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  1. Stax Audio of Japan was founded in 1938 to make electronic equipment and in 1959, they released the first ever electrostatic (ES) stereo, high-fidelity headphones (Stax calls them “Earspeakers”), the SR-1. Since then, Stax has gone through a number of owners, and business models. They have made everything from amplifiers to CD players to DACs. In the 1980’s Stax made a fairly impressive line of electrostatic speakers and they were very highly regarded. Today, Stax is owned by a Hong-Kong based company, Edifier International Ltd, but the manufacturing of Stax equipment is still done in Japan. T
  2. Linear Tube Audio or LTA, is an American company based in Takoma Park Maryland, a suburb of Washington DC. The company, which was founded in 2015 by engineer Mark Schneider, specializes in tube-based audio amplifiers employing David Berning’s patented ZOTL output-transformer-less amplifier designs. Most of LTA’s amplifiers are low-power offerings of 10 to 20 Watts per channel, and their biggest amps are a design providing about 50 Watts per channel. LTA sells only direct-to-consumer and has no dealer network. Customers deal directly with the manufacturer. The L
  3. Electrostatic headphones have been with us for a long time. The Japanese company Stax (not to be confused with the record label) started making stereophonic ES 'phones with the introduction of the SR-1 in 1960 and by the late sixties, Koss was making their flagship model, the ESP-9. I had a pair of these puppies and found them wanting. While Stax was selling a system consisting of a a pair of phones and a combination tube amplifier and a polarizing power supply designed to be fed audio from a line-level input, the Koss ESP-9s had only the power supply. The audio was supplied by one's power amp
  4. When most Audiophiles see or hear the word “Stax” they conjure up in their minds lots and lots of dollar, euro, or pound sterling signs floating before their eyes. And not without good reason. A pair of the Stax “flagship” model headphones, the SR-900S is $4,500 (all prices given are US dollars) and the SRT-700T (for tube) or SRT-700S (for solid state) energizer/amp is $3,500. That makes electrostatic headphone listening a pretty expensive proposition to most of us working stiffs. At one time (and not so long ago at that) $8,000 was a lot of money to spend to listen to headphones. Today, the l
  5. There seems to be no end in sight for the significant gains portable audio has seen in the past few years in terms of both sound quality and feature sets. The last big hurdle seems to tackle the elusive integration of tubes. A few desktop units from Woo Audio and others have trickled out into the market but a more portable solution hasn’t really gained significant steam in the public consciousness. Portland-based ALO has introduced several variations on this theme with their original Continental and subsequent Pan Am models, but has since halted production to focus on their new portable flagsh
  6. Rocky Mountain Audiofest 2011 was the funnest show I've been to in recent memory even though I missed covering a few floors as time ran out Sunday afternoon. I'm not sure if attendance was up, down, or the same as previous years but I had a great time talking to everyone who made the show. I did much more talking than listening to music at RMAF 2011. The C.A.P.S. v2.0 seminar was really fun as was the Windows seminar in the AudioQuest suite. There were a few new products at RMAF this year and a few old products with Series 2 type upgrades. Most impressive were the new products from Peachtree A
  7. At Chris’s request, I’ve consolidated my contemporaneous postings about RMAF into this show report. This is my second year attending RMAF at this venue, and like last year, it was very enjoyable. With the benefit of past experience, I was able to organize my time better, so got to see more of the rooms and exhibits than I did last year. Before I get any further, a word about what this report is, and what it isn’t. It IS a highly personal chronicle of my experience at RMAF. It ISN’T a preplanned show report, as the idea of publishing this on the CA front page came after the show was
  8. The first day of RMAF 2012 I spent the majority of my time in the expansive CanJam area. It's always fun to see and hear elaborate headphone systems capable of great sound. I'm also looking for a new pair of headphones thus my interest in this area was even greater than previous years. I spent a considerable amount of time at the Moon Audio booth listening to the Fostex TH-900 Premium Reference Headphones. I like that these phones are closed-back allowing me to listen in areas where the noise from an open-back headphone might be annoying to those around me. Paired with the Bryston stack of BDP
  9. The Oppo HA-1 is a harvester of many tricks, so many in fact that it is almost unfair to label it strictly a headphone amplifier as the acronym in the name suggests. It really stretches the boundaries of inputs, outputs and digital conversion all within a reasonable amount of desktop real estate. As with all things Oppo, attention to detail appears to be a top priority, even down to the packaging. In a market where the focus on sound quality can allow manufacturers to slip by with off-the-shelf interfaces and external design, the Oppo ship is watertight. In rare form for most HiFi equipme
  10. As a follow up to the recently released Auralic VEGA Dac, designer Xuanqian Wang decided to give his Taurus balanced headphone amplifier a refresh with the newest MkII revision ($1,899). The new version employs the same silver minimalist stylings as the VEGA and allows for both single ended and balanced headphone connections. As an added bonus he chose to include a pair of SE and balanced outputs, so the Taurus MkII is free to take on pre amplifier responsibilities as well. I am a big fan of the VEGAs design and build. The entire unit felt well kempt and detail-oriented. Likewise the Taurus is
  11. For those not familiar with Woo Audio’s offerings, the USA-based company has been making high performance loudspeaker and headphone amplifiers for several years out of New York. Owner Jack Woo has successfully piloted the company and built a substantial reputation for quality-made tube stage amplifiers. While the full product rundown includes loudspeaker implementations, most of Woo’s foothold in the marketplace comes directly from its large, perfectly incremental headphone amplifier product line. From their entry level single-ended OTL WA3 amp ($599) to the behemoth WA234 monoblocks ($15,900)
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