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Koss ESP/950 electrostat thread


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;D

I've only had them since this morning. But so far I'm really digging the sound 8)

Some initial impressions. Very balanced sound with exceptional tonality. The first thing I noticed is how forward the sound signature is (similar to the K1000). The soundstage isn't as large as the Omega 2 MK1. The Omega 2 has this uncanny ability to throw its voice like a ventriloquist projecting sounds outside the dimensions of the earspeaker. The Koss can't quite do that.

The Koss have very, very nice midbass and impact making them fun to listen to with rock. They have a hint of that deep bass that is crying to come out, but doesn't extend that far.

Mids and highs are very well balanced and nicely detailed. I still prefer the mids on the Omega 2, they have the ability to completely disappear.

Just to see how they scale with the stock amp I swapped out the North Star M192 with my Denon DA-500 and then an old Panasonic DVD player. The ESP scale very nicely.

Detail and imaging will take a bit longer to nail down, I'll need to listen to more reference recordings. They still possess that effortless nature of electrostats, like there isn't any hint of them struggling to keep up (sort of hard to describe in words :confused: )

Non sound impressions:

Build quality isn't so great. They feel a bit flimsy. The stock cable must be like 3-3.5 feet, were they expecting us to use a shirt pocket amp without the extension cable :palm:

Comfort is above average. Again I prefer the Omega 2. The Koss are similar to the Lambdas as far as comfort goes.

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Now for something pretty rare... the ESP900...  This is the closed back version of the ESP950 made for medical use such as MRI's etc.  Not much is known about these and only a few sets have

So I've had the Massdrop version of the Koss ESP/95X sitting here for probably a month but not spent any time with them.  I know I'm awful...    That changed today so first some pics:  Let's start wit

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wait till you hear them with better amps, deepak. If your experience mirrors that of Dan and I at the National Meet I think you'll find the stock amp pretty worthless.

No doubt, I'm looking forward to it.

I'm happy to say that I think they are free of any etch.

Reks they'll work on Stax amps, but they like the higher bias (620 or 630?).

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The do open up at around 620v but I found them a bit strident and edgy for the short while I tested them with my variable bias supply. I really should experiment some more now that I have a DC meter that can go above 1000v but I doubt that they would like some 800v of bias... :o

So does someone want to make me a Koss -> Stax adapter :D

What about just fitting a new Stax cable to them? Shouldn't be that much more expensive... :P

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Recable doesn't sound like a bad idea.

One more observation before I turn in for the night. One area that I greatly prefer the Omega 2 MK1 is that they allow more room for the music to breath. Whereas the Koss just hit you in the face with the music. In my opinion this gives the Omega 2 greater PRaT and so far I really prefer this presentation; it's very speaker like and this is how I love it.

The greater distance of the Stax drivers from the ear probably plays a role in this.

I don't know maybe I'm a die hard Omega 2 fan, but pretty much everything sounds a lot better on the Stax :(

To give an example. I was listening to the Pixies Surfer Rosa MFSL SACD and a few songs in (with the Koss) I really wanted to hear it on the Omega 2. Immediately everything is brought into focus (the wall of sound is removed and everything is defined in its own space. AND because of this effect instruments like snare/kick drum sound absolutely huge on the Stax), and it just sounds right. And I end up listening to another two albums on the Stax. They're just addicting.

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deepak:

I find that these cans are really just improvement of the he60 sound signature, and as such sound "different" than the SR-007. They are more forward, almost in a brash way and have very "impressive" bass and sweet sounding highs, both are strengths IMHO. As much as a KGSS is an upgrade for these, the 620v bias is probably more important. Then there is the recable.... They are really incomparable in the state you currently have them. In some cases I do prefer them to the Stax, usually when I want more bite to my music. I'm not a huge Grado fan, but perhaps this difference could be likened to a Grado sound, without the annoying soundstage collapse and other Grado "issues". They are a hard sound to pin down, that's for sure... and the relatively few people that heard them in what I would say is their "best" operating point, makes this even harder. :)

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I prefer my ESP950 for rock music to all of my Lambdas at this point. I still like Sigma better. I still prefere Lambdas to ESP950 for jazz and ambient music.

