ES Labs ES1a (homage to the Stax SR Omega)

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by ivanrocks321, Jan 29, 2020.

  1. ivanrocks321

    ivanrocks321 Rando

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    Hey guys I was hunting for some rare stax on ebay one day and stumbled across a supposedly Stax SR-Omega clone! Naturally I was curious and asked the seller some details. Turns out this is by a company based out of Hong Kong who had been repairing and refurbishing various estat and vintage headphones for a bit a time before getting into the headphone biz. To be clear it is not a clone nor is it trying to be, instead it takes some ideas from the original omega from his exp fixing them. I contacted the company and worked out a loaner unit that I currently have on hand.

    The plan is it to review it, maybe setup local meet for ppl to try it or a loan tour. If you want a look at it the website is https://www.eslabhk.com/

    Currently I am in Brooklyn and can host a small mini meet if there is enough interest. I have a KGSSHV Carbon and a Kodachi hybrid tube amp and the stax SR009 and SR007mk1 and Kaldras RR1 Conquest for estat comparisons.

    Ill post some more thoughts as I have time to add them here.
     
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  2. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    You wont get much electrostat love around here, im afraid.

    The price on these translates to around ~ $1636 ? Not bad but I'd like to hear about the fit & finish, etc.

    Also interesting to me is their ES-Sigma reshelling service. I cant quite tell, but it looks like you ship them a 404 Lamba headphone and they put a 404 Sigma box on it, at a cost of $680. Cute to offer it as a service, they must 3d print the panels on demand. Not going to hit big in the US but I wonder if theres a demand for it in Asia,
     
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  3. ivanrocks321

    ivanrocks321 Rando

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    Thanks for heads up about not as much love for estats here, I was told that as well. but since I was able to get a loaner without a safety deposit i promised to at least attempt to give a few other a chance to it them for themselves.

    they do offer a Sigma Pro conversion kit that you can fit your existing SR404 by yourself or you can send it in. They also offer ready made Sigma/404 for a very reasonable price think last I asked it was about 800usd or so. I currently have my friend’s Sigma pro and it’s great but he’s not selling, I would have purchased the ES sigma but I decided to wait as he’s trying to make a clone of the now out of stock sigma pads instead of using the SR404 pads.

    I’ll post a few links that was sent to me they are in Chinese as there’s a few post on Erji.net with more technical details on the construction and a brief summary of how this pair came to be, basically he’s been fixing busted sr Omegas and decided to try to make a headphone after.

    ES1a Build quality:
    I’ll start from the cables, at first I thought ES lab was able to make flat cables or found a supplier when I got it. Thought this since the cable sleeve felt different from my SR009 and the 5 pin connector was clearly not stax one. However after email it turns out these are stax extension cables that have been modified, I’m assuming he used non stax connector on some pairs as he likely ordered the longest extension cable so some cables would need new connectors. Otherwise very nice cables, nice and low capacitance like it should be for estats.

    next some comments about ear pads, they are held in place with screws. They are made of a very nice lamb skin or sheepskin leather the stitching is pretty good. On my pair their is a slight cosmetic issue with the stitching placement on part of the seams but it’s not weak or anything just a bit odd, tho this can be a pre production unit as this pad I have is a new version that will replace the other two style pads that was mentioned on his site and the Eriji.net post. The pads appear to be the same thickness as the SR009 at it’s medium thickness part, these ear pads for the ES1a are slightly angled with the thickness a bit more in the back but is not to the degree of the SR009 or SR007. The foam used is nice but I’m not sure if the opening and depth on the inside is as roomy as the original omega but in either case it’s good for me and looks like it should be for most.

    about headband and cups, they headband arch is printed plastic as is the lambha style slider. Compared to the Stax sigma pro on hand It might be a a straight up clone for the most part. The part of the headband assembly that forks to half circles to attach to the cups however are CNC aluminum as are the ear cups themself.

    next I want to discuss the stators. ES labs decided on the same 90mm stator size and use of copper as well. Unlike the SR omega the stator are not of a mesh construction nor uses any kind of metal plating like gold plating that the SR009s and if I’m correct the SR omega used. Instead there was some kind of insulating layer applied as he described it, he mention it maybe some kind of acrylic or epoxy based coat but unsure as it was done by a company to meet this particular use case. Not sure if that mixture is secret or he never pressed for details. But a very interesting option I’m not sure what current estat does not do any plating.

    other bits like dust cover is traditional stax way, no new unconventional ways here unlike the Kaldas RR1 conquest. The wood box is nice but it feels like a softer wood, I don’t have my sr009 box on hand but from memory it’s like that soft about. So dings and stuff is very possible.

    the links to Erji:
    http://www.erji.net/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=2172045
    http://www.erji.net/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=2171070
    http://www.erji.net/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=2170411

    this is ES labs statement about how the SR009 and this ES1a differs from a email exchange, I’ll post my own impressions later on as I’m terrible at describing stuff.

