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Fostex TH600 Dynamic Headphones

90% Positive Reviews
Rated #126 in Over-Ear

Posted

Pros: Build quality, appearance, comfort

Cons: Overpriced to hell.

Prior Listening Experience (Click to show)
Sony DR-Z7
Sennheiser HD800
Pioneer Monitor 10
Beyerdynamic DT1350
AKG K240 Sextett
NAD RP18 mylar (T50v1 OEM)
 
several others that aren't good enough to be worth mentioning

 


 

How this headphone is so popular and highly rated is beyond me. It's not the worst headphone I've used, but being called a 'bargain' at $800? What?

 

Before I get into the sound, let me say one thing: this headphone's enclosure is damn beautiful. It has some of the most robust build quality and looks I have ever seen. There is not a single part of this headphone that was cheaped out on; the headband adjustment is really nice and the entire thing is powder-coated metal. The pads are absolutely amazingly soft and supple, and they feel quite nice on the head. The cable is really soft and silky, and surprisingly flexible for a fabric-jacketed wire. There is nothing about the construction of this headphone that I do not absolutely adore, and I feel that you would be hard pressed to find a headphone with equivalent build quality in this day and age.

 

However, we must remember that this is a headphone, an instrument designed to reproduce music. In the end, the sound takes precedence over all other aspects in order of importance. And in my opinion, this is where Fostex completely drops the ball. To my ears this sounds like nothing more than a pseudo-basshead consumer headphone intended for people who have more money than they know what to do with, not people who actually genuinely care about sound quality. It's overly bassy and diffuse and simply did not satisfy me.

 

Don't get me wrong, I love bass, even in large quantities. That is not my issue with the TH600. My issue is that it isn't good bass.  It has a very noticeable hump centered around 80-100Hz (commonly referred to as the "midbass"), which makes it sound unnaturally emphasized at the top of the bass spectrum and weak at the bottom. Add to this high even-order distortion and it becomes extremely thick and overbearing. This equates to a very "bloomy" sound in the low registers, as it is adding impact/slam/emphasis to areas which normally would not carry it, thereby causing the mids to become lost and buried in the background. Overall it is certainly not the worst bass I've heard, and too much is not quite as bad as not having any at all, but I expected a lot better performance at a price point like this. I should not be able to say that the $300 DT1350 has better bass than the TH600, and yet, it does.

 

The mids themselves are pretty difficult to discern, but with EQ are revealed to be relatively uninsulting on their own; pretty smooth, a little uneven towards the bottom but relatively flat and grain-free. It's the bass and treble overpowering them that makes them sound sucked-out and hollow.

 

The treble is by far the worst part of this headphone, and was essentially the dealbreaker for me. The extension is fine, great in fact, but to be honest I'd rather have no treble than to have what this headphone offers. It is not aggressive or "hot", nor harsh in any way, but it is very uneven, dirty, and artificial sounding. There is a slight amount of etch to it that makes it sound sparkly and overbearing. It's very splashy and lacks proper control, causing cymbals to be rendered as a cold, tizzy mess of high frequency noise. Disgusting. 

 

The presentation of this headphone is peculiar. The pads are very large and seal against your head quite well, and the drivers are quite far away from your ears. They don't sound "closed" or "cupped" to me, but they definitely don't have a soundstage. It just sounds like a distant, diffuse wall of sound. There's no real separation or placement, and it's not tactile either (due to the transducer's inability to resolve micro-detail). And oddly, though I certainly would not call this headphone overly distorted, there is this sense of "compression" and a lack of cleanliness throughout it which causes it to sound confused and nebulous. 

 

Comfort is far above average and quite good, the weight distribution is just right and the entire thing feels very soft and cozy on the head. Unfortunately, the pads do not breathe well, and the heat becomes irritating after 2+ hours of listening. I had to give my ears a 10 minute breathing period and wipe the pads clean before putting them back on.

 

All-in-all, my worst purchase in this hobby yet. In my opinion, Fostex really needs to put more thought and effort into the sound of their headphones, instead of spending all their time on pretty black metal and wood cups. I certainly hope the TH900 doesn't have this many problems.

