The 8 Best Electrostatic Headphones
This wiki has been updated 10 times since it was first published in January of 2019. Electrostatic headphones operate by passing current through an ultra-thin membrane, providing a highly detailed soundstage with almost unrivaled breadth. In fact, they compete with high-end dynamic drivers and planar magnetic ear speakers for the hearts of devout audiophiles worldwide. While you will need a specialized amplifier, these can offer a nearly unmatched listening experience. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 19, 2020:
As we've noted before, this can be a highly subjective category, but some of the most available options on the market also happen to be some of the best. You'll notice right away that there are quite a few models from one company on our list.
The Stax SR-009 are probably the most well-known electrostatics out there, and for good reason they're often considered the gold standard. Their slightly lower-priced relatives, the Stax SR-007A MK2, are almost as good, but not quite as lush in the low end. The Stax Lambda SR-507 are a classic pair that's been upgraded over the years, although they're not the most comfortable. If you're not interested in spending an absolute fortune but still want to get into this audiophile hobby, the Stax SR-L300 are almost certainly the choice for you. In fact, some users say they outperform models that cost multiple times as much. We also want to point out that in addition to the headphones themselves, you'll need to get your hands on an official Stax or certified Stax-compatibile amplifier.
Rounding out the over-ear style, the HifiMan Jade II are a good alternative to the popular industry leader, and although their plastic build isn't the most luxurious, it does ensure that they're light and good for long listening sessions. The MrSpeakers Voce by Dan Clark, meanwhile, are some of the only ones to rival the top-of-the-line Stax in terms of quality. Mr. Clark and his engineers have apparently gone all-out on this pair, and received high marks for their success.
All that said, these high-end headphones aren't for everyone. Keep in mind that you'll definitely need a specialized amplifier, and also that these aren't recommended for use in high-humidity regions. If you decide against electrostatics, but still want to experience the finest in headphone sound quality, planar magnetic headphones might be the way to go.
January 23, 2019:
Here's the thing about headphones, especially the really, really expensive ones: there isn't really a "best" pair for everyone, because the listening experience is highly subjective. But we're pretty certain that every audiophile, no matter how picky, will find a suitable model in this list. Plus, for what it's worth, newer doesn't always mean better. Electrostatics have actually been around for decades, though they aren't as well known as dynamic-driven, or even planar magnetic headphones. The Koss, for example, are a 28-year-old design, and to this day hold up as a fantastic (and inexpensive) choice. If you've spoken with your fellow audiophiles at any length on the subject, of course, the Stax SR-009s will undoubtedly have come up in conversation. They're widely seen as the standard by which most others are judged.
Whether you're listening to someone else's recorded guitar solo, or your own, live, while you play it, the Shure in-ears are almost impossible to beat, in terms of comfort and clarity. The Stax ear buds are also great quality, and surprisingly affordable, though they just don't offer the punch of very costly models. The Shures are great for listening to recorded tunes, but they really shine for on-stage musicians such as guitarists, whose instruments fall in the middle range. Stax's Lambda are an old standard, and they are quite good, although the physical shape of the ear cups doesn't play so nicely with everyone's head.
HifiMan's new Jade IIs, on the other hand, potentially offer a seriously massive soundstage — because the cans, themselves, are very, very large. Mitchell and Johnson makes a few hybrid pairs that can sound great with more types of music than standard electrostatics, due to the dynamic drivers inside them which focus on the bass notes. And while there's a good chance that Monoprice's latest offerings sound great on a budget, they're so new that it's difficult to find detailed reviews as to their quality, though the first impressions we've seen are quite positive.
Koss ESP950 This pair has been around for quite a while with only minor changes, which makes sense given their longstanding reputation for premium quality. If you're able to get your hands on a pair, you'll be in luck, because they're hard to find but also not that expensive when they are in stock. koss.com