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Sunday, February 25, 2024

I discovered the right headphones for budding audiophiles – and so they look improbable

Jada Jones/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 headphones, priced at $350, are a improbable entryway into high-resolution audio.
  • Sound high quality is clean and balanced, providing a lower-priced different to the higher-end headphones in the identical class.
  • These headphones are pretty heavy and lack noise-canceling tech, so they are not superb for commuters.

Nothing is best than listening to your favourite music and feeling so immersed within the music which you could hear instrumentals you by no means observed earlier than. The artist appears like they’re singing solely to you, each sound is completely balanced, and you’ll’t assist however transfer to the beat.

If that appears like your form of jam sesh, you could be prepared to leap into the great world of high-resolution (hi-res) audio. A lot of the audio tools within the hi-res area could be very costly, as one of the best of one of the best can value 1000’s of {dollars}. Nevertheless, there is a lower-priced possibility on the market, and I attempted it to let you know the way it holds up.

Additionally: OnePlus’ $99 earbuds look and sound extraordinary, but there’s one big catch

I have been testing the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 headphones for the final two weeks, listening and jamming to my favourite tracks, and these could be one of the best place to begin if you happen to’re on the lookout for an entry level into hi-res audio.

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The Spirit S3 sports activities planar magnetic drivers sometimes present in open-back, over-ear headphones, so I discovered it fascinating to see them contained in the closed-back design. 

Let me let you know why that is thrilling. Many Bluetooth headphones use cheap dynamic drivers that replicate the bass-forward sound most individuals take pleasure in. Nevertheless, dynamic drivers are infamous for creating harmonic distortion at excessive volumes, which implies audio could not sound precisely prefer it ought to.

Additionally: The 5 biggest headphones trends that you’ll be hearing more about in 2024

Planar magnetic drivers are skinny and use magnetic fields to vibrate the diaphragm instantly to provide sound. The direct communication between the magnets and the diaphragm creates a higher-quality sound, and it is uncommon to seek out them in a pair of closed-back Bluetooth headphones.

The 89mm x 70mm planar magnetic drivers are liable for the Spirit S3’s clear, balanced, and detailed sound. Over a Bluetooth connection, the Spirit S3’s sound is vibrant and clear, with low distortion that promotes straightforward listening. 

Once I listened to Younger Thug’s Faces, the Spirit S3 produced bass that wasn’t overpowering, permitting the vocals and instrumentals to shine. Nevertheless, the magic occurs while you hear to those cans over a wired connection. 

The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 headphones wired to a MacBook

Jada Jones/ZDNET

The Spirit S3 helps hi-res audio with a 24-bit/96 kHz pattern fee that the majority precisely sounds just like the studio recording. I entry hi-res audio on Apple Music. Not each music in Apple Music’s catalog is encoded in hi-res, so you may must do some digging. Nevertheless, the platform’s total catalog is on the market in lossless CD-quality (16-bit/44.1 kHz), and I promise you’ll be able to’t hear the distinction between lossless and hi-res audio. 

Additionally: OnePlus’ $99 earbuds look and sound extraordinary, but there’s one big catch

Nonetheless, even probably the most informal listeners can inform the distinction in sound high quality between Bluetooth and lossless or hi-res audio, and people variations are highlighted much more by a pair of headphones like these. I listened to Beat It by Michael Jackson by wiring the Spirit S3 to my iPhone 14. When you did not know, Apple’s Lightning to 3.5mm connector has a built-in digital-to-analog converter to entry hi-res audio in your iPhone. 

By listening this manner, you hear the whole lot like the way it was meant to be heard. Eddie Van Halen’s iconic guitar solo and Jackson’s layered harmonies have been so clear and electrical. Listening to each element for the primary time breathed new life right into a music I have been listening to since I used to be a child.

The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 headphones lying on a wooden desk

Jada Jones/ZDNET

The Spirit S3 are distinctive as a result of they mix the whole lot I really like about fashionable shopper headphones with audiophilic accents. When you’ve got an Android cellphone and haven’t got Apple Music or if wired headphones aren’t your factor, you’ll be able to entry Snapdragon’s host of high-quality audio AptX Bluetooth codecs included with the Spirit S3. There’s additionally Tidal, Qobuz, and Deezer for hi-res audio listening.

I will notice this: Planar magnetic headphones are sometimes heavy and never transportable as a result of massive measurement and amount of magnets within the headphones’ drivers. However the Stax S3 are an exception within the sense that they fold up properly and include a carrying case. 

Additionally: The best noise-canceling headphones: Expert tested and reviewed

Regardless of them being lighter than most planar magnetic headphones, they’re nonetheless a hefty pair, weighing in at 329g, which is barely lighter than Apple’s AirPods Max and about 100g heavier than Sony’s XM5 over-ears and Bose’s QuietComfort Ultra. Regardless of being lighter than AirPods Max, the Spirit S3 carries a lot of its weight within the ear cups which can be supported by a light-weight plastic headband. Alternatively, AirPods Max sport an aluminum headband that offsets the burden of the ear cups.

The Spirit S3 are fitted with thick ear pads, and the scarf has a relaxed match. After a couple of hours, I did expertise some neck fatigue, which doubtless stems from the Spirit S3’s weight. These headphones can stick round for a whopping 80 hours since they lack lively noise-canceling, which is a well-liked wrongdoer for battery drainage.

Lastly, if you happen to’re on the lookout for headphones with all of the software program bells and whistles, these aren’t it. They do not have put on detection or extremely customizable EQ settings, however if you happen to primarily use them for wired listening or need a pair of headphones which you could simply placed on and begin listening, you needn’t fear about any of that. 

ZDNET’s shopping for recommendation

The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 are a novice audiophile’s gateway into the world of hi-res audio. I would not suggest these headphones for day by day commutes, particularly if you happen to’ll be strolling round and bobbing your head, as they’re on the heavier aspect and lack noise-canceling expertise. 

However for what they’re, planar magnetic headphones, the Spirit S3 are priced far more affordably than competing fashions. Even if you happen to select to go wi-fi with the Spirit S3, the drivers will give you an audio expertise that is smoother and clearer than conventional shopper headphones. When you’re fascinated about hi-res audio otherwise you combine and grasp music as a passion or for college, these headphones will not disappoint.

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