 


 

TL;DR:

 

  • Very well built and comfortable
  • Gorgeous
  • Highly colored and unclean
  • Overwhelmingly thick and emphasized bass
  • Sucked-out midrange
  • Tizzy and peaky treble; very cold and splashy sounding
  • Overly diffuse with no real soundstage
  • Poor diaphragm control
  • Poor separation and microdetail
  • Seriously I'd take my M50 over these and the M50 gives me a headache
  • Fostex can go **** a cactus

 

Peace.

Posted

Pros: Comfort, great bass, even better treble, electronic master

Cons: cable is a bit too long

If you can get the th-600 for it's street price of less then $900 you did well. You give up some of the d7k fun for allot of th-600 refinement. Mids are faster and not as recessed as d7k. Bass hits a little less hard than the d7k, but the bass is cleaner and more controlled. The treble is less peaky and harsh than the d7k. If you liked the d7k back in the day then you will love the th-600 today. Are they worth the $1299 retail, no. But like the d7k there are lots of street price deals, some below $800 now. The review I'm giving is based off the $850 deal I got off PJ back in late july/ early august.

Posted

Pros: Detailed highs; deep, clean bass; light, comfortable fit; braided cable

Cons: Thin midrange; non-removable cable; little sound isolation

Equipment

 

Spotify Premium

Firestone Audio Fubar 2 DAC

Firestone Audio Cute Battery 2 amp

 

Build and comfort

 

I upgraded to these from Audio-Technica ATH-M50s. I very much like the sound of the M50, but found that their weight made them uncomfortable to wear for very long sessions (i.e. all day at the workplace), so most of the time I would use a pair of Panasonic RP-HTX7 because they're light and very comfy, despite being sonically inferior.

 

The TH-600 has very good build quality. The cups are large, understated, and have nice texture. The size adjustment mechanism gives a very satisfying click. The pads are light and soft and seem to resist oil nicely. They are not as light nor as comfortable as the HTX7 or other light, comfortable headphones like offerings from Bose, but are certainly lighter and comfier than most. They clamp lightly, so leaning back or shaking your head vigorously might cause them to fall off.

 

Overall, they are some of the most comfortable headphones I've ever had, and I have no problem wearing them all day.

 

A note about sound isolation: though these are closed headphones, they do not offer much isolation at all. However, they do not leak much sound, either. If sound isolation is important, then these definitely do not fit the bill.

 

The cable is solid and braided, but unfortunately is not removable. As others have said, this is probably the TH-600's only considerable downside.

 

Sound

 

Disclaimer: These are my first higher-end headphones. Other headphones I've owned include the aforementioned ATH-M50s, AKG k501, AKG k271S, and Koss KSC-75. I found the sound of the M50s to be very enjoyable, especially the bass extension, despite them being too heavy in the low end.

 

The TH-600 goes even deeper, has better impact, and yet the bass is more controlled. But the highs are where the TH-600 really shines. They are detailed and crisp, without being too harsh. When I switch from the TH-600 to any other headphone, cymbals, high synths, and shakers seem to fade in to the background.

 

Soundstage is another strong point with the TH-600. It's much wider than any other closed headphones I've ever tried, and separation is great. They don't sound like a closed headphone.

 

The midrange is the TH-600's weakest point, as it is slightly recessed compared to the bass and treble, with vocals sometimes lacking body. I don't usually delve in to EQ, but it seems to me that these might benefit from a small, well-placed midrange bump.

 

Summary

 

These clearly trounce the M50s, as they should, considering they cost more than twice as much. They are quite light and comfortable. The bass is tight and strong, the highs crisp and clear, and the mids slightly thin. I love them, especially for the money. The only reason I haven't given full marks on a few of the categories is that I know that there are other, more expensive headphones out there that are superior, such as the TH-900.

 

People have been raving about the value of this headphone since back when it was $800+. At the current price point of ~$500, it seems like a no-brainer.

 

I'll be picking up a Fostex HP-A4 DAC/amp in a couple weeks, so I'm excited to see how that will pair vs the Firestone stack.

