On The Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over [K2 HD Music], "Tequila Sunrise" has superb instrumental separation and less sibilance than we’ve heard on many other systems. Here, the cut-from-whole-cloth integrity of the BHSE makes a significant difference.
Later on the same album, "Hotel California" has great guitar dynamics and separation, while deep bass seems excellent and very well defined. Nonetheless, in direct comparison we thought the (upgraded) Woo WES had a bit more upper bass detail.
Turning to Shelby Lynne’s Just A Little Lovin [Lost Highway] the song "Just A Little Lovin" exhibited the best bass level and detailing through the Stax SR-009/BHSE combo that we’ve heard from this track. Vocals sound a bit darker than we might expect based on other headphones/amp, although this sound fit the overall character of the track really well.
Turning to the Shelby Lynne track "Willie and Laura Mae Jones", we heard very good instrumental separation on a moderately complex mix. Shelby’s voice has a little whiteness or fine grain on it, but the dynamic flow of this track the BHSE is, in our experience, unequalled.
On Anna Netrebko’s Live at the Metropolitan Opera [Deutsche Grammophon], the instrumental and vocal separation is again excellent. The dynamics of opera are difficult, and the Blue Hawaii/Stax combo handles the swells with aplomb.
Given that the Stax SR-009 is the most expensive headphone on the market and the amps for the SR-009 are all in a pretty elevated price range, making for a roughly $10,000 investment, value is a tough topic here. Some will say that at that price we can’t be talking realistically about value. But, as we’ve said before, if value is a result of the “show me better for less” test, the Stax/Blue Hawaii SE combination does quite well. For music with headphones, we haven’t heard anything better. And, this $10k combo can do things that many in-room stereo systems can’t match at 2X or 3X the price.
In the Blue Hawaii SE, HeadAmp has produced an amp for the Stax SR-009 that does the important things right and gets our vote as the most musical headphone/amp combination we’ve yet heard.
HeadAmp Blue Hawaii SE Electrostatic Headphone Amp (amplifier design by and manufactured under authorization from Kevin Gilmore)
Output Voltage Swing: 1600 V p-p.
Stax bias: 580 V (adjustable).
Total Harmonic Distortion: below 0.3%.
Inputs: one analog balanced (XLR); two analog single-ended (RCA).
Outputs: 1 XLR and 1 RCA loop output, 2 electrostatic headphone jacks (users can choose any combination of Stax Pro-type jacks or Sennheiser-type jacks, although the Sennheiser option may be dropped soon, given that Sennheiser electrostatic headphones are becoming increasing rare).
Line Voltages: 100-120 V or 230 V; 50/60 Hz selectable.
Dimensions (H x W x D):
• Amp: 4.5” x15.5” x 13” (without tubes)
• PSU: 4.5” x7.5” x 13”
• Shipping Dimensions (both units in one carton): 32” x 19” x 11”
• Amp: 15 lbs.
• PSU: 15 lbs.
• Shipping Weight (both units in one carton): 39 lbs.
Price: $4995 or $5995 with optional Alps RK50 potentiometer
HeadAmp Audio Electronics, Inc.
Contact: justin [at] headamp [dot] com