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Fostex T20RP mkII

100% Positive Reviews
Rated #171 in Over-Ear

Posted

Pros: Value for money and excellent comfort

Cons: Modding required for sound and comfort, ugly :)

 

Disclaimer:

This review is based entirely on a properly modded T20RP MKII - modded by headfier bluemonkeyflyer that I received as part of a trade.

(the price listed is based only on the price of a stock T20RP MKII)

 

I'll keep this review brief because most of the more complex information regarding T20RP/T50RP mods can be found elsewhere, so I won't be discussing it.

 

List of audio mods:

- card treble reflector

- rock wool damping

- paxmate lattice

- very small bass port/vents (most vents covered)

 

Comfort/audio mods:

-Shure 840 ear pads

 

Comfort mod:

- DIY leather comfort strap

 

 

Comfort is up there with the best. The clamping pressure is just a bit tighter than supreme comfort levels, but it also prevents it from wobbling around.

I had a lot of discomfort after even short listening sessions with the stock headband - there was quite a lot of focussed pressure on the top of my skull. So I made a simple leather comfort headband which distributed the weight better. Now I don't notice any pressure or pain.

I find the Shure 840 pads perfectly comfortable, but I don't find any fault in the stock pads either.

 

Sound - the sound of these truly is difficult to believe out of such a relatively cheap headphone.

It is better in most ways to a vintage Beyerdynamic DT990, and is in the same league as a Sennheiser Momentum. 

Overall the sound is on the 'fun' side of neutral, so just a tiny bit V-shaped.

Bass is very deep, textured and has a growl rather than a 'boom' which is absolutely excellent.

Midrange isn't honky or nasal in the slightest. Vocals are clear and believable. 

Treble is just the tinest bit artificial, but has plenty of dynamic range and sparkle.

 

Isolation is brilliant. At home I can barely hear a thing (when music is playing) and there is practically no leak at reasonable listening levels.

 

I couldn't give Design a full rating because I wouldn't wear these outdoors. The 'studio/sound-industry' look about them doesn't really work as a fashion statement, but I had to give it nearly full marks because they are built to last with an easy modular design that makes it easy to replace broken parts and modify.

 

 

Like I said at the top: this is a review on a properly modified T20RP MKII, yet it truly sounds like a $300 headphone. 

The only reason people aren't modifying them and selling them for this sort of money is that the drivers don't resolve quite as well as the best headphones in this ($300) price bracket.

In almost all other aspects, including neutrality, timbre, dynamic range and soundstage; these are VERY strong headphones and would solidly recommend them (in a properly modified state) to anyone as a starter headphone.

At this price, if you've got the time and patience to modify it properly, it also makes for a great gift idea.

 

Posted

Pros: Performance to value ratio, modding potential, clarity and speed

Cons: Modding can be time consuming, awkward n-shaped FR without modding, I still encountered what I felt was rolled off highs post-mods.

 

Introduction:

I first wrote this review around the end of December 2011. Ever since then, the modded T20RP has become my headphone of choice. I've used them pretty much every day since then. I've added some retrospective comments that around coming around 4 1/2 months after my initial impressions.

 

bb0eb97c_m11Hr.jpeg

 

Comfort: The T20RP has a relatively low clamping force with pretty wide pads which fit my ears very snugly. The pads and clamping force didn't bother me, but the headphones were still clamped tight enough to be secure. The headband isn't the most comfortable thing in the world on top of your head, but I don't notice it much. The Fostex headphones, however, were quite heavy -- I suspect they're the heaviest headphone in my collection. Although this didn't both me much, it was certainly different. They're not the most comfortable headphone I've had on my head, but they're certainly comfortable enough have on my head for hours and hours without a break. Overall, they get a four out of five out of me on comfort.

 

After mods, the comfort improved slightly with the most pushed out pads. They did get warm, however, with the better seal and acoustic foam under the pads (acoustic foam converts sound to heat, not sure how much that added, but I seriously doubt it was noticable). As with many pleather pads, when they get warm, they get sweaty, too. That's just problems with pleather in general, though.

 

Comfort Retrospective: I've since modded the headband to be auto-sizing. They are not heavy enough to bother me and I don't notice this anymore.  They are quite comfortable, actually. They're the second most comfortable headphone in my collection, losing out to the one pair of headphones that I use with velour and even less clamping force.

