The ESP/95Xs arrived yesterday so this is just a piece of initial feedback. More to follow after I've had a chance to do a lot more listening and comparisons.
My setup for initial testing is a Grace DAC into the 95X Energizer. Other DACs to be tried out in the coming days.
The packaging is functional and straightforward. The Energizer's 1 Amp @ 9V power supply is a generic wall wart made in China and, from its heft, appears to be a transformer-based PSU. My first thought on taking the headband and the ear units out was "plasticky and cheap". The headband is comfortable and light, as are the ear units but they feel very flimsy and cheaply made. The fit and finish of the the earned assembly again does not speak of quality and gives one the impression of a product lacking quality. The headband mates with the ear units via a button on the backside of the ear units. Took a few tries before everything fit together securely, again not inspiring much confidence. The phones are very light and almost feel insubstantial in use. Th e Energizer unit is housed in a Radioshack style plastic "project box" that I've used in the past for home-brew stuff but not what I expect from a commercial manufacturer like Koss. One big issue is the concentric knob arrangement. First of all, the knobs are cheap plastic and the tactile experience is underwhelming, Worse, the concentric knows for each individual channel do not have a detent with the ability to move the together as one unit, I find that very annoying.
Sonically, the unit appeared to open up over the course of a couple of hours. My tests so far included running Bernd Weikl's Carmina Burana, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Coltrane's BlueTrain, Mile's Sketches of Spain, a few Santana Tracks, some Judas Priest and Adele's Skyfall. The headphones offer very pleasing clarity - the separation between instruments is superb. The detail is surprising. Passages with high dynamic range like some of the passages in Carmina Burana are rendered seemingly effortlessly and with seeming precision and clarity. In the first few minutes of listening vocals seemed a bit muddy but that appeared to change over a couple of hours, for the better.
Some limited A/B testing with the Focal Elears seemed to indicate that the 95Xs offer a tad more detail and instrument separation, which is impressive. Passages with fast attack seemed to be rendered about the same or pretty close to the Focals, which again, I found impressive. The mid ranges, especially vocal passages seemed significantly better with the Focals, though more sustained use is likely to change that a bit based on what I observed in the first couple of hours.
Overall initial impressions are positive sonically, though I am not pleased with the construction. A solid construction like the Focals or even some of the Oppos would have probably made these 5-star phones, even if that meant a few hundred dollars more added to the price. Would I buy them again? Most probably, though I'll have a definitive answer to the question in a couple of weeks after more sustained use.