verisonix, Verisonic) using the electrostatz, electrastatz hybrid technology for over a year & happy to see are available.
     
    Look forward to your comparison vs STAX SR-Lambda Pro, as written in OP, realizing the price difference, and inconvenient external amp or energizer-transformer box needed for STAX.
     
    Do they have transformers in each earcup ? If so, would prefer an inline-corded transformer instead; either as a bulge-plug, or even if it requires an inline-corded patched box on the cord (if larger transformers needed), as opposed to a seperate wired plug-in energizer box (opposing the inconvenience of a SRD-4,6,7, etc for example). Or, an option to buy the headphones preferred this way.
     
    These show promise for portable and computer use. Without earcup transformers, may make a nice mark for home audio use.
     
    Being hybrid design - the detailed electret presentation is expected as well as deep, full, low,extended & impactful bass as expectation. Curious in integration of the 2 drivers sonically.
     
    Eager to see full pro, indy & user reviews and measurements, it is a innovative & great looking design.
     
    Hope we can see more about these, both from OP and others too.
     
  9. piaudio
    Dual drive design. I love pics on these.
     
  10. Jobbing
    Quote:

     
     
    Thanks, will do.
     
    Given the recent developments (see press release)  it seems very likely that improvements will be made to the product line up, however factoring in the initial costs M&J must have made for this project and the ultra low price on offer at KS I'm not expecting too much alterations on this edition though. Last week I have sent M&J my 'wish-list' and together with the feedback from many CES and HeadRoom exhibition visitors and professional reviewers M&J should have a very good idea how to make the improvements necessary to make the Electrostatz a winner.
     
    I don't think we'll have anything conclusive on improvements before the campaign ends (CNY). To me Dave and Paul seem very determined to make the Electrostatz a success. Some of the proposed improvements - of which some are very small - could very well make it to the first production run in my opinion but again I'm no engineer. On the other hand, my expectations maybe too high and I'm a nitpicker about matters others may not even be bothered. I know these aren't going to be my perfect headphones, but M&J are pretty much getting there with the Electrostatz. 
     
     
     
     
    Details can be found here http://www.electrostatz-pr.com/ . Not going to dissemble the prototype myself unless I get M&J approval (haven't asked yet). I'll make sure to post additional pictures. Any specific parts you want to see?
     
    edit: link added
     
  11. Jobbing
     
     
     
     
     
    Noted, will try to accomodate before the campaign ends
     
  12. Jobbing
     
     
    Totally agree with your observations. There's just one thing that has me bothered here. I hear what you're saying but I really want to stress that the suggestion of retuning the original to a neutral one wasn't mine alone, actually it was a 'collective' request by those active on the comment board.
    .   
    As per M&J's update on Kickstarter:
     
    Quote Mitchell & Johnson Kickstarter update #15:
     
    Could it be that M&J will offer two different tuned editions when the Kickstarter survey will be sent out?
     
  13. Jobbing
     
    Good to see you here on this thread. Lucky you, I would love to do an A/B too  [​IMG]
     
  14. barondla
    @Luvmusic why would you rather have transformers outside of the earcups?
     
  15. Decreate
    Would these be ideal for portable use?
     
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