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Stax SRS-4170 Electrostatic Earspeaker System
Stax SRS-4170 Electrostatic Earspeaker System
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This is an awesome drop. I feel like a lot of the complaints are coming from people without very thorough knowledge of the product line. A few points:
1) This can be had for $1375, cheaper than the lowest drop, if you're willing to deal with a Japanese seller for possible warranty work: http://pricejapan.com/front/e_good_info.php?code=1028&category=10
2) Amplifier requirements for electrostatic headphones are not trivial. Though this combo is the most expensive pairing of an amp and headphones that Stax offers, the headphones and the amp both represent the middle of their range.
3) The only product Massdrop has offered to rival this drop would be the Koss ESP-950, which come at a lower price. They're also more prone to failure, and the E90 amplifier they come with is nowhere near the quality of this amp. The 950 is a good deal, but it is debatable whether it represents a better value. Planar headphones like the HE-6, and IEMs and CIEMS are in a completely different league. Some would correctly say a lesser league.
4) The rectangular design (called the Lambda) has been a mainstay for 40 years for a good reason. It's an excellent way to make an electrostatic panel, and it sounds fantastic. It also looks somewhat ridiculous if you're not used to it. Look at this as an opportunity to be your own man!
It's hard for people to really understand what it is electrostatic bring to the table, and I had a hard time understanding the hype before experiencing the totality of options of hi-fi headphone enthusiasts. There are several things I find lacking about this Stax combination.
Yes. This is an expensive amplifier, but it is unfortunately not my favorite design. With regard to electrostatic devices it is not imperative but more gloating rights to have some high end tube solution. There are many solid state E-stat amplifiers which will produce proper amplification with zero adulterates.
The ESP-950 provides not only a stellar value but the headphone is severely underrated.
To say Planar headphones (which are making a significant comeback) and CIEMs are in a different and more correctly "lesser" league is not only ignorant but flat out wrong. The right headphone will make a convert out of any listener. At the end of the day it is about the sound quality and presentation to the listener.
I can't tell what's worse, the fact that the people who would be interested in this offering are defending qualities of the headphones from the people that aren't interested, or that the interested parties are trying to sell their concept of the high end to a mass audience. An audience who have so many other options to explore before diving into what some might consider the first step into the small world of electrostatics.
Give anyone a pair of ESP-950s to get acquainted with electrostatics because I assure you if they are smitten the next upgrade will be something top-of-the-line instead of a system like this.
I disagree with the comment you would likely bypass the Stax for something higher-end after hearing the Koss. While the Koss cans and amplifier are very solid and deliver sound at a great price per dollar ratio, the Koss amplifier is not in the same league as the Stax, in my opinion. That said, the Koss is one of the most underrated headphones, period. I prefer the sound of planer and stats to dynamic headphones in nearly all incarnations. I think the HD700 and 800 are overrated for their price and require substantial care in choosing an amplifier. When a suitable amplifier is found it is most often expensive, discrete or tube based. I would take, in nearly all situations the Koss stats over my Sennheisers paired with my previous high-end tube based headphone preamp and separate amplifier. When the Koss goes on-sale around Christmas or on Massdrop they can be had with included amplifier for less than the HD700's and not much more than a pair of HiFi Man planer cans. I have seen the Koss sell for South of $650.
I have several pairs of cans for different types of music and for different moods. I found that a pair of AKG Q701's, an iFi DAC and iFi headphone amplifier (total all-in cost of about $500) delivers great sound that rivals many other more expensive equipment I own. Stats are not for everyone, though. They have a unique and accurate (generally) sound that may not work with most streamed music or low-resolution content whereas dynamic cans almost always work much better for that content, though that is a generalization and not always accurate.
The stats paired with a $500 turntable and $150 phono preamp will eat the lunch of many other systems and gear for pure musical enjoyment, at least for me. Either way you look at it, the Koss is a superb bargain at the usual $999 price and a legitimate steal when found on sale or through Massdrop. The truth is simple, if you find enjoyment in music with a $2 pair of buds and your iPhone, great. That is the point. Enjoyment. If you want what many consider to be world class sound and moving from or to a reference grade kit then the Stax are high on the list.
I really have only said I would buy the sale price ESP-950s over this offering. I would have jumped on a drop for SR-007s and a decent stax amplifier to accompany it.
Great explanation on the value and performance of the ESP-950. It's qualities are incredible for the price :)
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