Posted

Pros: Soundstaging size, instrument seperation, openess, sub bass rumble, comfort

Cons: sharp and somewhat harsh treble, somewhat receeded mid range

Introduction

 

As this is my first review on headfi I think I'll give a little background information before getting into the review. Before getting the TH600 I had experienced the HE400, HD600, DT880 and D2000 and was ready to make the next step up in the headphone world. I purchased these secondhand for roughly $750 overall, they go for about a grand here in Australia. As far as my sound preferences go, I can find something to like in most headphones I've tried and I've been able to identify their weaknesses for me personally. The TH600 has been with me for 3 weeks of constant listening.

 

Packaging, build quality, Isolation/leak and comfort

 

When you get the headphone, it comes in a very large box, inside there is a case which is cardboard. This case can be used for storage as it is filled with molded foam, nothing too snazzy. You get the headphone as is, nothing else really except for a warranty and manual (who needs those). The headphone itself is a magnesium alloy and you can tell they are metal immediately. I don't think photo's do justice to just how sleek these look. The pads are pleather, but some of the best fake leather I've ever felt. The headphones overall are very light, but I can't help but think of a flimsy feeling when handling them due to the headband connectors which are single bolts holding the cups on. This part does not instill long term durability. True to the light weight and quality pads, these feel comfortable - moreso than many other closed headphones I've tried. They heat up the ears much less than the Signature DJ, Mad Dog and most other closed as well. I immediately noticed that these have ports on the sides of the cups, more on that in the sound section though. The cable is very long 3m I believe, and as such as it is not removable, it is not intended for portable use. I have tried that though, and they do not isolate very well and leak more sound than any other closed I've ever tried.

 

Sound Quality

Overall the Fostex TH600 is a slightly U shaped headphone with a heavier bass and treble focus. This is immediately noticeable through many testing tracks initially. They also have somewhat of a lack of speed with what they do, despite a fairly quick decay. These are not super fast and effortless with complex stuff like metal like the HD800 or AD2000.

 

Bass

The bass true to Fostex and Denon form is quite powerful, and happy to say well extended into the deep sub bass. There is exceptional rumble for sub bassy electronic tracks that can often be felt as a tickle at higher volume. The bass however does not impact as powerfully as the Ultrasone Signature DJ - although it impacts with more authority than headphones like the LCD2, HE500 and T1. The Mid bass where bass guitars and other instruments reside is also fairly elevated and a dip in the start of the mid range can sometimes make me feel as if the bass is bleeding into the mid range a bit, which is often detracting on plenty of music where bass guitars are very prominent.

 

Midrange

In the lowest part of the mid range there seems to be a slight dip which can result in guitars having a thin/sterile/dry sound and can make some male vocalists less throaty and bit thin. The mid range overall is weaker than the treble and bass and can result in a deep feeling with recordings, an example is Mezzanine by Massive attack where many of the deep male vocals seem to come from further back than on headphones such as the HD600 or HE500. This often results in vocals male, and female being in line with the instruments rather than commanding the stage in front of them. For some this may be desirable. The midrange in tracks that are already recorded with good stage depth or from a distance can then sound a bit cavernous, or hall like. This midrange effect can apply to things such as acoustic guitar, electric guitars, violin etc which have a weakened overall presence - again compared to more neutral cans.

 

Treble

The TH600 treble is a love/hate kind of thing personally. The treble can be perfectly behaved on most EDM and certain rock and jazz tracks, but can be hard to take on plenty of other songs. The treble has a very high spike somewhere around where cymbals are often tuned and can result in a shattering metallic sound which is positively unbearable. An example is the cymbal work at the beginning of the remastered Painkiller by Judas Priest. The synth lines in Justices - Genesis toward the 3/4 mark also have a noticeably hot treble sear to them. Overall the treble extension into the higher treble is average, similar in extension to the D7000 - not as extended as the HD800, T1, K701.

