The Stax SR-L700MK2 is a new-generation SR-Lambda series open-back electrostatic headphone with detachable cables. It is priced at $1649.00
Disclaimer: The Stax SR-L700MK2 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Stax for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about the Stax products we previously reviewed on Headfonics click here.
Note, this review follows our latest scoring guidelines which you can read up on here.
What is going on here? How the heck did the SR-L700MK2 slip under my radar all this time is beyond my understanding. A subscriber asked me to review this model and I replied with…huh!? MKII? What! Where?! And like the raptor in Jurassic Park who ate the guy with the hat from the side, I was in turn sideswiped by this experience. Clever girl!
The Stax SR-L700MK2 isn’t supremely new, but newish enough for me to consider it relatively new and interesting to talk about. As an owner of the Stax SR-007MK2, this was a real treat for me and now Stax has me questioning my audio setup choices…again.
“Electrostatics are the cream of the crop, nobody does it better!” – ‘Machoman’ Randy Savage.
That is a real quote, and certainly not something I made up. But, in all seriousness, the electrostatic experience is second to none and the literal alpha of the audio world, at least, in my opinion. And let’s be real, in most opinions too.
The unique characteristics of this type of audio driver are vividly different from typical Dynamic and Planar driver types. In the Electrostatic world, lushness, softness, and a uniquely effortless tonality are front and center.
Stax is the OG when it comes to this type of tech. Sure, other companies like Hifiman and even Audeze came later to introduce their own Electrostatic designs, but those are stories for another time and when I become a millionaire.
Basically, the technology here is really old and not a new thing, it just happens to be the most effortless in tonality out of what is possible right now on planet Earth that we are aware of. But, if we are getting literal, the MKII is a new generation Lambada from this company, and that is a good thing.
Stax headphones are open in design, which means they leak pretty much all the sound around them to anyone nearby. But, unless you are me, odds are good you aren’t walking around the city with a Stax headphones on your head.
With that in mind, the SR-L700MK2 is very lightweight but sadly made of a very cheap feeling plastic-like material. And that makes me sad on the inside. As great as the headphone sounds and can perform, the build quality is lacking. I need this to be revised with much better build materials that are reflective of the price tag.
COMFORT & ISOLATION
There is no isolation, it is open back. As far as comfort goes, high marks. The headphone doesn’t clamp harshly either. This is a supremely comfortable headphone, something I enjoyed wearing all day long into the next day.
And yep, I did actually do that in my testing phase on the first day. I haven’t run across a newer era Stax headphone that I considered uncomfortable, so this doesn’t surprise me at all that this MK700 MKII is a higher tier in the comfy department.
Side note: I do have to talk briefly about the Stax 007’s lacking comfort compared to this model. I highly prefer the comfort feel of the SR-L700MK2 to the original Stax 009 and 007 headband and earcup system.
Those older models simply have an odd-angled approach to the area just below your earlobes. It is a sharp angle, that makes the earpads feel like they are not flush on your head. The SR-L700MK2 doesn’t have that problem and I truly want the 009 and 007 headband system revamped into the Lambada design from here on. Just my subjective preference there.
The SR-L700MK2 has a flat ribbon-style cable that is entirely detachable. Yay! What I dislike about it, is the length factor, and that again is for subjective reasons. I have a Stax D10 portable DAC and amp, so I move around the day a lot with this 007 + D10 on my head.
And just like the 007, I feel the stock cable is too long on the SR-L700MK2. Great for those who never move, but not good for those who bought the D10 to use on the go or around the house and such. Not a big deal at all, the stock cable is a fantastic and strong feeling, without being intrusive.
It has zero microphonics issues. I can move around and not hear any bleed of the cable noise in my music. Ribbon style generally doesn’t have any problems in this area, so I am happy that Stax opted to keep the flat ribbon style. Of course, it is terminated in an electrostatic style adapter, so you obviously can’t use it on anything but an electrostatic amplifier.
PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES
The Stax SR-L700MK2 comes in a fairly standard box and doesn’t include any hard case as the 007 did. Inside of the box, you get a Lego-style foam cut out that connects together and pops off its base to reveal the headphone and the cable inside. The cable comes neatly wrapped though, so…that’s neat! Beyond that, not much else going on here to talk about.
