I was fortunate enough to stop by Source AV’s Electrostatic Headphone Event earlier tonight. It was fun sharing impressions and talking audio with all the folks there. What I liked the most about this event were the private rooms. Listening under normal “show conditions” weren’t applicable anymore and you’re now able to audition gear in isolation away from all the noise. Truly a rare chance to experience headphones at their best without having to buy them upfront. Great work to all those involved in this truly incredible event.
I’m going to provide two things:
- Quick impressions of the world’s best electrostatics
- Audio Porn (Sorry, didn’t have my good camera with me)
HIFIMAN Shangri-La ($50,000)
I had a decent amount of time with this setup in a dead quiet and private room. Not surprisingly, these sound completely different from the one I heard at CanJam 2016. These were the cues that came into mind while listening:
- First thing I noticed was its precise and coherent articulation. Music flows naturally.
- Overall a very natural emphasis without a hint of distortion.
- Amazing transient response and impactful and fast attack.
- Extraordinary display of micro and macro details.
- Pitch black background. It startled me a few times while I was changing tracks as the music just jumps in from black. Incredible.
- Seems to have a slightly smaller image vs the Orpheus.
- Vocals are incredibly refined and life-like.
- Incredible accuracy, timing, and precision across the entire range.
Sennheiser Orpheus HE 1 ($55,000)
I didn’t have much time with the Orpheus but I didn’t more than a few minutes to realize how incredible this headphone is.
- Right off the bat, I’m presented with a huge image and I’m immediately enveloped into the music.
- This electrostatic headphone is the first electrostatic to provide satisfactory bass for my tastes. It has weight, super tight, and intricately detailed.
- Precise imaging, realistic soundstage, natural tonality, it checks all the boxes to my ears.
- This headphone pulls you in with sound that isn’t neutral but euphonic and beautiful. If I had gotten a few more minutes with it, I’d surely shed a few tears. 😉
- I’ll definitely need to revisit the HE 1 at CanJam this year.
Mr. Speakers Electrostatic Prototype (TBA)
This was paired with a Chord DAVE and BHSE.
- Amazingly comfortable headphone.
- I have to admit, I was quite impressed with this prototype. It was musical, engaging, dynamic, and amazingly detailed.
- It was quite difficult for me to pick out any flaws with this headphone. Very euphonic and enjoyable.
- It definitely had more low-end than the SR-009…might actually be perfect price/performance electrostatic out there.
- Now when can I get a review unit…
STAX SR-009 ($5,250)
- Everyone has probably heard these at some point in their journey. They’re still awe-inspiring in the sense that I don’t get that amount of clarity and life-like harmonics in any other type of driver, especially when it comes vocal reproduction.
- Biggest drawback however is the low-end…which as I’ve mentioned, is a deal breaker. I could appreciate it, but just can’t get myself to love it.
- I would like to note that these headphones do impress and captivate me every time I put them on. There’s this coherency and authenticity to the sound that I don’t get from dynamic or planar magnetic or even other electrostatic headphones. Great headphone…but needs more warmth/bass for my preferences.