Top 5 Best Electrostatic Headphones


Many of the highest quality headphones have electrostatic transducers. The general sensitivity and accuracy of the electrostatic design allows for impressive-sounding headphones that rank among the best in the world.

If you’re an audiophile that’s okay with paying a premium for headphones and headphone amplifiers, then you’ll likely know these top 5 models or have at least heard of them.

The top 5 best bone electrostatic headphones are:

Of course, any list of this sort is inherently subjective. That being said, I firmly believe the above-listed electrostatic headphones are the best of the best!


What Makes A Great Electrostatic Headphone?

Though the term “best” is subjective, we should still list out the criteria used for determining what makes a great pair of electrostatic headphones.

  • Comfort: this is perhaps the simplest yet most important criterion of any pair of earphones. Though highly subjective, factors such as weight; shape; pressure, and the overall dimension play a role in comfort.
  • Frequency response: a great pair of in-ear monitors should be able to reproduce the full audible spectrum from 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz with clarity. Fortunately, many electrostatic headphones have a much wider range than this.
  • Amplifier: electrostatic headphones that come with a dedicated amplifier often sound better due to the fact that the two units are designed symbiotically. Note that by swapping the amplifier, we can alter the sound of the electrostatic headphone.

Electrostatic designs have inherently low distortion specifications, wide frequency responses and superb transient responses. We’ll discuss these characteristics with each of the 5 headphones listed above.

With that, let’s get into our top 5 electrostatic headphones!

To learn more about electrostatic headphones before continuing with this article, please check out my article The Complete Guide To Electrostatic Headphones (With Examples).


HiFiMan Shangri-La

First up is the HiFiMan Shangri-La (link to check it out at HiFiMan) from one of the best headphone manufacturers out there.

HiFiMan Shangri-La

The HiFiMan Shangri-La, complete with the custom-designed amplifier, is one of the world’s finest headphone systems, if not the absolute finest. It’s hiFiMan’s “ultimate flagship” for a good reason!

The system is awfully expensive and is only available through authorized dealers. These select dealers will have the system on display for you to try before you buy.

Upon purchase, a licensed representative will install and set up the system on-site. Talk about serious business! This is more than just a pair of headphones, it’s a professional listening system that requires professional attention.

The Shangri-La’s Nanotech driver diaphragms are less than a micron thick and coated with nano-particles for superior transient response and an unbeatable high frequency response.

Each of these thin diaphragms is sandwiched between two metal mesh stators. The mesh of the stators has a grating width of 50 µm (0.005 mm), making it completely transparent.

Each driver is completed with a nanometer-thick dust cover to keep the sensitive transducers safe.

Considering the price tag, the sensitivity of the drivers and the size of the amplifier (it weighs 35 lbs / 16 kg), the HiFiMan Shangri-La headphones are best kept in a safe listening environment and should be stored carefully when not in use. That’s solid advice for any of the top 5 electrostatic headphones we’ll discuss in this article.

So if you’re looking for a pair of headphones to wear out and about, I’d suggest looking for a solid pair of closed-back moving-coil dynamic headphones or a great pair of earphones.

Related articles:
Top Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $500
Top Best-Moving-Coil Dynamic Headphones Under $500
Top Best Wireless Earphones/Earbuds Under $200

Sorry, I got side-tracked. Back to the HiFiMan Shangri-La headphones.

These headphones boast a ridiculously impressive 7 Hz – 120,000 Hz frequency response. This covers all audible frequencies and plenty of sub-sonic and ultra-sonic frequencies that may or may not affect how we hear the rest of the audio.

The dedicated amplifier of the Shangri-La utilizes 300B vacuum tubes. These tubes are some of the best available in terms of perfect sonic transparency. The 300B tubes work as direct driving stages. There are absolutely no capacitors or transformers between the tube stage and the headphones. This is part of the incredibly transparent sound of this system.

The relay-based attenuator of the amp has a 24-step volume control that utilizes 23 distinct resistors. Each volume level is unique and independent, giving each volume stage a beautifully clean signal path.

HiFiMan provides a superb 5-year warranty of the Shangri-La system with the exception of the cables and vacuum tubes, which have a 1-year warranty.

This system is perhaps the best listening apparatus in the world. It’s certainly not for the casual listener. Rather, it’s for the audiophile who doesn’t mind taking out a second mortgage on his or her house!

