Finally, the SR-009 always seems able to dig deep (deeper than any other headphones can) to tease out the innermost elements of tonal purity and, yes, tonal beauty in any given recording. I was floored by both the breathtaking intricacy and coherency of the Stax ‘phones as they reproduced the Clockwise performance of Robert Paterson’s Freya’s Tears [American Modern Recordings]. Freya’s Tears is a short piece in three movements that was written for Clockwise, a duet consisting of a harp and violin. The middle movement of the piece, “Freya’s Tear” features soaring and at times very intricate harp passages set against beautiful yet at times quite angular and penetrating violin passages. I was struck by the fact that the SR-009’s were able to show the round, fast-paced, and percussive quality of the harp, complete with luscious tonalities that seemed almost illuminated from within, while at the same time perfectly capturing the knife-edge balance struck between sweetness and incisiveness as the violin explored lines written in its upper registers. The eerie thing is experiencing how rich, full, complete, and lavishly detailed the SR-009 can make two instruments sound, even when playing intricate material simultaneously. No other headphone I know of can match the SR-009 is this respect.
Consider this headphone if:
• You want a neutral, accurate sound with wide bandwidth, and you prize clarity and low distortion.
• You’re the sort of person who really wants to know precisely what’s going in his or her audio system and/or favorite recordings. The SR-009 will give you “the truth and nothing but the truth,” and will do so with disarming ease and grace.
• You believe, as does Mercedes-Benz, in a philosophy of “the best or nothing.” At this moment in time, we think the SR-009 is the finest headphone in the world. Period.
Look further if:
• Down deep, you think only a "nutball" would consider spending $5250 on a headphone. But caution: Once you hear the SR-009 in action, you may discover that you are, in fact, just such a "nutball."
• You find the overall cost of an SR-009 system daunting (recognizing that SR-009-based systems can easily set you back $10k or more, once you factor in the price of an appropriate amp). Also look further if you aren’t prepared to spend some time finding your ideal amplifier match.
Ratings (compared to cost-no-object headphones):
• Tonal Balance: 9.5 (some might discern a very slight region of emphasis in the upper midrange, though I am not convinced that this is anything other than the Stax “telling it like it is” regarding flaws commonly found in modern recordings).
• Clarity: 10
• Dynamics: 10
• Comfort/Fit: 9.5
• Sensitivity: 9
• Noise Isolation: 3 (Frankly, the SR-009’s do virtually nothing to block out external noise—perhaps the price we pay for their terrific transparency?)
• Value: 8 – 10 (Depends on your frame of reference. Yes, it’s the most expensive headphone on the planet, but no, $5250 is not too much to pay for the finest headphone there is—and one that puts many five- and even six-figure loudspeakers to shame.)
Stax’s SR-009 is a reference headphone that sets a new benchmark for transparency, low distortion and dynamic accuracy while delivering a wide and balanced frequency response. This is the standard against which all other top-tier headphones must be compared.
Stax SR-009 Electrostatic Earspeaker
Driver: push-pull circular electrostatic element, diaphragm is less than 2 microns thick.
Housing: open-back, machined aluminum
Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 42 kHz
Required Bias Voltage: 580V
Sensitivity: 101 dB/ 100V
Ear Pads: handmade, Lambskin leather
Signal Cable: High-purity, “six nines” copper, sliver plated.
Weight: 21.3 oz.
Warranty: 1 year, parts and labor
Yama’s Enterprises, Inc.