The SR-L700MK2 is a wonderfully warm feeling. Bass on this model is not as potent and deep as the 007 MKII, but what is there is absolutely enjoyable and highly musical. That seems to be the gist of the game here with this model, just a pure fun factor.
The 007 sounds less warm in tone but offers more quantity. Meaning, the 007 feels more clinical in bass tone, and the SR-L700MK2 feels “warmer”, woolier.
Now…if you know me, you’ll know this is the type of bass tone I want. And truly, it really satisfies me on a subjective level. I want a mix of box; I want the 007 quantity with the SR-L700MK2’s tonality. If I had that, I’d be the happiest dude around town.
As for quality, the experience is thickened in comparison to the Sennheiser HD800, but also right on par with it. And again, that is a common trend here in this review. The SR-L700MK2 is pretty much the best competition for the HD800 right now that I can think of.
Yet, it offers much more quantity, much better and more detailed tonality, and a far more complex and interesting texture. I really enjoy this low end on this Stax. Great stuff here, never thought I’d like a cheaper model in ways more than the top model beyond it, but here we are despite that…
The SR-L700MK2 is more forward in the midrange than the 007 MKII and more along the lines of the Stax 009 that I recall from memory. It is very forward, very bloomed, and mid-focused.
That means vocals sound big and broad like the vocalist is front and center, and everything else is out to the side or behind the vocalist. I love the Audio Technica ES-W series models, which are my favorite mid-range headphones, but that title is now stripped and given to the Stax SR-L700MK2 for my absolute favorite vocal experience that I have ever heard.
And yes, I just said ever. Any price range. Just happens now to be in the $1600 tier with this newer Stax model.
The upper midrange is energetic and fun, lacking a sense of nasalness that is damned near impossible to achieve without ruining the treble. How Stax did that, I do not know. But perhaps it has something to do with it being an electrostatic model in design that helped with this.
The upper mids are so amazing separated from the treble compared to other non-electrostatics (like the HD800), that I begin to question my sanity. Mids are thick, vivid, and so creamy effortless thanks to that electrostatic design setup. Yummy is the word I want to use and I look at my 007 and question myself again, as that model doesn’t have this type of presentation.
Interestingly enough, the SR-L700MK2 is quite reserved and light on the top side. Lacking an intense sparkle factor of the older sibling 007 and 009, but instead, opting for a more relaxed and easy-going experience that is non-fatiguing.
Side by side with the HD800, the SR-L700MK2 is much softer, clearer, and more focused. The 007 also is noticeably harsher, yet there is much more quantity offered. Sometimes, it bites a little. But the SR-L700MK2 hits softer offers less physical substance.
In terms of $1600 tier models out yonder, I personally feel this Stax model offers one of the more chill and relaxed experiences out there, which were more focused on broad midrange than upper treble cue possibilities.
Being able to listen for hours is a nice thing and something I could not do on my 009, so I moved to the more fun and musical 007 MKII. And now, the SR-L700MK2 is solid competition for the 007 in regard to what I consider fun factor and musicality on the top side.
What treble is there, is non-hostile, and a pleasure to listen to for hours. Not many $1600 have raw fidelity on this level to begin with, so I can see why others want more quantity. I don’t. This is just how I like it.
The SR-L700MK2 has a noticeably larger sound stage than the 007 and a much smaller one than the HD800. Not really surprising there, but the SR-L700MK2’s best strength in imaging is the width factor.
It is a very, very wide feeling and absolutely dwarfs the 007’s width factor. Yep, the 007 sounds less forward and far smaller overall. However, the realism factor on the 007 and the depth of field is much better than the SR-L700MK2.
The width factor was a total shock to me, I didn’t expect it to house that type of sound when my mind referenced the past Stax models I’ve had and tested. The 009 and 007 sound like hyper-realistic bubbles of equal height and width, but with insane detail in the depth of field factor.
This SR-L700MK2 has a totally different sound. It is wider than tall, and not as deep feeling. The air factor is very good for an electrostatic, just amazing how far statics have come recently. Of course, it isn’t an HD800, but come on, the sound field here is going to impress you if you aren’t ready for it. You’ll say, “this is electrostatic?”
And the answer is yep.
