Thinking About Getting into Electrostatics
Mar 5, 2006 at 5:59 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 39

erikzen

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I've listened to several electrostatic setups and I've got to say I've liked what I've heard. That being said, they were usually pretty high end Stax systems at meets. What I've liked was the detail combined with speed and smoothness. The music sounded so effortless.

My question is, where do I start with electrostatics? I can't afford to spend thousands of dollars. Are the entry level systems worthwhile or should I just continue saving and hope to someday buy a $4000 system? I know Stax has the "Basic System II" but is it worth it or would I be better off just upgrading my existing system with that money?
 
Mar 5, 2006 at 6:33 AM Post #2 of 39

canloader

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I would start with the STAX Classic II system at the least. Real good introduction into Electrostatic listening. Find a used pair and guaranteed you can sell them when it's time to upgrade with no loss. Then it's all uphill from there...
 
Mar 5, 2006 at 6:56 AM Post #3 of 39

Jahn

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Do what I did - go to eBay and pick up a nice ancient Stax rig! SRM-1/MKII and a Lambda Pro won't let you down!
 
Mar 5, 2006 at 7:16 AM Post #5 of 39
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I recommend the Stax 3030 combo. I got mine used for around $650 or so a couple years ago. Don't get the 2020, I hear it's not very good. I think the idea above of getting an old Lambda model is also a good one.
 
Mar 5, 2006 at 7:51 AM Post #6 of 39

Carl

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Once you go 'stat there's no going back!
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I'm loving my Baby Os.
 
Mar 5, 2006 at 7:52 AM Post #7 of 39

Masolino

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Quote:

Originally Posted by matt8268
I recommend the Stax 3030 combo. I got mine used for around $650 or so a couple years ago. Don't get the 2020, I hear it's not very good. I think the idea above of getting an old Lambda model is also a good one.


2020's are out of production anyway. The new basic setup, 2050, includes a upgraded new energizer/amp.
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Mar 5, 2006 at 8:00 AM Post #9 of 39

Snake

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Getting into Stax gets you into equipment that can last you, with care, probably close to 1/5 to 1/4 of your total lifespan on Earth.

A really good investment, in other words.

OK, here's what I think:

- Cans

The Lambda Pro headphones are a bit "mellower" and a touch more "balanced" than the SR-303/SR-404's. The newer 303/404's are more technically adept, with a (very) slightly greater operating range while the L-Pros might not be as "adept" they just might be a touch more "balanced".

Either way Stax electrostats are a somewhat acquired taste. They are drier than pretty much any dynamic with a forward midrange, a very extended high end, and a tightly controlled, deep but somewhat dry bottom. If you are looking for midbass bloom to get that "rock sound" - you're in the wrong place. If you want an extremely extended but yet not "emphasized" bottom end with a highly detailed midrange Stax is that sound.

The 404's have a touch more top end extension but trade away a touch of lower-high frequency "sweetness", IMHO. This can be changed with amp & cable selection if / once you get accustomed to that Stax character.

- Amps

The classic SRM-1 MkII is a somewhat forward sounding amp with a very good, but not "ultimate", bottom end extension. It was a small touch grainy and bright in the upper registers and therefore made a very good match with the L-P's, as the L-P's (in comparison to newer Stax can generations) masked that just a touch, leading to a nice balance (as far as Stax is concerned).

However when matched to the newer generation cans with the thinner diaphragms - Novas and 303/404's - that touch of added "glassiness" on top of the SRM-1's touch of grain combined to make things a bit too much for some people.

All this of course depends upon your source; if you have a very warm source this is not an issue. If your source is dry to begin with 404's + SRM-1 MkII for many people = way too dry.

Stax are easily good enough to show these source differences yet don't worry - most decent sources are good enough to show a Stax system off. It will simply show you all the good...and that bad that you've been used to having masked naturally for you. The good is still there, but you'll get more of that bad. It's not world ending, just telling you even more than you thought you knew.

The newer solid-state amps are somewhat "rounder" in the top end response, versus the SRM-1, to rebalance the can/amp combo back more towards the SRM-1/L-P combo. So while you can easily use a pair of new cans with a SRM-1 classic amp the cans will probably work best, for most people, with an amp of approximately the same generation.

