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ivanrocks321

ES Labs ES1a

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Which earpads were they ordered with?  I read the "regular" (stiff?) pads make them sound very bright and shouty.

Per ES Lab website:

"The memory foam pads gives a more organic tonality and a larger bass extension while the stiff pads take the tranparency of sound to the next level. Please consult us before purchase."

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Hi, there website needs updating I had a loaner unit with a new pad that is meant to replace the two mentioned on the website as of now, this single new one is suppose to strike a balance between the two older pads mention on the website. I am wondering how the other pads change things and I’m waiting to see if ES can send those as well. If you email them you can possibly request for whatever pads they have. So far the communication is excellent with replies always within the day. 

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I bought one of these and got them on Tuesday. Been spending a lot of time with them since then, I ordered with both pairs of pads. Some thoughts:

The stock pads are irredeemably garbage sounding to me, the bass is off, the midrange is simultaneously forward and recessed (way too much 1Khz and not enough 2-4Khz) and there is way too much treble in the 8-10Khz range. I legitimately had a hard time listening to these. I'm sure some people will like these but this is reminiscent of the SR-507 in terms of how forward/thin it sounds (not a good thing). With these pads? Not a fan.

The other pads I ordered which are the ones the creator says has the more laid-back nature is much more to my preference. It is somewhat more forward in the midrange than 007 (which I think is a good thing, 007 lacks a bit of energy between 2-4Khz for me), but I would not call it particularly shouty. It certainly is less shouty than something like the 404LE for instance. With these pads the treble also becomes fantastic, very similar to 007 treble to my ears. Bass was a mixed bag, when I first got them I felt like they were lacking a bit of slam/impact despite going very deep/having good rumble (much like 009S). Over time I feel like the bass has improved in this regard. I think burn-in is a hot load of garbage (other than minor changes in thiele-small parameters) so the more likely answer is the pads softening up a bit. Overall I really like the headphone with these pads, it's what the 009S should have been in my opinion.

It seems like a good counterpoint to the 007 if using the dark pads. Slightly more forward, but with a bigger stage than the slightly more intimate feeling 007.

Some annoyances: pad attachment uses rivets similar to SR-Omega. Not a huge issue but kind of scary to work with since the dust cover is basically exposed to the screwdriver you use to remove the rivets. Also means it takes a while to remove the pads. The pads do sit on very nicely once attached though. This headphone is also heavy, I have no issue with 700+ grams of weight but I know the approx. 650 grams this headphone weighs is gonna be too much for a lot of people. It's still more comfortable than 007 for me due to the fact that my head is too large for 007 (headband rests against the arc) but I don't think this will be the case for the vast majority of people.

Currently this costs about the same as L700mk2 and between those 2 picking this one (with dark pads) is a no-brainer to me. Pretty stellar headphone overall, definitely a keeper.

10 hours ago, Jon L said:

Which earpads were they ordered with?  I read the "regular" (stiff?) pads make them sound very bright and shouty.

Per ES Lab website:

"The memory foam pads gives a more organic tonality and a larger bass extension while the stiff pads take the tranparency of sound to the next level. Please consult us before purchase."

From the pictures this looks like the "dark" pads due to the round ear opening and the higher quality leather.

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Thanks Scgorg, def will try to get those pads to give them a go as well. I felt they was a little heavy but was not to bad maybe how right was spread out? I have a smaller head I guess and I found the sr007 slightly more comfy not only due to less weight but then staying in place better then the overall roomy ES1a. Still not to bad in comfort and could have been much worse.  

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3 hours ago, Scgorg said:

Currently this costs about the same as L700mk2 and between those 2 picking this one (with dark pads) is a no-brainer to me.

Hmm.  How would you compare L700 MkII vs. ES-1a?

I've been looking for a used L700 MkI, meaning to do the BlueTak mod, since several reviews keep saying L700 is "better" than SR007 and SR009, with brightness level between the two, which would be about right for my tastes..

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No complaints on build. It’s mostly metal except for that arch part for the headband that’s plastic but it feel the same as whatever plastic stax has been using. The stitching on pads of the demo pair I got was slightly off as in the pics I took but that was only issue but a very minor one for me. Think Kerry didn’t have and complaints when we tried it but I’ll let him chime in if he wants. 

1 hour ago, Jon L said:

Hmm.  How would you compare L700 MkII vs. ES-1a?

I've been looking for a used L700 MkI, meaning to do the BlueTak mod, since several reviews keep saying L700 is "better" than SR007 and SR009, with brightness level between the two, which would be about right for my tastes..

