Planar magnetic headphones are well-known for delivering details and dynamics beyond what normal headphones and gaming headsets can provide. With a good pair, they'll even let you hear details you didn't know were there, so whether you're gaming or listening to music, they're a compelling option well worth considering. The Edifier STAX Spirit S3 promise all of that plus high-quality Bluetooth wireless, outstanding battery life, and the option to listen wired. But at $399, they're on the higher end of the price spectrum. Are they worth buying? That's the question we're out to answer in this review.
- Current Price: $399.99 (Amazon)
- Bluetooth version: V5.2
- Audio codecs: Qualcomm® aptX™ Adaptive, Qualcomm® aptX™ HD, Qualcomm® aptX™, SBC
- Driver unit: 89mm*70mm Planar Magnetic Driver
- Playtime: 80hrs
- Charging time: 1.5 hours
- Charging port: USB-TypeC
- Battery capacity: 1500mAh
- Input: 5V/1.5A
- Mircophones: 1
- Microphone Type / Size: MEMS / 3.50X2.65X0.98mm
- Microphone Sensitivity: -37dBFS±1dBFS
- Frequency response: 20Hz~40KHz
- Sound pressure level: 94±3dB SPL (A)
- Impedance: 24Ω
- Weight: 329g
- Dimension (L x W x H mm): 208x110x255mm
Edifier STAX Spirit S3 - What Is It?
If the name STAX sounds familiar, it should. STAX made its name in the headphone world as one of the premiere manufacturers of electrostatic headphones and was legendary among audio enthusiasts.
Edifier recently purchase the brand and here we have the first release since… and it's not a pair of electrostatic headphones. Instead, the STAX Spirit S3 are Bluetooth/wired planar magnetic headphones. And while that might seem strange at first, it makes a good bit of sense when you consider how expensive electrostatics tend to be and that planar magnetic technology still allows them to deliver a high-resolution, high-detail listening experience.
Unlike most over-ear Bluetooth headphones which use dynamic drivers, the STAX Spirit S3's planars aim to deliver a different kind of listening experience: one that is more refined and high resolution, allowing you to enjoy your music, movies, and games to a level you may not have experience before. If you're used to other mainstream Bluetooth headphones, like the Sony WH-1000XM5, the Spirit will deliver an instant upgrade that you don't need to be an audiophile to notice.
That's because inside of its relatively tame outer shell, the drivers inside use an entirely different technology. Unlike dynamic drivers which use a conical design and a powerful magnet to create sound, planars use a completely flat driver that's lined with conductive traces and flanked by a series of magnets. When electricity is applied, the driver moves and creates sound. This design allows the drivers to deliver more detail and less distortion, the latter of which enables better dynamic range.
Planar magnetics still need to be tuned well to sound good, and dynamic drivers are anything but poor, but at their best, planars can wow you with unheard layers and details in your favorite entertainment. That's exactly why so many great pairs of enthusiast-grade headphones use the technology.
The STAX Spirit also seems to take influence from the Audeze LCD-1. It has been known for some time that Audeze and Edifier have worked together and shared technologies, but as a fan of the LCD-1, it was immediately apparent that these two headphones have more in common than different.
Looking at the product page, it appears that the drivers here are directly from Audeze. This includes ts Fazor magnet array structure that guides soundwaves and reduces phase distortion. The drivers have been tuned by Edifier, so you have a slightly warmer sound overall than the LCD-1. Edifier calls the final product its EqualMass driver.
They share the same external design, for example, minus a few aesthetic touches. The STAX is simply designed with a matte black design. But in place of the open backs of the LCD-1, it uses closed, carbon fiber faceplates trimmed with a golden STAX logo. There's also an Edifier logo on the headband. Neither is audacious or likely to attract unwanted attention. They just look like a nice pair of headphones — a step up from the Sony's or Bose's you'll more commonly see, perhaps, but not something that will look out of place on a commute.
The STAX is also quite a bit heavier. They come in at 329 grams compared to the LCD's 250 grams, so things aren't exactly the same. That makes sense given the Bluetooth technology inside and the large battery. Planar magnetics are known for being big and heavy, so even at 329 grams, I think Edifier did a good job of making these headphones slim and low profile. You don't look silly wearing them the same way you do with a big wired set of audiophile headphones.
I also didn't find that the weight made them uncomfortable. The headband is simple but effective and I didn't notice any hot spotting even after multiple hours of use. The grip force is snug enough to keep them in place well but doesn't cause early fatigue. In terms of fit and comfort, this is a very well-balanced set.
By default, they come with a pair of leather ear cushions installed. These are the best for sound isolation and bass, but if you find them too warm, there's also a pair of cooling gel cushions included in the box. These simply snap on and off, but they do change the sound signature enough that Edifier has included a toggle in the app so it can modify the EQ presets for the best listening experience.
