While the Blue Hawaii SE has been around for several years, it is only recently that anyone offered an electrostatic headphone good enough to show off the amp’s full performance capabilities. Specifically, we are speaking of Stax’s stunning new SR-009 headphones, which Playback recently reviewed (click here to read the review). As we said in the Stax review, the SR-009 is easily a contender for “best headphone in the world”, so it is good news indeed that several high-end amplifier manufacturers are offering products specifically for the Stax (in addition to HeadAmp, Cavalli Audio, Ray Samuels Audio, Stax, and Woo Audio have—or soon will have—notable electrostatic headphone amplifier offerings).
Of course, the Blue Hawaii SE should work perfectly well with other Stax models like the SR-007 Mk II and with late, lamented electrostatic models from Sennheiser. Given the impressive results we have seen to date from the SR-009, however, that is the headphone we used for evaluating the Blue Hawaii. This is important because, as we will see, the Blue Hawaii SE raises questions about whether it is helpful to think of the amp and headphone as an integrated system more than as individual, universal components.
The Blue Hawaii is a large hybrid amplifier with a separate power supply housed in a smaller matching box. Hybrid in this case means that the amplifier’s early gain stages are solid state, while the output stage is built around tubes (hand-picked, matched quad, “reissued” Mullard EL34’s in the Blue Hawaii SE). We asked Justin Wilson about the topology of the amplifier, and he offered this reply: