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{ STAX SR-007 / SR-009 / SR-009s } vs { HiFiMan Susvara } vs { HiFiMan Shangri-La Jr/Sr}


Werner42
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Hi guys,

during the last five years, so many new TOTL headphones appeared in the market that I got totally lost how they compare. Because every brand claims that its own TOTL headphone is the best of the world. But also reviewers and people from the forums claim very different views.

This is of course quite normal and maybe opening this thread might be very silly as things might have been said thousands of times already here.

However, as a newbie on this forum I did not find real impressions especially on the HifiMan SUSVARA, especially when compared to STAX.

And in addition to the headphones themselves, there is this multiple-headphone amplifier discussion which makes things even more intransparent for me. 

 

To explain why I am starting this thread and asking you on your impressions of these headphones in comparison is was follows:

I am a huge fan of STAX since 1989, I began with an "SR-Gamma Pro"/"SRD-X Pro", now having different STAXs including SR-007 and SR-009.

 

But now I heard from many sides that the "Hifiman SUSVARA" outperforms all STAX-headphone combos by far, and that at different disciplines. So, it is said that Susvara reaches the same high resolution as a SR-009, paired with a good amplifier like the BHSH or the KGSSHV Carbon, but Susvara is better than STAX/BHSE/Carbon in all other compartments, i.e. bass, liveliness, full musicality, stage, spatial resolution. They say, Susvara is just the better headphone than any Stax.

So, my question now as a newbie (not a newbie on STAX but on magnetostats), are these claims real, is this true?

Also the sound quality comparison of Shangri-La (jr and sr) versus STAX 007/009 with excellent amps (BHSE, KGSSHV Carbon, GG, T2) would be intersting for me.

 

I am highly interested in your own impressions and opinions on these alterative headphones!

Thanks and Cheers, Werner

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Susvara is slightly behind of Stax Lambda Signature in terms of detail & resolution. That means, 007 is clearly more resolving than Susvara. 009 is significantly better resolving than Susvaras. I haven't listened to any of those Shangri La models. I don't know how to compare subjective mumbo jumbo like liveliness, musicality etc. That's something for you to decide after hearing both. That said, anyone who says Susvaras are better at imaging than 007 shouldn't be taken too seriously. 

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Hi spritzer, hi blockader,

thanks a lot for your postings, they put things into perspective. Especially, the concrete ranking of you with regards to resolution and imaging helps me a lot to putting this hype babbling around Susvara into perspective. And yes, I agree with you, "musicality", "liveliness", these are strange means for characterization, indeed "mumbo jumbo".

@spritzer: What are your primary concerns against the stuff from HifiMan? It sounds to be a very strong opinion, and not only on small issues but quite in general. Bad build quality? Also concerns on sonic quality (at least if compared to other top headphones like Stax)?

The pricing of this HiFiMan TOTL stuff is also really extreme. Susvara alone without amp already 7,000 Euros, Shangri-La Sr up to 50,000 Euros (but with amp included, I think). Is that amp of the Shangri-La worth that price tag?? (meant as a rhetorical question, of course  ;-))

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2 hours ago, blockader said:

In this forum people do not care about giving recommendations to new people. Just saying. Head-fi is the place to get recommendations, share your impressions etc. 

If you want to know more about Hifiman, here you go:

First of all thank you for this good hint! This helps a lot. I will search through that other forum (an maybe could also open such a thread there).

However, I have a question: If this forum here (head-case) is not talking about comparisons between different headphones and on impressions on sound quality of headphones, on what is this forum about??

The question I rose by this thread was not only to ask for a personal recommendation but also to fuel the general discussion on Hifiman Susvara versus Stax. This should be a topic of general interest for headphone afficionados. Or am I wrong? So, why not discussing this here?

This sounds a bit strange to me ...

So, what is the scope and the non-scope of Head-case?

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1 hour ago, grawk said:

I'm guessing from your post that you haven't actually read the content here.  

 

OK, I have looked through this forum and found 90% things that have nothing to do with headphones, audio gear, DIY and all that what I thought would be in the scope of this forum.

What I mainly found is:

 

 

This is quite a weird topical scope ...

So, I would expect the mentioned nude photos, indeed, at this forum 😉

 

Never mind, please forgive me bloody novice that I did not know that considerations on headphones shall not be placed at this forum .... 😉

 

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16 minutes ago, grawk said:

Unfortunately we haven't had an automated welcome pm in a decade.  Anyway, the post was fine, but don't expect others to give you what you're looking for.

Thank you, grawk, for your kind reply. This makes "my world" right and perfect again 🙂

Because today, I was a bit shocked about the rude reactions and posts without answers but only playing jokes on me although I did not have had anything bad in mind. 

I am a novice with too little knowledge on this forum. However, I had read already many articles and posts on headphones, amplifiers, Stax and other audio stuff at head-case before, so I thought it was a forum like head-fi. So, it was only a misunderstanding by me.

I also always enjoyed the interesting posts and verdicts of Birgir (spritzer), as he knows so much on the amp electronics and digs deep into the technology (e.g. taking apart even the headphone drivers for quality inspection),

So due to all this, I really thought I could get some advice on headphones here at head-case.

 

In the meantime, I found your welcome post where it is written what head-case is about and that the idea behind it is quite different to standard forums. And I also read that one should first look around and not start to post right in the beginning. So, that was my fault, I just did not know about the idea behind the head-case community.

 

But your kind last post repaired my confidence to this community, which first seemed to be damaged when my thread suddenly was blocked and closed.

All my remarks were meant to be interpreted with a "grain of salt", i.e. with the same fun and irony (with 😉 ) as it came from the others, too.

And as is written in your haed-case rules/welcome letter:

"[...] We are sometimes quite rude, often irreverant, and regularly abusive. [...]"

i.e. understanding humor 🙂

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On 1/21/2021 at 4:10 AM, Werner42 said:

Now I heard from many sides that the "Hifiman SUSVARA" outperforms all STAX-headphone combos by far, and that at different disciplines. So, it is said that Susvara reaches the same high resolution as a SR-009, paired with a good amplifier like the BHSH or the KGSSHV Carbon, but Susvara is better than STAX/BHSE/Carbon in all other compartments, i.e. bass, liveliness, full musicality, stage, spatial resolution. They say, Susvara is just the better headphone than any Stax.

So, my question now as a newbie (not a newbie on STAX but on magnetostats), are these claims real, is this true?

The people that made these claim obviously believes in fairies. 

Anyway, statement or claim made by Cheap Fi Man should be taken with a grain of salt. First example, a lot more people prefers the HE-1 over the Shangri La Sr. After hearing both, I can concur as I have heard both at a dedicated headphone store. In regards to Susvara reaching the resolution of the 009, hahah that's Crap Fi Man marketing and fanboi at work.  

As an advice, trust only your own hearing. Everyone hearing preference is different. Some people prefer 007, some prefer 009. Regardless how good something sounds poor build quality has no place in my book to commend 4-6k and above.

It would be very hard to find someone with the financial backing to get all these expensive gear to properly test and compare them. Not to mention even if you have funds, some of these uber summit fi stuff like the DIY T2 are unobtaniumly rare.

Which is likely the reason why stuff like this aren't discuss or bought to light often.

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5 hours ago, Mach3 said:

The people that made these claim obviously believes in fairies. 

Anyway, statement or claim made by Cheap Fi Man should be taken with a grain of salt. First example, a lot more people prefers the HE-1 over the Shangri La Sr. After hearing both, I can concur as I have heard both at a dedicated headphone store. In regards to Susvara reaching the resolution of the 009, hahah that's Crap Fi Man marketing and fanboi at work.  

As an advice, trust only your own hearing. Everyone hearing preference is different. Some people prefer 007, some prefer 009. Regardless how good something sounds poor build quality has no place in my book to commend 4-6k and above.

It would be very hard to find someone with the financial backing to get all these expensive gear to properly test and compare them. Not to mention even if you have funds, some of these uber summit fi stuff like the DIY T2 are unobtaniumly rare.

Which is likely the reason why stuff like this aren't discuss or bought to light often.

Yes, Mach3, I fully agree with you. I hoped for some confirmation and backing by expertise for my pure guess. It was really only a guess because I never had any HiFiMan (or CheapFiMan :rofl:, I like it .... cheap but very expensive...) in my hands. As Birgir already took HiFiMan headphones completely apart, I could now learn from his postings what cheap build quality is inside.

And of course, I never listend to any HiFiMan, so any  opinions and experiences like yours help me, here.

And yes, how to test and compare when things are so extremely expensive and difficult to find as a demo device in a store. So, forums like this (or maybe better head-fi as the guys told me, here 😉) can open eyes (or ears).

 

For me, it resembles to be a quite strange or unexpected new phenomenon that during the last 5 to 10 years so very many new "ultra mega bling-bling TOTL" headphones emerged in the market that was cultivated solely by STAX for decades (nearly STAX, only, but others appeared and disappeared again, like Sennheiser Orpheus 1, AKG K1000, Jecklin Float, and I don't know).

But now:

  • Sennheiser HE-1 incl. amp and DAC => 60,000 Euros (with special colours, marble, cables, bling-bling and other BS it can go up to 120,000 Euros :palm: )
  • HiFiMan Shangri-La Sr incl. amp => 50,000 - 60,000 Euros
  • HiFiMan Shangri-La Jr incl. amp => 14,000 Euros (?? I am not sure. But something around that value)
  • HiFiMan Susvara incl. amp => 14,000 Euros  (?? I am not sure. But something around that value)
  • T+A Solitaire P and HA 200 Amp => 11,400 Euros
  • Warwick Aperio incl. amp and DAC => 25,000 Euros
  • Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC => 5,500 -  8,000 Euros + price for the amp (??)
  • Dan Clark (MrSpeakers) Voce  => 3,500 Euros + price for the amp (??)
  • Focal Utopia
  • ...  ?? Anything else? I really do not know, electrostats, planar magnetostats and dynamic TOTL headphones in a really hard competition

Incredible line-up, isn't it? What an exploding luxury headphone market! Is this luxury headphone market so big that all can survive? But maybe only for brand image like "Formula One" for car manufacturers to sell the mass market stuff.

BTW, who buys headphones for 25,000 ... 60,000 bucks? Audiophiles or sheiks?

All those brands above tell us that their TOTL headphones are the world's best (of course they do :palm:  :prettyprincess: :dinny:) but even Tyll and other professional reviewers quite support many of them.

 

Two questions ...

OK, OK, I know, wrong question, I shouldn't ask this here but at the other forum (head-fi)  :peter: 😉,

but nevertheless I dare doing this ...

... why? Because here it is allowed to skip all rules and to be "[...] sometimes quite rude, often irreverant, and regularly abusive. [...]" :angel::dan:

So again, two questions:

1) Most new extremely (over-?) priced planar TOTL headphones (electrostats/magnetostats) have gold-plated stators, the Sennheiser HE-1, the Warwick Aperio, the Susvara, the Shangri-La, ...

... and now also STAX: The STAX SR-009s. So, is this new golden bling-bling indicating some marketing gag to target on higher prices and exclusive customers? (i.e. marketing bla-bla on stiffer electrodes, lower resonances and better airflow through rounded holes ...) Is the SR-009s really better than the good old SR-009 from 10 years ago (2011) or is it more keeping up within this "shark pool" of TOTL competition as described in my aforementioned list?

 

2) What about this "best eletrostatic headphone amp in the world", the "Frank Cooter's 845 directly heated amp" which is highly recommended - or better said "praised" - by Jude Mantilla / Head-Fi:

youtube.com/watch?v=U_pY7RI2Yok&feature=emb_logo

( at 8:50 ) 

Of course, it is not obtainable, and if so, for an unaffordable price 😉

Is it better than the Blue Hawaii BHSE, the KG GG or the DIY T2 (only tube amps mentioned, here, so I did not mention the SS amps)???

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Thanks a lot for that link.

However, my two major questions are not tackled there (or maybe I oversaw it? Sorry, if I should be wrong!):

 

1) Is STAX SR-009s really better than SR-009 as Stax marketing claims? Golden stators, rounded holes for better airflow? I mean regarding sonic quality.

2) Frank Cooter's 845 directly heated amp (praised by Jude Mantilla / Head-Fi and others): How does it perform compared to BHSE, KG GG, DIY T2, Woo Audio WES ?

Have these both questions already been tackled by your link?

 

But on already mentioned topics:

This is always the problem. There is so much information on the internet and many things have already been discussed. But due to the massive information in so many forums and elsewhere it is really difficult to find this information and the concrete answers.

In Germany we have a proverb "Man sieht den Wald vor Baeumen nicht" which translates into English language as "One cannot see the forest due to too many trees".

So, information might be available in the forum or on the internet, but often it is difficult to find.

Cheers :dan:

 

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I'm new the to forum as well but I've bought some of Birgir's amps in the past and have gained from the knowledge here.

I've played this game of asking if A is ''better'' than B on the internet and it is pretty useless.

I have a possible solution for you.

Find a Hifiman dealer in the EU who will lend you the Susvara for a few days. In my experience many dealers are ok with this. Of course you'll need to pay full price as a deposit.

Directly compare the Susvara to the 009 in your system and voila you'll have your answer in a few days. No need to waste time reading 500+ pages of babble on Headfi.

Instead spend more time with your family, watching a movie whatever ;)

 

I've started doing this and it is much better than wasting time on bullshit reviews. 

I borrowed a Raal SR1a from a dealer, found that I liked my Utopia better. Then I borrowed an SR009 from a friend. Found that I liked the 009 a bit better than the Utopia.