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: Electrostatic
  • Impedance: 35 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 7 Hz – 120,000 Hz
  • Bias Voltage: 550V – 650V
  • Sensitivity: no info
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 13.2 oz. (374g)
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

To learn more about headphone specifications, be sure to read my article Full List: Headphone/Earphone Specifications w/ Examples.

The HiFiMan Shangri-La Jr. (link to check it out at HiFiMan) is also worth checking out. This model is actually available for purchase online. The headphones themselves are built with much of the same design features, though they are somewhat different. The real difference is in the amplifier, which is still of the highest quality.


HiFiMan Jade II

Usually I try to feature as many manufacturers as possible in these “top headphones” articles. However, HiFiMan (and Stax, as we’ll see shortly) really has several of the best electrostatic headphones in the world. Next up is the HifiMan Jade II (link to check the price on Amazon).

HiFiMan Jade II

The HiFiMan Jade II offers us classic electrostatic performance at a “real world price”. Sure, it’s still super expensive but if you want the best, you have to pay the price!

As you may have guessed by the name, this model is the successor of the 2008 Jade, which was HiFiMan’s first-ever electrostatic headphone. The Jade II takes full advantage of the company’s post-2008 research and development to improve upon the original while maintaining the natural and expansive sound field that Jade users came to know and love.

The open-back oval-shaped earcups of the Jade II allow for a large diaphragm and a deep, resonant bass response. Of course, the headphones are fine-tuned to rid of any unwanted resonance frequencies, allowing the headphone to reproduce the audio with precision and neatrality.

Like the Shangri-La, the Jade II has Nanotech driver diaphragms less than a micron thick. They’re coated with nano-particles for superior transient response and unparalleled high-frequency response among other manufacturers.

Each driver is completed with a nanometer-thick dust cover to keep the sensitive transducers safe.

The resulting sound is amazingly crisp and clear as a great electrostatic headphone should be.

The Jade II comes with its own dedicated amplifier which is necessary in order to reach the headphone’s full potential. This minimalistic solid-state amplifier works perfectly with the Jade II headphones and with its Pro Bias 540V output, it will work well with most other electrostatic headphones with a 5-pin pro bias connector.

Key Specifications:

  1. Transducer Type: Electrostatic
  2. Impedance: no info
  3. Frequency Response: 7 Hz – 90,000 Hz
  4. Bias Voltage: 550V – 650V
  5. Sensitivity: no info
  6. IP Rating: no info
  7. Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  8. Weight: 365g (12.9oz)
  9. Wireless/Wired: Wired

Stax SR-009

Third up on the list is the first mention of the Japanese manufacturer Stax. It’s the Stax SR-009 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Stax SR-009

The Stax SR-009 utilizes ultra-thin polymer film material as the basis of the diaphragm. This allows for excellent frequency response and helps with the headphone’s vast dynamic range.

The Multi-Layer ElectRodes (MLER) stators are designed to encompass the entire diaphragm to either side. These stators are made with ultra-precision photograph etching to produce low resonance and superb transmissivity of sound waves. The result is incredibly low distortion and amazingly accurate reproduction of sound.

The open-back enclosure is protected with mesh that allows sound to pass through uninterrupted. This design yields a very open and neutral sound for the listener.

One con about the Stax SR-009 is the amount of plastic used in the design. The headband is plastic are the adjusting slides for the headband. This material is less durable than the metal (used in both of the aforementioned HiFiMan models).

In terms of comfort, the headphone does have nice leather and the large, thick, soft leather ear pads can be adjusted sit nicely on the sides without applying too much pressure.

The Silver-coated 6N (99.9999%) OFC parallel 6-strand, low-capacity special wide cable measures 2.5m in length and carries the signal perfectly from the amplifier to the headphone.

Stax recommends their SRM-T8000 (desktop) or SRM-D10 (compact/portable) amplifiers for the SR-009 headphones. Check these systems out at Stax by clicking the links.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: Electrostatic
  • Impedance: 145 kΩ
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 42,000 Hz
  • Bias Voltage: 580V
  • Sensitivity: 101dB / 100V r.m.s. 1 kHz
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 1 lb without cable / 1.3 lb with cable
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Stax is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World.


