Tonality & Presentation
The VOCE delivers a surprisingly smooth, linear and warm to natural tonality within a very open and spacious soundstage. Importantly, it sounds quite different to other electrostatic headphones I currently use with a treble performance that is more relaxed and less about the pure detail and more about the tonal quality. You may miss a little sparkle but you will also hear better body, texture and far less sharp overtones that stats with upper treble emphasis tend to permit.
That is not to say it lacks details, far from it, but it does not feel like it is the primary driver here with the VOCE presentation. After spending several weeks hooked up to mainly tube stats amps the VOCE is more musical than most without emphasizing any single area wildly above the other and as such I find the signature to be, above all, very coherent and engaging.
It still delivers that electrostatic sound in many ways with excellent speed and impressive imaging. Dare I say it, perhaps even better or more complex imaging than some competing stats headphones. The VOCE will still “present” the music to your ear rather than ram it down concussively like a dynamic headphone. It will never be a basshead type of delivery rather this is a presentation that extends extremely well and delivers excellent detail well below 100Hz.
The VOCE delivers excellent depth and width with a little shaved off the top in terms of final octave energy and sparkle. You get a very linear drop down to around 30Hz with very little in the way of mid-bass bias masking that sub-bass presence allowing it to shine through.
MrSpeakers have pulled back the stage a little further than the likes of the more intimate ESP950 and the Kingsound HS-04 but not in a way that makes everything sound diffuse and vague. You get some excellent width but it is a natural sounding stage rather than something artificially wide sounding. Vocal positioning is excellent I might add, not as forward sounding as the HS-04, it is a bit more neutral but resolutely clear and smooth sounding regardless of track or genre.
The one area that traditional stats will have that the VOCE gives up is that ethereal delicate and well extended treble sound that I have become very familiar with on my Stax gear. You will get a touch more air and sparkle in the upper treble and they will seem a bit taller in comparison to the VOCE.
The VOCE low-end is almost linear but for a sliver of warmth (70-100Hz) that I would hardly equate to any mid-bass bias at all. It is quite the contrast to the Stax SR-007 MK2 which has a much bigger bump around that 100Hz marker.
As such you will not find this a heavy hitting bass line, nor will you find it as impactful as the 007 MK2. However, it is more even and balanced sounding with some decent body right down to the sub-bass response. There is hardly any roll-off down to 30Hz or perhaps even lower. You won’t get huge quantity but you will get a far better level of sub-bass detail that sometimes I think the 007 MK2 can mask a little with its more impactful mid-bass signature.
For me, the Stax goes for pure quantity and fullness from around 70-100Hz onwards. It the more aggressive and weightier of the two. Those 20-50Hz kick drum pitchless decay responses will sound a little clearer and more prominent on the VOCE.
I tend to refer to a synth wave track called ‘Mask’ by Dawn Of The Dead from their 2014 Into the Abyss album. It helps me get a feel for a certain sound that passes through mid-bass to sub-bass nicely. Here the low-end synth notes that dive down to sub-bass levels will fade away a touch quicker on the low-end of the 007 MK2 than the VOCE. However, they do sound fuller and more striking in their attack around 100Hz on the 007 MK2 due to that greater mid-bass elevation.
That linear bass delivery doesn’t dip at all into the lower mids of the VOCE. In fact, from 500Hz it rises slightly and peaks around 1k. The transition is very smooth and effortless producing a very cohesive lower midrange that does a great job in balancing instrumental clarity and with a natural and smooth sounding timbre.
What impressed me most about the VOCE midrange is the spacious sound MrSpeakers have been able to deliver without sacrificing imaging accuracy. As I mentioned before this is not a diffuse sounding headphone but rather it projects a large but natural sounding concert-like image.
As such, I tend to find instrumental positioning to be a little behind its vocals presence due to that rising curve but not hugely so. In fact, the positioning is relatively controlled compared to the more elevated vocal presence of the ESP950 which in turns pushes instruments and percussion even further back.
The key difference is the instrumental separation and imaging. There is a palatable sense of space between each instrument and a much better awareness of their positioning including any nuanced spatial cues.
Because of that smoother tuning vocals will also sound a little more rounded on the Voce. There is less potential for sibilance than your typical stat vocal delivery. Quite often stats with a more effervescent upper treble response and an elevated 1-2k range can produce a very precise and focused vocal tone. Sibilance can be a factor from time to time on poorly recorded tracks so they are less forgiving.
The VOCE treble will divide stats fans opinion, but a bit less so than dynamic and planar headphone fans. It has often been the calling that stats deliver effortless pure treble compared to other designs. In some ways that is true, the extension on the 009 from memory is unbelievable and even the 007 MK2 has plenty of upper treble sparkle.
Hi-hat and cymbal work can thus sound very quick and articulate with tons of perceptible detail and plenty of headroom. However, they can also produce a less forgiving and brighter signature that tends to impact on the harmonic balance of some instruments and vocals. This is particularly so on higher pitched percussion and some female voicing. In short, it can be unnatural in tone to some.
The VOCE is different. The upper-treble energy is more muted delivering perceptibly less sparkle and air than my 007 MK2. However, I find the lower treble of the 007 MK2 more uneven compared to the VOCE. In fact, so also the HS-04 for my money which is supposed to be the ‘warm one’. Neither are quite as coherent or balanced sounding from the upper mids and into the lower treble. Both show a showing a fair amount of dipping and jumping.
The upper mids from around 2-3k on the VOCE dip also but a little less and does not have a corresponding focused peak around 8-10k. Instead, it has a bit more focus and energy in the 4-6k range and sustains it better. It starts to level off slowly towards 10k and beyond which is the opposite of the 007 MK2 and the ESP950. That gets rid of those potential sharp harmonic overtones on higher pitched instrumental notes you sometimes get with the ESP950.
The VOCE will sound a little smoother as a result, with a bit more body though not as perceptibly quick or as articulate (read detailed) as traditional stats. The VOCE will sound more forgiving and a little more natural, particularly on percussion timbre.
The VOCE comes with 3 different types of tuning pads and visually they are not hard to differentiate between each. They are dead easy to put into the cups and work much like any other MrSpeakers tuning pads requiring no DIY work. Simply slip themintoe the cup and you are good to go.
The first is a very thin white acoustic filter made from polyester fiber and a little foam ring around the outer edge. This is by far my favorite filter of the three with a more nuanced effect on the top-end attenuation and does allow more detail and resolution to shine through compared to the black foams.
The second is a stiffer but thinner black filter made from a synthetic felt material. This filter took a little edge off the top end, attenuating a bit more than the white filter and adding a bit more weight to the lower midrange. Good for some harder-edged guitar work and generally it will provide a more forgiving sound on bad material but I found it was not as resolving as the white filter.
The final filter is a thick black foam made from a polyurethane material and it attenuates the top end by quite a bit and dulls the vocals compared to using the VOCE without pads or the white filter.
Generally speaking, I felt the two black ones are for the most treble sensitive and for those who want the most forgiving of presentations. For me personally, I prefer the clarity of the VOCE without the pads of the white filters if I want a tiny bit of edge off but not much. The VOCE is not really a presentation for me personally that requires a lot of tweaking from its stock signature.
VE Enterprise E Lite
The VOCE is easily the least efficient of the four electrostatic headphones I currently using. That includes a Stax SR-007MK2, Kingsound HS-04, Koss ESP950 and an old Stax SR-303. The efficiency level varies though to be fair none of them present a power issue on my VE Enterprise E Lite stats tube amp.
All of them are easily driven out of this powerful 325V RMS output capable amp. This is also a fairly neutral but smooth and resolving amp with its dual 6SN7GTB tube stage and fully balanced design. It was the go-to amp for referencing the VOCE for the majority of this review because of the impressive dynamic range that it can produce on the SR-007 MK2 and the VOCE.
The VOCE also had a good level of performance with my old modified Stax SRM-313 amp though it didn’t quite have the same level of dynamic range and headroom as the Enterprise E Lite. That being said the output power is great at 350V RMS and paired with a solid DAC/pre-amp it should offer a very solid and snappy sound with the VOCE without having to break the bank for a high-end stats amp.
The Kingsound M20 tube amp gave me something a little politer, softer and well a lot “tubier” in sound with much more even harmonic bias than the other amps. It is normally my go-to amp if I want to throw on the 007 MK2 and take an edge of the treble a little.
However, with the VOCE I felt the sound was too rounded and polite and some of the weight in the low-end was traded in exchange for a very lush presentation. Out of the three desktop amps, this was my most forgiving and relaxed pairing with the VOCE and did not require the tuning pads.
This is a little portable 300VRMS stats amp I like to roll out from time to time if I am either too lazy to power up the big amps or at my work desk. It is entirely analog with a 3.5mm line input but can also handle any other headphone with a regular 3.5mm output as well as it’s ESL Pro Bias 560v output socket.
The big thing about this tiny amp is that I tend to find the tonality of this amp to have a very solid-state sound and a little brighter than my desktop tube amps and even my SRM-313. I tend to not bother pairing this with the 007 MK2 because it can make the upper treble to aggressive sounding.
With the VOCE the pairing comes out a lot better. There is a slight upper harmonic order presence not in the desktop amps so the percussion will sound a little less organic but for those that like some sparkle in their stats and a generally cleaner sound then the M-03 will give you a bit more of that.
There is no problem in headroom by the way with this amp. I was sitting very comfortable around 2-3pm on its pot using a Sony W1z 3.5mm out and pre-amping a little on the Sony to get the right levels.
I would have dearly loved to tell you how the VOCE weighs up against the SR-009 or an SR-L700 but sadly we could not get units here in time to our isolated part of the world. If we do we will either review them separately with reference to the VOCE or update this review accordingly.
Stax SR-007 Mark 2
The penultimate in the Stax lineup, the SR-007 MK2 (though some would argue in favor of the Mk1), is seen as the dark sheep of the family. I personally picked the 007 Mk2 over the 009 when shopping last year simply because I love it’s richer thicker low-end and slightly darker signature to the 009. I do recognize the 009 is king of treble but I wanted something a little more “soothing” and heavier sounding and the 007 Mk2 is that in some ways.
The 007 MK2 has a warmer full-bodied bass compared to the VOCE and in truth, you will find it the heavier hitting of the two with more impact. The VOCE has a tiny bit of low-end warmth, it is not a cold sterile low-end but overall much more linear and balanced sounding than the 007. I think that stands it in good stead.
The mid-bass impact on the 007 tends to dominate over sub-bass presence so you lose just a tiny bit of definition right at the lowest point. The Voce keeps the mid-bass in balance better with its sub-bass performance so you get less impact but you can hear or feel the sub-bass response a bit more clearly.
Mids on both are elevated around the 1k marker but dip a bit more on the Stax around 2-4k. The VOCE has more energy in the upper mids and lower treble from 4-6k. There is some lift and energy in the upper treble compared to the more relaxed VOCE response but I find the VOCE to be less muted in the upper mids and lower treble and as such just a little more even sounding.
The 007 MK2 timbre is a mix of warmth in lower pitching instruments but becomes a bit softer sounding in the 2-3k range as it dips down a bit until 5k. You also get a slightly thinner and brighter percussion timbre with that upper treble heat putting a bit more edge on its upper harmonic order.
Vocals on the 007 can at times be rich with good body if lower pitched or a little more veiled if higher pitched but they do always sound fairly fleshy by stats standards. By contrast, the vocals on the VOCE are a bit more neutral in weight.
The VOCE is a bit more even in its coloration and some will hear it as slightly softer and more laid back with its treble response. I find the treble to be a bit more natural sounding though with slightly less air and sparkle than the 007 MK2. The 007 treble though might sound peakier, sharper and not as natural sounding though it does extend very well indeed.
The HS-04 has the same smooth natural or slightly warm timbre of the VOCE but is even more laid back in its lower treble so it sounds a touch politer and softer as a result. The low-end also rolls-off earlier, perhaps as earlier as 100Hz when it starts dropping. The VOCE extends deeper and delivers more sub-bass presence and better definition.
Mids & Top-end
There is an upper treble peak on the HS-04 to prevent it from being sounding dark but this adds some sharp partial overtones compared to the VOCE in the upper mids. Percussion cymbals have a slight upper harmonic dominance and hi-hats have a brighter timbre with less body.
Staging is more intimate on the HS-04 and the overall feel is slightly veiled in the mids by comparison. The VOCE is more spacious sounding with better depth with a more natural and open midrange. The HS-04 is far more intimate but it is not clean and as detailed compared to the VOCE. Imaging on the VOCE is more convincing and accurate. That more spacious and open mids allow it a bit more air and space for instrumental clarity and separation. Dynamics also seems a bit better on the VOCE.
The ESp950 is much easier to drive than the VOCE, good 10-15% less volume on all of the stats amps I used. It is also a touch brighter with a harder attack and a little more upper harmonic dominance.
Bass on the Koss is also quite very linear down to 100Hz with a slight mid-bass bump adding some warmth but otherwise stays fairly flat until 800Hz. It then bumps a fair bit up to 2k. Where I find the VOCE to be a bit different in that it holds its linear bass a little more right down to 50Hz and possibly beyond. The Koss fades away a bit more so you do not get quite the same level of sub-bass detail
Vocals are pushed a bit further forward than the VOCE but are a little sharper in attack and more prone to sibilance with poorly recorded tracks. In short, the Koss can be a little less forgiving but on the right track, they can sound a little tighter and cleaner. Percussions lacks a little body also, sounding a little thinner and lacking in body but are more present and articulate.
The VOCE vocals are slightly softer and wetter with more body and a natural flow to them. They do not have quite the same clean edge as the Koss but they are more forgiving. They sit a little further back than the Koss.
The key difference here is headroom and extension. The VOCE pulls it back, lacking a bit more air and sparkle. The ESP950 delivers a lot more energy at 8-10k so it has bite, sparkle, and articulation. It will sound the taller of the two as a result.
The VOCE has better note texture and avoids sibilance better for me. Cymbals and hi-hats will be fuller sounding and less tizzy. The harmonic balance is much better despite the lower levels of upper treble articulation and energy.
The VOCE is something different in the world of stats cans and it presents a signature that I believe a lot of people will want to try as an alternative to the prevailing stats sound. I have tried a fair few in the last 10 years and the VOCE is the first I have heard that shies away from the abundance of perceptible treble detail and instead opts for something a bit softer, perhaps more analog in its delivery.
If you have been tempted by that quick paced, delicate but detailed presentation of stats then the VOCE will seem a little less resolving in that regard but I also find it a bit more natural sounding as a consequence.
You may also find the very coherent voicing of the VOCE to be just that easier to get along with for a wider range of genres. I have found myself using the VOCE a lot more for rock, folk and concert materials than the 007 MK2.
I can’t fault the build quality also of the VOCE. I love how MrSpeakers have really gone for weight reduction by using a lot of their known R’n’D from the Ether and AEON line. It is one of the lightest and comfiest stats cans on the market today. The tuning pads are a nice addition but honestly, I find going stock without the pads to offer the best compromise between clarity and smoothness. The shipping box, well that’s crafty and a very nice touch indeed.
Overall, the VOCE is up there with the rest of the stats “crew” and real quality option for those who want electrostatics but a far more organic or natural sound.
- 88mm driver for extended and rich bass that extends down to 10Hz
- Super-thin metal stators for enhanced resolution
- Custom round, flexible and microphonic-free silver-plated copper cable terminated with machines Teflon and aluminum plug.
- Convenient and attractive storage box with a built-in headphone stand
- All metal construction, less than 330gr for extended comfort
- Tuning filters for customized listening experience
- Field-serviceable driver module