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Review: Edifier STAX Spirit S5. Probably the best closed-back Planar Magnetic headphones

Back in February I reviewed the STAX Spirit S3. I noted that it was a competent headphone but had some critical technical issues that needed fixing. Well, it's been two years since the S3 was released, and today I'm pleased to say that someone at Edifier was listening, because 2024's S5 model refines everything good about the S3 and resolves its issues.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

Asian markets have had the S5 on store shelves for a little over a month now, but global release is set for July 10th. The suggested prices for each region are a bit higher than what the S3 was at launch ($399 / £330), the S5 comes in at £499.99 / $499.99 / €499.99 and will be available through Amazon UK, USA and Europe respectively. The UK price is more than what paid for full sized Planar headphones, the HiFiMAN Ananda Nano, shown side by side below:

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

Both the Nano and S5 are high quality headphones with superb sound dynamics, both are using the current generation of Planar Magnetic driver tech, one is full sized and open-back, the other is closed-back in a more compact housing. - Yet they both deliver sound dynamics that punch far above their price points.

Compared to traditional dynamic driver headphones, Planar Magnetic headphones offer wider soundstage, greater detail in higher frequencies and have sub-bass punch and detail that you can feel inside your head, even if the frequencies that low are inaudible to the human ear. The air pressure generated is something you can often feel. For me, it is legitimately very hard to listen to dynamic driver headphones now without feeling that they are limited in several ways after spending time with several Planar headphones. It's a rabbit hole some may not wish to enter without self-control, as it's difficult to escape!


STAX Spirit S5 (2024) STAX Spirit S3 (2022)
Chipset Qualcomm QCC5181 Qualcomm QCC5141
Bluetooth version 5.4 5.2
CODEC support Snapdragon Sound, LHDC, LDAC, Qualcomm® aptX™ Lossless, Qualcomm® aptX™ Adaptive, Qualcomm® aptX™ HD, Qualcomm® aptX, LHDC, LDAC, AAC, SBC Snapdragon Sound, Qualcomm® aptX™ Adaptive, Qualcomm® aptX™ HD, Qualcomm® aptX™, AAC, SBC
Driver tech 2nd gen EqualMass™ Planar Magnetic EqualMass™ Planar Magnetic
Driver size 89mm*70mm


Playtime 80 hours 80 hours
Charging USB-C, 5V ⎓ 2A

USB-C, 5V ⎓ 1.5A

EQ Presets Original Mode/ Dynamic Mode/ Monitor Mode/ Customized Mode Pure Mode/ HiFi Mode/ STAX Mode
Microphone Dual -mic with noise suppression Single mic with noise suppression

Frequency Response



Sound Pressure Level

94 ± 3dBSPL(A)

94 ± 3dBSPL(A)

Earpads Lambskin, Cool mesh memory foam/gel Lambskin, Cool mesh memory foam/gel
App support EDIFIER ConneX EDIFIER Connect
Dimension (L x W x H mm) 316x274x171mm


Weight 347g 329g
Price £499.99 / $499.99 / €499.99 £329 / $399 / €388

It was a bit of a mission putting together the specs table. Edifier don't list specific details in the manual at all, it's merely a quick start guide, and on the official product page, there's not much extra detail other than the basics. I had to trawl third party sources to get the full scope pf the specs, and even then, was unable to gather driver dimensions for the 2nd gen Planar units in use here.

Out of the box

Just like with the S3, the S5 comes in nice packaging, it looks and feels like something expensive. The alternative earpads still come in their own soft pouch. The unboxing experience gets top marks for sure.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

There are several changes this time round, the carry case has received an update. I would call it one step forward, then one step back. Whilst it is now nicer to touch and look at from the outside with a more refined logo print on top, the carry handle is still a sort of pull-cord thing I can just about get three fingers around to carry instead of a full handle like on cases that come with headphones from competitors.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

The interior no longer has the sleeve pocket stitched into the lid of the case, so adapters/cables must be wedged between the gaps of the headphones when folded in there - Slightly annoying, but not the end of the world, I guess.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

There is a new stuck-on wedge that keeps the headband from moving about once stored in there, though, and the felt-lined pieces that stops the earpads rubbing against the earcups is larger this time round.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

The earpads also receive some refinements, the outer materials remain the same as before, but the contact side where they seal around the earcups has changed, now there is a proper foam seal strip that surrounds the whole inner earpad.

This foam isn't a new piece, it has simply moved from being attached to the earcup side to being on the earpad instead. I assume this is because the foam compresses and weakens over time, so being attached to the pad means it gets replaced along with the pad when it's time to change worn out pads, two birds, one stone.

Just to satisfy some curiosity, here's the S5 next to full sized Planars, the HiFiMAN Ananda Nano:

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

On the ears

On my head they wear the same as the STAX S3 did, comfortable and secure, although just like the S3, these do have some heft, so quick movements twisting my head do result in some wiggle on each side.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

The clamp force isn't too tight, and I found that two notches from maximum extension fit my head perfectly. There are a total of nine notches on each side of the headband, and to give you an idea of measurements, four notches is about 1cm/0.3", so whilst fine-tuning is possible, larger heads than mine may find a mere two more notches of adjustment to be too little.

