Once upon a time, way back in the 1970s, a young teenager used to buy hi-fi magazines and pore over their pages lusting after items like Linn Sondek LP12 turntables and the legendary Stax Lambda electrostatic headphones. There was no way that teenager could afford those devices, but they were a dream for him because they were the best.
Fast forward 40 years and we find that the Linn Sondek LP12 is still considered the gold standard in turntable design but the Japanese Stax brand no longer exists. The name was acquired by Edifier in 2012. Although you can no longer buy a pair of Stax Lambda headphones, the tradition lives on in headphones bearing the Stax name that use a type of electrostatic technology to create sound and they’re still something special. Fortunately, they cost a lot less than those original Stax Lambda headphones which needed their own special power supply and cost a small fortune at the time.
The S3 are the first pair of wireless headphones in the new Edifier Stax Spirit product line and feature planar magnetic drivers. Most regular headphones use dynamic drivers consisting of a voice coil that vibrates a paper cone to produce sound. Planar magnetic drivers work differently and are aimed at audiophiles. Instead of a cone, planar magnetic headphones vibrate vertically oriented diaphragms or sheets of plastic that are vibrated using electromagnets.
The EqualMass diaphragms used in the S3 headphones can move large amounts of air with small movements, producing a more accurate sound, has less inertia and has much lower distortion than regular dynamic drivers. The sound is more dynamic with a faster response time and a quicker decay curve. This reproduces music so that it sounds livelier and more accurate. Planar magnetic drivers are also great at reproducing bass tones with clarity and accuracy. The overall sound of the S3 is superbly clean and clear.
The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 are probably the best wireless headphones I’ve heard to date. I’ve auditioned planar magnetic headphones before from the likes of Audeze and Oppo, but none of them were wireless. The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 headphones support SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive and aptX HD audio codecs with a Qualcomm Snapdragon Sound chipset in charge of the sound.
These are wonderfully comfortable headphones to wear and weigh 329g and can be folded up into a small size and stowed away in their zippered hard case for travel. They feel quite light to wear thanks to soft ear pads and a generously padded headband makes them comfortable to wear for long listening sessions. The S3 headphones are supplied with a spare pair of earpads made with cooling-mesh material for on-the-go or traveling use.
Because planar magnetic drivers require less energy to move the diaphragms the S3 can play for up to 80 hours on a single charge of the built-in rechargeable battery. That’s about the best battery life I think I’ve ever come across in a pair of wireless headphones. The battery can be recharged using a USB-C cable and takes around two hours to fully charge. There’s also a 3.5mm jack on the S3 for plugging in a regular audio lead in the unlikely event that the batteries run out of juice or the user wants to use the headphones with a traditional audio setup.
The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 have a single built-in noise-canceling microphone for taking and making phone calls, as well as for using voice assistants like Siri or Google Assistant. The headphones are also multipoint compatible so they can be connected to two devices at once. The basic functions of the headphones are controlled with a small cluster of multifunction buttons that can be used to adjust the volume, pause the music or skip to the next track. It’s a nice clean design that Edifier has chosen, although not quite as unique as the original Stax Lambda.
When it comes to sound, the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 are some of the best wireless headphones I’ve ever auditioned. The beauty of the planar magnetic drivers is the sheer excitement they inject into the music and an almost total lack of distortion. I can usually tell when headphones have low distortion because I can listen to them for long periods without getting a headache. When music is distorted, the brain must work harder to unscramble the audio waves reaching the eardrums. When listening to low-distortion audio, it’s like having a window wide open and breathing clean, fresh air. It makes listening to music so much better.
To put the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 through their paces, I listened to Rhiannon Giddens’ excellent track “Just The Two Of Us” streamed on Tidal. It’s a reworking of the classic Bill Withers song with a dynamic sound of the brass section from a New Orleans marching band. The recording is superb and the S3 beautifully articulated the sound with all the instruments separated perfectly to create a soundstage that was as close to being in the room with Ms. Giddens as she sang.
Bear in mind that I was listening to the track using the AAC codec that my iPhone supports, I was bowled over by the sound quality. If I’d been able to test out the aptX HD codec, I’m sure it would have been even better. I was able to test the headphones’ maximum potential by plugging them into my large audio setup using the supplied audio cable. Once again, the sound was awesome. I was surprised by how good the audio quality was over wireless. Edifier has implemented a great Bluetooth receiver in the Stax Spirit S3 thanks to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound.
Verdict: The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 wireless headphones are incredible and genuinely exciting to listen to. They sound like a breath of fresh air. The dynamism and vibrancy that Audeze-based planar magnetic technology brings to the music is breathtaking. The battery life is superb at 80 hours from a single charge, while the comfort levels are excellent thanks to those replaceable ear pads. I know the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 are not the same as those original Stax Lambda electrostatic headphones that I lusted after in my youth, but they do share the spirit of those luxury headphones. If great sound matters to you and you’re looking for a pair of wireless headphones with one of the best sounds around, the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 are a superb buy.
Pricing & Availability: The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 planar magnetic wireless headphones are available now from Amazon and cost $399.99 / £329.99 / €399.99.
More info: www.edifier.com
- Bluetooth: V5.2
- Bluetooth profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP
- Range: 10M
- Playtime: 80 hours
- Battery capacity: 1,500mAh
- Charging port: USB-TypeC
- Input: 5V/1.5A
- Charging Time: Around 2hrs
- Audio Codecs: aptX, aptX HD, aptX adaptive, SBC, AAC
- Driver: 89mm x 70mm Planar Magnetic Driver
- Impedance: 24Ω
- Sound Pressure Level: 94±3dB SPL (A)
- Frequency Response: 10Hz – 40KHz
- Microphones: 1
- Microphone type / size: MEMS 3.50 x 2.65 x 0.98mm
- Microphone Sensitivity: -37dBFS±1dBFS
- Weight: 329g
- Dimension: 208x110x255mm (L x W x H mm)