Flat magnetic headphones have been at the forefront of the world of high-resolution audio for some time – their flat diaphragm design means they can reproduce excellent levels of detail and dynamics. The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 Over-Ear Headphones ($399.99) are the latest flat magnetic headphones we’ve tested, and they stand out because they offer both wired and wireless listening modes. It offers excellent audio quality, but surprisingly, it doesn’t support AAC encoding, which means iOS users are stuck with SBC audio over Bluetooth. Plus, we’d really like to see a customizable EQ and a high-quality build at this price. If you are willing to consider non-wireless headphones, then Monolith M1070C ($399.99) and Heavy Man Ananda ($999, but usually sells for a lot less) are among our favorite flat models.
Average design, does not support AAC
The Stax Spirit S3 headphones are available in black with a gold logo on the outer panel of each ear piece, and mainly use carbon fiber details and easy-to-smear hard plastic. It looks rather dated and feels anything but luxury. The good news is that they are comfortable. The ear pads and headband feature a generous amount of memory foam and a synthetic leather lining.
Internally, the 3.5″ x 2.75″ planar magnetic drives provide a frequency range from 10Hz to 40kHz with an impedance of 24 ohms. The headphones are Bluetooth 5.2 compatible and support AptX, AptX HD, AptX Adaptive, and SBC coding, but not AAC. It looks like AAC support will be part of the equation at some point, but according to an Edifier spokesperson, the license agreement has expired and the company has no plans to renew it. iOS users should probably look elsewhere because the only other option for wireless streaming is the basic SBC codec.
On-ear controls are integrated into a three-button multifunction panel located on the right earcup. The central button handles the bulk of operations, including power and pairing (press and hold), power on (one-tap), call management (also one-tap), volume management (double-tap), and switching to and from the game with low-mode latency (three presses). The two outer buttons — plus/minus controls — handle volume (short press) and navigation tracking (long press). In 2022 we’re so tired of seeing these functions bundled onto the same button, that it’s a recipe for accidentally skipping a track when you mean to adjust the volume. Moreover, it was sometimes difficult to determine whether we were pressing the central multifunctional section of the three-piece panel or one of the external buttons, and as a result, there were volume adjustments when we wanted to pause playback. The controls aren’t terrible, but for the price we’d expect a better design and maybe some capacitive touchpads.
The Edifier includes a hard zip case that folds down into the headphones. The bundle also includes a cloth-lined 3.5mm audio cable (no remote included) for wired (but powered) listening (headphones do not operate in passive mode), a USB-C-to-USB-A charging cable, and two earbuds. Two extras in technical fabric designed to reduce heat. Both sets of earbuds felt very nice in testing and we like the two small nylon drawstring pouches for storing unused pads. You also get a guitar-like tool to help you remove the pads, as well as a quarter-inch headphone jack adapter for stereo and professional gear.
The company estimates that the Stax Spirit S3 headphones can last around 80 hours on a single charge, which is impressive, but your results will vary based on your usual volume level.
Try the Edifier Connect app
The Edifier Connect app (available for Android and iOS) allows you to update the firmware, change timed shutdown settings, and customize on-ear controls. You can also switch between two audio signatures based on the combination of earbuds you choose. You can hear a slight difference in bass response tuning when switching between modes, but it’s a subtle effect.
However, it is really strange that an app with such a granular audio feature would ignore the inclusion of a file Customize EQ. Instead, it offers three preset EQ modes – Classic, Hi-Fi, and Stax – which you can’t adjust. We recommend sticking with the Classic Neutral setup because the other two options carve out the bass and treble a bit.
Balanced and pure sound
The Stax Spirit S3 headphones sound roughly the same in wired and wireless mode, although we probably did discover a little more bass depth in the latter mode. They are very inclined towards accuracy in general.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, such as “Silent Scream” from The Knife, the headphones deliver solid bass depth that doesn’t distort at higher volume levels and still sound full at moderate levels. The detailed and balanced highs on this track complement the lows nicely.
“Drover” by Bill Callahan, a track with less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better idea of the sound signature. The drums here show off an extra low-frequency presence but don’t overdo it – they sound full and natural as a result. Callahan’s baritone sounds get the perfect blend of low and middle richness and high and mid treble edge, while the high-scoring percussion beats and vocal chords sound beautiful and bright. We probably hear the bar hissing in the background a bit more than we usually hear, but with all the brightness here, the lower levels provide just enough balance.
(credit: Tim Gideon)
In “No Church in the Wild” by Jay-Z and Kanye West, the kick-drum loop receives the perfect high-mid attendance, allowing its attacker to hold its punch. Meanwhile, vinyl crackling and hissing in the background take a step forward here, too. The sub-bass synth’s beats that cut through the rhythm come in solid depth, but the sub-bass doesn’t feel as powerful through some bass-focused headphones. The lows don’t sound weak, but the lows are a bit subtle. The sounds are crisp, clear, and free of any extra whistling.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene of John Adams The Gospel According to the Other MaryGet the perfect balance between lows and highs. Spotlights are still steady on high-record brass instruments, strings, and vocals, but low-record instruments still sound full and rich.
The array mics sound powerful and benefit from a bit of mid-high clarity. In the case of a reliable cellular signal, you should not have any problems with calls.
Excellent sound in an uninspiring package
There’s no doubt that the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 headphones deliver great sound, which is pretty much what we base our rating on. We wish they also offer AAC support, customizable EQ, and a high-quality build. For about the same amount, we like the Monolith M1070C and Audeze LCD-1 A little better, both are wired magnetic models with excellent sound quality. Our favorite flat magnetic headphones remain the HiFiMan Ananda, which is often available for a few hundred dollars less than the very high retail price.
The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 magnetic flat headphones provide HD streaming with excellent sound quality for Android users, but there is no AAC support for Apple devices.
Like what you read?
sign for lab report Get the latest reviews and top product tips delivered straight to your inbox.