THE HOW: electrostatic vs balanced rig
Sep 8, 2009 at 12:34 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 52

wower

1000+ Head-Fier
Joined
Sep 12, 2006
Posts
1,343
Likes
12
Location
Calgary, AB
This question have been bugging me for a while now. I'll qualify it by saying I know in the best of all possible worlds I would be able to audition each rig I'm considering. But to make it a meet where both these types of high end rigs are on display would eat up a substantial part of my budget for said amp. In the real world I will have to make to with a lot of research. To begin, I'm wonder for those that either have electrostatic or balanced dynamic headphone rig, how did you choose which path to go down? If you have both, what types of music to you find yourself gravitating toward? I'm trying to pin down a method for choose which path to follow when I make a big upgrade in 2010. I'm considering for the moment--and this is why it's in the high end forum--either the Eddie Current Balancing Act or O2mk2 with KGBH LE. The only applicable difference I can see is that with the BA, I can use the D7000, HD800 and my beloved AD2k, so I can switch it up for the types of music I listen to/mood etc. (about 30% rock/alternative/folk, 40% classical, and 30% House and Hip Hop). Is the KGBH LE too constrictive for multiple genres? On the other hand, it is very appealing to own the KGBH LE and know I own a really premier piece of equipment that only comes around every so often in the audio world. How did my fellow head-fi'ers decide?
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 1:06 AM Post #2 of 52

Icarium

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jul 6, 2004
Posts
2,365
Likes
40
Pretty much all electrostatic amps are balanced. So you must mean a high end balanced dynamic amp?

Neither electrostatics and high end dynamic rigs are genre restrictive.. I listen to as wide a range of music as you and my dynamic rigs handle them quite well as did the O2/SR-Omega/He90/electrostatic rigs I've heard. The O2 + BHSE combo will certainly do all genres well.

Honestly I wouldn't consider a set up high end if it couldn't do all genres really well... but that's me I guess.
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 4:04 AM Post #4 of 52

vcoheda

High-End Forum Volunteer
Joined
Nov 10, 2004
Posts
10,065
Likes
122
stats lack soul. go dynamic.
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 4:42 AM Post #5 of 52

robm321

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jan 12, 2006
Posts
7,962
Likes
199
Quote:

Originally Posted by vcoheda /img/forum/go_quote.gif
stats lack soul. go dynamic.


Agreed - to me stats sound like "canned" sound. That's why it doesn't work for me. It's a matter of taste though since some seem to love the sound.
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 4:51 AM Post #6 of 52

edstrelow

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Sep 7, 2002
Posts
3,128
Likes
197
I did have the chance to make the type of comparison at the recent LA Canjam. I was struck by the fact that the top end, balanced dynamic, of which the Sennheisser 800 appears to be the current best, sounded so much like the 007/BHSE combo. However the stat still had the edge in clarity/purity of sound. There is a residual graininess to dynamics that I, as along time stat use could never be happy with. Still I acknowledge that with a prolonged period of use of something like the balanced 800 there might be some other sonic characteristic of the dynamic that I might get to prefer.
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 5:07 AM Post #7 of 52

devin_mm

1000+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 25, 2006
Posts
1,174
Likes
12
Well I don't know how much my opinion carries water compared some people in this forum with really high-end systems but here goes.

Keep in mind a lot of this is pretty preliminary as I haven't had this gear too long

I listen to a lot of Trance/Vocal Trance with my setup so that colours my feelings quite a bit. As I write this I am listening to the Ocean Lab - Sirens of the Sea Remixed with my HD650s with a Cardas balanced cable connected to my Audio-GD Phoenix, which itself is connected to a Audio-GD REF1 DAC via ACSS (CAST) cables. I find that this setup has a quite significant bottom end, a very solid punch that the HE60s lack. What the HE60s lack in punch they more than make up for with absolute clarity I can easily say that I have heard some new nuance or detail in every disc I have listened to while connected to my HE60s, another thing to keep in mind that while most electrostatic amps are balanced as stated above the Aristaeus I own isn't one of them so that will colour my opinion.

