Need some advice on Stax sr-lambda earspeakers

I just picked up a pair of Stax sr-lambda earspeakers/headphones and a Stax SRD-7 energizer. I bought the combo, in what was my first internet auction, without fully researching them. Probably one of my worst impulse buys in a long time, given that their apparent (?) resale value is significantly lower than what i paid, though at least they seem from the photos and description to be in excellent condition and were purchased from a very reputable ebay source to boot. I actually paid somewhat more as a result of accidentally outbidding myself several times in a row in small increments!

Having paid what was due, I have no choice but to await my first electrostats. Can someone offer any unbiased review comments of this combo and especially of the earspeakers themselves (not the energizer)? What about their used value in excellent condition? As an owner of Sennhesier HD600's with the cardas headphone cable, am I in for sheer disappoint or on the contrary, goosebumps of delight?

My audiophile interests are primarily classical chamber (especially string, piano, and wind quartets, quintets, and trios - in roughly that order), followed by a significant though lesser interest in classic jazz and avant garde/contempory music.

Right now my main source is a Linn Ikemi being fed through Cardas cross interconnects by a Bryston B60 integrated amp, whose headphone out drives the Sennheisers (I also owned a headroom Max in late nineties but it was thefted!). Lately I'm also using a Sony dvp-s9000es player for SACD, and plan to have it modded.

Am I a fool to dream?

What about upgrading the srd-7 to something high end such as a the SRM-007t or Mk II? Will such amps be cost efficient sonic improvements of the sr-lamba?

Owners - past or present - of the sr-lambda (normal bias, not "pro"), please
share your experience listening to acoustic recordings, and please offer any further tips regarding the best and/or most cost effective upgrade path toward sonic I should take right now given a modest budget of *less* than $2000, such path hopefully lead to a great headphone rig that is as musical and harmonically coherent as it is revealing and transparent. I could accept a significant compromise in bass weight as long as critical listening for the music itself were not compromised severely as well.

In anticipation of the several responders who always pop up in threads to remind posters of the availability ample archive material on this subject, or to remind them of places such as, I'll point out that there is very little on the subject of the relative strengths of the the various vintage/heritage 6-pin "Normal Bias" earspeakers (as opposed to the "PRO" bias 5-pin ones), and even less on the subject of how close the more recent Stax SR-404 or sr-404 "signature" models come, to the earspeakers I just purchased, if the sr-lambda are mated with the correct amp and fed by the right source.

All I could find on head-fi and through googling were a handful of mostly off-topic threads describing the pro or lambda signature models, plus one thread on head-fi claiming that the Sr-lambda driven by the srm-007t amp sounds "nearly as good" as the sr-404 driven my the same amp. I believe someone said that the sr-404's so driven sounded "noticeably better than the sr-lambda (again not pro), but not too much better", about the same quality divide as that separating the sennheiser hd600 and the hd600. (he mentioned his "friend" finding the the two electrostats differed by even less.

Are the sr-lamda earpeakers considered for pure acoustic music, than say sr-4, sr-5, or sr-x mentioned in another thread? If so , Please qualify. Even googling for "sr-lamba", or "sr lambda" has yielded reviews and discussions of the sr-lamdo PRO or signature models. Neither "simply stax" nor audiocube.c0m contained many references at all to this particular earpspeaker.

As I recall, the SR Lambdas (which I owned for a while in the mid 80's) sounded extended in the treble and anemic in the bass. This gave them a somewhat thin and analytical balance. But I think that pairing them with a warm sounding tube amp (into the SRD-7) could give you a better balanced and more musical sound. Going with a lean-sounding solid-state amp might be the worst-case scenario.

The old SR-X had a bit more bass and a more neutral balance, as I recall; never heard the SR-4; the SR-5's sounded peaky in the lower highs. Another of the older Stax phones I liked quite a bit was a model called the "New SR-3". These had a great midrange and a nice balance but were a little weak in the bass. Highs were non-irritating and pleasing, although not the most revealing.

I'm presently using the Stax 404 phones with the 006t tube amp and like that combo quite a bit although I know the 007t has a bit more dynamic bloom. The 404 phones have better bass extension than the old Lambdas and have nice high frequency detailing without sounding overly analytical.

As far as I know, the going price for a set of the original Lambdas with the SRD-7 Energizer is somewhere around the $300 price point.

