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Home / Reviews / Audio / Headphones / Edifier Stax Spirit S5 review: a precise planar listen isn’t everything

Edifier Stax Spirit S5 review: a precise planar listen isn’t everything

These wireless headphones have an unusual driver setup

Edifier Stax Spirit S5 review lead

Stuff Verdict

These comfy planar magnetic on-ears don’t have price on their side like their predecessors. The Stax Spirit S5 is long-lasting, but lacks ANC and its build can’t match premium rivals.


  • Expansive, engaging sound that improves on Stax S3
  • Redesigned headband even more comfortable
  • Heroic battery life


  • Overall build and accessories not up there with similarly-priced rivals
  • Still no active noise cancellation
  • Maximum volume a little low


Portable planar listening has long been the dream for a certain subset of audiophiles. Planar magnetic drivers promise smoother, superior sound to the dynamic ones that dominate the headphone world, but demand a premium price – and aren’t usually designed for on-the-go use. The Edifier Stax Spirit S5 is an exception to the rule.

They’re a successor to the Stax Spirit S3, a wireless planar pair I reviewed – and really liked – in 2022. They keep that headphones’ closed-back design and extra-long battery life, but add new second-gen planar drivers that promise audio on par with the ludicrously high-end electrostatic drivers Stax used to make before Edifier took over the brand. Better Bluetooth codecs and a subtle design shuffle also make the cut.

The price has also gone up – significantly – as a result. At £499, the Stax Spirit S5 now rubs shoulders with the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 and Apple AirPods Max, and are considerably more expensive than the Bose QuietComfort Ultra or Sony WH1000-XM5. Those all use dynamic drivers, sure, but they also include active noise cancellation. Is the Stax still travel-friendly without it?

How we test headphones

Every pair of earphones and headphones reviewed on Stuff is used for a minimum of a week’s worth of daily listening. We use a playlist of test tracks made up of multiple genres to assess sound, and use our years of experience to compare to other models. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

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Design & build: all in the head(band)

Edifier hasn’t given the Stax Spirit S5 a major design overhaul, but it feels different enough from the S3 while keeping some sense of family lineage. The ear cups are wrapped in cow hide instead of carbon fibre effect plastic (sorry vegans, there’s no non-leather option) and the Stax logo is a subtle polished gunmetal instead of gaudy gold.

The headband is simpler, with a central metal band and two adjustable arms that use less plastic than before. The retaining arms are accommodating to all head sizes, and apply just the right amount of pressure. I wore the S5 every working day for a full week and wasn’t at all uncomfortable once 5.30 rolled around each evening.

Redesigned ear cup hinges provide a little more pivot adjustment than the S3, and the whole thing creaks less when you’re adjusting it too. This is a welcome step up for build quality, although there’s still plenty of plastic used on every component. The Bowers PX8 and Focal Bathys remain a cut above for premium materials. I do like that these headphones still fold down for easy transport, though.

Edifier also brought back the two ear cup options. Lambskin leather pads are fitted out of the box, or you can swap to a memory foam-lined “cooling mesh” pad designed for comfort. I find leather pads quickly get warm, so preferred the latter. You can swap them over without any tools – a forceful yank will release the clips – but Edifier does include a plectrum-like pick for anyone with more mechanical sympathy than me.

A new fabric lining around the edge creates a better seal than on the S3. That’s handy, given the lack of ANC; the passive noise isolation was enough to dull the clattering of my keyboard while at home, but couldn’t do much against the screeching brakes of my commuter train.

Features & battery: 80 not out

The Stax S5 doesn’t skimp on accessories, but some of them feel a bit half-baked for a pair of £500 headphones. The hard shell travel case looks the part and also has room inside for the 3.5mm and USB-C cables and 3.5mm-to-6.35mm adaptor, but the fabric divider isn’t fixed in place; it fell out every time I went to remove the headphones, and feels cheap. Also, while I like that the second pair of ear pads get their own individual fabric pouches, I would’ve preferred being able to stash them in the travel case instead.

Edifier has largely stuck to the same simple on-device controls, with power/playback, volume and Bluetooth pairing all contained to the right ear cup along with the USB-C charging port. The Bluetooth button doubles as a multifunction button for activating your phone’s voice assistant, changing EQ profiles and activating Game mode with a double-press, configurable through the companion app.

The 3.5mm port for wired listening sits on its lonesome on the left cup. As with the S3, these headphones have to be powered on when using the 3.5mm cable, and they don’t automatically revert to Bluetooth when unplugged, which makes swapping between wired and wireless devices as bit of a faff. Edifier hasn’t added any sort of wear detection here either, so your music keeps playing when you take the S5 off.

