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ES Labs ES1a


ivanrocks321
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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.

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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.

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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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