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Stax SR-L300 Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.3.1
Reviewed Feb 21, 2019 at 11:07 am
Stax SR-L300 Picture
Test Methodology v1.3.1
4.8
Mixed Usage
8.0
Neutral Sound
3.5
Commute/Travel
4.2
Sports/Fitness
4.6
Office
4.6
Wireless Gaming
6.4
Wired Gaming
1.4
Phone Call
Type Over-ear
Enclosure Open-Back
Wireless No
Noise Cancelling No
Mic No
Transducer Electrostatic

The Stax SR-L300 are very good critical listening, open-back, electrostatic headphones with a unique look. They have wide rectangular ear cups with a grill design that give them a retro feel. They have great audio reproduction for classical and vocal-centric music and are fairly comfortable. However, their build is very plasticky and they feel like they could break easily, especially the grills. They also don’t allow much airflow and get quite warm for open-back headphones. You need a specialized amp or energizer to drive them and enjoy their great sound.

Our Verdict

4.8 Mixed Usage

Bad for mixed usage. The Stax SR-L300 are made for critical listening and have great audio reproduction. However, they require an energizer to work, and you won’t be able to use them for commuting and physical activity. Also, their open-back design makes them unusable at the office. They have a long cable, but it shouldn’t be long enough for you to watch TV from your couch, and they also don’t have a microphone for online gaming.

8.0 Neutral Sound

Very good for neutral listening. Their bass is lacking in lower frequencies but is well-balanced otherwise. On the upside, they have excellent mid and treble ranges which will reproduce vocals, leads, and cymbals accurately. They might be a bit sibilant for some people due to small bumps in the treble range. These headphones will be better suited for classical and vocal-centric music, but won't be a good choice for bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop. Unfortunately, their build quality is sub-par, so it's best to be gentle with these, or you might break them.

See our Neutral Sound recommendations
3.5 Commute/Travel

Unusable for commuting. You’ll need a specialized amp or energizer to drive these headphones since your smartphone won’t do the trick. They are also leaky, and open-back headphones don’t isolate from ambient noise.

See our Commute/Travel recommendations
4.2 Sports/Fitness

Unusable for sports. They aren’t stable on the head and would come off instantly, and that’s if they didn’t need an energizer. It would be practically impossible to use them during a workout, as you’d need your energizer with you at all times. Even if you were to set your treadmill very close to it, they aren’t breathable headphones, and you’d sweat more than usual.

See our Sports/Fitness recommendations
4.6 Office

Bad for the office. These open-back headphones leak a lot, and everybody around you will be able to hear clearly what you’re listening to. They also don’t isolate against ambient chatter and other noise in your surroundings.

See our Office recommendations
4.6 Wireless Gaming

Sub-par for gaming. The Stax SR-L300 don’t have a microphone for online gaming, but their sound quality is great, and they should be comfortable for long gaming sessions if you take them off now and then to let your ears cool off a bit. If you don’t need a boom microphone, critical listening headphones can be a decent choice for gaming.

See our Wireless Gaming recommendations
6.4 Wired Gaming
1.4 Phone Call
  • 4.8 Mixed Usage
  • 8.0 Neutral Sound
  • 3.5 Commute/Travel
  • 4.2 Sports/Fitness
  • 4.6 Office
  • 4.6 Wireless Gaming
  • 6.4 Wired Gaming
  • 1.4 Phone Call
Pros
  • Great audio reproduction.
  • Comfortable design.
Cons
  • Cheap and flimsy build.
  • Bulky design.
  • Need a specialized amplifier and energizer.
  1. Update 11/21/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.1.
  2. Update 11/6/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.

Check Price

Video

Test Results

Design
Design
Style

The Stax SR-L300 have a retro look with big rectangular ear cups. The cups are also covered by an open, grilled design. The band holding the cups together is very wide, and you have a small strap that serves as a headband. Unfortunately, they look better than they feel once you take a closer look; the cups are made out of cheap-feeling and thin plastic. Their cable is also very large, heavy, and cumbersome.

7.5
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.78 lbs
Clamping Force
1.2 lbs

While the padding on the cups isn’t very thick, the SR-L300 are comfortable headphones. They don’t apply too much pressure on your head, and the strap keeps everything stable enough for casual listening. However, the cups are fairly shallow, and some people could feel their ear touching the drivers, which is quite uncomfortable. On the upside, they are quite lightweight due to their plastic build, and they feel more comfortable than they look.

0
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
Not OS specific
Ease Of Use N/A
Feedback N/A
Call/Music Control No
Volume Control No
Microphone Control N/A
Channel Mixing
N/A
Noise Cancelling Control N/A
Talk-Through
N/A
Additional Buttons N/A

These headphones don’t have an in-line remote or controls on the ear cups.

