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ES Labs ES1a


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An interesting thing to try for those of you who may have 007 mk1 pads lying around, try putting them on the ES-1a. I've tried 007 mk2 pads and the effect of those pads is quite different. The mk1 pads significantly linearizes the midrange, taking the excess energy around 1-1.5khz down a bit and pulling the presence region (2-5khz) up a bit. It also makes the ES-1a slightly less hot in the treble past 8Khz, which I find is a welcome change. For me personally the 007 pads also seal better on the head, and since the leakage tolerance of electrostatic headphones is quite low this is a welcome change.

I wouldn't say the tonality is ideal with these pads either, but it's about as close as I've come to it.

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So far I dig it, dark pads or the ones with the cloth liner are really needed. Noticeable etch without them... with them tho a touch smoother without a massive lose in tactility.

Overall pleasant, good tonality and detail with a nice stage. I'll have more in a few days once I get a chance to really listen. Comparisons to 009, 95X with Vesper and hopefully L700 Mkii if it arrives in time 

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On 2/14/2020 at 1:36 PM, JoaMat said:

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

Eventually I managed to dig up some money.


On 7/13/2020 at 8:02 PM, Scgorg said:

An interesting thing to try for those of you who may have 007 mk1 pads lying around, try putting them on the ES-1a.

I also had a brand new pair of Stax pads at hand. Thanks for the advice.

 IMG_0050.thumb.JPG.15c04a55ae10a6096c4fc4f5e8732d6b.JPGI’m really happy with this Headphone.

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This is a repost of my impressions on another forum

I've been using the ES-1a almost daily for about 4 months now. I feel that these are underrated and the audiophile community deserves to know them.

Before I start my review, I just wanna declare that I have no conflict of interest with anybody in the headphone industry. I bought the ES-1a at the price of 12800HKD (1650USD) which is listed as the default price on ES Lab's web store. The ES-1a maker does not have prior knowledge about this review.

A little bit about myself
I like to listen to music - from pop to classical, from jazz to rock, and I am conversant in both English and Mandarin. I chanced upon this pair of headphones while I was browsing the Chinese Headfi equivalent - erji.net, and decided to purchase based on reviews of some big time Chinese audiophiles claiming that the ES-1a sits somewhere between the Stax 007 and 009s. It was a risky blind purchase (which I believe isn't uncommon among head-fi'ers), and I was just hoping that those Chinese reviewers weren't shills.

The amp came in a week after I placed my orders via EMS. It came in a nice looking wooden box. Definitely an A for the effort in making the unboxing experience ceremonial, but it's a painful space-occupying lesion in my room, yet I can't bear the pain of throwing the box away. So now I'm just wondering what to do with the box. If you have any ideas, just let me know.




The Chinese forum reported that the ES-1a tuning could be altered between bright and balanced by swapping earpads. I only used it with the balanced earpads, which according to the maker, was the finalised tuning. He also mentioned that the ES-1a is best paired with a solid state amp. I didn't care about his recommendations one bit. If the headphones sound good on solid state amps, wouldn't they be wonderful if I pair them with a healthy dose of tubey goodness?

The ES-1a got its looks from the legendary STAX Omega. I've not seen an Omega in real life, but from Google they look pretty similar apart from the anodization color. The ES-1a is made with black anodized aluminium housing and a has aluminium ring that seemed unnecessary if not to copy the looks of the Omega. The see-through metal mesh reveals a bronze driver under the housing, and the unit is accented with some golden screws. The wire is apparently adapted from a Stax sre-725H copper cable, with a little 3D printed Y-split that bears the brand name.

Now let's talk about sound.
Bass- authoritative.
Mids - seductive.
Treble - beautiful.
Imaging - stellar.
Tonality - natural.
That's it. I don't see the point to elaborate more because
1) my impression is subjective, and reading this review does not give you a direct idea of how the ES-1a sounds like
2) I feel that Headfi has enough overwhelmingly positive reviews on audiophile products, and this humble review wants to stand apart from the rest
3) if you insist on seeing some reviews, I would like to suggest you Google with search terms "head", "case", "es1a". Read the reviews there with discretion.

Amp pairing
Amps do play a significant role on the sound. With the KGHVSS Carbon ES-1a sounds more monitor-like, more detailed and more extended in both bass and treble, while with my tube amps, ES-1a sounds more holographic and trades some bass extension for a life-like presentation. Even with the lesser amps like my SRM XH, the ES-1a retains a pleasant sound signature despite detail and treble extension being completely thrown out of the window.



Comparison with Stax 007A
Read this section with a pinch of salt, as I clearly prefer the ES-1a over the Stax flagships. I find them comparable in terms of details when driven with some of the amps I have. I wish I have some Stax branded amps or the BHSE for the purpose of this comparison, as I believe that they are the sound many readers here can relate to.
The Stax 007A here does not have the blue tac mod, as I enjoy the fun mid-bass in the Stax 007 mkii. It just makes the headphone what they are.

The most obvious difference is in the treble. ES-1a is definitely brighter, and details in music are more upfront compared to the Stax 007A's slightly laidback presentation. ES-1a feels more passionate and more aggressive compared to the 007A. If you are used to the 007A/mkii sound signature, you might find the ES-1a slightly bright. If you are used to the 007mkii with blue tac mod (which I find bland), you would either find the ES-1a very fun sounding or a tad too aggressive.

Bass rumbles harder on the ES-1a than on the 007A while on KGHVSS Carbon. Extension is slightly deeper too. I don't miss my planar headphones on CFA3 while I listen to Zedd or Daft Punk on the ES-1a. But I would defer listening to such tracks altogether while on the 007A.

Mids on the ES-1a is detailed, but somehow the 007A does it better. On jazz tracks, 007A does things nicely by giving a smooth and slightly dark rendition to vocals. The details of the ES-1a is cuts through the overall presentation a tad too strongly. The ES-1a has a little bit of bite or impact, which might work well for some music, and backfire on some others.

Soundstage feels bigger and more spread-out on the ES-1a, and this concurs with some of the Chinese reviews.

Tonality-wise, both ES1a and Stax 007A sounds very natural. ES1a has slightly more defined edges and the 007A sounds smoother.

Regrettably, I didn't have the chance to compare the ES1a to either the 009 or 009s for a long enough period of time to yield a reliable comparison.

Edited by dingding123
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The stax 007 has a more updated design and feels like it can tolerate careless handling better than the ES-1A. This might be due to the maker wishing to replicate the looks of the Omega, along with its design quirks.

The ES-1A has a bendy head band that offers quite little clamping pressure. I wish the headphones could be lighter and holds on to the head more snugly.

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2 minutes ago, Lostrockets said:

Anyone know if this company is still operating? Sent an email but no response 

Sure we are. Since you are asking about auditioning the es1a I am trying to gather more people for the same es1a tour at the moment and so I am sorry for late reply.

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