Planar magnetic headphones sound great, but they’re often bulky and anything but portable. The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 headphones throw that notion out the window, as these Bluetooth headphones are easy to carry anywhere, and they’ve got battery life for literally days.
These over-ear headphones look great on paper and honestly, well, they just look great. The question is, did Edifier have to make any major sacrifices to make portable planar magnetic headphones work?
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- Driver unit: 89mm*70mm Planar Magnetic Driver
If you’ve spent much time shopping for headphones, you’ve probably at least heard of planar magnetic headphones. Even if you’ve heard of them, you might not know much about planar magnetics. People tend to really like them, and they’re often expensive, but what makes them different?
A typical headphone uses a dynamic driver, which is essentially a normal speaker shrunk down to fit inside headphones. These types of drivers use voice coils, where thin wire wrapped around magnetic material creates an electromagnet to drive the speaker.
Due to their larger size, dynamic drivers excel at bass frequencies and can sound great across the frequency spectrum. On the downside, they can distort at higher volumes.
Planar magnetic headphones instead use a thin diaphragm balanced between parallel magnets to create crisp, vibrant sound. Another upside to this design is that it tends to distort far less than dynamic drivers do.
The main downside of planar magnetic headphones is that due to the driver design, they’re typically larger than dynamic driver headphones, and they tend to be expensive. They can also lack the bass thump of dynamic driver headphones.
That said, if you’re looking for headphones that give you an accurate representation of a recording, planar magnetic headphones are often a great option.
- Weight: 329g (0.73lbs)
- Dimensions: 208 x 110 x 255mm (8.2 x 4.33 x 10.04in)
For all the talk about planar magnetic headphones being bulky in the last section, fortunately, that isn’t the case with the Stax Spirit S3. They’re not tiny, but if you placed them alongside some wireless headphones with dynamic drivers, like Sony’s WH-1000XM5s, I wouldn’t pick them out as especially large.
This applies to the weight too. The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 headphones are light to the point that you’d almost mistake them for cheap. This isn’t the case as the build quality feels as premium as you’d expect it to, but the headphones are still a pleasant surprise when it comes to the weight of wearing them.
When you’re testing headphones for hours, it’s noticeable if headphones are lacking in the comfort department. Fortunately, the S3 remained comfortable even after wearing them for the better part of a day. This is thanks in part to the swappable ear pads.
Edifier ships the S3 headphones with two separate sets of ear pads. One set is lambskin leather, and while this looks impressive, these can start to feel warm pretty quickly. That’s when you want to reach for the alternate pads, which Edifier calls “ice feeling” pads. These are much cooler and generally comfortable overall, or at least they were to me.
If you’re wondering whether the different pads affect the sound signature of the Edifier S3, yes, they do. Fortunately, Edifier thought of that, and there’s an option to choose which pads you’re using in the free Edifier Connect app (available for Android and iPhone).
It’s a nice touch that the headphones fold for easy transportation. This feature is often overlooked in headphones, and while it isn’t an absolute necessity, it’s convenient to be able to fold the headphones, toss them in the included case, and hit the road.
Yes, these headphones come with a hardshell carrying case. This used to be a given with any set of headphones costing a few hundred dollars or more, but we’re seeing less of it than we used to (thanks, Apple). The case keeps your headphones together and adds a nice touch of class to the package.
The case holds the headphones, along with an included auxiliary cable for listening in wired mode and a 3.5 mm to 1/4-inch adapter. The case also holds a USB charging cable for topping up the battery.
Finally, the case also holds the second set of ear pads, so you can swap between them on the go. To make swapping easier, Edifier includes a guitar pick accessory that does make changing the pads much easier.
- Audio codecs: Qualcomm aptX Adaptive, Qualcomm aptX HD, Qualcomm aptX, SBC
- Bluetooth version: 5.2
These are Bluetooth headphones, specifically Bluetooth version 5.2. That said, you shouldn’t expect active noise cancellation (ANC) or any of the other perks that accompany it like a transparency mode. This is a relatively straightforward set of wireless headphones.
As you’ll see when you launch the Edifier Connect app, the S3 headphones use Snapdragon Sound. This relies on the aptX Adaptive codec, which can deliver audio in up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution. The downside is that your device needs to support aptX Adaptive.
If you have a recent Android phone, you’re probably in luck. That said, if you’ve got an older Android phone or use an iPhone, which doesn’t support aptX at all, you’re not going to get the best wireless audio that these headphones have to offer.
Unfortunately, aptX Adaptive is the only codec even remotely hi-res in these headphones. There is no support for LDAC or LHDC, which feels like a major misstep in headphones presumably aimed if not at audiophiles, at least at the audiophile-adjacent.
The good news is the Edifier S3 do support Bluetooth multipoint, which lets you connect to two devices at once. This means that you can, for example, connect to your iPhone for calls, then connect to a device that does support aptX Adaptive for listening to music.
Of course, you don’t have to listen in wireless mode. Using the included auxiliary cable, you can plug into your favorite computer, music player, or even use an external DAC.
Depending on the headphones, the sound quality may only be part of the equation. With the Edifier S3, the sound quality is the reason you’re here, period. I’m not going to draw it out—these sound incredible, especially considering the price and portability.
