The Chinese headphone and earphone specialist SoundMAGIC continues to expand its value-priced range of full-size headphones and universal-fit earphones. Accordingly, SoundMAGIC’s CanJam SoCal demonstration table highlighted the firm’s full-size Ventos P55 closed-back headphones ($200), which are said to offer “highly detailed and accurate sound.”
In turn, the firm showed its very inexpensive ES19S noise-isolating earphones (starting at just $15), its mid-priced ES50S earphones with bass ports (starting at $50), and its upper mid-price ES80S earphones (starting at 60.00). Most of these models have—or can have—signal cables with in-line mic/remote control modules for use with smartphones.
Many headphonistas associate the name Stax with the firm’s über expensive but also über high-performance SR-009 electrostatic headphone—an acknowledged headphone performance icon if ever there was one. But honestly, great though the SR-009 is, enthusiasts must eventually decide for themselves whether it makes sense (or is even financially feasible) to spend upwards of $5000 for a pair of headphones. At CanJam SoCal, however, Stax surprised and delighted me (and probably many other show attendees) by taking concrete steps to reduce the high cost of entry into the oh-so-exclusive electrostatic headphone club.
To this end, Stax released three new electrostatic Lambda-series models (these are the models with oblong, rectangular ear cup housings) with matching electrostatic amplifiers: the SR-L300 headphone with SRM 252S amp (just $900 for the combination), the SR-L500 headphone with the SRM 353X amp ($1600 for the combination), the SR-L700 headphone ($1,400) with matching SRM-006tS hybrid valve/solid-state electrostatic amp ($1,300). The first two of these headphone/amp combinations go a long way toward making complete electrostatic headphone systems relatively affordable, with prices on a par with those of higher-quality dynamic-type headphone systems.
The latter combination, featuring the SR-L700 headphone, is in my view really something very special, in that the drive units in the SR-L700 are patterned directly after those of the top-class SR-009—a familial resemblance you can both see and hear. For those who have yearned to possess Stax SR-009s but could not manage their steep asking price, my thought is that the SR-L700 may well be the next best thing in the Stax line up (potentially on a par with if not actually better than the SR-007mkII, which presently is the number two model) and for only about 27% of the price of the flagship. Time will tell, but I suspect the SR-L700 will prove to be a great headphone at an attractive price for the level of quality on offer.
Taction is a Los Gatos, CA-based firm whose first product will be the Taction Kannon haptic headphone ($499). For those not familiar with the term or the concept, the idea behind haptic headphones is that they reproduce not only the sound but also the tactile ‘feel’ of low bass, adding a heightened degree or musical realism and impact in the process. With this end in mind, Taction has been hard at work developing a headphone that artfully combines a traditional dynamic driver with a well crafted, proprietary Taction haptic driver. With gaming applications in mind, the Kannon incorporates a slender boom-type microphone with a built-in foam noise shield (although Taction may well offer variants without the mic, too).
The Kannon provides a well thought-through inline control module that provides an on/off switch for the haptic driver and haptic driver level controls, plus a mute switch for the mic.