Out of Stax amp they sound less upfront and have more finesse. Very good cans they are indeed, very underrated.

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deepak:

I find that these cans are really just improvement of the he60 sound signature, and as such sound "different" than the SR-007. They are more forward, almost in a brash way and have very "impressive" bass and sweet sounding highs, both are strengths IMHO. As much as a KGSS is an upgrade for these, the 620v bias is probably more important. Then there is the recable.... They are really incomparable in the state you currently have them. In some cases I do prefer them to the Stax, usually when I want more bite to my music. I'm not a huge Grado fan, but perhaps this difference could be likened to a Grado sound, without the annoying soundstage collapse and other Grado "issues". They are a hard sound to pin down, that's for sure... and the relatively few people that heard them in what I would say is their "best" operating point, makes this even harder. :)

I'm with Marc that they are basically a better version of the HE60. I do like the Senn but there is something not quite right with it's tonal balance and the ESP950 is a much more balanced unit.

I would like to build a woodie ESP950 some day and fit it with HE90 earpads for some sort of an Orpheus clone. Add a SR-007 headband with specially made forks and we're in business. ;D

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I'm with Marc that they are basically a better version of the HE60. I do like the Senn but there is something not quite right with it's tonal balance and the ESP950 is a much more balanced unit.

I would like to build a woodie ESP950 some day and fit it with HE90 earpads for some sort of an Orpheus clone. Add a SR-007 headband with specially made forks and we're in business. ;D

Does this mean I don't need to buy HE60? :D

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Does this mean I don't need to buy HE60? :D

That's why I bough the Kosses. ESP-950 + badass amp = still less than HE60 alone. Additional bonus of lifetime warranty on ESP-950s instead of Sennheiser drivers which are damn near guaranteed to go bad and require extremely expensive replacement.

In my opinion, even at the retail ~$650 the ESP's are probably still worth it just to get the headphone and toss the amp in the trash.

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deepak:

I find that these cans are really just improvement of the he60 sound signature, and as such sound "different" than the SR-007. They are more forward, almost in a brash way and have very "impressive" bass and sweet sounding highs, both are strengths IMHO. As much as a KGSS is an upgrade for these, the 620v bias is probably more important. Then there is the recable.... They are really incomparable in the state you currently have them. In some cases I do prefer them to the Stax, usually when I want more bite to my music. I'm not a huge Grado fan, but perhaps this difference could be likened to a Grado sound, without the annoying soundstage collapse and other Grado "issues". They are a hard sound to pin down, that's for sure... and the relatively few people that heard them in what I would say is their "best" operating point, makes this even harder. :)

Marc thanks for the impressions.

I really liked the HE60 when I heard them as well. But the HE60 driver sits a similar a distance from the ear as the Omega 2 MK1 (from what I recall) and I was able to get a sense of space, soundstage and depth even with rather crappy recordings.

Using the Koss amp and my brief encounter with the HE60, I preferred the HE60 to them in every way. I used to be a very big Grado fan, but after hearing the finesse of electrostats I could never go back to them.

I'm with Marc that they are basically a better version of the HE60. I do like the Senn but there is something not quite right with it's tonal balance and the ESP950 is a much more balanced unit.

I would like to build a woodie ESP950 some day and fit it with HE90 earpads for some sort of an Orpheus clone. Add a SR-007 headband with specially made forks and we're in business. ;D

I definitely think the ESP/950 drivers have a lot of potential, I'd love to hear them in an enclosure where they sit a bit further from the ear and maybe slightly angled?

But the Omega 2 MK1 remain my king of headphones ATM ;D

Edited by deepak
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An update in case anyone thought my impressions from last night were rushed.

I've continued to compare the Omega 2 MK1 and the ESP/950 and I still greatly prefer the Omega 2 for every type of music. The Omega 2 can really rock out. And I'm seriously under amping the Stax at this time, so it's not like this isn't a fair fight.

I should state that I've always sort of been a one headphone/speaker type of person, my mind is probably too slow to adjust to different/worse signatures and I really just prefer sticking to something I really like.

How much will it cost me to find a set of speakers that sound like the Stax and are as resolving? Good thing I don't have any other expensive hobbies :sadcat:

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