The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 are a premium pair of wireless cans with an impressively hi-fi sound, Bluetooth performance and long battery life, though the creaky design and plasticky controls reduce its ‘premium’ feel.
- Articulate, clean, and detailed presentation
- Comfortable to wear
- Long battery life
- Excellent Bluetooth performance
- Creaky build quality
- Plasticky controls
- Not for bass-heads
- Planar Magnetic driversFor ultra low distortion and wider dynamics
- Snapdragon SoundSupports Qualcomm’s lossless audio platform
- Multi-point BluetoothConnect to two devices at once
2022 was the year of the flagship headphone. From Bowers & Wilkins to Sony, Sennheiser and Technics, it seemed all the big brands decided this was the time to launch their salvo on the premium wireless over-ear market.
And one product that was overlooked in this dash for headphone supremacy was Edifier’s Stax Spirit S3. The Stax Spirit S3 – S3 for short – are a resurrection of the ‘legendary’ Japanese Stax brand that Edifier acquired in 2012, a name that existed pre-World War II, and a brand that placed an emphasis on high-quality audio reproduction with its products.
With the introductions out of the way, the S3 are up against a tough field of competition, but their reputation suggests they won’t be cowed by their illustrious rivals.
- Build quality feels cheaper than price tag
- Plasticky buttons
- Lightweight for planar magnetic headphones
It should be no surprise that the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 look like a pair of over-ear headphones, though they’re not necessarily a stylish pair. Moreover, build quality is not up to the level you’d expect with a £399 price at launch.
It’s the use of hard plastic that gives the headphones a creaky quality that’s noticeable when handling and wearing them. It’s below the standard of other cans at this price such as the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2. Give the headphones a jiggle and they feel a little cheaper than they should.
At least the levels of padding on both the earcups and underside of the headband are generous: soft and pliable and acting as a good cushion for the headphones’ 329g weight (fairly lightweight for a headphone with planar magnetic drivers).
Black is the only colour they come in, the Stax logo engraved in gold on the earcups above a pattern that adds some distinctiveness. The earpads are replaceable should they get damaged, and rather than employ touch controls, the Edifier goes ‘old school’ with physical buttons for playback and volume control. Like the overall build quality, these plasticky buttons don’t feel as if they belong on a premium pair of over-ears.
Despite that, the Edifier’s noise-isolating properties are served decently by the size and depth of the earcups. Outside sounds still filter through to my ears, but on commutes (buses, trains and tube) the lack of noise cancelling isn’t as missed as much as I thought it would. Nudge the volume up a few notches and the outside world becomes less of a distraction.
Continuing the old school vibe is the existence of a 3.5mm jack for wired listening (plus a 6.3mm adapter) alongside a USB-C port for charging. The headphones are also collapsible for transportation in the hard case and given the creakiness of the construction, you might want to consider using it.
- AptX Adaptive
- Very long battery life
- Multi-point Bluetooth support
The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 bear no support for Active Noise Cancellation or a Transparency mode, but the audience courted here is strictly audio purist.
Connectivity is Bluetooth version 5.2, with transmission of audio over Bluetooth through SBC, aptX, aptX-HD and aptX Adaptive. The aptX variants allow for higher quality audio transmission with Android devices (aptX-HD), as well as a ‘stickier’ connection (Adaptive).
AAC, which iOS devices use, is notable by omission but don’t take that to necessarily mean audio quality is worst served by only having SBC for iPhones. The performance of the driver can have more of an impact on the sound than the codec utilised.
Bluetooth performance has been excellent, similar to Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 and Px8. There have been few if any interruptions I can recall using these headphones around London. Nothing seems to trouble them on the connection front.
Multi-point Bluetooth is also supported for use with two devices at once, and the Spirit S3 also supports Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound platform, but a compatible device is needed to make the most of the audio quality that platform can deliver, and devices are currently few (and specific to Android).
Battery life is an enormous 80 hours. Repeated battery tests from an hour of Spotify streaming resulted in a loss of 2-3% at normal listening levels, and 4% at louder volumes. Expect the genre of music and volume to affect how fast the battery drains.
