Electrostatic headphones are something of an elusive beast; I don’t think I’d ever had the chance to even listen to a pair of Stax, for example, until just a few months ago at RMAF 2013. It’s exciting, then, to see KingSound, whose loudspeakers I’ve heard on several occasions, making some real inroads into the headphone business.
The Kingsound KS-H3 ($875) are seriously good looking headphones, available in brushed silver or black, with red enamel details. They’re among the most lightweight high-end headphones I’ve worn, as well, weighing in at .46 kg. They rested comfortably on my head, although at first blush they definitely would not be up to vigorous seat-dancing in terms of their security, I don’t think. They’re also something you probably want to keep out of the reach of grabby toddlers and inquisitive pets; they feel like they might not hold up terribly well to aggressive manhandling, although that might be an illusion brought on by their light weight.
I had opportunity to try them out with two different amplifiers. KingSound’s taken some of the guesswork out of system matching by providing two different amplifiers catering to two different tastes: for $1250 you can acquire both the KingSound headphones and the M10 solid state amp (the amp’s $625 separately), or you can indulge your analog predilections and pick up the combo of the KS-H3 and the M20 Triode OTL tube amp for $2150 (or $1800 for just the amp). Listening to Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Jerry Douglas’s “Bourbon and Rosewater,” I was greatly impressed with the delicacy, detail, and soundstaging from both set-ups. If forced to choose, however, I have to say that I felt the M20 lent a richer sound and a bit more depth and heft to the proceedings. On both amps, the listening experience was something I’d happily repeat.
Also on diplay at the Affordable Audio table was the new Wells Audio Headtrip headphone amp ($7,000). This is a scaled-down version of the Wells Inamorata, and if memory serves, Mr. Wells informed me in the Hilton hallway that it puts out 18 watts, which seems faintly insane. [ed: 50 watts at 8Ω, 25 watts at 32Ω, 1.8 watts at 600Ω] At any rate, it had the punchy and powerful sound that I’ve come to associate with Wells, and cheerfully lent warmth and realism to Bhatt & Douglas on a pair of HiFiMan headphones.