The SRM-700T amplifier ($3400) was included in my loaner pack, and I can safely say that the 700T new-gen model is a damned monster. The difference between the portable and tiny Stax SRM-D10 I have here and the 700T full-size electrostatic amp is quite large in the depth of field and width factor.
The 700T offers way more imaging, but the D10 is not a slouch when it is being used as a DAC out of a computer either. To have this level of quality on the go with the D10 is a godsend! Really now? A Stax amp you can walk around with? Dear god…
The SR-L700MK2 scaled up with the SRM-700T coming off the D10, and of course, you can plug in two headphones on the big model so comparing the 007 to the SR-L700MK2 was a ton of fun.
Sadly, it was more difficult to do for me, due to the SR-L700MK2 being much more efficient and playing much louder than the 007 through the same amplifier. Dialing in the volume to match was a chore, but it was fun.
Since you can’t use the electrostatic models on anything but electrostatic amps, that limits my ability to test of course. All I had access to was the SRM-700T and my SRM-D10.
But the tone of the SR-L700MK2 really came to life when I used my Burson Conductor 3 as a DAC and ran it into the SRM 700T. Once I did that, I really didn’t want to give up the 700T back to Stax. And I highly considered selling off my 007.
I will trade realistic sound for better warmth in tone and width factor, which are both more abundant on the SR-L700MK2.
The SR-007MK2 is more focused, less warm, less wide feeling, but the 007 has noticeably more clarity and purity across the board. The 007 realism factor is kind of untouchable here. It is also much harder to drive than the SR-L700MK2 was on the SRM-700T amplifier.
Despite that, the tone of the SR-L700MK2 is, in my musically inclined tonality preference-based opinion, much better. The more “enjoyable” set is the LK700 if you do not care about the purity factor and just want the best and most fun sound out there. If you want the purer and more realistic feel to the imaging experience and raw quality, the 007 is for you.
The 007 doesn’t have as much bass up front, meaning the SR-L700MK2 feels like it has more bass most of the time until you compare directly and you see that the bass on the 007 dips way further and feels much deeper when the track calls for it. The SR-L700MK2’s low end is more omnipresent, but the 007 lacks that feature and can reach much lower.
BEYERDYNAMIC T5 3RD GENERATION
The beyerdynamic T5 3rd Generation is a $999 dynamic, yes, but still very good, and if you had to compare it, the 007 and the T5 are similarly physically set up with a very intimate bubble, whereas the SR-L700MK2 is more wide feeling and warm on the low end.
The purity factor on the SR-L700MK2 is leagues ahead in bass and midrange, but I felt the T5 had a more interesting and livelier treble factor.
DROP + SENNHEISER HD 8XX
A fair comparison in some ways, and not in others. While the HD8XX is a much more spacious feeling, I felt the SR-L700MK2 offers more of a fun factor, more enjoyability, and better bass response. The Stax is also a much more forward and elegant feeling vs the harsher impact and thin feel of the HD8XX in tonality.
The Stax SR-L700MK2 is absurdly good for the price. Made me want to potentially trade in my 007 MKII. Or really, sell off my HD800 and other things to afford a total Stax setup, the 007 for when I want realism, and the SR-L700MK2 when I just want to ignore life and have fun.
This headphone is absurdly musical, but don’t take that as it was measured in an exaggerative way. It is still very pure in quality. The tone of the headphone is just sublime, easily my new favorite of all time. Makes me want to buy the SRM 700T and their new expensive model that is better than the 009 now just to see if that one is like the SR-L700MK2.
STAX SR-L700MK2 SPECIFICATIONS
- Fixed electrode: MLER (Multi-Layer Electrodes)
- Attached cable conductor: 6N(99.9999%)OFC + silver-plated annealed copper wire
- Earpad: genuine sheep leather (skin touching portion), artificial leather (surrounding portion)
- Weight: 371g、508g (including cable)
- Type: push-pull electrostatic sound element, open-air type enclosure
- Sound element shape: oval
- Frequency response: 7 – 41,000Hz
- Electrostatic capacitance: 110pF
- Impedance: 145k Ω
- Sound pressure sensitivity: 101dB
- Bias voltage: 580V DC
- Cable: parallel 6-strand, low-capacity wide cable
- Cable length: 2.5m full length