Now I have an 009S on order :)

 

As a matter of principle I have avoided Hifiman's headphones as the founder seems to have zero respect for his customers. I'll probably borrow a Susvara out of curiosity but would never buy them.

He pulls his prices out of thin air as a dick waving exercise nothing more. I guess his home market like high prices as a marker of quality.

All the best. 

 

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10 hours ago, Rthomas said:

I'm new the to forum as well but I've bought some of Birgir's amps in the past and have gained from the knowledge here.

I've played this game of asking if A is ''better'' than B on the internet and it is pretty useless.

I have a possible solution for you.

Find a Hifiman dealer in the EU who will lend you the Susvara for a few days. In my experience many dealers are ok with this. Of course you'll need to pay full price as a deposit.

Directly compare the Susvara to the 009 in your system and voila you'll have your answer in a few days. No need to waste time reading 500+ pages of babble on Headfi.

Instead spend more time with your family, watching a movie whatever ;)

 

I've started doing this and it is much better than wasting time on bullshit reviews. 

I borrowed a Raal SR1a from a dealer, found that I liked my Utopia better. Then I borrowed an SR009 from a friend. Found that I liked the 009 a bit better than the Utopia.

Now I have an 009S on order :)

 

As a matter of principle I have avoided Hifiman's headphones as the founder seems to have zero respect for his customers. I'll probably borrow a Susvara out of curiosity but would never buy them.

He pulls his prices out of thin air as a dick waving exercise nothing more. I guess his home market like high prices as a marker of quality.

All the best. 

 

 

Yes, you are right, listening, testing and comparing oneself is maybe the only real solution. And indeed reading through 500 pages of a huge forum's thread having run over years, costs a lot of time. Partly really interesting and well invested time, but of course not over the entire 500 pages. However, it is partly really good fun to read the comments at head-case or head-fi.

Having said that, regarding ordering a headphone from a dealer, then testing it at home and sending it back, is something I do not really like to do.

Because when you order it, you will receive a completely new device, new package, everything perfect and new. After you have tested the device, it is a used object and its value is decreased by 30%. So the dealer gets back a used device, no more sealed nice package etc, etc.

If I was the dealer, it would be really pain for me, especially if this is no exception (in case of exception, OK, he can live with it).

Now, you see, since there is online shopping with the law that the customer may send back any item purchased via the internet (except food and some other things) within two weeks without any reason (Geman law), there are so many people doing this as a general rule. E.g. tons of new unweared clothes are ordered by many people only to send 90% of them back to the seller. This stuff is partly thrown away afterwards which is a huge sin for the earth and our natural environment.

There have been people in Germany who have ordered a new large TV directly for a Soccer World's Championship and have resent the TV to the dealer right after the Championship was over (those days in Germany it was still possible to return goods four weeks after delivery without reason. But this has been reduced to two weeks now).

If I look at the audiophiles' community, there is so much "voodoo" (even on cables and other minor matter objects) and one believes "the one is better than the other", a month later perhaps the other way around. Audiophiles are very difficult "divas" who test 100 audio rigs and who will tell you that 99 of these rigs are complete bullsh**t and only one of these rigs is "like out of heaven". Three months later, also the "heaven's rig" will be perfect bullsh**t and there is another rig that is ten times better by sonic quality. This is the way many audiophiles think an live their hobby lives through always "better" rigs, even "better" cables, connectors, HiFi racks and all the BS that has no impact on sound at all (my 2 cents, only, of course ... 😉 😇 :chair:).  

And the result of this attitude will be that audiophiles will send back 99% (OK, maybe only 90% 😉) to the dealers, i.e. turn new rigs into used stuff with 30% less value for the dealer. So, you see, I have a real (very personal) obstruction against ordering TOTL headphones of highest value and quality (maybe with HiFiMan the quality is not high at all :indra:, I also believe it's kind of  :dinny:) from a dealer only to comparing it against my STAX headphones at home.

 

By the way, in case a dealer has a rig to being borrowed, i.e. a test equipment that is dedicated exactly for that purpose to be tested at home, then it is fully OK. This is how you did your comparisons as your post can be read. This is indeed a good approach. But one has to find a dealer who offers this. It may be a bit difficult when you need a huge tube amp together with the headphone to be tested.  E.g., the STAX amps cannot be used to run a Susvara. So, sending and re-sending such big tube amps may be a bit "tricky".

By the way, when you have received your STAX SR-009s, I would be very curious and interested to read what your impressions on it are if compared to the SR-009.

