Uh-oh...Lower End Stax?
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oneeyedhobbit

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I apologize if this has already been discussed ad nauseum, but when I search the site keeps hanging up before my results showup. All that being said, I never thought I would ask this...but how do some of the lower end (read: NOT costing ridiculous amounts of money) do? I've been patiently waiting for the Chicago meet when I was hoping to hear the HD650 and CD3000, my two big contenders for a headphone upgrade. Stax headphones had interesed me because of their insane detail, but I just assumed they were well outside of my price. But, as I think about it, some of them are comparable to the set up I would have--if I bought either of those headphones for around $400 (+ possibly an upgrade cable for the Senn) and add in the $350 for my PPA (which was a GREAT deal, and doobooloo rocks!), I would be looking at about the same cost as some of the Stax. So, how do they do? What is their colouration (lacktherof) like? Soundstage? Are they upfront, or laid back a la Sennheisers? In particular, I'm talking Stax such as the 202, 303, or 404, paired with adequate drivers--things like the 3030 classic system, or 2020 Basic. Impressions?
 
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Czilla9000

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I have the Stax Classic System 2. I like it. It is very accurate and great for the listening I do (aka - classical).

Granted, I have never really heard these things full potential because my source is not highend enough.
 
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oneeyedhobbit

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I should add that some sound comparisons to the other cans I'm looking at (HD650, CD3000) would be nice. Also, Team Stax, I need an electrostatic education. I don't know the first thing about energizers and what have you--what do you need to have in your system to make Stax work? Is a receiver needed? Thanks a ton.
 
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pspivak

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Hi,

With regard to the energizer unit, you will need this to supply the high voltage need to "energize" the electrostatic "speakers". This is a necessity. You can get one from Stax or from some other manufacturer (e.g. Kevin Gilmore has designed a few). You will also need a source. All of the current driver units in the Stax come with a volume control. This means you can plug a source component in directly via RCA connectors (some higher end components come with XLR {balanced} connectors as do some of the higher end Stax units. You can also connect the energizer to an extra pre-amp output (or tape out) on a pre-amp or receiver. The latest units do not need the amplifier section (or stand alone amplifier). In the old days there was an adaptor that connected to the amplifier via a short cable. The headphones connected to the front of the adaptor and your loudspeakers connected to some binding post on the back of the adaptor. There was a switch that changed from earspeakers to loudspeakers. This arrangement has fallen by the wayside. (Let me know if you want to know why)

As far as those dynamic phones go, I have read great things about them. I have never heard them. I am biased toward electrostatics and I am really used to the lambda series. When it gets to this price point things are getting really good. In truth, you need to listen to all of your options and get what you like best. When I heard the Stax lambda's in 1987 I was sold immediately and haven't looked back since.
 
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oneeyedhobbit

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I am mildly curious as to why the previous arrangement (energizer to pre-amp, amp) fell to the wayside... At any rate, thanks for comments pspivak and others, the 3030 seems like it would be about the top of my budget if I was interested in going that route. However, I don't know where I'm going to be able to hear a 3030, the upcoming Chicago meet sounds like it will only have an Omega II, which, while eargasmic, is quite outside of my price range. Does anyone have the 3030, and would they consider a demo?
 
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pspivak

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This is a guess on my part. As systems became more deluxe and sophisticated any addition in the chain between the amp and speaker was seen to effect the sound quality. Imagine if you spent many dollars on an amp and were using some of those very expensive speaker cables, but in order to use your headphones you needed to connect the adaptor, which had some rather inexpensive looking cable to connect to your amp directly. Then you connected your speaker with the expensive wire to the adaptor. Some felt that using the adaptor was degrading the sound you were paying dearly for. Also, more and more monophonic amps were coming into vogue in the high-end systems, which added complexity in connecting the adaptor box in the system. Finally, there was the issue of multiple amplifiers in a system (not just left and right) but separate bass, mid range, and treble amps. All this made the adaptor box really fall out of vogue. Also, I guess that Stax felt that they could produce a better arrangement without compromising the overall sound of high-end systems. Perhaps when they had either arrangement available there was not much of a demand for the adaptor. I do not believe that the adaptor is in the current product line at all. You can get old ones on e-bay. Be sure if you go this route that they are the “professional” type. The “professional” desiganation means that the bias voltage is 580V rather than 230V. All of the new Stax earspeakers use a bias voltage of 580V. You can also look for the 5 pin connector (580V) rather than the 6 pin (230V).

I haven’t heard the 3030 system but 6moons did a review of the system with a comparison to the 4040 system. The author preferred the 3030 to the 4040 overall saying that the 3030 was a bargain. You can read the review itself at: www.6moons.com/audioreviews/stax/stax.html
 
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oneeyedhobbit

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Say pspivak, what is your nick name from? It doesn't happen to be related in some way to the calc book by the same author, does it
?

BTW, team Stax you are disappointing me right now, not hearing from you at all .
. I do appreciate the responses I've received. Hopefully I can hear some Stax at the Chicago Meet and make an informed decision.
 
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gradofan

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Don't discount the Staxes, but make sure they're the sound you're looking for. To my ears, the Staxes sound dry, with great detail and an effortless presentation. The 2020's bass, on my system, seems almost Ety-like -- all the information is there, but without the impact and weight you get from good dynamic cans. I love lots of music on them, but IMHO, the Staxes weren't meant for rock. On female vocals, classical, even some pop, they excel.

Also, I think the Staxes are much more demanding of your source than most cans. The HD-600s sound really nice in most systems, and while you need a higher-end source and a great amp to make them truly sing, you can get still get goosebumps listening to them in a well-planned, inexpensive system.

On the other hand, the Staxes really didn't do much for me until I got a good source. Before then, they sounded shrill and distorted all the time. I thought they were going to die on me, until I plopped down a few hundred for the Philips 963SA. Then, finally, they became pretty musical and sounded crystal clear.

The best way to find out what you like is (either):
1) buy tons of stuff like I did, and end up spending about $4K before you get pretty much what you're looking for
or
2) go to some head-fi meets, or start your own. Establish a network of friends you can swap gear with, and you'll get to try lots of cool gear without going broke in the process. This will help you figure out whether you want electrostatic/dynamic, tubes v. solid state, cheap v. expensive interconnects, power conditioning, a more expensive source, etc.

I'm pretty sure one of those options is more rational
, hehehe.

BTW, I got my Stax 2020s for $270. Pair them with a Philips DVD963SA (found one for $270), a cheap surge protector, and some decent interconnects, and you can have an incredible system for $600!

Have fun, and good luck!
 
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pspivak

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The Calculus text is by Michael Spivak, no relation.

And, I love my SR-404's on everything from Rock to Bach (though I don't really care for Bach too much. Recall that I have used Stax electrostatics for almost 30 years (since 1976) and am somewhat jaded by their sonic signature. Some folks like them, some don't.

ps. I like my SR-003's too.
 
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