1 July 2007, 18:12 by mark hoekstra

ecstatic about electrostatic earspeakers

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UPDATE it turned out to be a very short-lived ecstasy...

UPDATE 2 although the ecstacy was allowed to continue anyway!

In my hometown, we’ve got a couple middle to high end audio shops and regularly I check upon their second hand gear, which they all put online quite nicely (although I don’t mind making a city-tour on my bike and go past all these shops). I don’t buy something that often (ey! I’m Dutch! ^_^) and I also don’t want to be this free rider, so I’m really glad that these shops now all have an up-to-date inventory of their second hand gear online.

Last friday I was checking up on the inventory of these shops and found a ‘Stax SR 5 & SRD 6’, without a picture. Now I knew that these were headphones, I mean, I know Stax, from quite some years ago. When I attended high school, one of my schoolmates at home had a Stax. Well, not he but his dad had a Stax and back then I was already intrigued by them and on an afternoon, we sneakingly turned on his dads expensive audio-gear, put in a Metallica album (^_^) and played it on these marvelous headphones. Oh man! I never heard anything like it! But in all these years in between, I totally forgot about it too.

Anyway, so I went googling for these specific Stax headphones (or earspeakers as they themselves call them), because even though I knew the brand, I wasn’t into specific models or anything, but these turned out to be quite good! (pdf-link to the original SR-5N)

I decided I would take a look the next day (last saturday) and when they would be in an acceptable state, I would be eager to buy them. (I always already try to make up my mind *before* I talk to a salesman or even walk into a shop ^_^)

So here I found myself, in an audio shop which is way beyond my budget on all the other gear (but a man has to have some dreams, right? ^_^)

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Little did I know that the Stax they had, turned out to be a SR-5 gold edition (original german link)! I mean, I read about the gold edition the night before but I didn’t expect and/or hope that this would be a gold edition. I mean, this shop normally is extremely accurate in their descriptions and next to that, the asking price didn’t seem to steep compared to eBay and such for a normal SR-5 so why would this be a gold edition?

Oh man, the second I saw that it was a gold edition I was already sold. When I told the man in the shop I came for the Stax he said something like “oh nice, I will hook it up for you!” while my thought was more like “well, I can take it with me right away!” but I liked the service and spent some time in a dedicated listening room (I love these kind of shops!). He excused himself for not having a Motörhead CD (...) (he was judging my musical taste by the shirt I was wearing *^_^*).

While he was hooking up the headphones to some nice audio gear, he told that they got the headphones back (after twenty odd years probably) from a guy who, back then, bought a whole set and lately he bought a whole new set and traded in everything he bought before, including these headphones. We both took a good look at it and we both agreed, this guy has never ever spent a minute on these… they’re twenty years old but unused! Even though I was already sold, I was feeling luckier with the minute. Where on earth can you find something like this? So, of course, after spending some time listening (first to Kraftwerk and later on to *ahem* Dire Straits), I bought them. (weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!)

Back home I had to find a way of connecting these to my stereo and this needs some explaining I guess. You need to connect these headphones to speaker terminals, not a headphone jack. My stereo’s got two NAD 916 amplifiers which actually are six amplifiers in two boxes (for instance, there’s six powersupplies in them too). On the backside of each of these amplifiers (pdf-link to the manual) you can choose to bridge each amplifier into a monophonic 90 watt amplifier (which I did to five of them, for the five speakers in my livingroom) or have one such a block act as a stereo 30 watt amplifier. The latter seemed ideal for being my amplifier only for these headphones. This way I also could extend the distance by having speakercable run from the amplifier to a table next to where I normally sit, and so I did! Only thing is, I happen to have CAT5 speakercable all around and how could I use something else for these headphones? *^_^*

It turned out I couldn’t and so I spent quite some hours last evening/night in making the cables and integrate the headphones into my setup.

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And so, after quite some hours I had the setup I wanted. These marvelous earspeakers are now on the table next to me and I can listen to everything I normally run through my stereo. My surround processor (one similar to this one) has a nice two-channel mode where it can decode multi channel (AC3 for instance) back to two channels, so it really doesn’t matter what kind of material I want to listen to, I can get it on my headphones like it should.

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And then, after all these hours spent… I needed to take it to the test! (even though I knew what to expect ^_^ )

On the left I try to stay cool while listening, but on the right is more like the way I spent last night into the early morning listening to these headphones. Oh my! it’s hard to describe, but it’s detailed beyond belief without being fatiguing and the same goes for the comfort of the headphones, I now wore them for hours on end and it never irritated me whatsoever. I did occasionally put them off, but only to reassure myself my speakers weren’t playing at the same time on high volume, simply because I couldn’t believe the richness coming out of these! And luckily it also seemed that normal grade material (read: MP3s) instead of, for instance, SACD (which I also don’t have) sound brilliant on these headphones. Of course, on these you can hear a difference and you can hear the flaws but it’s not like watching a highly compressed divx on a high definition television or beamer (which is utterly crap). These headphones are accurate enough to spot any flaw in your source, but it’s not irritating in any way. Luckily, because I didn’t feel like having only a couple of CDs which sound right on these headphones.

To me, it’s like these headphones are able to bring the emotion in the music up front, no matter how deeply it is hidden or covered up because of a bad recording/bad source whatever. I’m truly totally amazed on what these headphones do to me while I’m listening to tracks I’ve known for years (or so I thought), really, I am.

To be totally honest, I even went more like this *^_^*
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So, do I need to write up a verdict? I guess I can’t say anything more than what Stereoplay already wrote back in 1985...

“Zum Thema SR5 Gold bleibt nur zu sagen: Glücklich, wer xxx Mark für einen neuen Kopfhörer ausgeben kann. Er bekommt Absolute Spitzenklasse”

(“About SR5 gold remains to say only: Lucky is he, who can spend an x amount of money on a new headphone. He gets absolute top class”)

And I guess I feel even more lucky (and fortunate) because I found this SR-5 gold at a second hand price twenty years later, in a totally immaculate condition and as far as I can tell, these earspeakers haven’t lost any of their magic in these twenty years.

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Now if you guys don’t mind, I’m gonna put in another CD. *^_^*

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  1. Twan @ 1 July 2007, 23:55 :

    Nice photo’s and i’m glad you’re so happy as you were when i talked to you in the shop where I work.

  2. Mattnh @ 2 July 2007, 13:15 :

    I wonder how nice a NIN-CD will sound through this MoFo.
    Can you check ‘Leaving Hope’ for me? ;)

  3. Julius B. Thyssen @ 10 July 2007, 15:44 :

    I personally like my HD 600 Sennheiser sound reproduction much better than any elektrostaat.

  4. geroge @ 11 October 2009, 18:36 :

    Does anyone know where I could find a replacement pin (little metal prong) that allows the SR5 earphone to be held in the head bracket? I’m in New York City.

  5. george @ 11 October 2009, 18:36 :

    Does anyone know where I could find a replacement pin (little metal prong) that allows the SR5 earphone to be held in the head bracket? I’m in New York City.

  6. george @ 11 October 2009, 18:37 :

    Does anyone know where I could find a replacement pin (little metal prong) that allows the SR5 earphone to be held in the head bracket? I’m in New York City.

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