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, Werner42 said:

 

Yes, you are right, listening, testing and comparing oneself is maybe the only real solution. And indeed reading through 500 pages of a huge forum's thread having run over years, costs a lot of time. Partly really interesting and well invested time, but of course not over the entire 500 pages. However, it is partly really good fun to read the comments at head-case or head-fi.

SNIP

By the way, when you have received your STAX SR-009s, I would be very curious and interested to read what your impressions on it are if compared to the SR-009.

 

 

 

I agree with you which is why I always call the dealer and explain that I only intend to audition the headphones at this stage.

I'm not sure how useful my impressions would be as I EQ all my headphones to the Harman Target. From the measurements I've seen the 009 and 009S seem very very close in frequency response. My guess is that once they are EQed to the same target they will sound nearly identical.

Anyway I will post some impressions once I've had them for a few days.

I bought mine from HiFi Lounge in the UK. Got them for around 3300 euros which is considerably cheaper than the EU dealer price. As UK is out of the EU we don't need to pay UK VAT (I'm in Spain) but I will need to pay 21% VAT to get them in Spain. Even then it worked out cheaper than buying them in Spain.

Paul at Hifi Lounge was willing to send me a demo unit so maybe you can give him a call? Tell him that Ranjan Thomas recommended him.

I have no relationship with the dealer other than my recent purchase. He was willing to send me a demo unit and also gave me a 10% discount so I decided to give him my business.  

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2 hours ago, Rthomas said:

I agree with you which is why I always call the dealer and explain that I only intend to audition the headphones at this stage.

I'm not sure how useful my impressions would be as I EQ all my headphones to the Harman Target. From the measurements I've seen the 009 and 009S seem very very close in frequency response. My guess is that once they are EQed to the same target they will sound nearly identical.

Anyway I will post some impressions once I've had them for a few days.

I bought mine from HiFi Lounge in the UK. Got them for around 3300 euros which is considerably cheaper than the EU dealer price. As UK is out of the EU we don't need to pay UK VAT (I'm in Spain) but I will need to pay 21% VAT to get them in Spain. Even then it worked out cheaper than buying them in Spain.

Paul at Hifi Lounge was willing to send me a demo unit so maybe you can give him a call? Tell him that Ranjan Thomas recommended him.

I have no relationship with the dealer other than my recent purchase. He was willing to send me a demo unit and also gave me a 10% discount so I decided to give him my business.  

Hi Ranjan,

thank you very much for your kind posting and your very kind offer that I am allowed to quoting your recommendation when contacting the 'Hifi Lounge' Dealer.

Oh yes, maybe I will do this! Not right now (as being too absorbed by job at the time being, but this might calm down in the future, I hope 😉) but in some months it could really be an excellent approach.

 

Regarding EQ to Harman Target, I really like this approach! As EQ'ing at upscaled 96kHz(or more) and 24 bits can be directly performed on your uncompressed digital music files without any loss of sonic quality, digital EQ is the best way (IMHO) to adapt the frequency response to your favoured characteristic (or to neutral Harman Target).

It has been proven by countless scientific double-blind tests (ABX) that EQ'ing at these uptransformed frequencies and bit resolutions does not have any impact on sound quality for human hearing (so, also no negative impact). This is why all the professional sound engineers do exactly this while mastering and re-mastering the music for compact discs or hi-res datafile publication.

Someone on this forum, who is doing this in a very professional way is "O7_brother".

Please find his EQ posts (also on STAX SR-007, 009, 009s), e.g., at:

www.head-case.org/forums/topic/786-the-headcase-stax-thread/page/542/

But certainly you know about this already.

 

For audiophiles EQ is something like "devil's work" :indra:, audiophiles and HiFi enthusiasts often claim that EQ is a "No Go" and ruins the sound quality. IMHO, this is complete nonsense as the ABX tests as well as the projects of professional sound engineers prove the exact opposite.

 

So, if a headphone is too bright or the bass is not strong enough, many people apply another amplifier with another frequency response. I think, using EQ is much better and more efficient, here.

I'm not sure if solid-state amps do really sound different in ABX tests if they are strong enough. Weak amps may distort at certain levels but strong state-of-the-art SS amps should always apply a harmonic distortion that is inaudible for human hearing. So, I believe there is no audible difference.

Especially if you apply EQ to reach the Harman Target, there should not be any audible difference between an SS amp for 500 Euros or 50,000 Euros. My 2 cents, only, of course 😇

 

Which amplifier will you use with your STAX SR-009s ?

I use an SRM-717 (and I also own a SRD-X Pro and a SRM-007t, however the latter is broken, I will try to repair it).

Cheers, :dan:

Werner

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