The Stax SR-L500 and SR-L700 Impressions Thread
Jul 2, 2019 at 7:49 AM Post #1,291 of 1,669

AudioThief

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This thread should be called the L700 thread. Barely any discussion on the L500s. As a matter of fact, the L500s are very difficult to get a grip on - Some say its identical to the L300s, others say they are worse, or better.

I quite liked the L300 and it makes sense to me that the L500 is at least similar in overall SQ performance while better build. As a service to the community, I will buy them and extensively review them and compare them to the L300 and 007 mk1 so that future buyers will not be as confused as I am.
 
Jul 2, 2019 at 8:09 AM Post #1,292 of 1,669

negura

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I have both the L500 and L700 and compared them side by side. Both are modded to have a seal and a much more linear bass response than stock. The stock bass is just mid-fi with both, even more so with the L500. The amplifier I am using now is a Carbon.

I can summarize that out of the two the L500 are the much better value, if one likes a leaner and/or slightly bright sound. I suspect most following Stax would, otherwise they would be in another boat completely.

Both headphones are exceptionally resolving. A quick summary (both with their stock pads):
Bass: modded L500 have some of the most linear, tight bass response in headphones at any price, down to 15hz (+/- 1dB which is within measurement variation/error). If you want linear bass this is reference. The best I could get from L700 is a -2/3dB under 60hz. Which is almost reference. The L700 bass in modded form is improved to stock and goes down really low too, but it is a bit more oomphed and not as a clean sounding as L500.
Midrange: L500 are leaner and the vocals are bit more distant. L700 has a bit more body, but not by much. Compared to the Jade 2 both are lean/er sounding. The slightly fuller timbre of the L700 sounds a smidge more natural to me. Both have that slightly Stax/Lambda coloration that detracts from their transparency a little.
Treble: L500 sounds brighter, more focused, and a bit sharper. L700 a bit more relaxed. Again not by much. :)
Stage: L500 have more depth, width/height about the same. The L700 presentation is a bit more intimate.
Transient response: L500 sound even faster, but both are faster compared to the Jade 2 for example. L500 have more impact, with a quicker decay. The latter are so much fun with metal and EDM, more fun than L700 imo. They are borderline sharp sounding and that's such a relief in this price range.

At the same price it would be hard to pick a winner, but slightly leaning to L700. For the MSRP or used prices, L500 all the way imo, if one enjoys a slightly lean/bright, but very resolving and clean sound, and exceptionally good FR for this price range. If you need to have a slightly fuller sounding Stax, sitting somewhere between 007 and OG 009, closer to the latter, then L700 might be a better choice.

L500 purple, L700 green. miniDSP ears, Raw response.
L500.L700.png
 
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Jul 2, 2019 at 11:41 AM Post #1,293 of 1,669

AudioThief

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I'll get the SR-L500 and the 252s. Thank you very much for the thorough reply!
 
Jul 2, 2019 at 3:06 PM Post #1,294 of 1,669

Pahani

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I have both the L500 and L700 and compared them side by side. Both are modded to have a seal and a much more linear bass response than stock. The stock bass is just mid-fi with both, even more so with the L500. The amplifier I am using now is a Carbon.

I can summarize that out of the two the L500 are the much better value, if one likes a leaner and/or slightly bright sound. I suspect most following Stax would, otherwise they would be in another boat completely.

Both headphones are exceptionally resolving. A quick summary (both with their stock pads):
Bass: modded L500 have some of the most linear, tight bass response in headphones at any price, down to 15hz (+/- 1dB which is within measurement variation/error). If you want linear bass this is reference. The best I could get from L700 is a -2/3dB under 60hz. Which is almost reference. The L700 bass in modded form is improved to stock and goes down really low too, but it is a bit more oomphed and not as a clean sounding as L500.
Midrange: L500 are leaner and the vocals are bit more distant. L700 has a bit more body, but not by much. Compared to the Jade 2 both are lean/er sounding. The slightly fuller timbre of the L700 sounds a smidge more natural to me. Both have that slightly Stax/Lambda coloration that detracts from their transparency a little.
Treble: L500 sounds brighter, more focused, and a bit sharper. L700 a bit more relaxed. Again not by much. :)
Stage: L500 have more depth, width/height about the same. The L700 presentation is a bit more intimate.
Transient response: L500 sound even faster, but both are faster compared to the Jade 2 for example. L500 have more impact, with a quicker decay. The latter are so much fun with metal and EDM, more fun than L700 imo. They are borderline sharp sounding and that's such a relief in this price range.

