Unlike days of yore, Stax currently has plenty of competition in the headphone sector. I’ve seen rave reviews of the Abyss electrostatic, and I’ve auditioned them at several audio shows. The Abyss ’phones sounded superb every time I’ve heard them, but they were among the least comfortable premium headphones I’ve used. If you lean forward more than a bit they will come tumbling off your head. For me they were a giant ergonomic fail.
I have not spent much time with the latest flagship models from Audeze (the LCD-4) or HiFiMan (the HE-1000). Both are planar designs that don’t require a dedicated driver amp, making them more portable and flexible than the SR-L700. Both are also more robustly made and should stand up to more abuse successfully than the SR-L700.
Another competitor is the new Sennheiser HD-800S. I own a pair of Sennheiser HD-700 headphones, which are a similar design. The Stax SR-L700s were slightly more comfortable than the HD-700s. The SR-L700s were also sonically less spectacular and less harmonically colored.
If you require a full-sized headphone that delivers a high degree of isolation, none of the Stax open-enclosure designs are going to work for you. But currently none of the other models I’ve mentioned that are in contention for “best” headphone are closed-enclosure designs. As of right now, if isolation is your top priority, you may either have to opt for a custom in-ear monitor or compromise with a headphone that’s not quite as spatially open, harmonically uncolored, or detailed as the Stax SR-L700.
Mike Longworth, who was Martin Guitar’s longtime historian and A&R head, wrote, “The main competition of a new Martin guitar is an old Martin guitar.” The same can be said about Stax earspeakers. When you manufacture products that remain largely unchanged for more than 30 years, that happens. The Stax SR-L700 ranks as the third-best earspeaker in the brand’s line-up. It is also the least expensive earspeaker that uses Stax’s latest stator technology. As such, it is the first new design from Stax that could, due to its combination of lower price and higher performance, lure many longtime Stax owners, such as myself, to replace their older Stax models.
Whether the new SR-L700 will attract first-time Stax buyers is yet to be seen. I suspect that most beginning Stax purchases will be one of the more entry-level packages, such as the very fine SRS-2170 system ($790). But for those audiophiles who want to experience the company’s latest technology, the new SR-L700 is simply the most cost-effective way to arrive at a new level of uncolored Stax sound.
SPECS & PRICING
Type: Push-pull, open-back, oval electrostatic headphone
Frequency response: 7Hz–41kHz
Electrostatic capacitance: 110pF (including cable)
Impedance: 145k ohms (including cable, at 10kHz)
Sound pressure sensitivity: 101dB/100V RMS, 1kHz
Maximum sound pressure: 118dB/400Hz
Ear pads: Genuine lamb leather (direct skin contact), high-quality synthetic leather (surrounding portion)
Cable: Silver-coated 6N (99.9999%) OFC parallel 6-strand, low-capacity special wide cable, 2.5m full length
Weight: 0.8 lbs. without cable (1.1 lbs. with cable)
YAMA’S ENTERPRISES, INC. (U.S. Distributor)
16617 S. Normandie Ave., Ste. C
Gardena, CA 90247