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Planar Magnetic Drivers For the Win – Review Geek


Rating:
9/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $400

edifier stax spirit s3 planar magnetic headphones propped up on the box it came in on a wooden desk
Sarah Chaney

Headphones with planar magnetic drivers are typically (but not always) super expensive, but Edifier’s Stax Spirit S3 cans offer a relatively affordable, compact alternative. These headphones boast quite a bit, and I’m happy to say they live up to the hype.

Here’s What We Like

  • Full, well-balanced sound
  • Extremely long battery life
  • Option of wired and wireless listening

And What We Don’t

  • No Active Noise Cancellation
  • Wired mode still uses battery
  • Pretty pricey

Compared to the rest of the company’s lineup, Edifier’s Stax Spirit S3 on-ear headphones are quite a pricey item at $400. Anyone who’s into tech knows that price doesn’t always equal quality. Luckily, with these headphones, that’s not the case! You can use the Stax Spirit S3s wirelessly or wired, which sound amazing in both modes. The only lacking feature I would’ve loved to see is ANC, but more on this later.

Design and Build: A Premium Look and Feel

With a whopping $400 price tag, Edifier’s Stax Spirit S3s looked and felt exactly like I expected them to. This product screamed premium, from the packaging to the extra goodies to the actual headphones themselves. While there are certainly headphones out there that cost over $1,000 and are usually reserved for true audiophiles and music professionals, the Stax Spirit S3s are premium for the average everyday user.

Because the headphones come neatly packed in the travel case, the first thing I noticed was its compact form factor. Looking at them folded up, it was pretty impressive that Edifier tucked planar magnetic tech in there. They don’t look much bigger, if at all, than a pair of dynamic driver headphones.

Slipping them out of the travel case, I saw the design on the ear cup exterior kind of shimmering in the light; it’s an almost iridescent, checkered design with the Edifier logo in the center. Many headphones with planar magnetic drivers inside aren’t super attractive, so I loved to see a cool design that wasn’t too flashy on these bad boys.

edifier stax spirit s3 planar magnetic headphones on a wooden desk
Sarah Chaney

When I first saw how much padding the leather ear cushions had, I was worried that they would feel awkward on my tiny head. Thankfully, they felt perfect. I also have small ears, so many over-ear headphones don’t touch the top or bottom of my ear, but they squish them and end up causing discomfort after an hour or two. With Edifier’s Stax Spirit S3 headphones, this didn’t happen, and I can wear them for such a long time with absolutely no discomfort.

I did swap out the leather ear cushions that came on the headphones for the cooling mesh ear cushions Edifier includes with your purchase. I prefer these cooling mesh ear cushions because they have a soft, foamy feel and seem to fit my head better. I imagine that most people will probably choose the cooling mesh cushions over the leather ones; I even had my husband try on both, and he loved the mesh ones more!

In addition to the two pairs of ear cushions you get, you’ll also get a travel case, an audio jack converter (3.5mm to 6.35mm), an aux cable to use it wired, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, and an ear cushion “guitar pick” that helps you swap the cushions. I tried to switch the ear cushions with my hands, but after a few minutes, I gave in and used the pick Edifier included; it was so much easier, and I had them swapped in seconds.

edifier stax spirit s3 planar magnetic headphones folded up compactly on a wooden desk
Sarah Chaney

The left earcup has a USB-C port for charging. I love to see USB-C slowly become the standard for all tech because it’s fast and easily interchangeable with other devices. Then, the right earcup houses everything you’ll use regularly. There are volume up and down controls and the on/off button in between. If you hold down the on/off button, it goes into Bluetooth (5.2) pairing mode. On the right side, there’s also the audio jack if you want to use the headphones in wired mode.

While its external components are pretty snazzy, the internal components are even more impressive. A lot of the most popular headphones on the market right now use dynamic drivers, which aren’t bad and usually thrive in the bass department, but Edifier’s Stax Spirit S3 headphones use planar magnetic drivers.

If you want to read up on a more in-depth explanation of planar magnetic drivers, we’ve got you covered. But essentially, planar magnetic headphones create a crisper, cleaner sound with less distortion and a wider dynamic range. This sounds fantastic on paper, but how great do these headphones actually sound?