At the same price it would be hard to pick a winner, but slightly leaning to L700. For the MSRP or used prices, L500 all the way imo, if one enjoys a slightly lean/bright, but very resolving and clean sound, and exceptionally good FR for this price range. If you need to have a slightly fuller sounding Stax, sitting somewhere between 007 and OG 009, closer to the latter, then L700 might be a better choice.

L500 purple, L700 green. miniDSP ears, Raw response.

That chart!!! I haven't started using MiniDSP, UMIK-1 and REW on my Home Theater yet, but it's on the to-do list. I've had my twin subs measured by an acquaintance though, and I'm VERY jealous of that straight-as-a-board bass graph!! I have a decent bass hump, but since I'm 100% focused on movie watching, I'm not concerned with that. I do, however, have a nasty null at 72hz I'll need to figure out how to address eventually.

My home subs are strong to 13hz, and starting with a graph like that would be a dream. I wish everyone could experience movies with sub-20hz bass extension, it's like another world :)
 
Jul 2, 2019 at 3:36 PM Post #1,295 of 1,669

negura

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That chart!!! I haven't started using MiniDSP, UMIK-1 and REW on my Home Theater yet, but it's on the to-do list. I've had my twin subs measured by an acquaintance though, and I'm VERY jealous of that straight-as-a-board bass graph!! I have a decent bass hump, but since I'm 100% focused on movie watching, I'm not concerned with that. I do, however, have a nasty null at 72hz I'll need to figure out how to address eventually.

My home subs are strong to 13hz, and starting with a graph like that would be a dream. I wish everyone could experience movies with sub-20hz bass extension, it's like another world :)


I know, right. I also have the UMIK-1 for my speaker rig. They're pretty big full size speakers, but all I get is 24hz @ -6dB with a bump of a few dB at 38hz (room modal) and another smaller one higher up.

The FR many electrostatic headphones have is just incredible by speaker standards. Not to mention distortion of 0.2%-0.5% across most of the range.
 
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Jul 9, 2019 at 1:51 PM Post #1,296 of 1,669

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I've had the SR-L500 for a couple of days now. Early impressions, which are basically wortheless but still:

Comparing them (by memory) to the SR-L300:

- The L500 are significantly more comfortable
- Sounds drier and a bit quicker to me
- Perhaps a bit more even tempered than the L300, but I would say overall brighter sound.
- Slightly more sense of scale
- I think the L300 is strictly more analytical - The amount of detail seems to be identical, but L300 is more of a microscope into the music than the L500.

2 days is nothing with a headphone, so I'll give it at least a week more until I give more in depth impressions.
 
Jul 10, 2019 at 9:32 AM Post #1,297 of 1,669

arielext

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I've had the SR-L500 for a couple of days now. Early impressions, which are basically wortheless but still:

Comparing them (by memory) to the SR-L300:

- The L500 are significantly more comfortable
- Sounds drier and a bit quicker to me
- Perhaps a bit more even tempered than the L300, but I would say overall brighter sound.
- Slightly more sense of scale
- I think the L300 is strictly more analytical - The amount of detail seems to be identical, but L300 is more of a microscope into the music than the L500.

2 days is nothing with a headphone, so I'll give it at least a week more until I give more in depth impressions.
What amp did you use with the L300?
 
Jul 10, 2019 at 9:46 AM Post #1,300 of 1,669

AudioThief

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ty, so it's not a difference in amps. Haven't seen that many proper comparisons between the L300 and L500

There is almost no information on the SR-L500 at all, in fact. So I will be giving it a proper review once I feel I've had enough time with it. Almost all discussion is on the L300 and L700 on the internet. Can't even find measurements on the whole series from the same rig.
 
Jul 12, 2019 at 1:12 PM Post #1,301 of 1,669

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Review of the Stax SR-L500

517B153EyxL._SX425_.jpg


Foreword

My audio journey started around February 2017, when my gym IEMs broke, and I remember not being very fond of their sound, so now getting new ones I wanted to splurge a bit. I got the Sony XBA H3 on sale (they went out of producton). When I showed them to my father, he suggested I got some nice headphones for home use instead.

I did some googling and discovered head-fi. Down the rabbit hole I went. Soon, addiction for the "perfect" sound set in. I developed a cost no object craving for the perfect sound. After a while, I learned that you can't really trust individual testimonials on headhpones - people are way too different, lack experience or credentials to speak on a pair of headphones. So you have to crawl through pages and pages of content, maybe find some posters who have similar preferences to you and relevant experience to what you are wondering about (how does headphone x compare to headphone z).

Any single review is oftentimes completely worthless, unless you trust that persons ears. Terms used by us audiophiles are often very loosely defined as well. I also want to state that when all is said and done, differences between headphones aren't really that large. Once we are at the point of Stax, its all very good, and the differences are pretty minimal.