I hope this helps.
I read a review of the SR-007 (Omega II) which included a comparison of each of the more recent Stax earspeakers to the Sennheiser HD600. If memeory serves, the reviewer thought the Sr-404 phones were rivaled to some extent by the HD600, but that the HD600 'fell short' in the area of treble (among a couple other areas), having more mid treble energy yet were still rolled off at the very top resulting in a lack of 'air'.
That review was before the HD650 came out, so I'm now wondering how the various Stax now stack up to HD650, especially to one that has had its headphone cable replaced with Zu Mobius or Cardas cables.

Do electrostats still kill the best dynamic phones in ultimate resolution, timbral accuracy, harmonic coherence, etc? Rock and other genres that depend more on bass impact for musical impact aren't as imprtant to me in an ultra high-end headphone, since I can always keep the HD580 or HD600 or get a pair of RS-1 for that. What I'm after is the cheapest way to experience the kind of acoustic bliss usually reserved for owners of $10+ grand speakers using a source such as my Ikemi (which I think is up to the task, but as yet hasn't had a worthy outlet through which to truly shine).

I just received notifaction that the sr-lambda/srd-7, which I 'won' (lol) in auction, have shipped so I'll report back when and if I get a chance to hear them.

Which reminds me: besides the earspeakers and srd-7 energizer, do I need anything else except my integrated amp and some speaker wire? I read something about people needing 'special speaker terminal leads', but reading the full Stax FAQ on shed no light on the matter.

Hi Ted,

I never compared the Senheiser phones directly to the Stax, so I can't tell you how they compare. All I can say is that I really like the Stax and when I heard the Senheiser HD650s at the recent CES, I was fairly unimpressed -- I also heard the Stax there and liked them.

I don't think you'll need anthing extra for your hookup. My SRD-7 was hardwired for the signal leads and you had to supply your own speaker cables to bypass the Energizer and switch to regular speakers. I used the SRD-7 with a modified Dyna Stereo 70 and that worked pretty well for me.

That said, I have always preferred to listen to my speakers over the headphones. The binaural effect is interesting, but to me it's not that realistic. Plus, with phones, you miss that bass impact and dynamic slam. With good speakers you can feel as well as hear the music.

I recently put together a nice small-room system that I think you'd agree (if you heard it) kills most headphones out there. I have a set of the new Silverline Prelude speakers powered by some small Dignity Audio 300B amps and it's just an amazingly vibrant and musical system. It's also one that is very reasonably priced.

My main caveat with it so far is that I get a fair amount of mechanical hum from the Dignity amps. I have a power conditioner coming that is supposed to address this problem, taking any DC component off the AC line. If it works as hoped, I'll be a very happy camper. The system won't play at LOUD levels with only 8 watts per channel, but at low and moderate levels it is really hard to beat. I just thought I'd throw that in for you to consider.

And yes, let me know how you like the Lambdas once you have a chance to listen.
Ok, I received my sr-lambda and srd-7 today and am taking a short breaking from listening to them in order to leave a couple of impressions. First I should say that my expectations were not very high, given that my solid state bryston b60 integrated amplifier was not expected to be a good match for the sr-lambda/srd-7, and the fact that the sr-lambda ("normal bias") are so outdated that, even on one does not find them mentioned in many threads at all.

So after hooking the 2 pairs of speaker leads up to the pair of speaker terminals on the Bryston, and letting the Sony 9000es play an SACD for a while to warm up everything, including the Cardas Cross interconnects, I popped in the SACD "Orchestral Suites of Bach", Pearlman conducting the Boston Baroque on Telarc.

At first, sounded a bit thin and 'shiny' or ever so slightly metallic, but withing several minutes I was hooked. I should mention again that my reference up to this point has been the Sennheiser H600 with Cardas headphone cable, using the Bryston as the headphone amp (purportedly one of the best headphone stages available on an integrated, at least under a few grand, driven directly from the preamp stage without any op-amps in the path). My other digital source has been the Linn Ikemi cdp.