Many headphones aimed at the mass market hype the bass and treble frequencies. This lends an exciting feel to most music, but that subdued midrange can make music muddy and hard to hear clearly. The planar magnetic Edifier S3, on the other hand, brings the midrange and highs to the front.
That isn’t to say the low end isn’t impressive. These headphones offer plenty of bass, it just isn’t artificially inflated to the point that it outshines the lower midrange. Allowing the low midrange to come through more strongly can make bass instruments feel more up front.
Listening to Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” changes the experience. I’d never noticed the crisp detail in the hi-hats, and the Edifier S3s liven up the strings and saxophone. Gaye’s voice is as great as ever, but these headphones bring the instrumentation into the foreground.
Christine McVie’s vocals on Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Forget” sound present, but never overly so, detailed but never sibilant. Instead of just hearing her voice, you can hear the way the mic captures the higher frequencies in her voice. The Edifier S3s have a way of making older recordings sound new again.
If you need proof that these handle low-end well, Fatso Jetson’s “Royal Family” proves the point. The song is propelled by its bass line, and it sounds massive here. It’s not that deep rumbling bass you’d get from a dynamic driver, but it’s also far easier to hear everything happening in the low end of the mix.
Overall, the Edifier S3s excel at exposing the details in mixes that can sound overly dense on other headphones or speakers. This is the strength of the planar magnetic drivers on display. These also help give the headphones a satisfyingly wide soundstage despite their closed-back design.
Testing the Edifier S3s had me excited to go back and listen to favorite songs and albums to see how they sounded. I’ve reviewed plenty of headphones, and this has only happened to me a few times in the past.
Call quality is fine as long as you’re indoors and your surroundings aren’t that loud. The built-in microphone is fine, but the aptX Voice doesn’t do you any favors if your phone doesn’t support it, and there is no noise canceling built into the headphones.
This type of headphone isn’t ideal for making calls, and you’re certainly not buying planar magnetic headphones to use as a headset. That said, if you need to make the occasional call, these will do the trick just fine.
Compared to some of the capacitive touch features you’ll find on other headphones, the controls for the Edifier S3 are refreshingly simple. You have a simple three-button layout: a multifunction button and two volume buttons.
Tapping the multifunction button will pause and resume playback or answer and end calls. In addition to controlling the volume, you can also skip tracks using the volume buttons.
You can also double-click and triple-click the multifunction button, but by default, these actions aren’t configured. Instead, you can configure them in the Edifier Connect app. As an example, you could set double-click to toggle Game Mode, which lowers latency, then set double-click to switch between the app’s three sound modes.
The three sound modes are Classic, Hi-Fi, and Stax. Strangely, the app offers no explanation of what these sound modes do. Based on how they sound, it seems Classic favors low end while the Stax mode favors high frequencies, with the Hi-Fi option occupying the Goldilocks zone in between.
While these sound modes are nice to have, it would be nice to instead have an adjustable EQ. The 1MORE Evo got a post-launch firmware update that added a user-adjustable EQ, so it’s not entirely out of the question that Edifier could add one here.
I’d also have preferred if the app was less crammed full of advertising for other Edifier products. On the bottom of the app, there are four tabs, with two of them dedicated to showcasing other products from the company.
- Battery capacity: 1,500mAh
- Playtime: 80 hours
- Charging time: 1.5 hours
- Charging port: USB-C
As I’m sure many people did, I had to double-check that I had read the battery life right, as I couldn’t believe it. It’s true: the 1,500mAh battery inside the Edifier S3 gives the headphones a maximum playback time of 80 hours. You’d likely have to be careful to hit that mark, but it’s still impressive.
There may be a reason that Edifier opted to give the S3 such massive battery life. Even when you’re using the headphones in wired mode, they need to be powered on. This does eat more battery than if they ran fully passive in wired mode, but this also does prevent you from needing to invest in a headphone amplifier to get the best sound out of the headphones.
Even with that in mind, the battery life is impressive. During my testing, I didn’t charge the Edifier S3 once for a three-day period, even though I frequently left them on but paused in between listening sessions. At the end of the third day, the headphones still had 40% of the battery full.
As another test, I charged the headphones, then played music through them overnight for roughly nine hours. When I checked the headphones in the morning, they were down roughly 11%.
Using them throughout the day in place of my normal headphones, listening to a mix of music, podcasts, and an audiobook, they were down eight% at the end of the day. Obviously, your mileage will vary, but no matter what, you’re not going to need to think about charging these all that often.
Even better, plugging them in for just 10 minutes can get you up to 11 hours of listening time, depending on the charger you’re using. To fully charge the headphones, you’ll need about an hour and a half.
If you read the review, you can probably tell, but the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 headphones sound incredible, especially considering the (comparatively) low price. Looking at the overall package, aside from the sound, these feel like premium headphones in every aspect.
Not everything is perfect. If you’re looking for ANC or fancy microphones to improve call quality, you won’t find them here. We’d also have preferred to see LDAC and LHDC included, and fewer advertisements in the app would have been nice.
Still, these are an easy recommendation for anyone who places a premium on sound quality. Specifically, if you’re looking for truthful headphones that provide an uncluttered but still exciting listening experience, the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 are a win at this price point.
Here’s What We Like
- Fantastic sound quality
- Outstanding battery life
- Two sets of ear pads for adjustable comfort
- Wireless or wired listening
And What We Don’t
- No noise cancelling
- App could be more full-featured
- Call quality isn’t the best
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