The Stax thread (New)
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Mar 2, 2010 at 12:44 AM Post #12,783 of 24,807

edstrelow

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Quote:

Originally Posted by spritzer /img/forum/go_quote.gif
The LE is more like the SR-SC1 i.e. it doesn't suck like the standard 404.


I don't think many people have heard the SR-SC1, ceratinly I haven't, what are the sonic differences?
 
Mar 2, 2010 at 2:10 PM Post #12,784 of 24,807

Dinan

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Quote:

Originally Posted by edstrelow /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Does the 404 sound much different from the 404LE? The few comparisons I have read didn't think so.


There really is no question that the 404LE is a considerable jump from the 404 and very different despite only minor differences (cable, diaphragm treatment, and color). Many that are not fans of the 404 (myself included), own and love the 404LE.
 
Mar 2, 2010 at 4:14 PM Post #12,785 of 24,807

TimJo

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I'm new to Stax, and the LE's are the first I've owned, so take my opinion with that in mind. My guess is the major difference is the ear pads being leather, which must effect the frequency spectrum as perceived the listener and helps create the amazing strength and clarity in the bass. The other factor probably is the cable they used. I'm not a big cable guy, but it has to make a difference. I just got a pair of the Beyer T1's and the cable they used makes a big difference in the sound I'm sure.
 
Mar 2, 2010 at 5:50 PM Post #12,786 of 24,807

Apollo

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I called a local Stax dealer today (London, UK) asking whether they had any SR-001s in stock. My girlfriend's dog ate mine during the weekend, so I am looking to have them replaced.

The dealer told me that they were discontinued and out of stock (I knew they were discontinued) but that Stax would probably release some new portables towards the end of the year. Do any of you guys know anything more about this? I am starting to question whether I should wait to see if they release anything new or replace my par now , although I am leaning towards the latter.

Thanks
 
Mar 2, 2010 at 6:09 PM Post #12,787 of 24,807

krmathis

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^ I have read the same from others around here. That Stax is working on a SR-001MK2 successor.
Do not think that any further details have come out though. If we can expect an all new model or simply a SR-001MK3...

Definitely interested!
 
Mar 2, 2010 at 7:39 PM Post #12,789 of 24,807

edstrelow

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Quote:

Originally Posted by spritzer /img/forum/go_quote.gif
The LE is more like the SR-SC1 i.e. it doesn't suck like the standard 404.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Dinan /img/forum/go_quote.gif
There really is no question that the 404LE is a considerable jump from the 404 and very different despite only minor differences (cable, diaphragm treatment, and color). Many that are not fans of the 404 (myself included), own and love the 404LE.


Quote:

Originally Posted by TimJo /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I'm new to Stax, and the LE's are the first I've owned, so take my opinion with that in mind. My guess is the major difference is the ear pads being leather, which must effect the frequency spectrum as perceived the listener and helps create the amazing strength and clarity in the bass. The other factor probably is the cable they used. I'm not a big cable guy, but it has to make a difference. I just got a pair of the Beyer T1's and the cable they used makes a big difference in the sound I'm sure.


I am trying to get information from people who have both phones, or at least have done a proper side-by-side comparison. The first report, I recall some while back in this impossibly large thread was that there wasn't much difference between the LE and the 404.

However there are some claims that the LE is better than the 404 but generally not backed by any actual comparison of the 2 phones

At the same time there has been a fair bit of 404 bashing which I don't think has been called for either. To my ears, its problems, if you think they have some, can be solved by removing the foam backing behind the drivers.

The phones are basically the same using the same earcups and drivers however the LE has a different cable and earpad. It is also black and I hope that is not what people really like about these phones.

The 404 uses the top of the line cable also used in the 4070 and 007, whereas the LE uses a newer cable. If the new cable is an improvement I would like to know because possibly we should be looking at replacing the 007 cables.

As regards the change of the earpads, there could be a number of factors at work here. Possibly the change to a real leather pad causes some change in seal or reflectivity of sound although I doubt that there is much in the reflectivity of leather vs fake leather. If the new pads make a difference in position of the driver, eg. moving the drivers further away from the eardrum, that could be a factor. Of course you could put some extra material under the 404 pads to get somewhat the same effect.

At any rate when you find that design variations give a better result it is useful to figure out why. But first you have to establish the actual differences in sound.
 
Mar 2, 2010 at 7:57 PM Post #12,790 of 24,807

spritzer

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If anybody that compares a normal 404 to the LE and hears no difference the something is very wrong with their ears.

The difference is clearly in the diaphragm and not the cable, earpads etc. I've done extensive testing on the SR-404 and even with extreme damping their basic character was still there. Simply removing the foam on the SR-404 certainly didn't do the trick, far from it. I needed to go to ortho levels of damping to tame the midrange peak after completely rebuilding the phones. There is a thread about this process somewhere else...