Now then, after of few minutes of listening to the Bach suites, it became apparent that what initially sounded like thinness, gradually started to seem more like a pleasant leanness - but not a lean and hungry kin dof leanness but rather a 'svelt, ready for action' kind of leanness combined with a delicateness. Not only were instruments noticeably more textured through the sr-lambda (energized by the srd-7 'adapter;), but it was easier to following a given rapidly meandering melodic line, such as played by a flute or one small fraction of the otherwise large string continuo, even in cases where it would normally be swallowed up for at least a few moments until a given en masse crescendo had begun to taper a bit, whereupon said melodic line could be homed in on again.
I'll use the analogy of one watching a train enter one side of the tunnel, and even though one cannot see the train while traversing the tunnel, one can interpolate approximately where in the tunnel it is at any given point in time, because one also sees where the tunnel exit is and can thus interpolate the train's position.
Well the above scenario is what listening to very complex arrangements through my HD600's is analogous to - I follow one or several melodies, occasionally lose it amidst the multimbral smearing that can occur in the parts of music which seem to challenge a given recording medium the most, and momentarily draw one's attention away from an otherwise convincingly semblance of reality (ie. highest fidelity), and then when everything 'simmers down' a bit, can lock on to the melody once again.
Not so with the sr-lambda as heard in my system tonight. I found that I could focus on just about any musical line or follow any musical idea to its conclusion - without mental interpolation - and likewise abandon any particular mental committment to any one line, or lines, and simply absorb the arrangement's gestalt.
I'll assume for the time being that this is what reviewers mean when they describe a source component or one of reproduction (such as the headphones) as sounding 'effortless'. The music coming from this electrostatic was at once immediate and laid back - a combination of attributes that until tonight I thought was only possible on very very expensive systems (read: 10+grand speakers and similarly priced separates).
Yet I only acknowledge the *possibility* of very expensive rigs, with their expensive dynamic drivers, being able to pull the same kind of stunts to which my ears have been witness tonight, because it seems only logical such allure and finesse it what drives people to purchase such expensive gear in the first place.
In actuality, I myself have never heard such music reproduced so well, not even from some very expensive speakers in a high end audio boutique. I then put in the Telarc Classical Sampler 2 SACD and began with track one, a piece by the Empire Brass. Harmonically richer and more coherent than the HD600/Cardas combo, and with much more actual brass character than I've heard before. Otherwise the piece wasn't all that much more impressive on the sr-lambda, but I was about to get rattled listening to the following track. Beginning with track two on that same sampler, this being an excerpt from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Suite (conducted by Paavi, on Telarc Pure DSD). As good as this dynamic and richly multitimbral piece has sounded through my HD600's, the HD600 were simply no match for the Sr-Lambda in that piece and every one to follow on that sampler. Again, the most surprising irony of the Sr-lambda that came to mind as I listened, was the hitherto unfeasible combination of immediacy and relaxedness. If anything, the presentation was even more laid back than that to which I'm accustomed with the HD600, yet the sr-lambda were so extendedand airy, that it sounded as if real string instruments were playing loudly - but at a moderate distance away from my ears, in a performance hall will great acoustics that rendered any moderate distance between listener and performer irrelevant. That is, when hearing a *real* violin play under the stone archway in one of the main pedestrian entrances to Munich, I did not have the urge to place my ear in close proximity to the violin itself - I was plenty close enough, thank you.
Yet sometime lower-high end components give one a veritable taste of high fidelity but almost tempt one into drawing ever nearer to the reproductive source (such as removing the layer of cushioning covering the driver inside the HD600 so as to enable one to access more ambient information, a trick recommended by some on to compensate for what some claim to be the HD600's 'veiled' character, but which I've never tried). I found that the longer I listened to the Sr-lambda, the more it became apparent that speakers or headphones based on a dynamic driver will always have limitation, that is unless(possibly) room acoustics are perfect or the gear is sufficiently high end. Yet even these humble sr-lambda, which can be found used for in the range of a few hundred dollars, decidely trounced the Sennheisers and
So now my hunt for good transducers is not over. I have decided that electrostatic is the way to go for classical, and possibly jazz, but my present setup still leaves something to be desired. For one, there were certain passages in the non-Pure DSD recordings (ie. the SACD recording of the Prazak perfomances of Beethoven Sring Quartets) that exhibited a slight glaring or harshness not quite intuitively attributable to the source component or recording itself. My take on it is that my sr-lambda could benefit from a better driver, such as the tubed Stax srm-T1 or srm-007t (the latter is quite expensive compared to the earspeakers), or possible the slight harshness claimed to be a property of even SACD playback on my Sony 9000es (soon to be modded), previously understated on the smooth HD600, is now be made manifest by the sr-lambda - especially fed by my solid state integrated. So now I'm in a but of a quandarry; do I have the Sony modded, by say Modright, in an attempt to tame that *slight* harshness which is purportedly rectified my modding the inferior grade analog output stage of the Sony, or do I spring for one of the tube Stax drivers mentioned above? Perhaps both would help or be synergistic. So I guess my tentative plan at this point is to pick up a used tube amp for the sr-lambda, knowing that later I can always pick up a second , higher grade pair earspeakers such as the Omega I or II, (thus freeing up the speaker terminals on my Bryston) and then reevaluate my rig from there. To be fair, I never got to hear the HD600 hooked up to a dedicated headphone amp (though I did own a Headroom Max which I used with my Hd580 *years* ago, before they were thefted), but neither were the sr-lambda auditioned tonight on a dedicated headphone amp. At least, one could hardly call the 1971 srd-7 energizer unit an 'amp', when it needs to be fed by an actual power amp in order to drive the earspeakers.