 

Build Quality: The T20RPs felt very ruggedly made. From their replaceable cable to the strong metal build on it to the headband, everything felt like it wasn't going to break and very solid. Pads are quite nice, stitched nicely, and feel comfortable. They're some of the nicer pleather pads I've seen. I felt no need to go out and buy replacement pads from Shure or from an O2 headphone, for what it is worth.

 

Aesthetically, there T20RP brings nothing special. Although Fostex has their own distinct design with their RP headphones, they're no great shakes. It's a kind of boring design that doesn't catch attention.

 

 

 

T20RP Stock Notes:

[Sorry this notes are unorganized, these were just what I was jotting down for the few hours I was testing them stock.]

 

Bass seems really rolled off -- it lets you know that it is there, but does not do much with it.

Mid-bass seems very present -- it's above 70-80hz, though, because the bass drum isn't slamming hard enough to showcase that.

 

Mids sound congested. The mid-bass is definitely leaking into it or something. I'm not sure if it is clear, it just sounds muddied up right now. If you pay close attention, it's definite apparent that the vocals have good microdetails, but it just doesn't sound like it due to the odd tonality of the headphone.

Vocals feel pushed back, as though the singer is singing too far away. I suspect this means that the treble is rolled downward around or before 5khz.

 

Music sounds unnatural, upper-treble seems very rolled off. Cymbals and those types of percussion do not sizzle like they're supposed to sizzle.

Very mediocre PRaT and percussive attack -- suspected roll down of treble at 2khz or below and roll must continue beyond 4khz. You can tell percussion hits, but it just doesn't attack like it is supposed to (especially apparent in Experimental Film by They Might be Giants's opening)

Sibilance suppressed pretty well -- I think this is a trade off for the rest of the treble suppression, though.

Lack of treble makes the music feel veiled.

 

It's like listening to music with the top and bottom chopped off -- not very enjoyable. Definitely a n shaped curve.

 

T20RP Stock + Aggressive Equalization Notes:

 

WPG3p.png

 

 

Yes, that's a 10dB equalization at 20hz and 20khz. This is probably a bit too aggressive of an equalization, but it certainly improved the sound by a monster degree. I was declaring the Fostex orthos as my personal end-game headphones before even modding them after this. The vocals no longer sound pushed back and you can appreciate the detail the orthos have in the mids. The bass is deep and rumbles very well -- incredible bass extension for $60 and without modding. The heavy mid-bass/lower-mid hump leakage has been entirely eliminated. If modding can improve on this, I'll be incredibly happy with these headphones.

 

T20RP Modded:

Mods implemented: Plasticine mass loading on the driver side, Silverstone acoustic foam lining the opposite site, plasticine mass loaded the headband screw area and placed acoustic foam over it, 2 cotton balls on each ear pad. 3.75 bass ports covered with electrical tape and acoustic foam. Stock earpads with two layers of acoustic foam under the earpads.

 

6bb0e468_1230112239.jpeg

 

My first impression after I did the first mods was slightly disappointed. I had mass loaded, acoustic foamed, one cotton ball, and 3 bass ports filled. The bass had come out to play, but the highs were massively recessed. I covered half of another bass port and added a cotton ball to each side and that let the highs come back to a level I liked. Sound balance feels very nice, significantly better than stock.

 

The Lows: If one part of the headphone improved the most, the bass would be the area that improved the most from modding. The bass just absolutely jumped out, especially the sub-bass. Very powerful, deep lows. The mod that made the biggest jump after the first mods was adding acoustic foam under the earpads -- I was able to get a significantly better seal with the more puffed out pads, and I think they trapped sound better due to the acoustic damping foam. Originally, I was going to leave a small complaint about the lack of sub-bass, even after my mods, but the superior seal just made the bass hit much better. I'm guessing that pads like the O2 pads give really good or better seals than this and significantly help the low-end.

 

Overall, the bass hits nice and hard. Honestly, after the mods, it's almost too much bass for me, borderline bass heavy but not quite there. The extension is good and the T20RPs sound great for electronic music. At the same time, the bass isn't too slow, it keeps up nicely with Zabava by EnichKin's bass line. Clean, powerful, and deep.

 

My subwoofer mix absolutely rumbles. Trentemoller sounds excellent. The Sleigh Bells' bass slams nicely. The start of Human Rocket by Devo hits hard and jarringly. At the same time, it doesn't threaten the rest of the music by trying to overpower the mids. I love the bass quantity my T20RPs have right now.

