Stax Lambda Nova Signature electrostatic ear-speaker Page 2

The rear panel has connections for an IEC power cord, two RCA inputs, one XLR input, and an RCA output. There is also a grounding post and a switch that allows you to use input 2 as either RCA or balanced XLR. The SRM-T1S's output is not connected to the volume control; it's designed to let you connect the unit between a preamp and power amp, or in a tape loop, without interfering with the regular operation of the system. (Wherever possible, the unit should be installed in a tape or effects loop, bypassing the preamp's volume control.) The unit is quite transparent when inserted in a circuit—try as I might, I couldn't hear any differences that couldn't be ascribed to an extra pair of cables. In fact, I used a pair of female-to-female RCA barrel connectors to connect two interconnects, and the SRM-T1S had less coloration than the connectors, which were, after all, just off-the-shelf Realistic plastic-and-pot-metal junk.

While the Lambda Nova Signature/SRM-T1S has a "list price" of $2600, Audio Advisor is currently selling the set for $1499.95 (footnote 1).

SRM-T1W: The T1W is larger than the T1S at 12" by 12" by 4". It has three RCA inputs rather than two, and also functions as a passive preamplifier. It accommodates one pair of balanced XLR outputs in addition to the RCA line outs. It, too, drives the ear-speakers with FET inputs and 6FQ7 triode outputs.

Its faceplate resembles the T1S's, but is necessarily wider. To the right of the volume control is a switch that selects between variable or fixed, referring to the output. In variable, the T1W mutes the headsets and acts as a passive preamplifier; in fixed, it serves as a pass-through for the signal, but the volume control adjusts the sound level of only the headsets. If you use the T1W as a preamp, you must remember this, else you're likely to select fixed with the amplifier unmuted, as I did once, and blast yourself—and perhaps a woofer—out of the room.

To the right of the output selector is a rotary input selector. The other front-panel difference between the T1S and the T1W is that the latter has a bias control next to the two pro only connections. This allows you to adjust the bias of these outputs between 480 and 580V. It comes set to 580V, and that's how I left it for my listening.

The rear panel is similar to that of the T1S, with the exception of the XLR outputs, which pass out the signal from the XLR input. The Lambda Nova Signature/SRM-T1W system "lists" for $3200 and sells for $1699.95.

"Is this the big secret you've been keeping from me?"
By my count, we've reviewed variations on the Lambda theme 10 times over the years, and each time, the reviewer decided that the basic Lambda sound—fast, detailed, uncolored, transparent, and ever so slightly etched in the upper mids—had been improved upon.

The Nova Signature is no exception. It is fast and vivid and uncolored. It sounds superbly balanced from top to bottom, and while the phones lack a sense of real wallop in the deep bass, Stax has resisted the temptation to hype bass presence.

There is still the slightest hint of roughness in the upper-mids/low-highs region, which, by itself, lends an almost pleasing touch of realism. When compared to the Stax Omega, however, this revealed itself to be a form of coloration. As good as the Nova Sigs are—and as close as they come to the Omegas, which is very close—the more expensive (and currently unavailable) headsets had an even greater sense of relaxed, natural musical detail.

But since you can't get the Omegas, I wouldn't worry about such a small difference for a minute. The Lambda Nova Signature represents a substantial improvement over the Lambda Pro Signature in every parameter and, given the current price, represents one helluva bargain as well.

"Some people will never be that happy..."
The only question is, which amp to pair them with? The good news is that you can't really go wrong. The SRM-T1S is powerful and has great frequency extension. You can even insert it between preamp and power amp without compromising the signal substantially.

But music through the SRM-T1W is even better: it's fuller, more harmonically complex; bass is strong and clear; voices are more "embodied," sounding less like a sound and more like something uttered by a living, breathing person. Not to slight the T1S's vocal reproduction, but the T1W's is even better.

Footnote 1: I'm not sure that "list price" has any meaning in a situation like this. Audio Advisor is the de facto Stax distributor, so the price is what they say it is—in this case, and as long as the Yen remains stable, it is 60% of the putative list.