Edifier’s fast charging claims are 10-minute for 11 more hours of playback. It does appear to be very spiffy at recharging – ten minutes yielded a 21% boost in battery life.
The Stax Spirit links to the Edifier Connect app that allows a degree of customisation and personalisation. For example, the sound can be tailored to what type of earmuffs are used (leather or ‘ice feeling’). Equaliser options include Classic, Hi-Fi and Stax to switch up the sound. A game mode can be activated, which feels slightly at odds with the headphones’ audiophile outlook but noteworthy if you play mobile games.
Other features include playing ‘soothing’ sounds for relaxation purposes, customisation of controls and volume prompts and, of course, firmware updates.
- Clear and detailed across the frequency range
- Not the biggest bass performance
- Clean presentation
The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 called in assistance from Audeze with its planar magnetic driver setup. The headphones use Edifier’s EqualMass technology made from Audeze’s Fluxor magnetic structure, Uniforce diaphragm and Fazor wave guides for phase management, all intended to accurately reproduce the original sound with minimal distortion, greater stereo imaging, and a cleaner presentation.
And the Edifier hits the right notes on the music front. There are differences between the Classic, Hi-Fi and Stax but those differences aren’t massive: Hi-Fi is perhaps softer and warmer (as if the sound had been passed through a tube amp), while ‘Stax’ is crisper and sharper at the top end, and ‘Classic’ is the mode I’ve stuck with the majority of testing as that seems to offer the best balance across the frequency range. Whichever sound you end up going for, the Stax Spirit S3 are a spacious, and articulate sounding pair of cans.
Serve up Avishai Cohen and Big Vicious’ Hidden Chamber (Tidal Master), and there’s a bright reproduction of the trumpet that opens the song, followed by crisp cymbal crashes, the track furnished with plenty of detail to describe the (light) percussive elements, pick out the synthesiser and the various guitars throughout in the track. Add in an effective line in dynamism, both on a broader and smaller scale, that makes the track both natural sounding in its tone and energetic (but not overly so) in its delivery.
Vocals are delivered with plenty of clarity regardless of the vocalist or genre, whether it’s Veronica Swift in The Man I Love, Jacob Collier in All I Need or 070 Shake in Trumpets. The midrange is spacious, the top end of the frequency range in a track such as GoGo Penguin’s Erased by Sunlight is clearly defined – not distractingly bright – but with a nice detail and specificity to the piano in that track, all the various tones and that sense of pressure being applied to each note evident through the headphones.
Bass is not what I’d describe as ‘thumping’. These headphones are modest in their approach to low frequencies, applying them gently in a track such as Beyonce’s Déjà Vu. The bassline is not as powerful as the Sony WH-1000XM5’s richer approach, the Edifier more content to play it in a measured manner, but it does mean that bass doesn’t always have the weight and heft you might expect. If you prefer your tracks bass-forward or with a V-shaped signature, perhaps give these headphones a skip.
Should you buy it?
If you want high-quality sound and can do without ANC:
Aimed more towards the hi-fi lover than the everyday commuter, the Edifier deliver an impressively controlled and articulate sound.
You want premium design to go with the premium price:
Corners appear to have been cut with the design to keep costs down, which is a shame. The Edifier’s build quality doesn’t match the audio performance.
The Edifier Stax Spirit S3 offer a clear and nuanced sound. They’re not showy, preferring to err towards an articulate, audiophile sense of clarity and detail.
No noise cancellation or transparency may put some off, and the creaky design and plastic controls certainly will. But comfort levels are good, ensuring this is a headphone that can be worn across extended sessions. The noise isolation of the design makes a decent jab at blocking out sounds when used on a commute, and both the battery and Bluetooth performance excel.
This isn’t a headphone that hits every note with the aplomb its price tag would suggest, but Edifier and Stax have created a fulfilling pair of headphones when it comes to sound quality, and that’s the main reason to seek them out, especially if you listen to high-quality music apps.
How we test
We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested across several months
Battery drain conducted
Tested with real world use
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The Stax Spirit supports SBC, along with aptX, aptX-HD and aptX Adaptive, but there is no AAC support for iOS devices.
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