This character of the 404 is beneficial in the SR-Sigma chassis but not so much in the Lambda frame. I'm not so sure though that we are dealing with the same drivers in the 4070, same basic structure but the diaphragm could be radically different. The only way to really know would be to get replacement drivers and see how they are marked.

As for the SR-SC1, it's been a while since I had my last set but it is like a grown up version of the SR-Lambda, more extension and presence but similar tonality.
 
Mar 2, 2010 at 11:24 PM Post #12,791 of 24,807

edstrelow

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Quote:

Originally Posted by spritzer /img/forum/go_quote.gif
If anybody that compares a normal 404 to the LE and hears no difference the something is very wrong with their ears.

The difference is clearly in the diaphragm and not the cable, earpads etc. I've done extensive testing on the SR-404 and even with extreme damping their basic character was still there. Simply removing the foam on the SR-404 certainly didn't do the trick, far from it. I needed to go to ortho levels of damping to tame the midrange peak after completely rebuilding the phones. There is a thread about this process somewhere else...

This character of the 404 is beneficial in the SR-Sigma chassis but not so much in the Lambda frame. I'm not so sure though that we are dealing with the same drivers in the 4070, same basic structure but the diaphragm could be radically different. The only way to really know would be to get replacement drivers and see how they are marked.

As for the SR-SC1, it's been a while since I had my last set but it is like a grown up version of the SR-Lambda, more extension and presence but similar tonality.



Interesting speculation but I see the same red-framed driver in the LE as in the regular 404. Nor is there any mention of such a change although I see a disclaimer at the bottom of the pdf page about specifications may be changed without notice.

I guess it must be difficult to maintain quality control on the drivers and I would assume there is some variation in all stats based on tension problems with the diaphragm.

I am surprised that you discount the effect of the cable and pads.

At any rate I am still waiting on an actual comparison and review.
 
Mar 3, 2010 at 7:23 AM Post #12,792 of 24,807

Philimon

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A 404LE pad comparison from earlier in this thread (as well as an old pad vs new pad style comparison). I do believe that a thinner pad and pad material would make a large difference in sound as well (these reviews agree). Simply putting pressure on the cups while wearing the headphones so that the drivers are closer to my ears make the bass clearer/deeper, and less midbass (on quick listens mind you, and whilst trying not to cover the back of the cups so that I created reflections/closed in sound)):

Quote:

Originally Posted by kh6idf /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I just replaced the pads on my SR-202 this morning with the leather pads from the 404 Limted Edition. Stax part number is EP234-LIMITED. It took about 2 hours because the adhesive tape is VERY sticky and hard to remove. I managed to get the old pads off with minimal damage but I think it did stretch out the protective foam covering the inside of the driver a bit.

The new pads have a separate protective element of some sort of woven cloth that drops in the oval cutout and seems to be a much better system. After cleaning all the old tape off (using 91% alcohol and a microfiber cloth), the new double sided adhesive was applied and the leather pads stuck down. It seems like the leather pad can be removed with a little less effort than the vinyl, but it is still stuck down very well.

Here's some pictures, the pads are a bit thinner and the drivers may be a little closer to the ears but if the ear touches the inner protective element I can hardly feel it and it is not irritating at all. I haven't used them for any length of time but the 5 minutes or so I tried them there was no sign of ears sweating.

I had most of my rig disassembled form yesterday's Houston head-fi meet (will post pics later this afternoon or this evening) so I just listened to the CD player output into the SRM-252 without using my usual external DAC. Also the SRM-252 did not have a chance to warm up and I know this improves the sound a little once it does. Still, the sound is mostly unchanged, perhaps a very small decrease in the spaciousness or soundstage, but this may be due to not using the external DAC. But the overall balance did not seem to change. I will listen more extensively tonight once I reassemble my gear and let everything warm up.

http://home.comcast.net/~kh6idf/Stax...0pads%2001.jpg
http://home.comcast.net/~kh6idf/Stax...0pads%2002.jpg
http://home.comcast.net/~kh6idf/Stax...0pads%2005.jpg



Quote:

Originally Posted by kh6idf /img/forum/go_quote.gif
OK, here's my impression of the sound with the 404LE pads on my SR-202. I've listened for an hour or so with the SRM-252 amp warmed up, and everything restored to the original configuration (using external DAC, etc) I had with the "stock" SR-202 before.

The sound has changed, the high frequencies are a little more rolled off now. But the overall balance seems to be improved, with the midrange and bass warming up slightly. It now has a well-balanced sound. My first impression with the stock sr-202 was "where's the bass?" and I thought they were slightly thin or bright sounding, but now I don't think I would have that impression if I had heard these for the first time.