I don't suppose anyone out there bothered to read most, or any of the above, but what type of sonic benefit do you suppose could be had by using an admittedly overkill Srm-007t or Srm-T1 with the sr-lambda? My only intersting lead in this prospect so far is a brief post on, in which someone who had just picked up a pair of sr-lambda, and listened to them through a dealer's Srm-007t, claimed to 'like [the combo] MUCH'. He went on to say that he and his friend both thought the difference between the sr-004 and the sr-lambda was equal to or less than the difference between the HD600 and HD650. Has any HD600 or HD650 owner out there (with primarily classical and jazz interests) noticed a distinct improvement in transparency, timbre, and overall musical perspective when upgrading to a high-end headphone amp? if so, which model did it for you? If you also have experience with electrostats, then that's all the better, but I'm interested in other comparisons as well. I've tried to avoid for the most part because I gather that their listenening tastes seem to run more in the jazzy rock and pop areas and less in straight classical jazz (not 'classical' in the strict sense but rather in the more encompassing popular sense of ancient instrumental) and classic. I'm also big into classic rock and even techno and trance, but if those were my main focus then i wouldn't be an 'upwardly spiraling' audiophile - that is, I would have remained content with the HD580's and my first Rotel turntable with Grado Ref. Platinum cartridge.
Now I'm off to listen to some redbook on the Ikemi, having given it ample time to warm itself and the Sr-lambda up!
The following is a copy and paste of some more sr-lambda impressions which I emailed to someone who recently purchased from me my pair of sr-lambda and srd-7 energizer unit (I liked them quite a bit, but have upgrade lust once again)

I've never tried other Stax models nor other electrostats. Only the Sennheiser HD580 and HD600 with the Cardas headphone cable upgrade.
I did use the HD580 with a $1300 Headroom Max headphone amp in the past (head amp was thefted 8 years ago when my apartment was burglarized), so I have a distant but very pronounced recollection of my experience with those phones and amp to serve as a present reference.

Sennheisers definitely have a 'weightier' sound that you feel on your eardrums, even at moderate volume, but that's mostly attributed to the nature of dynamic drivers. The Stax on the other hand have the kind of sound that just floats into your ear - less sound pressure than with dynamics of any variety. That's not to say these Stax have no substance, quite the contrary. It;s just that you experience large dynamic impact differently. I only used them for classical and a tiny bit of jazz (also listened to The Police Synchronicity at a very low volume to avoid damage to diaphragms, but wanted to judge the Stax limitations). During, say, the more violent sounding movements on my SACD of The Rite of Spring (Telarc, paavo jaervi conducting), instead of feeling a pulsing physical force on my ears was my experience with the sennheisers (which CAN be exhilarating in small doses),the stax delivered these dynamic slams in a more purely acoustic and less physical way. Much like sitting on the balcony in Symphony Hall (Boston, MA) and hearing loud sound that thoroughly saturates ones ears in a satisfying way, but does not create any pressing feeling on the eardrums.

