It was obvious from the moment I received the package for my review unit of the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 headphones that I was dealing with a premium-range product. Coming in a premium protective carry case, nestled inside a textured box, itself slid into a sturdy tray-like shell, Edifier wants to make sure that your purchase feels as substantial for your senses as it does for your wallet.
I received a pair of these to test over a period of a couple of months, to use in everyday situations, during video calls, when travelling and when hobby-editing some audio and video for my own enjoyment, all to see whether the Stax Spirit belongs the best headphones for video-editing on the market today. It won't make it among the best noise-cancelling headphones purely because it doesn't have noise-cancellation, but can its other qualities make up for it?
So did Edifier, which also released the very very nice, very very comfortable WH950NB recently, make another hit here?
Edifier Stax Spirit S3 review: Key specs
|25 x 15 x 20cm (folded)
|89mm Planar Magnetic
|Edifier Connect App modes:
|Classic, Hi-Fi and Stax
|10Hz - 40kHz
Design and build
The impressive (and impeccably branded) presentation of the packaging has been detailed above, but what about the most important aspect of the Edifier Stax Spirit S3's design: the headphones themselves?
In short, we're onto a winner here too, at first sight. The earcups are adorned with the Stax Spirit logo on an attractive patterned background, and the cups themselves are thick, sturdy and solid when handling them, giving me a reassuring sense of future durability. The cups are necessarily thick, as they house a large 89mm Planar Magnetic audio driver, along with a 1500mAh battery for a stated 80-hour playback time between charges.
In the box, you'll find another premium inclusion. While they come fitted with leather earpads, there's also a pair of cooling mesh earpads you can swap in, which I duly did as I quickly feel too hot when wearing leather (or faux-leather) ones.
There is one problem here, though, and it was a bit of a biggie for me: the headband. While it's got leather padding, and the length is adjustable, I just couldn't find a way to make them fit my (fairly typically shaped) head without getting uncomfortable only about an hour in. The top of the headband dug into the top of my head in a way that, for example, the much cheaper 1More Sonoflow headphones I reviewed recently did not. The fairly thin padding did little to mediate the discomfort.
Now, this may be a personal issue limited to me and maybe a small subsection of users, but my head is very average in size and shape, and I've regularly used headphones for the last 25 years or more, and these were honestly among the more uncomfortable ones I've used. What plays into this as well is the sheer weight and bulk of the whole construction, although I've used similarly heavy headphones in the past without these comfort issues.
The included carry case, however, is the epitome of comfort and luxury, with the soft-touch but hard protective shell making them easy to carry around, and turning the action of taking them out and putting them on, or packing them away, into a little bit of a fancy ritual.
Features and performance
The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 offer both Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity with a stated 10-metre range, and I can verify that this works as advertised. I could travel around most of my two-storey house while connected to my computer in my upstairs office, and the connection remained stable even through a couple of sets of walls at up to about 8-9-metre direct-line distance.
The headphones are turned on and off with a push of a button on one earpad, and even without ANC, I'm happy to report that they do a good job of blocking out the world thanks to the earcups' density alone.
The 1500mAh battery claims up to 80 hours of life between charges, and while I didn't test the outer limits of the headphones' battery capacity, they did last for several days at a time for me before sounding the low-battery alarm. They only take about 90-100 minutes to charge to full using the included USB-C cable, which means I could not only plug them in at near-empty when I went to bed and they'd be fully charged in the morning, but doing a quick top-up at lunch also meant I didn't have to worry about battery levels for the rest of the day.
Edifier promises studio-quality 'Hi-Res Audio' with the Stax Spirit S3, and while the audio is nice and clear, it does lack a little in range for me, especially when it comes to bass sound, where I couldn't help but feel that they could have felt oomphier.
What helps here is the Edifier Connect App, from which you can wrest some control over the sound output, mainly via choosing and modifying three main profiles, 'Classic', 'Hi-Fi' and 'Stax'. The Hi-Fi mode in particular was a hit with my ears, where it provided really rich, layered spatial sound while watching film and television and gaming, with a real sense of the difference between foreground and background sounds, as the headphones picked up sounds and audio details I'd never heard before in media I thought I was intimately familiar with.
Detail and nuance is clearly where the audio driver's strengths lie, rather than in simply pumping up the bass and treble in your preferred genre of music, so that's something for you to consider before splashing out on premium headphones.
All on-device controls, including volume, pairing, on/off and phone-call control, are handled via a single triple-split button on the right-hand earcup. Learning the precise order of commands, with differing press duration for each one, takes a little work, so make sure you don't lose the little instruction booklet for the first few weeks.
The microphone works well enough for calls to remain clear, but there isn't much environmental noise cancellation to speak of so they're probably not a great option for making and conducting calls in more hectic environments.
The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 don't come cheap. They don't come cheap at all. In fact, these may be the most expensive headphones I've ever worn, as they retail at £329.99 in the UK and $399.99 in the US before discounts (which I recommend actively looking out for). This, along with everything from the packaging and branding to the material finish and build quality, marks them out as a premium offering, for audiophiles and professionals only.
Should I buy the Edifier Stax Spirit S3?
As I said above, the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 aren't a pair of headphones for the casual user, thanks to the price tag alone. They can offer very impressive audio details and even without ANC (which I admit will be a deal-breaker for some, especially at this price point) they block out environmental noise very well indeed, and having a choice of pads is an extra luxury. However, the sheer range feels a little more limited than in some premium rival offerings (such as Sennheiser and Bose), which prevents them from taking the crown as the best headphones for video-editing around. They are also very heavy, and the headband fit wasn't too comfortable for me, which will also be a consideration for any pro or audiophile looking for headphones to wear for extended periods at a time.