But of course, as audiophiles, those minimal differences do matter. So I will do my best to explain how I perceive these differences, and I will also give some value assesments for any potential buyers..

Is it worth it?

Many people frequenting this thread will be in a similar position as I was. They will put unlimited amount of money into their rig in search of perfection - a perfection they of course will never find. Many people will convince themselves that getting a Carbon and 009S or 007 is a necessary acquisition because to them, the gains in fidelity is worth it.

Unfortunately, that is just ridiculous. I honestly believe that there are some very unhealthy individuals around these parts that have stumbled into an addiction they need to get out of.

As for me, I used a lot of money on a bunch of different headphones, and my complete rig when I had the 007 had a pretty ridiculous value. Stax 727II, upgraded cables, schiit eitr, gustard x20 pro and the Stax SR-007 mk1. Lets say its value is at least 4,000$.

I honestly can't say that my current rig of 252s, schiit modi 3 + SR-L500 is in any way better or worse. They both sound absolutely amazing, but a different signature and overall sound. The value winner here should be pretty damn obvious.

For those of us who want the most real sound possible, I think getting into estats is necessary. I just find dynamics and planars lacking in that last bit of timbre and sense of realism. But I can't say that the L300 is a worse pair of headphones than the 007 or the 009. They are just different. There are clearly more similarities than differences between the Stax headphones.


About this review

I want to be a bit conservative in my use of language - but at the same time not understating my perceptions of differences either. Oftentimes, audiophiles will go way overboard about how they perceived differences. There are no night and day quality differences between any of the stax headphones. I can say right now that the main difference is in presentation: Laid back or aggressive. That is it. If you prefer one over the other, just go for the sound signature you prefer. An example: I love an aggressive sound. I also loved the 007s, but I love the lambdas even more because they inhibit the main characteristics I look for in a headphone. The 007s are technically more impressive, but those advantages are so very marginal, especially when compared to the impact my prefered signature has on my choice of favorite headphone.


Onto the review....

https://www.innerfidelity.com/images/StaxSR007.pdf

https://www.innerfidelity.com/images/StaxSRL300.pdf

Unfortunately, there are no measurements from the same rig on the L500. The L500, I am sure, measures much closer to the L300 than the SR-007. As you can see, the 007 has a subdued treble, while the L300 has much more presence.

Comparing the L300 and L500

The Stax SR-L500, to me, seems like a L300 2.0. They are very similar sounding, with only minor differences in sound. To me, the L500 seems a tad bit more resolving, with a wider and deeper presentation. It seems to me that the L500 delivers the music in the same way as the L500 much of the time. The only constant is that the L500 has a larger sense of scale - apart from that, they sound the same except in some specific instances - The L300 can sound hard at times, I cannot find the same hardness in the L500. This is mainly in classical piano performances.

A track that I have used many times to assess a headphones ability to portray piano is:

Debussy: Preludes / Book 1, L.117 - 2. Voiles
by Krystian Zimerman

The first time I really felt a headphone nailed this track was the 007. In all the other headphones I'd ever heard portray this track, the piano notes just sounded hard and unpleasant - including the L300. The 007 delivered the track with perfection, never sounding hard or unpleasant. It seemed as if this was the only headphone with enough resolution to not get confused when the crescendo of the track (at around 2:35) came. The L300 got close to this level of perfection, but just sounded a bit too hard.

I am happy to say that the L500 manages this track exceptionally well. No hardness, just sonic bliss.

While the L500 have sense of scale and total resolution over the L300, I think the L300 are a bit more analytical in that it brings all the sounds close to you - it is extremely intimate sounding. So you might get startled or surprised by more details being brought forward in the mix by the headphones.

Ultimately, these are similar headphones, but for me, the L500 is the more typical audiophile experience - it has a bit more depth, layering and total resolution. When we take into account that the L500 are clearly more comfortable, with better pads and headband, I think a 252s+SR-L500 is a great end game option for anyone wanting a forward sound signature. The L300 is around 200$ cheaper, so if money is tight, I would not hesitate getting a pair of L300 and just be happy with that. The sound differences are there, but I would only advice you to get the L500 over the L300 if the money is freely available for you to spend... Which means, get the L500 if you can afford it.

I believe the L500 is the most well behaved and even sounding of the lambdas today.

L500 vs SR-007

For anyone interested in Stax, most people know that the creme de la creme is either the 009 or 007 with a third party amplifier. These headphones are exotic, and the 007 mk1s are somewhat rare, while the third party amps are very expensive and thus also rare and outside the reach of most.

