More time with the Fostex TH-900

I'm helping my good buddy the Boston cardiologist pick a closed can, and he focused on the BeyerDynamic Tesla T5p and Fostex TH-900. That forced me to spend a lot of time with both. The result? The Dr. and I go different directions, and the difference is telling. All I had to tell him was that the Fostex cans are exciting and dynamic beyond all get-out, where the T5p have the sort of neutral presentation I like. My buddy doesn't care about the holy grail of neutrality; I had him hooked at "exciting."

It's hard to argue preference. The Fostex cans present a huge soundstage, effortless dynamics -- so loud and clean that you have to careful, in fact -- and highs that are as natural as any cans in my lines. Neutral? No. They are warm and deep. My buddy listens to lots of classical, and the Fostex cans give me goosebumps. It's easy to see why people love them. I'm really glad to offer a product that people respond to with smiles and visceral happiness, even if it's not what I choose for myself.

On to the HiFiMan HE-6!

Raves for the Fostex cans

Participants at the Austin Head-Fi meet on March 2 were enthusiastic about the new Fostex cans. While I prefer the leaner, crisper sound of the BeyerDynamics, most people seem to like that deep, REAL bass line in the Fostex combined with its effortlessly smooth high end. It's a heady brew, no doubt about it. They're easy to drive, too. The persistent complaint about the Fostex was the price point. Whether that means that people wish they had the money to spend, or won't because there's stiff competition, I can't say. My response is simply that there's no better closed can, and when you need a closed can, that's what you need!

Fostex TH900 has arrived

My Fostex rep. from American Music & Sound delivered my demo pair of Fostex TH900's, which are otherwise difficult to get hold of right now. I got to spend some time with these, and my initial impression is that while they are closed-back, they compete directly with high-end open back designs in most respects. The only difference I hear is the emphasis of 75-100hz bass as volume increases. Their imaging lies between the Audeze (not the greatest imagers, though extraordinarily beautiful to listen to) and the BeyerDynamic Tesla 1 (terrific imagers to the point of distraction), but on balance closer to the BeyerDynamic. That makes sense when the driver design is considered. Both the Fostex and the BeyerDynamics have lightweight drivers driven by huge magnetic fields, giving them good transient response. That seems to correlate with what I hear, but I'm no scientist.
The Fostex have the warm-side-of-neutral characteristics of the Audeze, but unlike the Audeze they have the extended, smooth, airy highs of the BeyerDynamics. It's interesting that the BeyerDynamic Tesla 1's are not fully open-back but have zero mid-bass emphasis that I can tell. Top to bottom, they are the most balanced cans in my lines. Apparently, a little bit of leakage goes a long way to decoupling in-can resonances.
On pop tracks with overemphasized bass to begin with -- Madonna's Ray of Light is an offender -- the Fostex cans boom, apparently the in-the-can issue with closed headphones and something that can't be engineered out with closed-backs. The flip-side is that at lower volumes, the bass still has impact and presence. On well-engineered recordings of all kinds, the Fostex cans have the kind of deep, robust, extended bass that I sometimes crave. If I'm listening to choral works or quartets, not so much, but with larger symphonic works, that kind of bass is great.
Three things that make the Fostex cans a particularly good choice so long as you love bass are (1) they are extremely comfortable and lightweight, and (2) they don't bother the person next to you, and (3) they are super-easy to drive, even with an iPod. One thing you may be wondering is if these are like older-style, tightly-clamping closed cans. Emphatically No. They are shockingly light and apply no pressure to the head.
It will be interesting to see how they compare to the new high-end Denons, since the former high-end Denons were really Fostex.

Coming soon: Fostex!

I'm in final discussions with Fostex of Japan's US distributor about bringing their extraordinary headphone products to Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. They're as excited as I am to show the new TH-900 at the March 2 Austin meet along with its natural companion, the HP-P1 amp+DAC combo. I can't wait to get my hands on those things. Thanks so much to American Music & Sound, the US distributor of Fostex, for being as excited as I am to have a Fostex dealer in Texas for the surrounding states.