Stax SR-007 Omega II electrostatic headphones Page 3

I've got a logarithmically growing supply of space-age, effort-saving devices scattered all over my desk and computer, most of which use switch-mode wall-wart power supplies that gorge themselves at the top and bottom of the (supposedly) symmetrical AC waveform, and all of which are on the circuit I use for headphone listening. The P300 made a big improvement in the Stax's sound. (For the record, the Cary was not plugged into the P300, as there's not enough juice to handle it as well as two Stax amps.)

The Lab Cable power cord from the P300 was plugged into an Ensemble Power Point extender, which is star-wired—the best wiring topology, as I have described in various "Fine Tunes" columns.

Of course, the Power Point had an AudioPrism Quiet Lines filter plugged in right next to the two wall-wart power supplies for the Synergistic Research Designer's Reference .5's active shielding (and the Cary amp). I tried the .5 both with warts unplugged ("passive" for Discrete Shielding) and warts plugged in (for Active Shielding). They wound up plugged-in and Active for best sound. And the easy-to-handle .5s sounded great on the Cary too, especially with Active Shielding.

All wires were dressed in proper "Fine Tunes" manner, power cords never getting anywhere near signal-carrying lines. Even the PS Audio P300 was up on some large German Acoustic footers—the compliant ones with the big red dot center inserts.

The tubed Stax SRM-007t was suspended on a trio of small AudioPrism Iso-Bearings on the lower shelf. The solid-state SRM-717 sat right next to it, running hot too—but no tubes, so it sat on a trio of Harmonix My-T TU-210 footers. Those are the cones that move around a little in their attached collar assemblies. A little damping, a little coupling, and everyone goes home happy. The chassis of both amps were somewhat resonant; I dropped a Shakti Stone on each amp's rear cover, over the AC transformer.

The Earspeakers
How should a headphone such as this fit the head? Like a comfortable fedora (or a porkpie hat with a press badge in the band). It should be a design that pleases the wearer no end.

The SR-007s were indeed such beasts, but I discovered a little trick for getting maximum comfort. They're more adjustable than they appear: the leather earpad has a distinct D shape, so it's easy to find a perfectly circumaural position. But not only the earpads are adjustable. The golden outer shell, which carries the heavily gusseted input cable, also swivels for best placement of the flat-ribbon interconnect to the five-pin connectors.

Between the outer and inner swiveling assemblies, a beautifully made round center assembly carries the springy double headband loop that arches over the lower headband. The trick is to drop the inner band—comfy on the head, with a light ultrasuede-type material on the underside—slightly forward on the head because of the 'phones' weight. Then rotate the inner earpads for optimum comfort—which, when attained, meant that they were sitting correctly on my head and over my ears. I could also rotate, if needed, the mesh-covered, cable-carrying gold outer ring to set the amplifier cord for best comfort.

I have found that headphones range from the mildly uncomfortable to the crazily torturous. The SR-007 was pretty good—for the money, it oughta be—and definitely more comfortable than the not-too-bad Sennheiser '600s. My grump was that I got a better seal without my glasses on.

The upper pair of metal bands provide tension on the electrostatic cups and keep a reasonably tight fit, and are covered in a nice material as well, of course. The headphones come in a beautiful bespoke suitcase—very "luxious," as K-10 says.

Early impressions
Earlier Stax electrostatic headphones had a rep for hard sound. This must be better, I thought as I settled the Omega IIs on my pointy little head. They were, but I had to work to bring it out. Both amps and the SR-007 sounded great—very sensual. Headphone listening is like that by nature. Perhaps that's part of the appeal. Everyone wears personal eargear these days.

At first, the SRM-007t tube amp sounded more likable, with a slightly warmer sound—but not that much different from the solid-state SRM-717, I was surprised to note. "Tube bloom" was very slight, very Nagra-like. When I leaned way back in my chair and listened carefully, the acoustic differences between the tubed 007t and the solid-state 717 became better-focused. The 007t was a bit more immediately colorful, with slightly softer and rounder bass and not as extended a top or bottom—but it was sweeter and more engaging.

The solid-state 717 also displayed a full tonal palette: its bass was tighter, its highs more extended and, yes, less sweet. But it was quite good in the midband, which was something of a welcome surprise. In the end, it was quite likable in its own right.

Of course, you have to give in to that whole headphone thing to begin with, as all the sound's in your head—quite a different perspective from that delivered by a typical high-end system.

Also, part of the headphone experience is accepting a certain magnification of acoustic elements, both big and small, that present themselves in a manner fundamentally different from the ambience created by a typical two-channel setup. High-resolution devices such as these present a lot of detail—you have to become accustomed to dealing with that kind of headphone presentation. It's not hard, and happens quickly. And, if you like it—which I do, especially when I write—it can be very intimate. But such an experience is very different from normal two-channel high-end listening via a pair of speakers in a room.

COMPANY INFO
Stax
US distributor: Yama's Enterprises
206 E. Star of India Lane
Carson, CA 90746-1418
(310) 327-3913
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