    “Thank you for your enquiry

    ES-1a sounds more similar to omega than to 009. 009 has a higher density of music notes and more condensed while es1a is more airy. They two have a different bass presentation as well as soundstage presentation.”

    Photos added here:
    https://imgur.com/a/sFUOz0S

    Listening test:
    I will be conducting the comparisons off the KGSSHv Carbon with Golden reference PSU, I have access to other amps but ill state when its not the KGSSHv Carbon. I have another amp but its not in my hands yet, so until then KGSSHv Carbon will do. I will listen to a track from start to finish with each SR007, SR009, and The ES1a before moving to another track. Each headphone will be at the same volume level as well.

    - Cassandra Wilson Strange Fruit. I started the track with the SR007mk1 compared to the other 2 this was the most intimate sounding, for example if sounds if the staging is small but still very well placed vocals vs instruments. With SR009 the stage is larger than that of the SR007 but I feel at time stuff that's higher pitch including vocals seem to feel closer to me all the sudden. This makes me feel that the sense of stage is maybe artificial by having a bit more bump in the treble. The ES1a on this track had the best sense of staging it was a hair better than the SR009 but without some of that treble peaks at times. In terms of detail retrieval I felt all three was equal for this track. I think the sense of depth are all excellent but I feel that the ES1a is again very slightly more noticeable maybe since it sounds has a bigger stage to kind of expand into, if that makes any sense.

    -more tracks to come...


     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2020
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  4. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    Sounds like a traditional start-up headphone company all around, which is absolutely great IMO. Very interested to hear it.

    I'm not going to be able to read the erji.net posts im afraid :)

    Re the 404 Sigma: Since the 404 Lambda used the same driver as from the Sigma, I am assuming you send them a full Lambda ear speaker and they make a Sigma out of it for the price. I wonder if they can do it with the new Lambdas, or only old ones? I'm very tempted to do it, though I already have a working 404 Sigma.
     
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  5. elmoe

    elmoe Friend

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    Why not much electrostatic love? I had an SR404 back in the day and it was fantastic. Glad to see more companies going that route.
     
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  6. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    I love the electrostats, just not many people around SBAF seem to be into them. Its more a Head-case thing.

    I still have the SR 404 Sigmas & use them fairly often. Love to show them to people and watch them freak out, then admit they sound and feel great after listening :D
     
  7. elmoe

    elmoe Friend

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    Yeah they are definitely ugly looking but the sound is worth it, I miss mine.
     
  8. ivanrocks321

    ivanrocks321 Rando

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    some photo updates! check out the pads to see what I mean though it may just be a rough draft as they are a new design. Also on close inspection the pads are angled but very slightly and not uniform in thickness as I thought. The post are in Chinese but google translate kinda helps, there are some nice pics of the stators and details like the mylar thickness etc but it fairly technical for me to understand.


    about the ES Sigma/404 the price of around 800USD was for a complete unit with the 404 drivers and reuse of the 404 pads, cables and headband. Not a bad deal, considering if you got the kit or sent your own 404 it likely be the same or more in cost tbh.

    *edit I got photos but im not sure how to upload them from my pc here*
     
  9. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    Generally we link to an image hosting site. I put the file on imgur, then use the Image button above to add the "Direct Link" from that site, ala

    https://i.imgur.com/hGKLKxsl.png =

    [​IMG]
     
  10. ivanrocks321

    ivanrocks321 Rando

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    https://imgur.com/a/sFUOz0S

    Hope this works! let me know if its ok?

    PS for anyone attending Canjam NYC I will be attending for both days, and can bring them if anyone wants to try them out. [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2020
  11. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    Yep, I can see them there. Looks like a good quality, no nonsense build.
     
  12. ivanrocks321

    ivanrocks321 Rando

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    I will post be posting some photos on a few new amps from yet again a new startup but based here in the US later tonight hopefully. I will create a separate thread when I have more time with it. Part of my review for the ES1a will include using these new amps with it as well.

    there are two options both will be there for anyone who will attend the upcoming CJ NYC. Both units are made from a solid block of aluminum billet. both are tube hybrids and are 2 box solutions with a power supply separate from the amp. I have pre-ordered the smaller amp as it very compact and will use it for extended travel. The larger of the two has several design choices from the Stax T2 or at least the diy version of it. The issue with T2 was it was sort of unreliable and currently has many parts that are now unobtanium or near to it. These amps try to give you something that is not the T2 but should have some desirable traits of the t2 but still different while being reliable, serviceable and actually available.
     
