The SRS-2170 –
Stax’s entry-level electrostatic headphone system
That’s right: The Stax SRS-2170 is a not headphone – it is a system that includes the Stax SRS-207 “earspeaker” and an amplifier, the SRM-252S. And Stax calls its unique design “earspeakers” (not headphones); and for once, it is not just marketing language, as they really are like having loudspeakers next to your ears.
The Stax SRS-207 electrostatic do not sound like other headphones. They are more open, so the sound is less stuck between your ears. Listen to a pair of SRS-207s for a few minutes, and when you switch over to high-end AKG or Sennheiser headphones their music will sound boxed. The Stax SRS-207 model may be the brand’s entry level headphone system, but their sound is on par or better than far more expensive high-end dynamic headphones, and their unforced musicality really shines: Music sounds clearer, warmer and more natural over the SRS-207s than over our best dynamic headphones.
The SRS-207 are very open, so the sound can also be heard in the room. And they allow sound from the room to enter freely. So these are headphones to be delighted by music when alone or in a quiet environment.
The sound presentation is uniquely airy, open, detailed and as if the soundstage were within your head, instead of around you. The instruments in the soundstage are impeccably separated – to the point, where the SRS-207 sometimes even reveal inconsistencies and flaws in old recordings.
Like all electrostatic headphones, the Stax’s presentation of music is quite ethereal – like the sound comes out of nowhere, just softly floating in your head. Their sound is amazingly clear and detailed, but without the weight – they have a very soft sound. So much so that some people find listening to music through them less tiring and more relaxing.
The mids are where the SRS-207 excel and where they separate themselves from the other high-end headphones: Very clean, silky smooth mids, with exceptional clarity. Voices stand out effortlessly and sound like they are detached, just floating (female voices in particular). The sound just appears clearer, less crowded and more relaxed than with other headphones.
The bass is very detailed, punchy and fast – with all the linearity and clarity of electrostatic systems, though listeners used to heavy-impact bass might need a few minutes to get used to the SRS-207’s soft sound.
The treble is soft, smooth and very clear again and the SRS-207 is excellent at smoothing over grainy recordings.
Overall, the SRS-207’s sound has a huge soundstage with excellent imaging and separation of instruments. They communicate very well the emotions of music with their more neutral, more accurate sound, compared to other headphones’ crowded musicality.
The electrostatic SRS-2170 are a very different and unique experience compared to “usual” dynamic headphones – and they deliver on all their promises: Extremely clear and linear, with excellent imaging and separation. If you already have a pair of high-end headphones, you might think yours are perfectly clear and clean… until you hear the SRS-2170! That said, the SRS-2170 are definitely not for bass-heads – they are for audiophiles who like to hear the music the way it was played.
An important factor limiting the adoption of electrostatic headphones is their cost but the SRS-2170 system comes with its own amplifier. You usually have to spend three times the amount you paid for the headphones on a headphone amplifier to get good results (plus the aggravation of the trial-and-error purchase/return process to find the ones that truly match your headphones). The Stax SRS-2170 system already includes an amplifier that was developed specifically for these headphones and together, they just sound great. When you purchase this system, you just need to sit and enjoy, without worrying about finding and buying an amplifier that matches your headphones.
We had not had a pair of electrostatic headphones in several years and when we listened to the Stax, we fell in love all over again with the electrostatic headphone concept. If you like great sound, you owe it to yourself to come by our store to listen to them.