High End Munich 2019: MrSpeakers and HeadAmp Wow

In the digital realm, High End Munich 2019 made it very clear that CDs and SACDs are back – alive and better reproduced than ever. In like manner, moving-coil cartridges are improving faster than DACs. In the headphone world, companies like Stax relaxed; assuming their position on top of the electrostatic headphone mountain was secure. But we all know: you snooze – you lose.

And, while Stax was napping, young whippersnapper companies like HiFiMan and MrSpeakers were doing their homework and the results are now changing how electrostatic headphones, and their accompanying amps and energizers, are perceived.

I have always admired electrostatic headphones for their apparent hyper-transparency. I especially enjoy the textures they impart through the midrange. But I have also struggled to overlook what I perceived as a static-charge coloration that emphasized the start and finish of a tone more than the middle. I believed electrostatic pleasures begin in the midrange and diminished at the frequency extremes.

Since I first encountered it, I have considered the Stax SR-009 earspeakers, driven by HeadAmp’s Blue Hawaii SE, to be the finest electrostatic headphone experience available.

That is until now… until I visited the quietude of the blue-lit MrSpeakers/HeadAmp room at High End Munich 2019.

For years, I’ve been watching Dan Clark develop his VOCE electrostatic headphones. Each time I heard them it was with HeadAmp’s $5,999 USD Blue Hawaii SE electrostatic headphone amp. Each time they sounded better and I liked them more. This time, in a quiet room (CanJams are always so noisy), I again auditioned the $2,999 VOCE with the always-damn-cool Blue Hawaii SE amplifier and wham-bam I just wanted to own the whole setup. (The aforementioned “whole setup” included the $10,588 Chord Dave DAC and $4,995 M Scaler.)

I visited this ‘blue room’ twice in order to confirm my positive impressions. Both times, what I heard was an electrostatic headphone that did not sound electrostatic at all. The midrange had that full electrostatic texture effect, but without the SR-009’s slight veil of static-charge. This was huge for me. Better still, the VOCE’s super-quiet black-backgrounds and easy flowing rhythmic ease did not diminish at the frequency extremes. While the VOCE did not have the hard-slamming bass of a dynamic headphone like Focal’s Utopia, it did deliver bass force, depth, and power, when called upon. The VOCE really excelled in two areas: the first was in the extension and quiet elegance of its bass and treble. The second was the VOCE’s get-up-and-dance boogie-factor; another thing electrostatic headphones are not famous for.

As I was leaving the blue light room I thought: the VOCE and Blue Hawaii SE appear to have become the new king and queen of the headphone-listening hill. Bravo Dan Clark!

MrSpeakers and Headamp

Ortofan's picture

... that I bought years ago ended my search for "better" headphones.

EdAInWestOC's picture

That is one of the combos that I was wondering about. Everyone knows about the 009 and the Blue Hawaii but the Voce got so much good press something told me this might be the combo to look out for.

If I get my finances right I would not hesitate to pull the trigger on this. I might start by going for the Voce paired with a less expensive driver to begin with.

I have owned Stax Lambda Pros paired with a SRM 1 MK II driver since Christmas 1990. It was one of those products that made you stop and listen. You know it was great. I would love to hear the Voce.