  13. ivanrocks321

    ivanrocks321 Rando

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    ive started posting a few listening test above will try to add a few each day or so.
     
  14. ivanrocks321

    ivanrocks321 Rando

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    From ES Labs email about this:
    “ES-sigma is 3D printed, and l300,500,700 driver doesnt fit inside but it is not impossible to do it because I can remove the redundant frame of the driver but it requires dust free work = much more time, effort and risk. So 404 is recommended.”

    appears to be possible to fit the new L series drivers into the sigma body and it would be interesting to see how that does, it’s also nice if it works well it mean you don’t need to reply on old stock of 404 they are not around forever.
     
  15. ivanrocks321

    ivanrocks321 Rando

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    So today I had the pleasure of visiting a friend and doing a group testing of the ES1a along 3 different examples of the SR007mk1 and one SR009. We did listening mainly off the KGSSHv Carbon and a DIY T2. We had three pairs of SR007mk1 one mine and two his, each have different aging to the pads. I had mine replace with new ones at his place at the time so they are new, the other two are older with one being abit more broken in. With each of the SR007mk1 the tracks still held true when comparing to the ES1a. Overall he thought the ES1a had a very good build quality and was pleased with the entire package and no complaints about comfort.

    Listening test part 2:

    -Cassandra Wilson No more Blues and Twelve again, I felt mostly the same for part 1. in summary
    1. stage size ES1a>SR009>SR007
    2. general resolution equal
    3. fullness or overall sense of room reverb etc SR007>SR009>ES1a
    4. for timbre of instruments I don't feel im as able to make a good assessment since I can hardly claim im well train to spot what any given instruments sound like in atual real life, but one the other hand they all sound great but are different.

    for my friend it seemed we have a general agreement with the exception that he feels the ES1a sounds like as if the mic was placed slightly closer giving a more pronounce feel to things while the SR007 and SR009 had mics placed a little further away. I felt it the ES1a had mics placed about the same distance away but it was just that there was a bit more depth to the how instruments was placed away from you some feel closer some further. He noted that bass sounded fuller with better kind of room reverb that should be there but was lacking in the ES1a, however you do get a nice sense of air around whats going on. He felt the cymbals sounded more realistic on the ES1a they had more of a weight on first impact vs SR007mk1 without being as bright as the SR009.

    -Jimmy Hendricks Little Wing:

    the pattern of what I heard in the all three was the same as before. Here I asked him what he thought of timbre, for him he was impressed with how the ES1a rendered the electric guitar for him he thought the SR007 and SR009 was a bit soft for electric guitar and the ES1a did not have this issue, but here he finds the bass not full enough as he feels the room acoustics might have been traded for a more spacious presentation.

    Final thoughts we think this is a fantastic headphone! He has tried several current totl estats and was never truly impressed, however I was sure I was not struck with new gear syndrome when he put them on and was just smiling for good while. His opinion of these are the ES1a are absolutely right up there with some of the best estats. At the end of the day he still prefers the SR007mk1 and its presentation due his preference for that sense of a sound of a room but he can happily recommend them to anyone. All three was excellent and they all do things very well, there are some differences in presentation here and there but try them if you can to see whats a good fit for you. Another note the pricing on these he feels is very good for what you get, they are the least if you get a new pair of SR007 even bigger margin the SR009/SR009s.

    *Photos from day at friends placed added.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2020
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  16. shabta

    shabta Facebook Friend

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    Doesn't this thing weigh 650-700 grams?
     
  17. ivanrocks321

    ivanrocks321 Rando

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    On another site someone bought them and weighed them. Think it was 650grams. They are on the heavy side but I find the distribution of weight nice. The only comfort issue for me is it’s larger overall and I have a somewhat smaller head so it does move abit more than I think abit more easily on my head.
     
  18. shabta

    shabta Facebook Friend

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    That's ridiculously heavy. I wouldn't be able to wear them. Even 450 gram headphones are a problem for me. Even if people think it feels ok, I wager that long listening sessions will take a toll and later in life, you will regret it.
     
  19. ivanrocks321

    ivanrocks321 Rando

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    I just took the weight for myself and I’m getting 550grams not 650grams
     
  20. HAL9000

    HAL9000 Almost "Made"

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    Can you say anything about the amp you are using and the startup that makes it?
     

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