The high frequency rolloff accounts for the slight loss in detail / air / soundstage I reported earlier. Since I have a DEQ2496 in the loop, I may try to bring the HF extension back to it's original level with some careful equalization.

But the comfort factor has definitely improved. I can wear these for an hour or more now with no need to take them off. No ear sweating at all. This is really a good thing.

I believe the HF rolloff may be caused by a combination of the new dust protection material (the oval-shaped woven cloth used instead of the more transparent original foam) and the leather pads absorbing / dampening the highest frequencies compared to the more reflective vinyl. It's possible the distance to the ears or the angle has changed but I don't feel this has as much influence as the filter material or the composition of the pads.

Upon reflection, what these remind me of now is the frequency balance I heard with the SR-007 (heard them for the first time this weekend at the Houston meet). They also seemed to have a slight HF rolloff and a nice even balance across the frequency range. They also use the same filter and pad material.

So I think the comfort improvement is worth switching to the new pads, but a little of the magic (soundstage / air / HF extension) is gone. I will see if I can bring it back with EQ but what I have right now is a nice warm, even balance, reminds me of the sound of my Magneplanar speakers.



Quote:

Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict /img/forum/go_quote.gif
That's about the sound you get from the SR404LE. Of course there are likely some other differences between a 202 and 404 with the LE pads, such as in the detail or something else, once you factor in the differences between the 404 and 202 drivers and cable. I have read that the 404 are brighter than the 202, and that is why those drivers work so well in the old vintage Sigma driver housing - so I imagine the 404 with the LE pads might not be as rolled off as the 202 with them. But I would bet that these pads do make up a lot of or most of the difference between the regular 404 that Spritzer says have the upper midrange etch and the 404LE that don't have as much or any of that.


Quote:

Originally Posted by kh6idf /img/forum/go_quote.gif
My ears/brain are already adjusting to the new sound of the SR-202 with the 404LE pads. It doesn't sound rolled off anymore, just really well balanced and detailed. Plenty of bass now and a beautiful midrange. I am not going to use any EQ, my brain is rapidly acclimating and it now sounds just right.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Don Quichotte /img/forum/go_quote.gif
To be honest your impressions reflect very well my own as I have recently replaced my 303's old pads (with foam) with the new kind (with oval-shaped woven cloth) - normal pads, not LE. My system was almost perfectly balanced before, maybe just a bit rolled off in the highs (!). I definitely concur that the new pads loose some of the magic of the old ones, but it's not necessarily related to the highs - more to the mids IMO - and it is not entirely because of the cloth. Actually, it's the pads themselves that "loose the magic", the cloth only darkens the sound, adding bass and rolling off treble as well as, I think (not sure about this), reducing a bit the soundstage width and sense of air and space, as you have already suspected. I know this because I have cut the foam off the old pads (it was disintegrating because of too much usage and probably because of the friction with the new silvery metallic mesh that replaced the old black one made of brass two years ago) and I have installed the woven cloth alternatively on the new pads as well as on the old ones. I have switched between the two many times, without sticking the pads to the baffle with the double sided adhesive yet.

The woven cloth fits pretty well on the old pads in the hole left by the foam, but its edge (the oval shaped artificial leather ring) must remain in close contact with the pad - if it separates too much and doesn't seal the inner side of the pad anymore the sound changes to a shockingly degree, I cannot explain why, and becomes much brighter, livelier, with highs to die for, better air, soundstage and perhaps even better dynamics; however, unfortunately it also looses much too much bass quantitatively as well as bass impact and becomes unbalanced and somewhat tiring. Almost the same sound (perhaps the change is even slightly greater) one can get by installing the wove cloth not in contact with the pad but by simply placing in the oval hole of the baffle, in contact with the metallic mesh I was mentioning before.

Back to the comparison between the actual pads. I was refraining from writing about this because I find it hard to describe and hard to explain. The new pads add bass themselves and make the midrange more subdued. The old pads sound more lively. But the most interesting fact is that, apparently unrelated to the frequency response, the old pads allows the listener to hear more easily all the sound and the relationships between them, thus gaining better access to the whole musical gestalt. It's not that they are more detailed, the new pads might even sound a tiny little bit more precise and relaxed (I'm not sure), but it's simply as I said above and I cannot describe or explain it better. It's much easier for me to hear the music with the old pads, pure joy with no effort on my side, while the new ones are boring by comparison. The difference might not be very obvious from the first moment, but something was missing and I couldn't put the finger on it. Then, returning to the old pads was such a relief! I was listening to music again. I couldn't explain and thus I found it hard to believe, so I have tried repeatedly to give the new pads a chance during the past few weeks, but every time the attempt ended the same way. Now I only use the old pads with the new woven cloth.

