Is your dad one of those guys who still talks about his seventies stereo, lamenting its sale? After hot rods, but before video games, hi-fi systems were the measure of refinement in youth and young manhood. And if your dad was at any point immersed in this world, he knows what these Stax headphones are, and he covets them.
Stax headphones—the company calls them “earspeakers”—are electrostatic, which means they rely on totally different technology than other headphones, using a very thin diaphragm to conduct an electric charge that reproduces sound. I could go on for a few thousand words here about electrostatic headphones, but you really need to hear them. Put on a high-quality mastering of Who’s Next?—in the opening of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” you’ll hear Roger Daltry clear his throat and Keith Moon squeak his drum stool. I recently introduced a friend to my own Stax headphones. His mouth hung open for an hour as he picked up things he’d never heard before on albums he’d heard a hundred times.
When it comes to Stax shopping, the SRS-3100 have a few advantages that make them a perfect go-big dad’s day gift. First, they’re actually on the cheaper end of the Stax spectrum (if you have to ask, don’t) and second, the classic rectangular housing (the top-of-the-line Stax are now round) are retro cool and instantly iconic to younger Boomers and older Xers.
I have several pairs of Stax headphones that are a half-century old, but before recommending these I asked the company to loan me a pair of these, which they kindly shipped from Japan. They really are magic—there is nothing like them. Warm them up, put on your dad’s favorite album, and look away when he cries a little.