OK, I need to stop listening to these and get some food in me. Real “gotta re-listen to whole collection” thing going with these, god damn.
So on first listen after 1-2h of energizing them I was not impressed. Most importantly there was a surprising lack of any “magic”, of any eye-widening realization of “a-ha, this is the electrostatic sound everyone’s been gushing about”, they just sounded like good headphones with good extension, deep enough bass, not a lot of impact, wide enough stage, mayybe more detailed than the 400i, couldn’t be sure without an A/B.
Today I went for the A/B after 21-22h of keeping them plugged in, both 95X and 400i driven by the Oppo HA-2, except of course with the added energizer for the 95X (fed from the separate line-out of the HA-2). For the first few songs I got the impression that yes, they were definitely more detailed than the 400i, but there was also a lack of depth to the soundstage, like their stage was a 2D version of the 400i stage: just as wide and tall but with no depth and no “body” to the instruments, and hence no realism. What the hell? I didn’t get these to trade 3D realism for some extra detail.
But as I kept listening the depth and body got more and more indistinguishable between the two, I started to hear the taller cups producing an umistakeably taller stage for the 95X, to the point that switching to the 400i was like trying to listen to music through that “horizontal slot” opening of a cashier’s booth, the ones where you have to bend down to talk to the cashier. The detail advantage also got way more obvious and even the bass impact got up to where it was effortlessly spanking the 400i. From memory I would say not even the Verum 1 mk1 with stock pads had this level of impact, though there’s still more impact that I’d like to add on some songs, maybe because I’m used to what dynamics and subwoofers can do.
It seems Nottagorilla was right, and I count myself very lucky to have found his comments before getting these in my hands: it matters a lot how long you give these to energize properly (something about uniform distribution of charge across the stators and/or membrane?) and how long you play them to warm them up before judging. I mean it’s still possible that some of the changes I perceived while continuing to listen were from ‘brain-in’, but I was also A/B-ing, so… no, not likely that every transformation I heard was me adapting - it was transforming vs. a reference that I kept going back to compare to, a lot of it must’ve been real, and due to some warm-up effects.
So really satisfied with the sound so far: when these are taken care of and energized for hours and warmed up with some playback, they become just-better than the 400i: at least “two classes” above in detail, better bass, taller and more enveloping soundstage, almost as dynamic/3D/full-bodied (this one I will have to re-check because I’m still not convinced; might do several days of energizing and several hours of warm-up playback before listening).
As for defects, nothing I could spot so far - no hum, no buzz, no whine, no intermittent contact on either side. For a second-hand pair that came to me with a layer of dust deposited at the top of both earcups and even some little yellow dots that were probably insect droppings… I was lucky to find no functional problems whatsoever. Getting rid of these fast seems to have been the careless previous owner’s best decision ever.
As far as that “electrostatic magic” goes… because I heard what these do better in such a gradual way, I can’t really say there is such a thing here, at least not once you’ve heard at least entry-level planars. Maybe I could’ve been mildly shocked had I pre-energized and played them on their own for warm-up beforehand(?), but as my experience stands, I can’t recommend them to anyone looking for some kind of eye-opening “first time listening to estats” experience. If such a thing even exists, it’s not in the ESP/95X and not if you’ve already heard planars.