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I have a nice pair of Stax electrostatic headphones and Stax tube amp that I was enjoying up until recently, until the left channel volume became a faint whisper. The phones were about 1 year old, and I bought the amp used. Total cost about $2500 for both. I tried all the usual troubleshooting techniques. Eliminated the possibility of the input source being the cause. Then switched tubes right to left, then tried a new set of tubes. I concluded it's either the amp or the headphones that are faulty. A few months ago, I sadly put the Stax system away, and bought a set of Sundara planar headphones and an Arcam headphone amp to keep my music playing. I will upgrade the amp soon. While definitely not ES quality, it is still very good sounding. I use it in my exercise room with a Denon DP-57M table/Grado Gold3 cartridge, cloned Grado PH1 phono stage, and a Nad DAC/Audiolab CDT6000 transport.
My question is; Does anyone know of a set of planar magnetic headphones, that come close to the sound quality of an electrostatic set? I am looking for better reliability, and electrostatic like sound quality for a budget under $2000. Or is this just a "pipe dream"?
THOUGH Hifiman gets knocked for reliability...
Audeze LCD series might be a winner too. The Avantone planar is more electrostatic like but has a smaller stage and less bass. IMHO if you can add some bass boost to electrostatic you can get the best of everything...
Cut to razor sounding violins
over the Stax phones I had for 40 years.
It's like anything else -- you'll find people on both sides of the fence.
I've never heard electrostatic headphones, but I like my HiFiman HE6SE planar headphones a lot. They can usually be found for around $600. I normally listen to Magnepan planar speakers but they are currently in storage. I use a Bluesound Node streamer as the source, A Schiit Bifrost 2/64 DAC, and a Schiit Magni headphone amp. I also got some inexpensive aftermarket cables to replace the ones that came with HE6SE.
I find the sound to be very open with a wide soundstage and very good tonal balance. They having surprising bass slam for headphones. I mostly listen to rock that ranges from acoustic (Nickle Creek, Hot Tuna) to somewhat harder stuff (Chicago, Doobie Brothers, Grand Funk, etc.), so I can't speak to the sound with classical, as I am only an occasional classical listener.
My tastes in music mirrors yours.
I have owned Maggies also.
I love the planar concept applied to headphones.
My Hifiman Sundaras have some of the qualitys of my Stax electrostatics, but they leave me craving that extra realism of the Stax.
Sundaras were $300.
I am hoping if I move up the line to the more expensive models, it will get even better.
I will look into the HE6SE you mention that you have.
Some prefer one type of sound over the other.
But almost any $1500 - $2000 planar headphone on the market today will sound "airy and detailed" enough for many people, while providing deeper bass than the typical 'stat headphone.
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