Sound Quality: Well-Balanced and Full

The newest headphones I have to compare the Stax Spirit S3s to are Sony’s WH-1000MX4s, largely regarded as some of the best until the latest version was released, the WH-1000MX5s. (Sony, please name your headphones something easier to write, say, and remember.) The Stax Spirit S3s sounded much fuller, with no detectable distortion.

Every song I listened to sounded incredibly clear. These headphones make bass and mid notes stand out and give you the full picture of what a song is supposed to sound like. On certain songs, the highs can be somewhat aggressive if you’re used to bass-heavy headphones, but I enjoyed the well-balanced sound and being able to hear all the nuances of my favorite songs.

edifier stax spirit s3 planar magnetic headphones view of the inner part of the ear hole
Sarah Chaney

Many headphones with planar magnetic drivers inside have an open-back design, like the Audeze LCD-1 cans we reviewed. The Stax Spirit S3s, however, are closed-back but still have some sound leakage due to a small open area tucked away when the ear cup is pushed all the way back. When you put the headphones on to listen to a song, this tiny open area is hidden, covered by a plastic piece in the frame. I had to turn my music up to a volume level I would never use before my husband could hear the song through my headphones.

These headphones feel like you’re in the studio while the song is being recorded or mixed. Instead of hearing a song as a whole, you can single out individual instruments and then hear how they mesh together. I wouldn’t call myself an audio fanatic, so take this as you will, but listening to music with the Stax Spirit S3s is the best and clearest music has ever sounded up to this point in my life.

Through the Edifier Connect app (Android/iOS), you can switch between three different sound effects: Classic, Hi-Fi, and Stax. When you first turn on the headphones, the sound effect is Classic, and honestly, that’s my favorite. The Classic sound effect is the most balanced, though it offers the most clarity with bass and gives songs a fuller feel. Hi-Fi makes the mids more pronounced but lessens the strength of bass and treble. The Stax effect puts more of an emphasis on higher notes but evens it out with more bass than the Hi-Fi effect.

The app also allows you to easily turn Game Mode on and off, which controls the amount of latency you’ll experience. However, you don’t need the app to enable and disable Game Mode. Using the button between the volume up/down controls on the right ear cup, you can press it three times to turn Game Mode on and another three times to turn it off. You’ll hear confirmation through the headphones when it’s been turned on or off.

Battery Life: Incredibly Long

Although the sound quality is the top feature of Edifier’s Stax Spirit S3 headphones, its battery life is second best. These headphones have a 1500mAh battery with an estimated life of 80 hours, which is more than you’d see from well-known brands like Sony or Beats.

While I never actually ran the headphones down to the end of their battery life, I can certainly tell that these will last for a while before needing a charge. After listening to music off and on all day, the battery was at around 90%. These headphones are a fantastic pick if you’re going on a long flight or road trip (or don’t want to charge your headphones every day).

The extra battery life comes in handy when you want to use the headphones in wired mode because, unlike many other headphones that offer both wireless and wired modes, the Stax Spirit S3s require battery power in wired mode. This is due to its planar magnetic design that needs battery power to run properly.

Conclusion: If You’re Okay Without ANC, Check These Out!

Overall, the Stax Spirit S3 is an amazing pair of headphones that puts premium planar magnetic drivers at a price that more of the public can afford. Since there are great headphones out there for $50, I can’t say that these headphones are affordable as a blanket statement, but they are relatively affordable compared to other high-end planar magnetic headphones.

They have a well-balanced sound (right out of the box!) that immersed me in a way I hadn’t experienced before. If all you want are headphones that are super heavy on bass, you can probably find a cheaper option out there that’s good enough. But if you want a full, studio-like sound, you won’t regret getting these. The only time I wouldn’t recommend them is if you specifically want Active Noise Cancellation in your headphones. Otherwise, these are excellent.

Here’s What We Like

  • Full, well-balanced sound
  • Extremely long battery life
  • Option of wired and wireless listening

And What We Don’t

  • No Active Noise Cancellation
  • Wired mode still uses battery
  • Pretty pricey





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