If you ask me, the audiophile community is riddled with mystique and placebo. Fact is, you can get the best of the best sound spending much, much less. To me, the best way to use your cash is to get a lambda, a stax amp and call it a day. I would only be hesitant to recommend a lambda if you mostly listen to hip hop / modern music AND are sensitive to treble/listening fatigue.

The 007 clearly beats the L500 at the following:

Listening fatigue: The 007 are completely fatigue free. You can crank the volume up and never experience fatigue
Soundstage: The 007 soundstage is clearly bigger than the L500
Resolution: All lambdas can sound a bit "congested" in complex passages because of its relatively intimate soundstage, compared to the 007
Generalist: The 007 do all genres well, I can't say the same for the L500.
Body: The SR-007 has the one thing estats generally lack over dynamic and planars - body. The lambdas sound thin, there is no way around it. With that being said, you get used to that thiness and dryness over time, and it sounds much more natural after a while.

The SR-007 is also a more full bodied sound - the most full bodied estat I have ever heard.

The L500, on the other hand, clearly beats the 007 at the following:

Realism: To me, the L500 just sound flat out more realistic. To use an old clichê; Its as if I can reach out and touch the instruments
Classical: The L500 has the treble edge that makes classical music with instruments such as piano, violins etc more emotional
Analytical: The L500 are more analytical than the 007. If you enjoy hearing everything, the L500 are better. The intimate presentation makes sure that nothing gets lost in the mix. With that being said, the 007 are ultimately more resolving, so if you listen for specific things like people shifting around in chairs etc, the 007 will catch things that the L500 will not, in my experience.
Wow-factor: While the 007 is fatigue free, it is also kind of just there - the L500 is a much more astonishing headphone in that regard. I am more emotionally in touch with my music through lambdas than the 007, which is ultimately why I enjoy the lambdas more.

To sum it up, the SR-007 are narrowly more technically gifted than the SR-L500. If I'm making a scale of "technicality" where the L300 are 7/10, the L500 8/10, I'll put the SR-007 at a 9.5/10.

With the L500 being strictly more engaging than the 007, I also want to talk about realism - What does that even mean? To me, I feel the illusion of being in a room with musicians is stronger with the lambdas. It might be because of the treble presence, or the narrower soundstage - I also think that the L500 are more lively - Snare hits has a ton of energy and snappyness, the reverb of guitar plucks are more audible, and vocalists sound as if they are singing right into my ear.

The 007 are more distant, and I want to quote another netizen who said that it was as if the 007 had a sepia filter over everything - I agree. A great, sweet and awesome sepia filter - but missing in that last bit of realism compared to the lambdas.

I want to again underline that while the 007 would win if you made a score sheet of typical audiophile "technicalities", I don't want you to feel as if one is over the other. Its simply different, and based on your personal priorities you need to make your choice... But make no mistake about it, to get sound as good as the SR-007, you need not pay thousands of dollars.... Just get a lambda and a stax amp and call it a day. Don't let the obsessive nervrosa get to you.

Okay the stream of consciousness have ended.. I hope someone reading this gets something out of it.
 
Jul 13, 2019 at 8:38 AM Post #1,302 of 1,669

Doom0

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Comparing the L300 and L500

... The only constant is that the L500 has a larger sense of scale - apart from that, they sound the same except in some specific instances - The L300 can sound hard at times, I cannot find the same hardness in the L500. This is mainly in classical piano performances.
...
While the L500 have sense of scale and total resolution over the L300, I think the L300 are a bit more analytical in that it brings all the sounds close to you - it is extremely intimate sounding. So you might get startled or surprised by more details being brought forward in the mix by the headphones.
...
I wonder how much thicker pads of L500 affect this. I have both L300 and L700 pads to use with my L300 headphones and my impression is that thin L300 pads indeed make sound more forward, intimate, aggresive, meanwhile thicker L700 pads make sound slightly more relaxed and take away a bit of wow factor that thin pads (puts your ears closer to driver) can have.
 
Jul 13, 2019 at 9:28 AM Post #1,303 of 1,669

AudioThief

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I wonder how much thicker pads of L500 affect this. I have both L300 and L700 pads to use with my L300 headphones and my impression is that thin L300 pads indeed make sound more forward, intimate, aggresive, meanwhile thicker L700 pads make sound slightly more relaxed and take away a bit of wow factor that thin pads (puts your ears closer to driver) can have.

Many people say l300 and l500 are the same, just different pads. I have no idea, we would need to see measurements. Based on other impression, l700 are more forward than l500, so it likely isnt only the pads.

It annoys me that we have measurements for l300, l700, l300lt and l300 with l700 pads, but no l500 measurements. There is so little information about these headphones, its crazy.
 

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