Stax SR-007A Mk2

Next up is the wonderful and popular flagship model from Stax. It’s the Stax SR-007A MK2 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Stax SR-007A Mk2

The Stax SR-007A Mk2 revolutionizes the design of an electrostatic headphone driver by making the outer stator/electrode solid whereas the typical design has two perforated stators. The result is an increase in diaphragm vibration with a more powerful sound without losing linearity during audio playback.

This headphone utilized rigid and fine-tuned metal housing to host the interesting drivers. No unwanted vibrations of resonant frequencies come about from this design and the build-quality benefit from a durable metal construction.

In terms of comfort, the SR-007A Mk2 is a wonderfully comfortable headphone. Its headband is adjustable and features a leather band. The earpads include genuine lamb leather (direct skin contact) and high-quality synthetic leather (surrounding portion). The enclosures and the earpads rotate independently of one another, making it easy to find an exact fit for pretty much any listener.

The cable of the SR-007A Mk2 is a low-capacity wide format cable with PC-OCC (Pure Crystal Ohno Continuous Casting). It measures 2.5m long and offers superb signal transfer from the amplifier to the headphone.

Stax recommends their SRM-T8000 amplifier for their SR-006A Mk2 earspeakers (link to check the system out at Stax’s website).

This amp employs two 6922 in the input stage, driving a Class-A solid-state output stage. The vacuum tubes isolated in a separate section made of vibration-proof damper and shield cover to eliminate vibration and noise. The high-capacity large toroidal transformers and selected high-quality parts allow the highest refinement in sound.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: Electrostatic
  • Impedance: 170 kΩ
  • Frequency Response: 6 Hz – 41,000 Hz
  • Bias Voltage: 580 V
  • Sensitivity: 100 dB / 100 V r.m.s. at f = 1 KHz
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 365 g (Body) , 512g (Including cable)
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Sennheiser HE 1

Last up is the Sennheiser Orpheus HE-1 (link to check it out at Sennheiser).

Sennheiser HE 1

The Sennheiser HE 1, like the aforementioned HiFiMan Shangri-La, is more than a pair of headphones. It’s a full electrostatic audio system, complete with an expertly-crafted amplifier and matching headphones.

With Carrara marble and chrome, this systems looks almost as great as it sounds.

The HE 1 is the first electrostatic headphone with a Cool Class A MOSFET high voltage amplifier integrated into the ear cups. This feature eliminates the capacitive reactance of the cable and greatly improves the efficiency of the system.

Each driver utilizes a 2.4-micrometer platinum-vaporized diaphragm and gold-vaporized ceramic stators. Silver-plated OFC cables offer optimal conductivity and transfer of the pristine audio signals.

These drivers are housed in precision-machined earcup made of solid aluminum.

High-end leather and soft, allergen-free velour/microfibre are used to make the earpads ultra-comfy and the headband rests comfortably on the listener’s head, keeping the focus on the sound and not on the physical aspects of the headphone.

The amplifier features 8 high-end internal digital-to-analog converters. It’s designed with both tubes and transistors in a patented circuit design. This amplifier is the real deal, offering near-perfect accuracy with barely any noise or distortion.

The result is one of the best listening systems in the world, if not the greatest ever. Know that this one costs nearly three quarters of 100k USD!

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: Electrostatic
  • Impedance: no info
  • Frequency Response:
    • 8 Hz – 80,000 Hz (-3 dB)
    • 4 Hz – 100,000 Hz (-10 dB)
  • Bias Voltage: 650V
  • Sensitivity: 114 dB SPL max SPL
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 550g without cable
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Sennheiser is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World and Top 14 Best Earphone/Earbud Brands In The World 2020.


Honourable Mentions

There are plenty of other great electrostatic headphones out there. Consider checking out any of the following honourable mentions that didn’t quite make the top 5:

  1. Monoprice Monolith 1060 (link to check the price on Amazon)
  2. Mitchell and Johnson GL2 (link to check the price on Amazon)
  3. Mitchell and Johnson MJ2 (link to check the price on Amazon)
  4. Stax Lambda SR-507 (link to check the price on Amazon)
  5. Stax SRS-002 (link to check the price on Amazon)
  6. Stax SRS-3100 (SR-L300) (link to check the price on Amazon)
  7. Shure KSE1200 (link to check the price on Amazon)
  8. Shure KSE1500 (link to check the price on Amazon)
  9. Koss ESP-950 (link to check it out at Koss)
  10. Sharkk Bravo Headphone (link to check the price on Amazon)

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