One interesting note on my experience with Synchronicity (just three songs, I'll comment on one) was that in the opening of 'Murder by Numbers' when Sting is singing with only the backing of light hi-hat and cymbal accompaniment, the echoing decay at the end of each of Sting's phrases (ones with large pauses between each) reverberated much more thoroughly through the stax. The Senneiser HD600 w/.cardas cable reproduced this reverb fairly well (the SACD is phenomenal to begin with), but through the Stax this reverb had the very character of sting's own voice singing a minature version of the same phrase - albeit faintly and in a way that seemed intuitively faithful to the reverb effects used in the original recording - AFTER sting had finished singing it. I also noticed in that same opening part of that song that the cymbals had much more pinpointed placement, in fact certain hi-hat hits seemed to originate somewhere down near my chin (!) if you can imagine that. Switching back to the sennheisers, these same cymbal hits COULD have seemed to originate from down there, but ONLY if someone had told me to pay attention to that (i.e. i would have been influenced by the 'power of suggestion' rather than actual first-hand experience). In other words, while the sennheiser reproduction of this pin-point percussive imaging seemed to contain much of the sonic cues necessary for me to say 'oh yeah, there it is down there', the HD600 was not able to reproduce these cues in a way that would have made them come to the forefront of my attention without having first experienced this effect vividly through the Stax. Ditto for the aforementioned trailing effect of sting's voice, however in that instance I could not experience that effect directly through those phones - even when willing myself strongly to hear i- the way I could experience it whenever i switched back to the stax during several direct A-B comparisons of the first 30 seconds or so of that one song. Just for your future reference, the Stax were hooked up to my bryston B60 integrated's speaker terminals via the rather puny looking speaker leads coming from the SRD-7 energizer unit. The Sennheiser HD600 had the advantage of being plugged directly (via the Cardas cord) into the high-quality, directly preamp driven headphone stage of the Bryston, I'll wager that those Sennheisers would have been capable of reproducing the full character of the above two reverberant effects IF the HD600 had been fed by my old Headroom max head amp instead of the Bryson, but that was a $1300 head amp. If anything, it was the Stax that were at a disadvantage, since the path between the digital source and the srd-7 energizer was substantially longer: 1) SACD player to line-in of Bryston via Cardas Cross interconnects, 2)Pre-amp (of discrete Bryston preamp section) to the power amp section of the same Bryston via the stock jumpers, 3) Power amp section of Bryston to the SRD-7 via the SRD-7's speaker wire leads.

The Sennheiser path only included the #1 path just described. (the paths from head amp jack to the respective headphones/earspeakers was omitted on the basis of them comprising a common denominator).

Everything described above pertained to the A-B comparison with the Police song intro ALONE. Doing A-B comparisons with classical was completely unnecessary since the Stax so obviously blew away the HD600/Cardas in almost every respect: fine vocal and instrumental articulation (be it violin, piano, or whatever), resolution of individual timbral signatures of respective instruments in richly multitimbral passage (ie. in Brahms' Piano Trios (Freddy Kempf Trtio on BIS label [DSD], Rite of Spring, and just about every piece on the Telarc Classical SACD Sampler 2 - if you own Stax sr-lambda and an SACD player, you MUST get this disc) reverberation and 'air', transient speed, THWACK that despite feeling less physcial was all the more visceral, and the list goes on. The only respect in which the HD600 held sway over the Stax was in the area of euphonic smoothness in certain recordings evincing the 'digital nasties'. I felt the Sennheisers to also be warmer and a bit more satisfying in classic Blue-note era jazz recordings BUT the satisfaction from this added warmth only went so far and the Stax won out in the end due to conveying a much more airy, refined, spatially resolved, and articulate presentation that made me want to listen to the musical meanderings of, for example, a challenging Sax solo that might normally bore me (at certain places) just enough to make my attention stray from the musical domain and focus on the sensual and expressive domains instead (these terms, musical [i.e. pertaining to the relationships among the tones themselves], expressive[i.e. a certain performer's artistic interpretion and choice of dynamic accents], and sensual [the sounds of the instruments and voices themselves] being used according to Aaron Copland's definition in his seminal literature 'What to Listen for in Music''.

Hope this helps. I might as well copy and paste these impressions to that Agon thread i started recently. Hope you enjoy the phones as much as I have over these past couple of weeks. I find them to be very addictive, precious for how they make me want to listen to classical in even greater proportion to my other listening tastes than is usually my wont when utilizing other types of transducers (including dynamic speakers). Listening to a sonically good source component and recording (crucial with the Stax or any other revealing electrostats) makes me feel more musical, and thus tends to remind me that it was the love of music - not of audio per se - that drove me in the first place to search for the best affordable (or even unaffordable) means by which to get as close to classic (not just classicAL) PERFORMANCES (not recordings) that my ears will allow, and which those ears - nor anyone else's - will ever get to hear firsthand since many of the performers are dead or dying (many of those girls and guys drop like flies). Enjoy the sr-lambda, and when you eventually upgrade to the even more revealing Stax varieties, you might be tempted to keep the sr-lambda around (which I would have the financial option of doing if not for still being in school) just for the purpose of enjoying great recordings through electrostats with your loved or liked ones .

Cheers, big ears!

"I'll use the analogy of one watching a train enter one side of the tunnel..."

This is one of the best descriptions I've ever read of what Stax electrostats can do :) 

I have a Lambda Pro/727A and it's hard to imagine that even better transducers exist. I'm saving up for a pair of Omega 007s to give my imagination a little help