4.8
Design
Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference 9.3 C

Surprisingly, for open-back headphones, the Stax SR-L300 are not very breathable. They trap quite a lot of heat under the ear cups, and you will feel a difference in temperature while wearing them. These are obviously not suited for sports, as you will even feel your ears getting warmer during casual listening sessions.

1.1
Design
Portability
L 9.5 "
W 6.6 "
H 3.5 "
Volume 219 Cu. Inches
Transmitter Required Yes

The SR-L300 are not portable headphones. These critical listening headphones require a specialized amplifier/energizer to work. Smartphones and laptops can’t drive these headphones and they are also quite bulky over-ears. These headphones are designed to use at home and should stay in or around the same place.

0
Design
Case
Type No case
L N/A
W N/A
H N/A
Volume N/A

They do not come with a pouch or a case.

5.5
Design
Build Quality

The Stax SR-L300 feel very cheap, especially for their price point. Their build is all made out of plastic. The hinges are thin and feel like a slight impact could break them. The grill pattern of the ear cups feels like it would break pretty easily. Also, the size adjustment slider is very flimsy. Overall, the build quality is very disappointing and doesn’t represent their high price tag. However, their all-plastic design choice might be due to their high operating voltage, but we can't confirm this.

6.5
Design
Stability

The SR-L300 have a decently tight fit, and the large, flat earcups do not lift or wobble much when shaking your head side to side. However, they still slip around a bit when tilting your head forward or backward, and the cables are very cumbersome. You should use these in a stationary position without moving your head too much, or they will fall off. This shouldn't be an issue during listening sessions.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • Stax headphones
  • Manuals

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
-7.19 db
Treble Amount
-0.31 db
7.2
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.57 dB

The Stax SR-L300 have decent frequency response consistency. Their bass delivery varies significantly, but the biggest variations were measured in low-bass, which these headphones already lack. Therefore, these variations shouldn’t be that audible since these frequencies are already missing, to begin with. On the upside, they are decently consistent in their treble delivery under 10KHz across multiple reseats.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
6.0
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
5.36 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
59.07 Hz
Low-Bass
-11.25 dB
Mid-Bass
0.24 dB
High-Bass
0.68 dB

The bass range of the SR-L300 is mediocre. The LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 59Hz, which suggests that they won't be able to produce low thump and rumbles. Since lack of low-bass is especially hard to hear on headphones, the overall bass range will be light on thump and rumble, but punchy-enough to be adequate for music that doesn't have a lot of sub-bass (like classical music, music recorded before the 1980s, and podcasts/audiobooks). On the upside, mid and high-bass, responsible for the punch of bass and kick and warmth respectively, are well-balanced and follow our neutral target curve well.

9.3
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
0.96 dB
Low-Mid
0.41 dB
Mid-Mid
0.69 dB
High-Mid
1.09 dB

The SR-L300 have an excellent mid-range performance. They whole range is flat and is within about 1dB of our target curve, which is great. This will result in accurate reproduction of vocals and lead instruments.

8.9
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
2.32 dB
Low-Treble
-1.15 dB
Mid-Treble
2.01 dB
High-Treble
-1.54 dB

The treble range of the Stax SR-L300 is also excellent. The range is flat and quite even before 5KHz. However, there’s a small bump at 6.5KHz and an even bigger one at 9KHz which could make sibilances (S and T sounds) around these frequencies a bit sharp and piercing for some people. Not everyone will hear this as sibilant as others.

7.1
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
2.03 db
Dips
1.13 db
8.8
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.41
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
0.02
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
1.53
Weighted Phase Mismatch
4.2

The imaging performance is great. The weighted group delay is at 0.41, which is within good limits. The GD graph also shows that almost the entire group delay response is below the audibility threshold. This ensures a tight bass and a transparent treble reproduction. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were very well-matched, which is important for the accurate placement and localization of objects (instruments, voice, footsteps), in the stereo image. However, these results are only valid for our unit, and yours may perform differently.

8.3
Sound
Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
2.09 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
4.73 dB
PRTF Distance
11.0 dB
Openness
9.9
Acoustic Space Excitation
9.1

The soundstage performance is good. The PRTF graph shows a good amount of accuracy and pinna interaction/activation. However, there is no notch present around 10KHz. This suggests a soundstage that is relatively natural and large but perceived to be located inside the listener's head. Also, because of their very open enclosure, their soundstage will be perceived to be more open than that of closed-back headphones.

7.6
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.171
WHD @ 100
0.182
Isolation
0.5
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-0.21 dB
Bass
-0.03 dB
Mid
1.0 dB
Treble
-1.44 dB

By design, the Stax SR-L300 don’t achieve any isolation at all. All the low rumbling sounds in the bass range, speech in the mid-range or sharp sounds like S and Ts in the treble range will seep into your audio.

