When it comes to electrostatic headphones, I can proudly say I’ve owned them all over the years. Jecklin Float, Koss, Stax, Kingsound, and now the new Mitchell and Johnson line from the UK. Over the last two years, I’ve been following the progress of the materials technology that led to the invention of a new thin film that can hold a charge. It has myriad applications in the industrial world and just happens to be ideal for use in a headphone.
Most headphones on the market today fall into one of several categories; Electro-dynamic, Planar Magnetic Ribbon, or Electrostatic (ESL). Since the electro-dynamic speakers were first to be developed, they’ve dominated the market. However, knowledgeable audiophiles consider ESLs to be the Ferrari of all speaker types, in both full range speakers and headphones, with the highest quality of sound.
The trick is getting them to operate over a full bandwidth, still produce great bass, and not cost an arm and a leg. To do that required inventing a new “nano-particle infused” diaphragm material that holds a charge permanently, eliminating the DC Bias Charger/Amplifier tether to an AC outlet. This makes the MJ’s the first high performance “portable” electrostatic headphone. At 32 ohms impedance, they can be operated from a SmartPhone or a dedicated Headphone Amp.
Eliminating the DC Bias Charger / Amp cuts the price in half or more. “Hybridding” does the rest by combining the best 40mm dynamic woofer set in an acoustically ideal sealed wood chamber for deep, articulate bass, crossing over to the electrostatic diaphragm at about 200 Hz to deliver a perfect blend of both technologies. The result is the finest headphone I’ve heard yet, with clarity and resolution equal to the best Hi Res Audio content. Flat and smooth, deep articulate bass with none of the typical congestion in the upper bass region that plagues most headphones. Marcus Downey/Headfonics.com calls it “….a fantastic listening experience” in his Feb 2017 review of the MJ2 at $499.
The extremely thin diaphragm of ESLs has a much lower mass than most other drivers and therefore conducts to velocity of dynamic response, meaning they’re faster because they’re lighter. They have no overhang, meaning they dont store energy. ESLs have the absolute advantage on frequency response, both amplitude and phase, and musical transparency when compared to electro-dynamic and planar ribbon drivers. Note the specialized angle of the baffle, they’re cleverly aimed into your ear canal to eliminate interference and HRTF, Head Related Transfer Function. Wow. That’s a nice touch, none of the others thought about that. And it works, clarity is actually improved by just this little design wisdom.
The diagram depicts how the self-biased Mitchell & Johnson electrostatic diaphragm works.
There are five models starting at $199 MSRP including free shipping in the USA. While not as flashy as some brands costing 3 times more, these all sound fantastic compared to everything else at their price-points.The differences are more cosmetic than internal, MJ uses the same driver assembly across all 5 models. The differences are in the materials used for the ear cups and headbands, the more expensive models have deluxe full wood ear cups and leather bound headbands, the lower priced models have either smaller wood cups or are made out of a composite material.
All models are in stock in the USA and available through Essence For Hi Res Audio.