I’ve tried the L700mk1 at a shop in London a few months ago. I don’t think they are better than SR007 or sr009. It sounded more boxed sounding and imaging was a little of a let down. 

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1 hour ago, Jon L said:

Hmm.  How would you compare L700 MkII vs. ES-1a?

I've been looking for a used L700 MkI, meaning to do the BlueTak mod, since several reviews keep saying L700 is "better" than SR007 and SR009, with brightness level between the two, which would be about right for my tastes..

I am working under the assumption that L700 and L700mk2 are sonically identical or at least very close. I've not heard the mk2 but owned the L700 mk1 on 2 different occasions. I see no reason for stax to change the headphone, and most forum posters elsewhere seem to have noted that it is very similar if not identical. Just a caveat.

I don't really think L700 is better than either SR-009 or SR-007 (but I can understand someone preferring it tonally) and that the difference between them is quite apparent. I feel the same with regards to the ES-1a. ES-1a has a more even treble response, better bass (which is of course at least somewhat alleviated by blu-tack mod which I also used). The staging on the ES-1a also feels larger to me. The midrange peak of the L700 and ES-1a sound similar to me (in terms of what frequency it happens at) but with L700 reaching a slightly higher amplitude and therefore being somewhat more shouty.

51 minutes ago, mwl168 said:

Also curious about the build quality - how does it compare to the Stax products? 

Build quality seems good to me, I'm a little skeptical of the strain relief but it seems fine I suppose. The entire headphone cup and yoke is aluminum (which is the reason for it being so heavy). In that regard it feels a lot like SR-009. The headpad and stock earpads are lower quality than what stax offer but the "dark" pads which are in  a different leather feel very high quality/smooth grained leather. The headband and baffle are nylon, they feel sturdy enough. The headband is very similar to the headband my SR-Lambda has but it does feel slightly more solid. I think the slider on one side is a little loose, however. I haven't felt anything worth complaining about at least, and judging from the pictures on their website the driver assembly seems well done too.

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There's no way the L700 is better than the 007, at least in my experience. The L700 sounds more artificial and "off" at least in terms of midrange tone, whereas the 007 sounds more natural and is better in nearly every technical aspect. The issue with the 007 is that it's one of the least user-friendly headphones out there, hard to amp, very fit dependent, self-adjusting headband system that's awkward and keeps pulling the headphones out of position, modding required for the Mk2 models, etc etc. The 007 has the potential to sound really bad in the wrong system whereas the L700 generally sounds similar from system to system. But the 007 will scale and leave the L700 well behind. In regards to the 007 being too dark or too laid-back - just EQ 2-6khz up a little bit and problem solved. You need an amp with plenty of headroom though.

There are reasons to fix the L700 Mk1. My broken yoke on one side is one. It's a good thing the new ones are metal. Also, the earcups have little tabs on them that prevent the top of the earcup from swiveling outwards far enough, putting too much pressure on the top of the earpad, and not enough on the bottom. It's an asinine design, and I'm guessing the extra bend in the yokes in the Mk2 is there for that reason. It would have been smarter still to delete the tabs entirely.

Granted, the L700 is still rather good. Very punchy and dynamic, with a very 3D and holographic stage. The latter is probably the best aspect of it, that and the general forwardness of the presentation. But the 007 it ain't.

RE: ES1a - interesting, and I'll put it on my radar. Maybe if impressions keep being positive (and I want to see some more comparative measurements) I might pick one up later down the line. Lots of other things to get to first.

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So, I actually have a miniDSP EARS. I don't particularly like posting measurements from it since it is notoriously unreliable due to improper acoustic impedance as well as a couple other issues. I decided to measure ES-1a and compare it to a couple of the headphones that have been mentioned in here so far. These are not industry standard measurements and should not be treated as such. They are highly unreliable and should be completely disregarded above 2-ish Khz. Lower if you want to be conservative. You will also notice some wiggling in the FR at low frequencies due to room noise, especially for the 007 measurements, this is not an accurate representation of the bass. SPL these are aligned at is not the actual SPL used for measurement, and note the much more compressed scale than what is commonly used, this will exaggerate things that are otherwise not problematic. Compensation used is HPN.

