STAX SR-001 Mk2
The Stax SR-001 Mk2 is the only electrostatic IEM in this group. The Stax SR-001 Mk2 system, including the earspeaker unit and the amplifier falls conveniently in the $300 bracket, and so we thought why not throw it in against the rest of the group? The Stax electrostatic systems has always gained a legendary reputation of being superior against similarly priced dynamic driver headphones, and so we were curious on how the Stax SR-001 Mk2 system compares against conventional IEM in the same price range.
The Stax SR-001 Mk2 by far is my favorite IEM out of the bunch. The Stax has such a natural sound, that though fairly neutral, doesn’t come out as boring as the UM3X. There are some factors that contributes to this neutral sound, but I think the biggest difference comes in the fact that the Stax is the only open-design IEM in this category. And as we all know, open designed headphones always tend to have a more natural presentation than a closed one. The Stax has nothing “exciting” in its sound, compared to the other favorites like the Westone 3, the Shure SE530, or the Triple.Fi 10. Yet it present a superbly done natural sound, where everything just sounds right. Moreover, the Stax has a really good instrument separation, where each instrument distinctly separated and possessing their own space in the soundstage. This really contributes to a great overall listening experience.
As superb as the Stax may be, it does have its weaknesses. For people wanting to get a truly portable unit, the Stax should be crossed from the list. You have to always use its amplifier, because otherwise the earspeakers won’t work. The Stax also has one of the most fragile build out of all the other IEMs, handle it with care. And lastly, it is an open design, so it has no outside noise isolation. I suppose to a certain degree, if you’re live with its limitations, it would still work for a great portable system.
The STAX SR-001 Mk2 is definitely a special IEM, and by far my favorite out of this shootout.
In this shootout, the IE8 is the only one with a dynamic driver, as most top-of-the line IEMs utilizes balanced armature drivers. We are very curious on how the Sennheiser IE8 would stack against the balanced armature IEMs. The IE8 is also unique in that it has an adjustable bass port to tune in the amount of bass as desired.
Utilizing a dynamic driver, the Sennheiser IE8 is susceptible to the effects of burn in. Many users reported changes in the sound as the hours on the drivers is increased. While most people would be content with 300 hours of burn in, our particular IE8 for this review has 1300 hours of burn in by its owner. We can rest assured that the sound is far settled by this time.
If you’re used to listening to a full size headphone, then most IEMs will sound lacking a proper soundstage, but this is not the case with the Sennheiser IE8. Utilizing dynamic drivers, the IE8 was able to create a large soundstage that is by far larger than all the other IEMs in this review. The Sennheiser IE8 truly outclasses everyone else by the sheer size of the soundstage. The owner commented that through burn in, the soundstage became slightly larger, but it was already big even straight out of the box.
Bass is another thing that comes in great abundance with the Sennheiser IE8. That’s great news if you love bass, as the IE8 is the only IEM in this shootout that can fully satisfy bass heads. I’m thinking this is going to be a good match for heavy RnB and Rap listeners.
The IE8 actually has a fairly good midrange and treble. Too bad that we can’t really enjoy them, due to the overflowing amount of bass. Not only is the bass too much in quantity, they are also quite uncontrolled. Even at the minimum bass port setting, we find the bass to be too much, and the only way to tone the bass down is to wear a tip that’s smaller than the size you wear, as this kill the seal in the canal and would reduce the bass significantly.
I’m sure Sennheiser has done their market research while releasing the IE8, and seeing how other “branded” IEM like the Beats Tour by Dr.Dre also come with an abundance of bass, the IE8 may do fairly well with the general consumer. However, our ears simply can’t adjust to the bass in the IE8, making it our least-preffered IEM. The good news is, Sennheiser made a cheaper IE7 that gives you everything the IE8 has, minus its overpowering bass.