 

Soundstage, Separation and Openess

As often said "the soundstage is amazing for a closed back", well while that is not true for me for a lot of cans where that is said it is here. Due to the ports in the headphone cups the soundstage is much more open and large. Infact up till this point is would be the largest I've heard in a closed can, more than Alpha Dogs, Signature DJ and bigger than even the HE500, HD600 and LCD2. The separation of instruments is decent, but not up to the standard of the T1, HD800 or HE500. Sometimes despite the larger stage, rock music can sound a tiny bit cluttered even if busy sounding at times. This is where I feel the speed can let it down somewhat, it shares this trait with the T1 on the most fast music, but not as smeared as that is. It doesn't have a sense of urgency put a more plodding feeling of pace. The TH600 is very detailed due to its treble and openess however, if one listens to the right music such as psy-trance or soundtrack for example, but lacks the ultimate imaging for ambient electronic stuff, which the HD800 does better.

 

Performance with Genres

 

- EDM -

The TH600 is a king with EDM music, many of the issues faced with other genres become non existent if one listens to EDM in large quantities. If one listens to music like chillstep or say dubstep where deep sub bass rumble is desired, then these will do is very cleanly and will have a good rumble you will feel at high volume, without sacrificing overall fidelity. For EDM the sound is very fun, exciting and dynamic, synth lines are extremely well separated and layered. The mid recession hits this type of music the least, however if you care more for your synth sounds and midrange or you mainly listen to vocal driven EDM like some Industrial or Future pop you may be disappointing by the weaker vocal presence.

 

- Rock -

As far as rock goes, the treble can be a little hard to listen to on a lot of older recordings from the 70s, such as early Scorpions or Zeppelin. It can often sound rather hot or over crunchy. Guitars are drier and thinner than headphones that can do better justice to those songs like the HE500 and LCD2. Rock bass however will have a large amount of grunt to it and bass drums will have strong impact. If strong cymbal and bass presence is your desire than this may be for you. For the fastest metal this may not be able to be the fastest option around, the HE6 and HD800 sound more effortless to my ears. Male vocalists become equal to the guitars and instruments and no longer up front or in total command.

 

Jazz

Jazz double and acoustic bass with have a nice strength and thump to it, but some will consider it to intrude on the midrange. With the usage of trumpets and Sax one may also find themselves in trouble with the treble spike, very sharp with the wrong recordings. The headphone soundstage and air will give a strong impression of room ambiance and spaciousness. Sultry female vocals can find themselves weakened by the midrange, don't expect to be wowed by them.

 

Classical and Soundtrack

The soundstage is more than big enough for these genres for me, but the midrange is simply too thin and as such strings lose their magic and emotive power. Separation for an orchestra is not top notch here and can be bettered by the HD800 and T1.

 

Pop

For pop I enjoyed these headphones quite a bit, one of the best choices for modern pop today. If once listens to Kpop female vocals then these may make them less forward overall and more pleasant if the recordings are not up to scratch. Though Audio Technicas are much more forward and pure in female vocal than these which will diminish them.

 

Acoustic

The bottom octaves of the acoustic guitar dominate the sound here and the tonality of the guitar suffers a fair bit as it sound diminished and darkened overall. I prefer a more complete midrange here.

 

VS Signature DJ

In comparison to the TH600 the Signature DJ is a more closed in and aggressive overall presentation. Like the TH600 the Sig DJ has a U shaped frequency response, but in its case the lower midrange has more helf and weight to it and male vocals as a result stay strong in their presentation. Female vocals and things like lead guitar solo work, acoustic can suffer on the DJ a lot as well because of a upper mid recession. The DJ has harder hitting bass but does not rumble nearly as much in the sub bass frequencies. The DJ has more pronounced bass guitar which can bleed a bit like the TH600, even moreso in some cases - bass guitar can be very prominent. The Signature DJ has a smaller and less airy soundstage, the gap here is fairly large, buts its imaging remains up to par to the TH600 and on ocassions can sound more 3 dimensional due to sounds coming from behind you more often. The Treble on the DJ is elevated but to me is quite smooth and I'd say it remains sibilance free from my setup. Never do we have the treble disharmony of the TH600 even with the same tracks. The Signature DJ has slightly lower detailed level and resolving ability for what listening I have compared them both with. The DJ isolated extremely well and leaks little to nothing whatsoever and is vastly ahead of the TH600 in this regard.