Here is how it looks on my head, excuse the face, all normal photos I took looked ridiculous, so here's a deliberately ridiculous expression, if you can't beat'em, join'em:

Edifier STAX Spirit S5 - On head


This is where the S5 outshines the S3. I scored down the S3 because it only had three preset EQ modes with no means to apply a custom EQ directly onto the headphones. Edifier listened. The S5 now allows you to save custom EQs and then apply an active EQ directly to the headphones.

This custom EQ then seems to apply to whatever device you connect to after disconnecting from the phone and applies to wired mode as far as I can tell from multiple back and forth testing.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

The custom EQ ranges apply to 4 frequency ranges, these are configured using the EDIFIER ConneX app. Clicking on the frequency buttons at the bottom of the last screenshot above allows you to tweak a specific frequency if you wished to choose something other than the default 100Hz, 2000Hz, 4000Hz and 8000Hz. It would have been nice to have more than four bands to tweak, but four is better than zero, and at least Edifier gives you the option to change the frequency range for each of the bands, too.

This is excellent to see, and for my ears I quickly found what felt the most enjoyable. They don't reach as low or as high as full sized planar headphones of course, but the depth of detail and soundstage offers further improvements over the already good S3.

Everything that made the S3 sound very good applies to the S5, too, whilst adding refinements across the board along with new features, such as custom EQs. The musical nature really shines now thanks to an expanded soundstage and what to my ears feels like greater level of stereo imaging and detail at the high end, which is in-part helped by the ability to apply an on-board EQ.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

The Game mode setting in the app seems to only be usable on a phone with the app installed. If I then connect to another device, game mode is forgotten. The multi-function button to toggle game mode directly on the S5 is usable here, but on Windows I was unable to tell if there's any actual latency difference with it manually toggled on and off whilst playing games since the actual CODEC used doesn't change, and even if I manually changed from LDAC to another CODEC, the same was observed.

I asked Edifier about this, here's what they said:

If your device supports Snapdragon Sound technology, you can enable Snapdragon Sound and select the aptX™ Adaptive Bluetooth audio codec in the developer options. Then, by activating the gaming mode, the latency can be reduced to as low as 89 milliseconds. If your device does not support Snapdragon Sound technology, you will still experience reduced latency when gaming mode is enabled compared to when it is not.

It seems that aptX Adaptive needs to be enabled to get the full benefit of lower latency in the gaming mode, this completely rules out Windows and other OSes due to the mess that is Qualcomm's licensing. So whilst the STAX S5 is great for general audio when paired via Bluetooth to a Windows computer, I would not recommended it for gaming on a desktop unless wired mode is used. We needed to see aptX Low Latency support which is supported on Windows in order to get proper low latency numbers such as below 40ms. Edifier's 87ms claim for aptX Adaptive on the S5 is not low enough for non-mobile gaming.

Speaking of which, playing games wired is a superb experience. The wide soundstage and stereo imaging work great for all types of games that I have been playing lately. The most immersive experience was Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, those whispers in each ear are surreal, whilst Cyberpunk 2077's Night City comes alive with ambient city noises that surround the ears naturally.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

As it stands, on a PC there is some audio latency when gaming connected via Bluetooth regardless of the CODEC being used since there's no low latency support on Windows, even with a third party A2DP driver. In videos it's less obvious but it is there to some degree. I was able to ignore it mostly when watching YouTube and other media. If it does become an annoyance for certain things, then I just plugged in a USB-C or 3.5mm cable where audio resumes after a one second pause. This neatly leads me onto...

... Revisiting connectivity

The STAX Spirit S5 supports seamless wired connections for both 3.5mm and USB, so if gaming (or even if not), then simply plug in a USB/stereo 3.5mm cable to the PC and audio will continue over that instead. When connected via a USB cable, the LED on the right earcup with light up blue, the headphones will also charge when connected this way, which is handy. When connected by 3.5mm, the LED is white:

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

When disconnecting from wired, the S5 turns itself off, so must manually be turned back on to reconnect wirelessly (which is automatic). The 'seamless' appears to be one-direction only. We can't have it all, I guess.

The S5 also supports Google's Fast Pair service on Android, just keep the headphones near the phone to connect to, turn them on and the below dialogue pops up. Neat.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

Battery levels can be checked on any OS when connected, this remains the same as before, and battery life is once again excellent. I have been using them for several days and am only at 88% remaining. The rated 80 hours per charge is on the mark.