As far as versatility goes I wouldn't have an issue listening to either setup with any music, though if I felt like analyzing my music I wouldn't hesitate to reach for my HE60s those headphones are a torture test I wouldn't wish on any audio engineer. The real issue is as far as versatility goes if you decide to go all out electrostat there are a lot more companies that produce dynamic headphones so you are limited in that way as well if you wanted to try someones headphones on your setup you are again limited. My feelings comparing the two setups probably will change again once I get my HD800s and the balanced cable.

I see you're in Calgary as well so if you wanted to we could have a mini-meet and you could try out my HE60s.
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 5:16 AM Post #8 of 52

Jon L

For him, f/1.2 is a prime number
Joined
May 20, 2003
Posts
4,311
Likes
574
Quote:

Originally Posted by robm321 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Agreed - to me stats sound like "canned" sound. That's why it doesn't work for me. It's a matter of taste though since some seem to love the sound.


Interesting. I would say the exact opposite
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 5:23 AM Post #9 of 52

wavoman

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jan 19, 2008
Posts
1,873
Likes
43
It's chill or thrill.

When you go on a high-end vacation, don't you want both? An unbelievably lush pool with staff that caters to your every need (hopefully with plenty of eye candy around), but also skydiving/windsurfing/bungee jumping/race-car driving/whatever to get the heart pumping?

'stats vs dynamics. My wife knows my mood instantly by the one I reach for.

You will end up with both. So get the BA now (I only heard this once, at CanJam; I have a fully balanced Beta 22 built by YBM, I think the experience will be the same) so you can enjoy the three HPs you mention (I have the AD2K, and lesser versions of the others -- HD600 and D2000 -- all re-cabled/balanced, and listening is superb with the Beta 22).

Get 'stats later -- high-end stats will always be for sale, and used is the way to go here. Get 'em as you age and have more time to listen for hours on end ... this is the situation where nothing can compare. You get lost in the euphonics.
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 5:23 AM Post #10 of 52
Joined
Jan 4, 2008
Posts
17,318
Likes
10,835
Location
Fukuoka, Japan
Stats have the advantage that there is a huge range of vintage Stax which, overall, is better bang-for-the-buck. I wouldn't say that a good pair of Lambdas lacks soul at all. I have at least one pair of vintage Stax that are very similar to Grados in their presentation, with the advantage of having more detail. I agree there's more flexibility in dynamic cans though. Personally, starting again, if my wallet could tolerate it, I'd probably go the Balancing Act.
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 5:37 AM Post #11 of 52

IPodPJ

MOT: Bellatone Audio
Caution: Incomplete customer orders
Joined
Apr 17, 2006
Posts
7,870
Likes
61
Quote:

Originally Posted by vcoheda /img/forum/go_quote.gif
stats lack soul. go dynamic.


Based on the top stat rigs I've heard, I also have to agree. The highs sound extremely artificial to me -- someone else described them as "wispy" and I concur.

I have not heard the O2mk2 or any other stat on the Blue Hawaii and some say it's superb, perhaps it is.

For the best of both worlds (stat and dynamic) -- fast transients, huge, open soundstage and great impact, the HD800 is hard to beat. If you haven't experienced them yet balanced and with a nice cable, you haven't come close to hearing their full potential.
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 6:19 AM Post #12 of 52

wower

1000+ Head-Fier
Joined
Sep 12, 2006
Posts
1,343
Likes
12
Location
Calgary, AB
Quote:

Originally Posted by wavoman /img/forum/go_quote.gif
You will end up with both. So get the BA now (I only heard this once, at CanJam; Get 'stats later -- high-end stats will always be for sale, and used is the way to go here. Get 'em as you age and have more time to listen for hours on end ... this is the situation where nothing can compare. You get lost in the euphonics.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Currawong /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Stats have the advantage that there is a huge range of vintage Stax which, overall, is better bang-for-the-buck. Personally, starting again, if my wallet could tolerate it, I'd probably go the Balancing Act.


