Since their flat-diaphragm design allows for great levels of detail and dynamics, planar magnetic headphones have long been at the top of the high-fidelity audio world. The most recent planar magnetic headphones we evaluated are the over-ear Edifier Stax Spirit S3 ($399.99) headphones, and they stand out because they provide both wired and wireless listening options. Interestingly, they don’t support the AAC codec, thus iOS users are forced to use SBC-grade audio over Bluetooth, despite the fact that they produce fantastic sound. We’d also really like to see EQ that can be customized and a higher-quality build at this price. The Monolith M1070C ($399.99) and the HiFiMan Ananda ($999, but frequently on sale for much less) are two of our favorite planar models if you’re willing to choose non-wireless headphones.
NO AAC SUPPORT, MEDIAN DESIGN The circumaural Stax Spirit S3 headphones are available in black with a gold logo on each earcup’s outer panel. They predominantly use carbon fiber detailing and basic, smudge-prone hard plastic. They feel far from opulent and have a somewhat antiquated appearance. They are at ease, which is fantastic news. The headband and earpads are lined with faux leather and have a lot of memory foam.
Image 1 in Image 2 A frequency range of 10Hz to 40KHz is delivered internally by 3.5 by 2.75 inch planar magnetic speakers with a 24-ohm impedance. The AptX, AptX HD, AptX Adaptive, and SBC codecs are supported, however AAC is not. The headphones are Bluetooth 5.2 compliant. AAC support was reportedly scheduled to be included at some time, but an Edifier representative said that a licensing arrangement expired and the firm has no plans to extend it. Since the SBC codec is the only other wireless streaming option, iOS users should probably search elsewhere.
On the right earcup, there is a multipurpose three-button panel that houses all of the on-ear controls. The majority of functions are controlled via the center button, including switching between low-latency game mode and low-latency call management, power and pairing (push and hold), playback (one press), call management (also one press), voice management (double press), and playback (three presses). Track navigation and volume are controlled via the two outside buttons plus and minus (long press). We got fairly sick of having both features on the same button in 2022 because it makes it easy to mistakenly skip a track when you meant to adjust the level. In addition, it was occasionally difficult to tell whether we were pushing the three-piece panel’s central multifunction portion or one of the outer buttons, resulting in volume adjustments when we intended to pause playback. Although the controls aren’t horrible, we would have expected a better design and even some capacitive touch screens for the price.
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4 The headphones for Excellent Edifier fold into a hard-shell zip-up case. The headphones cannot be used in passive mode, thus the box also includes two extra earpads with a technical fabric designed to dissipate heat and a fabric-lined 3.5mm audio cable (without an inbuilt remote) for wired (but powered) listening. In our testing, both sets of earpads have a pleasant feel, and we appreciate the two little nylon drawstring bags provided for storing the extra pads. Along with a quarter-inch headphone jack adapter for stereos and professional equipment, you also receive a tool like a guitar pick to aid in removing the pads.
It’s impressive that the firm claims the Stax Spirit S3 headphones can last for 80 hours on a single charge, although your mileage may vary depending on your usual volume level.
CONNECT TO EDIFIER APP EXPERIENCE You may modify the on-ear controls, update the firmware, and adjust the timed shutdown settings using the Edifier Connect app, which is available for iOS and Android. Depending on the pair of earpads you select, you can also alternate between two sound characteristics. When you change modes, you can notice a minor shift in the bass response tuning, but it’s a small difference.
5 (Source: PCMag) But it’s rather odd that an app with such granular sound features omits to offer an adjustable EQ. Instead, it provides three fixed EQ modes—Classic, Hi-Fi, and Stax—that cannot be changed. Due to how much the other two settings sculpt the bass and treble, we advise staying with the Classic setting.
AUTHENTIC, BALANCED AUDIO The Stax Spirit S3 headphones sound similar when used in wired and wireless modes, however we think the latter may have a little deeper bass. Overall, they have a strong bias toward accuracy.
The headphones give strong bass depth on songs with heavy sub-bass content, such as The Knife’s Silent Shout, which doesn’t distort at maximum volume but still sounds complete at lower volumes. The track’s detailed and well-balanced highs work well with the lows.
A tune by Bill Callahan called Drover, which has far less deep bass in the mix, offers us a better notion of the sound. Here, the drums have a little more low-frequency presence, but not too much; as a result, they feel full and organic. The higher-register acoustic strums and percussive hits sound gorgeous and bright, and Callahan’s baritone vocals achieve the perfect balance of low-mid richness and high-mid treble edge. Although the tape hiss may be audible more than usual in the background, the lows are sufficient to counteract the overall brightness of the recording.
6 (Photo by Tim Gideon) No Church in the Wild by Jay-Z and Kanye West gives the kick drum loop just the right amount of high-mid presence, preserving the punch of its onslaught. The background hiss and crackle of the vinyl also advances at this point. Although the sub-bass feels less forceful than it does through some bass-focused headphones, the sub-bass synth hits that break up the pace come across with good depth. The deepest lows are a little faint, but the lows don’t sound thin. The vocals are clean, sibilant-free, and have a crisp, clear sound.
Orchestral pieces achieve the perfect harmony of lows and highs, as in the opening scene of John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary. The higher-register brass, strings, and vocals continue to command attention, yet the lower-register instrumentation still sounds rich and complete.
The mic array has a robust sound and might use some high-mid sharpness. You shouldn’t experience any call quality issues if you have a strong cell signal.
Excellent audio in a lackluster package The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 headphones undoubtedly deliver excellent audio, which is essentially what we’re basing our rating on. We wished they provided AAC support, EQ that could be adjusted, and a better-built product. We like the Monolith M1070C and the Audeze LCD-1, both wired planar magnetic devices with outstanding sound quality, for around the same amount of money. The HiFiMan Ananda are still our favorite planar magnetic headphones, and they are frequently offered for several hundred dollars cheaper than their exorbitant retail price.
3.5 Edifier Stax Spirit
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$399.99 Pros Rich bass, superb dynamics, and accurate detail With two different earpad options, the fit is comfortable. Listening via wired and wireless Cons High cost no AAC support, no EQ controls dreadful design the conclusion Magnetic planar edifier For Android users, Stax Spirit S3 headphones provide high-resolution streaming with superb sound quality, however they do not support AAC on Apple devices.
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