Snapdragon Sound features here once again, only a handful of phones support this suite of audio features which guarantees high quality wireless audio, and this includes low latency via aptX Adaptive if the device has added support for it. The S5 is listed on Qualcomm's page and specifically states the Snapdragon Sound tech supported. Samsung phones such as the S24 series do not support Snapdragon Sound, only aptX baseline, but these phones do support LDAC, which is what I have been using for lossless transmission instead.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

Whilst we are about connectivity, the buttons on the right earcup control the master volume in Windows when connected via USB and Bluetooth. The volume stepping appears to be in steps of six which is still annoying. I would much rather have increments of four instead. On both Android and Windows, the double tap controls can be predefined from a selection of presets in the ConneX app first, then later used to skip tracks and so on - Standard fair for all wireless headphones really.

Another thing I was curious about was if the volume level is remembered for both wired and wireless connections, it is! No more faffing with volume changes when switching between wired and wireless.

Windows and Bluetooth (again)

It pains me to be repeating this again, but it must be said. To get the best out of your headphones that support high res audio CODECs when using Bluetooth under Windows, the A2DP driver needs to be replaced with a third party one.

I have talked about this before in previous headphone and speaker reviews, but essentially, Windows will choose a default CODEC which is typically SBC or low complexity AAC instead of aptX-HD or LDAC or whatever else a pair of headphones might support.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

Using LDAC via a Maxoni (Realtek chipset) Bluetooth 5.3 adapter the S5 had no problems with audio quality or range. The USB adapter I have is tiny, yet I was still able to go make a cup of tea downstairs which is approx. 20-25 metres away depending on area of the kitchen and the audio continued to play only slightly skipping if I walked to the far reaches of the kitchen.

What was most surprising was that the audio quality between wired (USB-C) and wireless appeared to be identical which is likely helped by the custom EQ being stored on the headphones. With the 3.5mm connected to my Topping MX3s, the amp's tone controls and general sound signature colour the sound accordingly which is also excellent.


With either pad, the S5 is extremely comfortable. The headband design has changed, with refinements to the articulating system of each cup. I found no problems with comfort regardless of how long they were attached to my head.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

My personal preference is the cool mesh pads, as leather contact against my face isn't something I've ever been fond of. The gel/memory foam in the cool mesh pads also offers a better feel against my head shape.

I said in the S3 review that the weight can lead to fatigue over long sessions, this has not been an issue on the S5, even though it weighs slightly more. The headband improvement and better cup articulation seems to help.


The issues I found with the S3 seem to have been addressed with the S5. A few remain but as mentioned, these seem to be design decisions, the use of the custom EQ over wired means the headphones need to be powered, so true passive over 3.5mm is still not possible, but at least this time it is justified.

In short, the headband no longer creaks and offers better comfort and adjustability, there is no electrical hum when connecting a 3.5mm cable, the ConneX app is much better than the old Connect app,

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

There is no active noise cancellation still, but passive sound isolation is good, especially with the leather pads, and it seems the focus of these is home listening as opposed to traveling. It's not something I miss, but some may desire it all the same, it is better to have it as an option, although the price would then take a further jump as a result.

There are dual-mics onboard tuned via the Snapdragon Sound system as well, and whilst I haven't focused much in this area for the review, I did test it briefly. They are merely OK, nothing to spend any time talking about , it feels like the mics merely exist as a means to answer a call in a pinch and is nowhere near what I would consider high quality at £500.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

Everything I liked about the S3 has been improved in the S5, and now there's support for proper lossless audio CODECs for Bluetooth connections. The seamless wired connection is genuinely useful at mitigating the annoyance of wireless latency for gaming, and it means these can be used for consoles too as you can just plug in the 3.5mm jack directly into the controller.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

I think the higher cost compared to the S3 is justified by the refinements. If game mode can be sorted for use on PC as well, then that's the icing on the cake for me, but until then I'll continue to just plug in one of the cable methods for gaming.

The S5 isn't perfect, but it's as close to it that I have seen on a headphone in this class yet, and because it's a Planar Magnetic driver, there's no distortion whatever the volume or music genre, just an excellent sense of clarity and detail compared to a dynamic driver, all wrapped in high quality materials and solid construction.

Edifier STAX Spirit S5

So is there any competition for the S5? Audeze have the Maxwell wireless gaming headset which is also a Planar Magnetic, but it also comes with its own quirks and issues from everything I've read and been told by people on the scene. It doesn't support any aptX CODEC, comes with a 2.4GHz USB dongle for low latency transmission which seems to be picky about which USB ports it likes being plugged into, and is rather heavy at a pinch under 500g. Nothing else on the market really comes close as an all-rounder to the S5.

The price is much higher than 2022's S3, but I think this can be justified based on how good they sound and how well rounded the overall package is, although it would have been nice if Edifier included support for aptX Low Latency, a CODEC that is selectable in Windows, as this would have opened up the S5 to an even bigger audience and stolen some interest away from the Maxwell which is currently cheaper than the S5.

Excellent sound dynamics Premium construction & materials Wired & wireless interconnectivity High-res & Lossless CODEC support On-board custom EQ Battery life Charges whilst listening over USB Comfort
No return to wireless mode when unplugging from wired Launch price may be a concern for many Headband may be an issue for bigger heads aptX Adaptive offers limited device support
July 10th 2024


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