I was struck by these two comments. I want to know more. Because that's exactly what I'm thinking--long term. Why is stax so much better on the used market? I'm worried the KGBH LE will live up to its limited status. Maybe I just need to be calmed down such a unit will still be available in the future.
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 6:29 AM Post #13 of 52

Uncle Erik

Uncle Exotic
Joined
Mar 18, 2006
Posts
22,597
Likes
502
I'm just getting into electrostat headphones, having picked up an Omega II, Mk. 1. But this is at close to the end of exploring dynamics for me. I've got a few more dynamic amps to build, but I don't see goin much farther. Electrostats are still new to me, so I want to have them as part of my rig.

Part of my complaint with electrostats is that there isn't a huge variety of them. 90% of wha you find is Stax with a few Sennheisers, Jade, Koss, etc. scattered around. If you like the Stax sound (and I do), then you're OK. Otherwise, you're very limited. Even then, if you want to change up the sound, you won't get anything like switching from a Sennheiser to a Grado.

Another issue is amplification. There are only a handful of good amps out there. A few of the really good ones are unobtanium. Others are expensive and there's little opportunity to DIY one.

On the other hand, there's a wide variety of dynamic amps - commercial and DIY. If you want something unique or something that's specifically tuned to your tastes, dynamic amps deliver.

I could live happily with just the dynamic setup. The 'stats are good, but I see them more as another flavor I want in the rig as opposed to an end in themselves.

Now, electrostatic speakers are another matter best left to another discussion. I love my Quads, but they can run off a variety of regular power amps and there are many more manufacturers.
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 8:09 AM Post #14 of 52

Comfy

1000+ Head-Fier
Joined
Mar 15, 2005
Posts
1,328
Likes
12
I started with dynamics. First the Alessandro MS-1. Followed by Grado HF-1 and UE Super.fi 5 Pro. These were upgraded to Grado RS-2 and AKG K701. Then AKG K1000. Then Audio-Technica W5000. Short stints with Alessandro MS-2i, Alessandro MS-Pro and Grado RS-1. My main dynamic amp was the Singlepower MPX3 Slam. The longest time I've been happy with a pair of dynamic headphones was with a pair of Sennheiser HD650, balanced straight out of my Lavry DA10. This setup survived my bouts of upgraditis for over a year, and provided the perfect balance between non-fatiguing, resolving sonics and engaging musicallity.

Then, one day, a local ad announced an old Stax system for very little money. SRD-7 SB and original SR-Lambda headphones for little over 100 euros. I was curious about electrostats, so I decided to give it a try.
I was quite surprised that these 30 year old electrostats, fed by an NAD home theater receiver driving the SRD-7 energizer, sounded better than my reference system of Lavry DA10 and balanced Senn HD650. Because of these old stats, I sold my Grado RS-1 and my balanced HD650. The sound I was hearing combined the best of both worlds - the unfatiguing musicality of the Senns, the toe-tapping fun factor of the Grados, the speed and details of the W5000, perhaps even K1000. And all this with no distortion whatsoever. No etch, no lack of soul, no upper-mids bump. Just pure, unadulterated sonic pleasure.

As of late, my old school Lambdas developed a channel imbalance, so I've had the first bout of upgraditis in a year and a half - upgraded my Stax amp to a better model, bought another set of vintage Lambdas (Nova Signature).
If I won the lottery, one of the first things I'd buy would be an O2 and a KGBH.

I hope my experience helps someone to see the light.
wink.gif


Listening habits: 50% rock/folk/alternative, 20% jazz, 20% flamenco, 10% electro.
 
Sep 8, 2009 at 9:48 AM Post #15 of 52

SemiAudiophile

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Mar 21, 2007
Posts
1,808
Likes
134
Quote:

Originally Posted by Comfy /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I was quite surprised that these 30 year old electrostats, fed by an NAD home theater receiver driving the SRD-7 energizer, sounded better than my reference system of Lavry DA10 and balanced Senn HD650. Because of these old stats, I sold my Grado RS-1 and my balanced HD650. The sound I was hearing combined the best of both worlds - the unfatiguing musicality of the Senns, the toe-tapping fun factor of the Grados, the speed and details of the W5000, perhaps even K1000. And all this with no distortion whatsoever. No etch, no lack of soul, no upper-mids bump. Just pure, unadulterated sonic pleasure.


nice...i think you've pretty much killed my curiosity of wanting to try balanced-dynamic. that sounds like the perfect headphone.
o2smile.gif
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top