 

VS JVC DX1000

In stark contrast to the TH600 and Signature DJ the DX1000 has emphasized and quite full mids overall. The sound here is a smooth laid back sound which follows along in a darker signature. The bass on the DX1000 hits just as hard as the TH600 and has more rumble at times due to the wooden ear cups. The Midrange has a full and thick sound to it, very lush and musical and does do wonders for female vocals especially, not dissimilar to Audio Technica woodies in this regard. The treble is much less pronounced then either of the the other two models, and can sound a bit distant or detached with dark recordings. The DX1000 has the larger soundstage of the 3 but lacks the openess that the TH600 can impart. The JVC can sound cavernous or distant in terms of soundstaging with some recordings, to me this seems rather random and I cannot predict which albums this will affect. The JVC does not sound quick or energetic but may be a much better choice for classical and jazz than the other two models. The DX1000 has extremely impressive imaging, up there with the TH600 and maybe even more pinpoint overall.

 

VS W1000X

The W1000X also has fuller mids compared to the the TH600 and DJ overall. The W1000X is the most forward and sweet with female vocalists overall, and tends to be fantastic with kpop, pop and especially female fronted jazz/acoustic groups. The W1000X has a soundstage slightly bigger than the DJ but less impressive in size than the JVC or TH600. The W1000X also has the weakest imaging, whiles its bass rolls off earlier and is not as powerful as the other three. It has the second smoothest treble behind the DX1000. This is not a quick headphone, and is suited to slower softer genres, or regular rock, but not metal or edm.

 

Conclusion
Overall the TH600 is a fantastic EDM can and for many rock albums will be fun, powerful and energetic but may not have the ultimate sense of speed for quick Metal tracks. For classical you are better going with something else for classical as the midrange preference. Jazz is a mixed bag of energy and verve, but also lack of intimacy as well as delicacy.

 

Tube amplifiers that can add to the mids and reduce the treble would be highly desirable. I will admit I have not heard these on anything but my own setup.

 

 

*disclaimer* This is just my personal opinions and as such YMMV and IMO. It is not definitive and can be updated with amp upgrades and comparisons.

 

Amp used Audio GD NFB 15.32.
 

Posted

Pros: Great Detail, Epic Bass, Not Harsh, Pretty Neutral, Very Exciting

Cons: Non-removeable cable, a bit expensive.... that's about it

I just posted this review on my blog, which also has a review of the TH-900s

 

EDD_6252b.jpg

DisclaimerA big thank you to SCV London for loaning me the TH600 for this review.


When I reviewed the high-end Fostex TH-900 last December I compared it to the discontinued Denon flagship because it came from the same 'Foster Electronics' design (despite being about half the price). The TH600 also borrows the same design, but brings a sleek and modern looking matte black metal look to the cups. This matches the rest of the frame nicely and this new model is priced much more closely to the old Denon Flagship (which had a £900 RRP). 


The box of the TH-600 is almost identical to that of the TH-900, although the former doesn't include a cheap wire stand (sorry Fostex, but that was lame). Like it's flagship sibling they're marketed as 'Premium Reference Headphones' as well. I had expected Fostex to better differentiate between these two models here, but it's still a fair statement. Just a few seconds with the TH-600 shows the family resemblance. The big question here will be: Just how close do they sound to the TH-900 and indeed to the Denon AH-D7000?


Although it's rather difficult to compare them from memory, the biggest difference between this new model and the TH900 (that I can remember) was that the latter felt more smooth. If I'm remembering correctly, perhaps some of that came from the wood housing. There is a similar difference between this and the Denon AH-D7000 too, which I still have to compare directly with the TH600.


