Pros: Articulate, refined, great value for money for it's SQ
I apologise for the late report on the initial impressions of the Fostex TH-600. I spent early part of last week burning the headphone in. But when that was complete I was hit with the flu and high fever. The above photo was actually my bedroom rig during recovery. Post recovery, I actually managed to make some time to have a listen to the TH-600 a bit, and compare it to the Signature Pros and the TH-900. Over the weekend my friend & I attempted to find a pair of Denon AH-D7000 but there was none! Tokyo may be great with the latest and the greatest but they're also quick to stash away succeeded models. So sadly, no comparisons to the D7000 - not even 2nd hands.
Please note that these are very preliminary listening over the past 3 days and I've got another 1.5 days with it before I should probably return them back to Fostex.
The way I'd quickly summarise the TH-600 is that it introduces the Fostex TH-signature to those who are curious about how Fostex TH house sound sounds like. It shares many qualities physical and sonic to the TH-900, but at the end of the day, this is still the little baby brother of the TH-900. The price of the TH-600 will retail for approx Y84,000 in Tokyo whilst the bigger older brother retails for approx Y130,000 street price.
Construction and Design
The TH-600 shares the same design, headband, earcup size, and ear pads as the TH-900. The fundamental differences between the two are the drivers are now 1.0 Tesla whilst the bigger brother is 1.5 Tesla. The cables are also 6N OFC whilst the other is 7N OFC. Visually the biggest difference is the magnesium textured black ear cups. The 1/4" plug is also sliver textured and is heavier than the TH-900's fingerprint prone chrome.
Overall the TH-600 is more stealth and understated but yet very classy. The textured magnesium cup is actually very feels rather industrial to touch.
I'll start off by saying that aside from a few snippet comments here and there, I won't be doing a thorough sound comparison between the TH-600 and the TH-900 as I've previously mentioned in this thread that I feel it won't do the TH-600 justice. However I will say it's SQ matches my expectation for its given price. I was lucky enough to have Bootsy1 loan me his Ultrasone Signature Pro which to me is more similarly priced. Thank you Bootsy1.
The TH-600 shares similar tonal signatures to the TH-900 that it's a somewhat mild U-shape. I won't really say that one has more bass or treble quantity than the other, nor ones mid more recessed, laid/pulled back from the other. By comparison the Signature Pro has a more prominent mids, slightly less sub bass, and slightly more forward treble.
Overall the TH-600 has a more laid-back sound especially compared to the Signature Pros. I find it excels in slower vocal jazz (take your pick out of the Best Audiophile Voices series), whereas in more modern vocals Jazz or strong vocals where there's potential for some speed (such as Michael Buble, Adele, etc.) I prefer the Signature Pros. With slower paced genre, the TH-600 feels it has room to move and ease into music. Instruments and vocals are well separated and have room to breath. Whereas strong vocals like Adele where there's a varying pace, the TH-600 doesn't have the intimacy of the Signature Pros. As such the Signature Pros feel more engaged.
The soundstage and imaging of the TH-600 is by far larger and deeper than the Signature Pro, which shouldn't be a surprise. However, and this was something I didn't notice before with the Signature Pro, is the S-Logic's 3D feels more simulated whereas the TH-600 feels much more natural. Along with that, the resolution of the TH-600 is also greater giving a smoother presentation whereas the Signature Pro can occasionally feel somewhat grainy.
However, the tables are turned when the TH-600 is compared to the TH-900. The older bigger brother gives a bigger sound. Despite having the basic similar tonal signature, the TH-900 is more expansive, even greater soundstage, imaging, and more immersive. That's where the almost-double price show it's true value (instead of the Urushi cups as most may think).
These are my raw notes I made during listening :-
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Best Audiophile Voices VI
Auld Lang Syne
- SigPro more closed and intimate. Detailed but feels a little grainy in comparison to the TH-600.
- TH-600 sits in between the SigPros and the TH-900 in soundstage and imaging. Increased resolution makes vocals sound smoother than the SigPros. Also more mellow/easy going in comparison to the SigPros.
- Both TH-600 and TH-900 are detailed but TH-900 has the edge over the detail and separation.
- The TH-600 may seem to sound a little taller than the TH-900 though. Not certain what's going on there.
- Signature Pro feels much more "in your face" impactful whilst the TH-600 remains quite laid-back & natural.
- SigPro's S-Logic 3D imaging vs the TH-600 3D imaging is definitely noticeable. The SigPro just feels more "simulated" whereas the TH-600 feels more natural.
- Again, the TH-600 sounds a little more intimate whilst the TH-900 has the large hall effect. But compared to the SigPros, the TH-600 feels wide.
- SigPro sounds a little grainy in comparison to the TH-600.
Michael Buble's Call Me Irresponsible
- The biggest difference heard between the TH-900 and TH-600. TH-900 gives the bigger sound in clarity/transparency
- Voice sounds cleaner on the TH-900, and so is separation
- TH-600 possibly sounds a little more neutral? Not as U-shaped as the TH-900? Weird oddity. It's the only track where the tonal signature sounds different.
- TH-600's wider soundstage has a better separation in comparison to the SigPros
- TH-600's laid back signature sometimes feels that it lacks the detail in comparison to SigPros more upfront presentation. Or the details in the TH-600 are just more subtle to detect whereas the SigPros are just more in your face. The treble forwardness obviously gives a more apparent greater detail.
- The SigPros has a more forward mid and treble presentation whereas the TH-600 has the more textured reverberating sub to mid bass.
Michael Buble's It's Time
- The TH-600 continues to sit between the TH-900 and the SigPros. Compare it to the TH-900, the TH-600 feels intimate, but compare it to the SigPros, they feel wider.
- The TH-900 remains engaging and better separation
- SigPros have a more forward vocal mids than the TH-600. Feels more impactful than the TH-600
- The TH-600 feels much more laid back compared to the SigPros.
Set Fire To The Rain
- TH-900 has the edge in clarity
- Mids between the TH-600 and TH-900 seem to be the same.
- The TH-600's bass maybe slightly less forward (or is the narrower soundstage drowning the bass forwardness?). The TH-900 also seems to sound to have a tad more treble (or is it again the separation?)
- TH-600's laidback mids is more apparent compared to the SigPros. Again more spacious but feels less engaging than the SigPros
Ill Be Waiting
- TH-900 may have more sub-bass whilst the TH-600 on the mid bass
- SigPros feels more engaging.
Original Flashdance Soundtrack
- TH-600 has less depth dimension (polite way of saying more 2D) in comparison to the TH-900.
- SigPros feel faster and more engaging.
Conclusion For Now
I think for those who are curious about the Fostex TH-series house sound, the TH-600 will please. It actually performs well for a headphone of it's price range. I actually can't think of another closed back (I personally do not believe in comparing open to closed) of that price that would sound nice and articulate.
Having said that at least for my ears I do have preferences of certain genre where the TH-600 will shine more than others. Ideally one would own different types of headphones for different types of genre (the TH-600 for laid back tracks, the SigPros for strong vocals, the SigDJ for pop/hiphop/electronic). However if I had to choose only 1x closed-back headphone for home use of around this price range, the TH-600 would make me very happy.
Big Thanks To Bootsy1 For Loaning Me His Signature Pros!