 

Lows Retrospective: It's a bit of an exaggeration to call it "very powerful and deep," I think. In fact, most of this section was just hyperbole because I was recently coming from the notoriously bass-light KRK KNS 6400 and any bass at all seemed like a ton. The bass has a solid presence, but it is far from emphasized with my mods -- think of it as deeply extending bass that can hit and slam, but is still underemphasized without EQ. I've since implemented some modestly aggressive bass equalization (it's not as extreme as the previous equalization settings I posted for the stock T20RP), keying up the sub-bass the most. The bass is still definitely clean and quick, though.

 

 

The Mids: Very clean and detailed. The lower mid hump is gone from the sound signature. Vocals no longer feel unnatural or congested. The issue with the singer feeling too far away has been corrected. I haven't done sine wave sweeps, but my gut feeling is that this mod follows the roll-off-after-2khz style of presenting mids and lower treble, because the vocals don't pop out as much. Regardless, the mids on this headphone are the most detailed I've ever heard.

 

Mids Retrospective: I recently did a comparison against the Grados and KRK KNS-6400s I had on hand. At one point in time, I found the KNS-6400s exceptionally clear, but the T20RP modded has dethroned that title. I'm still a big fan of the T20RP's mids, although I have admittedly lowered them a bit with equalization. I did a comparison against my recently arrived Denon AH-D2000's and I found that my $60 Fostex headphones easily outdid them in terms of mids clarity. There was a complete lack of grain in the Fostex that the Denons had in their mids. 

 

The Highs: After mods, they have sufficient volume in the upper highs (12khz+). It can hear the odd high pitched clicking in Holiday by Swimming with Dolphins (as far as I can tell, this sound is centered at 16khz, but extends in both directions, of course), but it isn't overwhelming. I'm admittedly a guy who likes very bright headphones (I love Grados, bump up the treble on my KRKs, Beyers don't bug me, and I rather aggressive equalize Sennheisers) and these are my most subdued headphones of the bunch -- I wouldn't describe them as dark, but they're certainly not bright by my standards, more laidback.  It's a very pleasant, non-fatiguing sound. Overall, the highs are solid and quick. No complaints.

 

Percussive attack is greatly improved. It's not perfect, but it's very good. When you start adding more percussive attack through EQing these headphones, you make sacrifices because the treble and vocals start coming forward more and also run the risk of sibilance.

 

Highs Retrospective: I said no complaints in the review -- this is false. I eventually grew tired of the T20RPs being the most subdued treble headphones in my collection. I've since applied aggressive treble equalization, especially to the upper treble. This is mostly personal preference -- I like very bright, trebly headphones. Pleasant is an okay sound, but I prefer to have emphasized treble. 

 

They still had very rolled off highs after modding, however. 

 

Other Thoughts:

I felt the soundstaging on the T20RP was wider than any of my other closed headphones. It's not quite as wide as a high end open headphone, but it's a very good result for a closed headphone. 

 

Retrospective: 

I dropped the overall sound quality down a click and increased the comfort rating to a 5. I can wear these all day without any problems whatsoever. The lack of upper treble very much annoys me and I heavily EQ up the treble to this day. The Fostex T20RPs are PHENOMENONAL in terms of value and clarity in their price bracket, but I found the quality of their bass to be unable to compete with other mid-fi headphones and their treble extension is subpar. That said, they really shouldn't be competing with mid-fi headphones -- those cost 4 to 10 times more than the T20RPs! The fact that they have cleaner mids is astounding. 

Fostex T20RP mkII
By:
Description:

All RP Series headphones deliver this uncolored reproduction and natural clear sound right across the full frequency range with full bass and sparkling highs. But it's the sonic quality at high sound pressure levels which really sets these headphones apart. Whereas lesser headphones struggle at high sound pressure levels, the RP Series have no such problems. The bass is always powerful and distortion-free even at high levels. - Essential when headphone monitoring in noisy environments such as ENG recording, DJ work, and in applications where you need to concentrate totally on your the program material. The Design of the leatherette padded ear cushions enhance the excellent sound isolation and superb deep bass reproduction.

Details:
DetailValue
BrandFostex
EAN0000888881005
FeatureMAX INPUT LEVEL - 2000mW
LabelFostex
List Price$129.95
ManufacturerFostex
Package Quantity1
Product GroupMusical Instruments
Product Type NameSOUND_AND_RECORDING_EQUIPMENT
PublisherFostex
StudioFostex
TitleFostex T20RP mkII
UPC000888881005
SKUT20RPMK2
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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