Apart from a lack of wooden cups the TH-600 appears to be a spiritual replacement for the Denon AH-D7000. Since manufacturing of the Denon stopped over a year ago it's getting very hard to find now. In price and on paper they are remarkably similar, in fact all accept one specification is identical between the two. The sensitivity has dropped to 94dB / mW, compared to 108dB / mW on the D7000 (although the impedance is still the same lowly 25 Ohms). That's quite a difference, but I can confirm that they sound almost identical in volume. So can anyone who says sensitivity is more meaningful than impedance explain this? The marketing for the TH-600 boasts a 1 tesla power magnet (the TH-900 is 1.5 tesla). This makes me wonder what the power of the Denon's magnets are, but that information doesn't seem to be listed anywhere. Then again, other than Beyerdynamic and Fostex, no other headphone manufacturer states their headphone's magnetic power and even these only list it on their high end models.


OK, enough babble - on to the review...

EDD_6250.jpg

     SOUND

The first thing to hit me with these headphones was an almost surreal sense of space. This was also true of the Denon AH-D7000 and the flagship Fostex TH-900. Actually it's one feature that remains pretty similar throughout this design and I can't really choose which is better in this regard, although it's worth noting that I haven't tried the lower end Denon AH-D2000. It's also nice to hear that it doesn't get lost with the lack of wood on the TH-600. To go into a little more detail - the soundstage is impressively vast and the instrument separation is utterly superb! It's something that is noticeable even with poor quality sources and amplification, but the better amplification you can throw at them the more the excitement grows.


The next thing to appreciate here is the bass. Like the other models that share this design, that famous & potent sub-bass like depth and kick is still present in the TH-600. It's perhaps a little more edgy and less smooth, but it's not a huge difference. The edgy sensation extends throughout the ranges and adds a noticeable amount of detail compared to the Denon. It makes instruments with potent high frequencies feel better defined and with more realistic character.


Both of the TH-600 and TH-900 have been describes as 'Premium Reference' models, which usually requires a pretty flat response and often this equates to a relatively dry performance (at least to some people). Now there's no way you can call either of these models dry or boring, quite the opposite really. I have mentioned the bass body is pretty potent and the highs are very exciting too, but I really wouldn't call this a typical 'V shaped' response. I do think that 'Flat' or 'Reference' is more fair here. The key being that the mid-range is not recessed to the bass and treble. It too is noticeably exciting and here is the thing - these different aspects are exciting and very well defined, but they don't feel pushed. This headphone may not be everything to everyone, but it's certainly pretty close to perfection for me. It's not be the fastest, most analytical presentation the world has seen, but it can certainly hold it's own. It sounds really cheesy that I could sum up this headphone by using it's own tag-line, but yeah I would. 


     AMPLIFICATION

I've been very spoiled with amplification this time around. I was lucky enough to receive the Benchmark DAC2 HGC at the same time as the Fostex TH-600 so of course I connected them up. This is an extremely pricey machine and I find myself blown away by it, but perhaps not for the reasons you might assume. Yes it's a very capable sounding machine, but I'm increasingly drawn to it because it's just so neat! Considering how many digital inputs, analogue outputs and high-end components it has I am shocked by just how small it is. It betters the M-DAC in almost every way and yet it's smaller in every dimension and even though it has an internal power supply it's lighter too. Like most other headphones the TH-600 sounds great using the DAC2 HGC. There is a great sense of smoothness, scale and authority. 

EDD_6297.jpg

As you can see from the above photo the DAC2 was capable of running both the TH-600 and the Denon AH-D7000 from this high quality DAC and headphone amplifier at the same time. This allowed me to test the volume output more reliably and compare these headphone's sound quality with ease.


The Audiolab M-DAC usually plays the part of a benchmark DAC/amp during these reviews. Although I have a machine that more that fills it's shoes (not only in name), I still gave the TH-600s a thorough play using the M-DAC. I do like this combo, the TH-600 may not quite have the warmth of the Denon AH-D7000, but it still has that bass and the M-DAC pushes that in an enjoyable direction. It adds a little 'V shaped' response, which might be better for bass-heads and I like it for Electronic music, but I general prefer a more balanced presentation.