Please bear in mind that my modest but nice sounding system is better suited to a livelier and brighter sounding Stax phone because it is on the warm, dark and colorful side. And colored too, I agree, but I repeat myself, it sounds pretty good (and really great for the money). In a more neutral system the new pads might offer better tonal balance, but I'm sure the stuff about musicality or sonic gestalt I wrote above would still hold true.



Quote:

Originally Posted by kh6idf /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Don Quichotte,

Are your new 303 pads made of 'artificial leather' like the old ones? I assume only the 404LE pads are real leather which is why I ordered them instead of the new 202 pads.

If they are artificial leather, I would think they wouldn't change the sound much unless they were a different thickness or shape. The biggest difference would be in the dust protection material.

I would have liked to get a full thickness 202 pad made of real leather, these 404LE pads are thinner and place the ears closer to the drivers. In fact the outer edges of my ears touch the dust protection cloth now, but it is not irritating as the cloth is soft and not scratchy.



Quote:

Originally Posted by Don Quichotte /img/forum/go_quote.gif
The new pads are made of artificial leather, just like the old ones, but they are noticeably thinner, I suppose they have the same thickness as your 404LE pads. The cloth changes the tonality compared to the foam of the old pads, but the character of the sound remains the same - pretty much as if you would alter a bit the position of the bass and treble knobs of an integrated amplifier. The new pads themselves, on the other hand, result in a less linear tonal modification which is as big or almost as big as the change induced by the cloth; being less linear and perhaps also for other reasons which escape me, the tonal change induced by the new pads results in a sound that seems a bit different in character - comparatively more shut in mids, maybe less snappy in the mids, less spacious, cohesive or expressive, I don't know, I'm not so sure now of a detailed comparison done from the memory. The main idea is, as I wrote in my previous post, less music - and of this I am sure, I couldn't forget the difference. Of course, all IMHO, in my system, etc.


 
Mar 3, 2010 at 4:23 PM Post #12,793 of 24,807

spritzer

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Quote:

Originally Posted by edstrelow /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Interesting speculation but I see the same red-framed driver in the LE as in the regular 404. Nor is there any mention of such a change although I see a disclaimer at the bottom of the pdf page about specifications may be changed without notice.


The 404 uses the same driver as the LNS and LNC but they don't sound anything like each other. All the older Lambda drivers look alike and all the last round drivers look the same yet sound nothing alike. The bottom line is that we have no idea what's inside any of these drivers without splitting them open.

Quote:

Originally Posted by edstrelow /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I guess it must be difficult to maintain quality control on the drivers and I would assume there is some variation in all stats based on tension problems with the diaphragm.


That isn't the case as any changes Stax makes are by choice, not sloppy craftsmanship. You can take a 1982 L-Pro and it will sound identical to the same model made in 1990 with all things being equal. Same goes for all the SR-Lambdas, LNS and L-Sigs I've owned, dozens and dozens of them.

Quote:

Originally Posted by edstrelow /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I am surprised that you discount the effect of the cable and pads.


I my experience they only contribute subtle changes, nothing more. Now if Stax had moved onto an even wider cable that could mean something...
 
Mar 3, 2010 at 8:03 PM Post #12,794 of 24,807

edstrelow

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It could be that Stax has their production line working at a very high level of operation but I would guess that the Stax drivers exhibit some degree of variability and need to be checked.

This is what I saw being done some years ago when I worked with engineers who made electrostatic drivers for air-borne sonars. Each driver was given at a one or more frequency response tests, at different angles of incidence. The measured response of these drivers had to fall within certain parameters or they were rejected.

One of the reasons for the high cost of stat phones could be the cost of making more drivers than make it into the products.

It's too bad that the Stax people don't contribute something to this forum to explain their operation. Suely they can't be unaware of this thread.

A few years ago, when I had Stax Japan rebuild a Sigma as a Sigma pro I remember their willingness to communicate by fax about issues beyond the immediate rebuild. But my last effort at communication drew a blank.
.
 
Mar 3, 2010 at 8:46 PM Post #12,795 of 24,807

spritzer

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Every Stax driver is matched into pairs but the basic design of the drivers makes it easy to crank out identical units year after year. There must be some rejection rate though so that will factor into the cost plus the simple fact that any ES drivers will always be much more expensive to make then any dynamic kind.

Stax maintains its distributors for just that reason, to have contact directly with the customers. It just so happens that the US distributor is worse then useless at everything. They can't even be bothered to supply the dealers.
 
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