0.8
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
66.61 dB

The SR-L300 leak a lot, but this is to be expected from open-back headphones like these Stax. This means the significant portion of their leakage is spread between 450Hz and 20KHz, which is a very broad range. The overall level of their leakage is quite loud too. With the music at 100dB SPL, their leakage at 1 foot away averages at 67dB SPL and peaks at 88dB SPL.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
N/A
In-line
N/A
Boom
N/A
Detachable Boom
N/A

These critical listening headphones don’t have a microphone.

0
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
N/A
LFE
N/A
FR Std. Dev.
N/A
HFE
N/A
Weighted THD
N/A
Gain
N/A

They do not have a microphone.

0
Microphone
Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise N/A
Speech + Subway Noise N/A
SpNR
N/A

They do not have a microphone.

Active Features
N/A
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
N/A
Continuous Battery Life
N/A
Additional Charges
N/A
Total Battery Life
N/A
Charge Time
N/A
Power Saving Feature
N/A
Audio While Charging
N/A
Passive Playback
N/A
Charging Port N/A

The Stax SR-L300 don’t have a battery.

0
Active Features
App Support
App Name N/A
iOS N/A
Android N/A
macOS N/A
Windows N/A
Equalizer
N/A
ANC Control
N/A
Mic Control N/A
Room effects
N/A
Playback Control
N/A
Button Mapping N/A
Surround Sound N/A

There is no dedicated app to enhance your listening experience.

Connectivity
0
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
N/A
Multi-Device Pairing
N/A
NFC Pairing
N/A
Line of Sight Range
N/A
Default Latency
N/A
aptX Latency
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
N/A

These headphones are not Bluetooth compatible.

Thanks to their wired connection, these headphones don’t have any latency issues and would be suitable to watch video content or gaming.

0
Connectivity
Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line of Sight Range
N/A
Non-BT Latency
N/A
9.0
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
Yes
USB Audio
No
Detachable No
Length 7.9 ft
Connection 5-pin Pro
Wired Latency
0 ms

These headphones need a specialized amplifier/energizer to be used and get audio. We measured them through a Schiit Ragnarok amp and an iFi iESL Pro energizer. Technically, you should be able to route these to your consoles and get audio, but this wouldn’t be common usage.

Connectivity
PC / PS4 Compatibility
PC / PS4 Analog
Audio Only
PC / PS4 Wired USB
No
PC / PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
Connectivity
Xbox One Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
Audio Only
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Wireless
No
0
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
N/A
USB Input
N/A
Line In
N/A
Line Out
N/A
Optical Input
N/A
RCA Input
N/A
Dock Charging
N/A
Power Supply
N/A

The Stax SR-L300 technically don’t have a base or a dock that will let you charge the headphones, but you’ll need an energizer to make them work.

Compared to other headphones

Comparison picture

The Stax SR-L300 are very good critical listening headphones and set themselves apart with their unconventional retro look and electrostatic drivers. Unfortunately, they feel very cheaply made and flimsy, which is disappointing for their high-end price tag. If you want better-built high-fidelity headphones to enjoy your music, take a look at our recommendations for best audiophile headphones.

Sennheiser HD 800 S
Unavailable
B&H

The Sennheiser HD 800 S are better critical listening headphones than the Stax SR-L300. They are more comfortable for longer listening sessions, and their build is durable and doesn’t feel as flimsy as the Stax. They also pack more bass, while still having great mid and treble range performance. Their 1/4” TRS connection is also more versatile. You will also need an amp and energizer to drive the Stax correctly. On the other hand, the Stax still have great audio reproduction and are significantly cheaper than the HD 800 S.

Audeze LCD 2 Classic/LC2C
Unavailable
B&H

The Audeze LCD2-Classic are better critical listening open-back headphones than the Stax SR-L300. They have a very solid build, and their 1/4” connection is more versatile. They deliver more accurate bass and don’t lack low-bass like the Stax, but their mid-range is slightly overemphasized, and their sibilants might lack a bit of brightness when compared to the Stax. They are also quite tight on the head and are heavy headphones. If you’re looking for critical listening headphones for music that don’t have any low-bass like classical music, the Stax might be a better option; just be careful with them, as they feel very flimsy.

Sennheiser HD 600
SEE PRICE
B&H

If you only care about sound, the Stax SR-L300 are better headphones than the Sennheiser HD 600 for music without low-bass. Their audio fidelity is better and more accurate. They also sound significantly more open than the HD 600. However, they are very flimsy and feel cheaply made. The HD 600 are sturdier and will be more versatile due to their 1/4” TRS connection. You won’t need an amp and energizer to drive these as you would need with the Stax.

HiFiMan Ananda
SEE PRICE
Newegg.com

The HiFiMan Ananda are better critical listening headphones than the Stax SR-L300. These planar magnetic headphones are more comfortable and have a great sturdy design. They also pack more bass while still having great mid and treble ranges. They also seem to be more open-sounding. On the other hand, the Stax are more lightweight and have less distortion, for a cleaner audio reproduction.

Stax SR-L300 Price

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