I'm kind of going backwards here, but I also enjoyed the TH-600s with my portable setup with highly enjoyable results. This involved the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone running lossless files through the 'Power Amp' app. This output digital through a USB OTG cable to an Epiphany Acoustics E-DAC. The ESS-9024 powered mini DAC requires so little power that it runs off the smartphone without issue. The E-DAC then output analogue to a brand new Shonyun AH-306A battery powered amplifier. 

EDD_6382.jpg

This amplification is a little bright and unrefined compared to the other machines that I've been testing the TH-600s on, but it was still a highly enjoyable presentation. A huge improvement over the phone's normal headphone output and was closer to the bigger expensive amps than it looked capable of. OK it's not exactly pocketable, but it's at least easily transportable.


     COMPARISONS

Denon AH-D7000It's hard not to draw comparisons between these two headphones. I've mentioned the Denon lots already, but here's a little more about why: They're the mad by the same company (Foster Electronics), which is why they share the same basic design. They have the same weight, the same maximum power, the same impedance and their RRPs are very close. I've owned the D7000 for a while now and I'm one of many who really like its sound. The fact that this Denon range was discontinued over a year ago makes me pretty sad. This new Fostex model be just what the headphone community needs to replace the D7000 and maybe we will get something to replace the D2000 & D5000 from Fostex one day too. So for anyone who missed out on getting the D7000 before it sold out - this is for you...


Despite the less form-fitting ear-cushioning shape of the TH600 (which the TH900 also shares) they actually feel very forgiving with fit and almost as comfortable in general use. Both designs have enough space and depth inside the ear-cushioning to accommodate quite large ears without touching any part of themThe headband adjustment and weight are absolutely identical between the two models, it's a great design with little flaws. The synthetic egg-shell leather can lead to your ears warming up a bit during hot weather, but they're by no means the worst headphones for heat, perhaps due to the large internal space and lack of isolation. 


So how do they sound by comparison? Well, first let me say that I really didn't want this Fostex to sound better than the D7000. I bought the Denon, it was a lot of money for me to spend on headphones and it was also the subject of my first review. Since getting rare part of me hoped they would stay unique and special. In general they are, but when you have these high-end Fostex models using the same design things get a little less special. The TH600 is mostly a nicer sounding headphone than the Denon. That said it's important to emphasize that these two models actually share even more in the sound quality / tonality departments than they do with exterior design. Their sonic characteristics are about 95-98% the same, so when I talk about the differences they are there, but they're certainly not big. If you had concerns that the the lack of wood cups would affect the sound quality of the Fostex in a particularly negative way I can assure you that it doesn't. The TH600's smoothness and warmth lags behind the Denon a little and although this could be related to the wood, it seems like too small of a difference for that. The TH600 still has that epic sub-bass like body to the low-frequencies, but it's a little tighter / more edgy and this is largely for the better. Despite all this low frequency greatness the mids are still very present, clear and balanced, without being muddied. The biggest difference between the two is in the detail of the upper mid-range / treble however. The TH-600 feels more crisp and better defined than the D7000, which makes several instruments sound more lively and real. 

EDD_6254.jpg

As I mentioned before, the soundstage and instrument separation is superb with both, but they pay for this by leaking sound a lot for a closed-back design. If you like the idea of a headphone that has amazing soundstage and isolation, either for noisy environments, or just so people can't hear what you're listening to, think again. This has always been and will always be a trade-off and is not something you can have the best of both worlds with, even if you throw money at it.


Fostex TH900: The original and big brother to the TH600, also shares the same design and like the Denon AH-D7000 uses exotic wood for it's resonance chamber. The exterior of the TH900 almost hides it's wood with a considerably more flashy finish. It has most of the good qualities from both the TH-600 and D7000. It's the most detailed, the most refined treble, most smooth. The only possible down side is that it doesn't have as much bass body and it's not quite as warm as the Denon. These could be considered down sides unless you like your upper bass with a bit more body. I'm right on the fence with this one and I don't think it's because I own one of them. I am taking the price difference into account a little here. If you can find the D7000 for £500 somewhere, then it's the bargain of the century, but as time goes by that's becoming less and less likely. 