I'll talk more about that listening experience in the next section, but Edifier has done a great job balancing a mainstream-friendly sound with enthusiast levels of resolution. It doesn't compete with the best wired planars but you shouldn't expect it to — those headphones are big, bulky, wired, and incredibly expensive. What you do get is a dose of clarity while still being able to enjoy everything from hip-hop to classical to MMORPGs to first-person shooters.
The STAX Spirit S3 is also fairly unique in being a wireless planar magnetic headphone. It's not the first; we reviewed the Drop + THX Panda in May 2021, which uses similar drivers and technology. The two headphones are very different, especially in how they manage their respective sounds, but they share support for high-resolution Bluetooth codecs that allow you to have a wired-like experience without the tether of a cable (unless you want one). The STAX supports the latest AptX Adaptive codec, as well as AptX HD, standard AptX, and SBC codecs. There is no support for LDAC, unfortunately, but most users would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between AptX and LDAC when listening to a 320kb/s MP3. It's an omission, but whether you'll notice depends on your sensitivity to minor details and if you're a "trained" audiophile or not. If not, rest assured that these still sound great even without LDAC support.
The final thing to touch on before diving into the sound of these headphones is battery life and it's a stunner. Edifier rates these at 80 hours of playback time. That's roughly double the life of the Sony XM5s and more than triple the Bose QC45. This will vary depending on the Bluetooth codec you use and your listening volume, but in a playback test at 80% volume and using AptX Adaptive, it took more than a week of playing a repeating playlist overnight to trigger the low battery warning. In normal listening at several hours a day, you can count on several weeks to a month between recharges.
One important thing to note is that while you're able to listen to these headphones wired, but turning the power off disables the built-in amp and DAC. Plugging them directly into a phone or computer isn't a good idea unless you're also running a reasonably powerful dongle or have a built-in amp. The volume level will likely be too low to sound very good without these solutions. You can, however, keep the headphones powered on and accept a wired input. You'll use battery either way, which is disappointing, but they'll be listenable if you want to use them without relying on Bluetooth.
Edifier STAX Spirit S3 - Listening Impressions
The STAX Spirit S3 delivers a balanced listening experience that I found to be versatile enough for just about anything I threw at it. I always test my headphones with music first so I can get a good feel for their detail and resolution with consistent tracks that I know very well. Whether it was Tom MacDonald's Church or Polyphia's Nightmare, these headphones didn't miss a beat. When I did move to gaming, they performed well there also, though benefited from virtual surround sound like Dolby Atmos.
The bass on these headphones reaches fairly low but isn't overpowered. D.R.E.A.M. by Jonny Craig has an opening bass line that's more about rumble and these reproduced it well to fill out the body of the song. The bass isn't punched up though, so if you're looking for a lot of slam and thrum, these probably won't satisfy you. They fill in the low end enough to sound natural without leaning too heavily into a mainstream, bass-heavy tuning.
The mid-range on these is very good. Vocals sound natural and smooth, and I particularly enjoyed hearing Adele's latest album through them. Mid-range instruments like guitars are realistic and crunchy in rock and metal. Macro and micro details come through cleanly, so you can hear the nuance in your songs and details within each layer, like oscillation effects on guitars or the depth of reverb.
Highs are forward but not sharp or sibilant — most of the time. I didn't find these to be fatiguing, but the high-end is definitely touched up a bit to help bring out the aforementioned detail. There's isn't a lot of air or spaciousness in the treble extension, but it goes far enough to keep tracks sound lively and at times bright.
I say "most of the time" because while the STAX lack any kind of customizable EQ in its smartphone app, it does offer three presets: Classic, HiFi, and STAX mode. Classic EQ is best for most listening and provides better bass and body to music and games. HiFi raises the upper mids and STAX mode is all about crisp, clear treble. HiFi and STAX modes were best for classical, in my opinion, and sounded quite good on piano and strings tracks, but removed too much of the body from mainstream music and games for my taste.
For gaming and listeners looking for a wide-open listening experience, these headphones will work but probably aren't the best choice. Since they use a closed-back design, they don't have a great soundstage. Layering is very good, so you'll hear everything your game or song has to offer, as is directionality for picking out enemies. But at $399, they could improve in this area. Dolby Atmos is an effective solution that goes a good way toward remedying this limitation but isn't a cure-all if you'd rather have true soundstage.
The Edifier STAX Spirit S3 is a very good pair of over-ear Bluetooth headphones. They sound great for music and lots of detail and resolution to drive a high-quality listening experience. The battery life is also phenomenal and means that you won't need to plug these in more than once a month or so. I wish they offered a customizable EQ to punch up the bass, and they're not the best choice for gaming, but they do sound good and can fit the bill if you would like them to.
Overall, at $399, these are a pricey option. Competitors don't offer the same level of sound quality but add extra features like LDAC support and active noise canceling for the investment. Instead, these are headphones where you'll pay extra for sound quality. If you're looking for premium sound quality, and are willing to pay a bit extra for it, the STAX Spirit S3 is a solid contender.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Some articles may contain affiliate links and purchases made through this will result in a small commission for the site. Commissions are not directed to the author or related to compensation in any way.