It’s great to see LDAC and LHDC Bluetooth support here; both were missing on the Stax S3. Edifier has also stepped up to aptX Lossless here, massively expanding the number of gadgets that can supply it with high resolution wireless sound.

Where the Stax continues to shine is battery life. Edifier reckons the S5 can manage up to 80 hours of listening, and my testing suggested it can go a little higher than that when sticking to a moderate volume. That’s up there with the best wireless headphones, and longer than any pair I can think of with ANC enabled. I also appreciated a ten minute charge being enough for another ten hours of listening, meaning a quick top up before a train journey was enough to last me until the next day.

Interface: simpler is better

I wasn’t a huge fan of Edifier’s old companion app, which was far too keen to upsell you more of the brand’s products; the updated ConneX app is a big improvement, culling almost everything but the essentials. The home screen lets you set which ear pads you have fitted (there are slightly different EQ tunes for each pair), enable the low-latency Game mode, or pick from three equaliser presets.

They have more descriptive names here – Original, Dynamic and Monitor – that are much better than the nebulous ones used for the S3. Even better, there’s now a fully customisable EQ, with more fine-grain control than many high-end headphones offer. There’s even an option to import someone else’s settings by scanning a QR code or uploading an effects file.

More advanced settings are hidden in a menu, letting you set what the multifunction button does, enable multipoint connectivity, and even choose the Bluetooth sample rate when streaming over LDAC or LHDC.

Sound quality: subtle gains

That the Stax S5 delivers an airy, detailed and expansive listen shouldn’t come as a surprise; those are all qualities I found in the older S3. Edifier’s tuning experts have unlocked an extra level of nuance here, getting closer than ever to an open-back experience without leaking worse than a rusty bucket. Some sound still escapes, but I could wear these headphones in public without making any enemies.

There’s a cleanness at the high end that many dynamic driver headphones struggle with, especially at higher volumes. Vocal clarity is simply wonderful, and I found the low-end oomph to be just enough, without overdoing it in electronic tracks. Bass-heads are going to be underwhelmed, but so will anyone craving absolute neutrality. These are a mostly balanced listen, and don’t lose their composure when using more basic Bluetooth codecs. The custom EQ will be very well received by those who didn’t like the S3’s basic presets, with plenty of scope for boosting bass or dialling back the treble.

Overall volume is definitely lower than similarly-priced rivals. I could listen at 100% volume comfortably, whereas I’d usually stick to 70% or even lower on other headphones. The soundstage still isn’t as wide as the best open-back planar headphones, either – but there’s definitely more sense of space and openness than you’ll get with the dynamic driver alternatives.

Edifier Stax Spirit S5 verdict

Edifier Stax Spirit S5 review pairing

Closed back, wireless planar headphones are still unicorn-levels of rare, so I really wanted to love the Stax Spirit S5. I certainly couldn’t fault its audio abilities: these are precise and natural sounding over-ears with a satisfyingly wide soundstage. Tuning is just that little more refined than the S3, which was already a very enjoyable listen.

It’s a shame, then, that the S5 otherwise feels more like a lightly upgraded S3 than a genuine successor. Slightly better sound quality, some new Bluetooth codecs and a tweaked headband design aren’t enough to justify the significant price hike for me, and Edifier still hasn’t added the one thing I think any good pair of travel headphones needs – active noise cancellation.

They perform well sonically, but with the Spirit S3 still available for almost £200 less, and similarly-priced dynamic rivals delivering both great sound and effective ANC, these are a tough sell for anyone other than serious audiophiles.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

These comfy planar magnetic on-ears don’t have price on their side like their predecessors. The Stax Spirit S5 is long-lasting, but lacks ANC and its build can’t match premium rivals.


Expansive, engaging sound that improves on Stax S3

Redesigned headband even more comfortable

Heroic battery life


Overall build and accessories not up there with similarly-priced rivals

Still no active noise cancellation

Maximum volume a little low

Edifier Stax Spirit S5 technical specifications

Drivers2nd gen equal mass planar magnetic
Bluetooth versionBluetooth 5.4
Codecs supportedLHDC, LDAC, aptX Lossless, AAC, SBC
Battery life80 hours
Dimensions199x176x79mm, 384g
Profile image of Tom Morgan-Freelander Tom Morgan-Freelander Deputy Editor


A tech addict from about the age of three (seriously, he's got the VHS tapes to prove it), Tom's been writing about gadgets, games and everything in between for the past decade, with a slight diversion into the world of automotive in between. As Deputy Editor, Tom keeps the website ticking along, jam-packed with the hottest gadget news and reviews.  When he's not on the road attending launch events, you can usually find him scouring the web for the latest news, to feed Stuff readers' insatiable appetite for tech.

Areas of expertise

Smartphones/tablets/computing, cameras, home cinema, automotive, virtual reality, gaming