My first ever electrostatic headphone system was the Stax 3030 which I bought used locally in 2010. As a product, it is much older than that with a launch date of around 2003 with the SR-303 headphone and SRM-313 Pro Bias (and normal) energizer amp.
At the time of writing, both still work and let me tell you, this is not a ‘stayed on the shelf” handle with care” level of working. Rather, it is a ‘let’s throw this on the roof because my room is flooded’ quality of care. Stax headphones may creak, look a bit weird, but they are way more durable than I ever expected them to be.
At 16 years old, multiple owners and dodgy climatic conditions, color me impressed. Not the crowning glory in terms of sound quality, there are better Stax headphones out there then and now. However, it is still one I enjoy listening to from time to time when not glued to a STAX 007 MK2.
Fast forward 2019 and once again that familiar squared headphone shape is back for a review. This time it is their ‘way newer’, SR-L300 Limited headphones with an SRP of $899.
The SR-L300 Limited is just that, a limited edition SR-L300 with a fair amount of technical tweaks. It was developed in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of STAX foundation and officially there are only 800 units for sale worldwide. Shop around though as there does still seem to be some availability.
This is not simply a cosmetic overhaul of the cheaper SR-L300. The electrostatic drivers inside are plucked from the more expensive SR-L700 MK1 and tucked inside the L300 housing. In turn, the L300 housing seems to have been given a blacker shinier paint job with a commemorative gold STAX plate at the bottom to signify its limited edition run.
The pads are not L300 pads either, they seem to be L500 MK1 pads and as such better quality and thicker than its smaller sibling pads. You could argue that the SR-L300 Limited is like a slice of every L-Series MK1 headphone STAX sold in one neat package.
My assumption is with those L700 drivers, the L300 Limited is going to sound a lot closer to that than an L300. I believe the big difference between this driver and the L300 version is the superior damping of the stator with a second material bonded via heat diffusion.
STAX has called this a “MLER”, (Multi-Layer Elect Rode), ellipse sound element and something which they use on their higher Lambda series top models, (in this case the L700). The whole stators damping design should thus be the better driver for reducing unwanted resonance.
It is amazing how so little in the stock STAX design had changed in the last 15 years or more. Testimony I guess to the faith the company has in their unique “squared’ design. On closer inspection, there have been some minor tweaks to the build and of course, the big change is that driver inside.
My old Stax SR-303 has a bit of foam either side of a red ring driver whereas the L300 Limited (L700) drivers are all silver ringed with a thin film protection cover. With such wide-open grills, it is a much cleaner look than the older drivers. Over time, foam breaks up and crumbles away and it can look messy unless replaced.
At 323g the all-plastic build of the SR-300 Limited will give you a fairly lightweight feel to the SR-300 Limited though the majority of the weight is in the cups and not the headband. It does not seem durable and it does a tiny amount of creak when flexed but those used to STAX squared headphones will testify that’s pretty normal. The durability, in my experience, is much better than you think despite the plastic materials.
I do prefer STAX cans in black I must say. They just have a classier look than the olive variations with the matching felt flexible headphone band strap and the shimmer of gold on the STAX plate at the base of the cups.
The cups are a little deeper as are the artificial leather pads. I am told deeper and better quality than the L300 stock edition pads though I can’t actually do a direct comparison. Certainly. compared to my SR-303’s, the cups inner cavity is taller and the pads seem a little comfier with less ‘ear to driver’ contact.
They have also moved the little cup articulation ‘chock” from the top front of the cups to the top rear. That makes a huge amount of sense as the new position switches the cup swivel inwards and not outwards. Inwards means more fitting potential on heads and less wayward cup movement when placed on headphone stands.
Like all STAX cans, the SR-L300 Limited uses a non-detachable cable system with the traditional flat wire low-capacity wide build. If this is your first time to electrostatic headphones then the majority do look like this. The VOCE from MrSpeakers breaks the mold but it is the exception rather than the norm.
This is a 2.5m high-purity (presuming 5 or 7N) OFC wire, terminated with a pro-bias compatible 5-pin round plug. You also get a nice little dust cap for the plug to protect it from potential accidental bending or other types of unintended damage. You will not hear any microphonics from this cable, the quality is good.
The other little tweak I noticed between the L300 Limited cable socket and the older STAX models is the slight angular cable to cup join. On the old versions, they are quite straight and prone to a bit of twisting. The angular attachment seems to do a much better job avoiding unintended twists.
Comfort & Fit
Pressure displacement on the SR-L300 Limited is excellent. It feels lighter than its 323g weight suggests. There is a slight bias to lateral pressure due to the majority of the build weight bearing down on the cups. The clamping effect, however, is not that strong and keeps everything fairly secure without discomfort.
Vertical scalp pressure is minimal with the excellent slide-type arc outer headband adjuster and the wide felt headband strap underneath. You will not find any annoying pressure hotspots on the SR-L300 Limited headband assembly and there does seem to be plenty of adjustment for heads of most sizes.
The SR-L300 Limited’s elongated cups should not present too many fit issues to users. That additional internal cup cavity and padding depth is most welcome and helps keep my ears away from the driver enclosure walls which can often lead to discomfort over longer listening sessions.
The pads, though not that deep themselves, have enough depth combined with the cups angular tilt to alleviate any unwanted clamping pressure. The cups themselves have a nice degree of articulation both lateral and vertical to get a very comfortable fit.
Accessories & Packaging
STAX packaging never really shoots for a ‘retail shelf wow’ experience and truth be told this is a fairly basic unboxing experience. You could argue that it is about protection more than attention-grabbing with a white box and printed picture of the SR-L300 Limited with branding. I call it a “gentlemanly” look.
Inside you get a polystyrene enclosure ‘case’ that parts into a bottom and top and inside its contoured to hold the SR-L300 Limited which, in turn, are wrapped in a loose plastic wrap bag. You also get a multi-lingual STAX owner’s manual but nothing else.
If I was doing any sort of feedback I would argue that a set of small dust covers would have been nice since dust is the sworn enemy of electrostatic headphones. Something relatively cheap but incredibly useful like that would go a long way.