ES-1a (dark pads) and L700 (stock)

1760240885_ES1AL700.thumb.PNG.2ffead434abdc1c39dbb0b08587931c1.PNG

ES-1a (dark pads) and 007 (blu-tack modded)

477074410_ES1ASR-007.thumb.PNG.a7d74cb319b17cc87f92d5cc7039dfd3.PNG

ES-1a (dark pads) and 404LE (not quite perfect seal, creates the bass rise)

1593642230_ES1A404LE.thumb.PNG.1590e52fdc7fef89781d7dcb2eec4179.PNG

ES-1a (dark pads) and ES-1a (stock pads)

45327249_ES1Apadcomparison.thumb.PNG.89b99e55d7accd3feeb73b4933a75bc8.PNG

 

All these measurements have 1/12th octave smoothing, I consider that most accurate to what you as a human will hear. I'm happy to provide unsmoothed plots if anyone wishes for it though. Note that this has the midrange coloration that is much more in line with 007 than the lambdas. It still benefits from bringing down the midrange a notch in EQ. The null at 5Khz is audible with sine sweep but I do not hear it in normal music listening. Once again: EARS is highly unreliable and should only be trusted below 2Khz where it is mostly accurate. Also note that very slight position changes will alter the treble response especially much.

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Thanks! Yes, MiniDSP Ears is notoriously unreliable in the highs, and HPN comp doesn't really line up with what I hear either. But they're still useful as a comparative tool. Is the dip at 5khz really there or just a measurement artifact?

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26 minutes ago, catscratch said:

Thanks! Yes, MiniDSP Ears is notoriously unreliable in the highs, and HPN comp doesn't really line up with what I hear either. But they're still useful as a comparative tool. Is the dip at 5khz really there or just a measurement artifact?

As mentioned the 5khz null is audible with sine sweep but I can't hear anything while listening to music. Suffice to say it is probably too high in Q to be an audible defiency (or if it is, a rather small one). The spike right above 4khz is definitely an artifact of the EARS rig.

And I agree HPN does not particularly line up with my personal percieved "neutral". The Stax SR-X MK3 (normal bias) measures almost completely flat on EARS but is horrifically bright if you actually listen to it.

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8 hours ago, rayofsi said:

Somewhat interested. I already have a 007mk1 and a 009.. should i bother trying these?


I have the same stax as you, I think these are worth a look at. For me when I got the SR009 I was looking for some things the sr007 lacked for me. Unfortunately it was close but no cigar. I’m pretty happy with the ES1a and Im currently freeing up some gear for it.

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On 2/2/2020 at 9:10 PM, Scgorg said:

The Stax SR-X MK3 (normal bias) measures almost completely flat on EARS but is horrifically bright if you actually listen to it.

No it's not. Generalised opinions like this should be avoided.

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5 hours ago, ivanrocks321 said:


I have the same stax as you, I think these are worth a look at. For me when I got the SR009 I was looking for some things the sr007 lacked for me. Unfortunately it was close but no cigar. I’m pretty happy with the ES1a and Im currently freeing up some gear for it.

good to know. luckily  my head is ok with the heavy weight, i have a pair of lcd-4s also. i'm in nyc also hah

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1 hour ago, mdr30 said:

No it's not. Generalised opinions like this should be avoided.

Since there is this thing called variance among individuals in everything, including hearing I would have to say that your first sentence is absolutely, and totally, incorrect. You should also absolutely pay attention to your own second sentence.

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With the SR-X series the pads make or break them.  The current pads Stax stock are actually SR-30 units as the originals haven't been available for a long time. 

Now for the topic at hand, I have one of these incoming so it will be fun to play with.  🙂

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Will you be getting both pairs of pads Birgir? Looking forward to hear your opinion on them.

As for the SR-X comment earlier, I stand by it. I've tried it with both stock pads and aftermarket pads mimicking the stock pad dimensions and it has excessive treble levels in general (all the way from 4-10Khz). I've only heard/owned the normal bias MK3 though. I wouldn't describe myself as particularly treble shy either.

 

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I will be getting both sets of pads and naturally... I take everything apart so expect pics.  🙂 

No doubt the normal bias SR-X is a bit bright as they were tuned like that.  Stax wanted to bleed off a lot of the bass so the end result is a bright set.  My point was more with the importance of the pads as they matter a lot with the close proximity of the drivers.  Also when they have arc'ed...they get even brighter. 

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4 hours ago, spritzer said:

I take everything apart so expect pics.  🙂 

Please hurry on! I've run out of money to get them myself. :(

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23 hours ago, rayofsi said:

good to know. luckily  my head is ok with the heavy weight, i have a pair of lcd-4s also. i'm in nyc also hah

If you are going to Canjam this weekend in NYC, ill be there likely most of the time over the two days. Ill have both my Kaldas RR1 and ES1a with me if anyone is interested in a listen. 

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