Those amp clauses can be thrown out the door if you use one of Stax's classic "upgrade" amps instead of an SRM-1. Those optional "upgrade" amps, like the T-1, T-2 and SRM-14S (my amp), went for a higher performance than the SRM-1 to begin with and still do a decent job with the new generation cans.

If you like the Stax sound but wish for a bit of "bloom" in midrange, instead of the classic Stax SS "dry" sound (OK, it's all relative), try the tube amps. You can alter the sound of the tube amps by rolling tubes - changing tube sets. The Stax tube amps bring classic tube traits to the Stax cans and can be a bit of a bridge to give Stax cans a touch more warmth and roundness. Remember that the Stax sound is intrinsic so we are talking modest differences here - a SRM-006 or 007 will not make a pair of 404's sound like Senn 650's
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- Extras

Stax are high enough resolution devices that they can easily show the differences of many components in your audio chain. If you have never thought you could hear the difference in a pair of interconnects - because (comparatively) your system did not have the resolution - you certainly will when you step up to your new (or "new") Stax system.

Again, that is not a world ending deal breaker. You are simply hearing everything, instead of only part, of what is going on.

I probably would not recommend any silver interconnects, stick to copper or maybe try a copper/silver blend. There are "dark" IC's and "bright" IC - you can tailor your system's nuances with these IC's (once you accustom yourself to the Stax sound).

I, personally, really do not hear much of a difference between power cords but, then again, my SRM-14S has a huge (comparatively) external power supply and could be masking this issue. You may wish to try a cord, prices vary greatly.

If you sit more than 4 feet away from the amp while listening a Stax extension cord is one of the best investments in convenience you will ever make.
 
Mar 5, 2006 at 8:04 AM Post #10 of 39

akwok

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In my opinion, you really can't go wrong with the Stax SR-404 as being an entry (or exit) can to electrostatics. Check out www.pricejapan.com for the pricing, it's a killer for the price.
 
Mar 5, 2006 at 8:10 AM Post #11 of 39

Jahn

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Snake

I probably would not recommend any silver interconnects, stick to copper or maybe try a copper/silver blend. There are "dark" IC's and "bright" IC - you can tailor your system's nuances with these IC's (once you accustom yourself to the Stax sound).



Snake knows what he's talking about. I use Audioquest Diamondbacks to go from my Melos to the STAX because that copper warmth matches perfectly with it.
 
Mar 5, 2006 at 10:27 AM Post #12 of 39

E.B.M.Head

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I also think some used Lambdas, SR-3, SR-X, SR-5, Sigmas or Gammas and a vintage Stax Amp is a good start into the electrostatic world. The SR-84 (The Baby Lambda) might also do, as it's the only elecret headphone that sounds like a real electrostat.
 
Mar 5, 2006 at 12:12 PM Post #13 of 39

spritzer

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I would also go with older Stax equipment. The SRM-T1 is a much better amp then the SRM-313 and can often be found for much less. I upgraded the rca jacks and input wiring to silver and the amp made a huge leap forward in sound quality. It has a pretty big mid bass hump and it is a bit rolled off but for the price it is a steal. Pair it with any of the Lambda’s or Sigma's and you are in business.

I got my NOS SRM-T1 and a SR-Sigma PRO for 650$ so you can get away with it pretty cheap.
 
Mar 5, 2006 at 12:50 PM Post #14 of 39

erikzen

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Wow! lots of great responses. Looks like the electrostatic contingent is pretty strong around here. I want to be in that number! Is Stax really the only game in town?

However, I do have one more concern:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Snake
All this of course depends upon your source; if you have a very warm source this is not an issue. If your source is dry to begin with 404's + SRM-1 MkII for many people = way too dry.

Stax are easily good enough to show these source differences yet don't worry - most decent sources are good enough to show a Stax system off.



Considering the revealing nature of Stax what is the bare minimum for a source? My best source is the Micro Dac using either the optical input from a CD player or USB input from my laptop. Is this going to sound like crap in a Stax system?

Should I be looking at buying a better source first, with the idea that at some point it will become the source for my Stax setup?
 
Mar 5, 2006 at 1:00 PM Post #15 of 39

erikzen

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