      MUSIC

Here are some individual music tracks and how I felt the TH-600 made them sound. Most tracks were listened to in CD format with lossless compression. All tracks are also available on Spotify, which (on the 'premium' service) are maximum quality MP3s and I find these highly acceptable.

  • Megadeath: "Train of Consequences" - Good old Metal, which now seems like soft rock - perhaps this choice makes me seem older than I am. There's just something about these mildly aggressive vocals infused into fast drums and guitars that I really like. It's also a great test of headphone clarity, quality and speed. The TH600 is very good with most music, they even make the Denon AH-D7000 look a bit picky, but I can't help like feeling that this music would be a little better off on something a bit faster. Something more analytical like the Sennheiser HD800 or perhaps a very high-end planar magnetic. 
  • Gorillaz: "Kids With Guns" - I love the deep sounds mixing with the vocals of this grungy Pop-ish music. It's hard to find a presentation that doesn't show this excess of upper bass body, so when you get one that is very impressive and well controlled it's a great thing. What I love about the TH600s is how they manage to surgically remove the vocals (and many other elements), it spreads them out them out almost to the point of surrealism a times, but it does wonders to tracks that can sound muddled elsewhere.
  • Rita Ora:  "How We Do It (Party)" - Pop music is not my favourite genre by any stretch, but the quality of this presentation makes me appreciate it so much more than I usually would. I really can't imagine most lovers of this genre ever listening to it through this kind of equipment, but there is something disturbingly fun about this lively Pop music here.
  • Hans Zimmer: "What Are You Going To Do When You Are Not Saving The World" - I'd just like to apologize for the ridiculously long track title, they should be banned! Since I'm a big soundtrack nut let me explain that Hans Zimmer is more like a producer than a composer in the traditional sense, he probably didn't write this track exactly. If you didn't already know, this is how a majority of big names work in the soundtrack industry and Hans Zimmer's studio is way more transparent about this than most, but the labels don't like this and that's why you often just get one big name on a CD. Now that I'm off on a random babble-fest I will also mention that I saw this movie last night and I very much agree with the 'Half In The Bag' review. This track really sums up the tone of the whole soundtrack for me and the movie too. It's much darker than the original John Williams score and obviously drags it closer to Dark Knight style. As much as a I didn't want that from the movie it's a powerful theme and it's presented really well here, as I'd imagine most classical music would be equally impressive sounding here.
  • Noisia: "Barbas Theme" - This track might start off a bit wet with a homage to the original 'Devil May Cry' games, but it quickly morphs into an awe inspiring & dynamic Dubstep rooted Electronic piece. There may not be quite the liquid smoothness of the TH-900 here, but the TH-600 is still able to wow on this kind of music and in a huge way! 
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan: "Little Wing" - My first choice of guitar music impressed me a lot on these headphones. The instrument separation and the great air to the sound, the subtlety of high and low frequencies while keeping the excitement levels high is just wonderful. The clarity and rendering of the guitar is just sublime! It's just a shame about many of these recording's excessive background noise.
  • Rodrigo Y Gabriela: "Oogie Boogie's Song" - This is a very different style of guitar to Stevie Ray (or pretty much anything else), but it's a great test of bass body and dynamics. I often use Rodrigo Y Gabriela music to test equipment and the TH600s certainly don't disappoint here. With the great soundstage and separation there really sounds like more than just two performers here - extremely impressive!


     BUILD

The finish may not be quite up there with the flagship TH-900's vibrant red Uruchi Laqure, but the majority of the other build quality aspects are and that's a great selling point. There's very little plastic here and mix of mostly matte black with a touch of chrome is kinda beautiful in it's own way. The aluminium cups suffer a bit form greasy finger print staining (as shows up in some of the photos a little). Saying that, my hands are very sweaty, so I prefer the shiny coated wood finish of then Denon purely because I can wipe it clean. Getting finger prints out of the TH600 is not as easy.


The cable is almost identical to that of the Denon AH-D7000. Although the one I had looked a little messy that could be because it's a loaner. Anyway, the termination is the larger 6.35mm type, which makes good sense at this end of the market (it looks identical to that of the TH900 too). The cable itself is 3 meters long and braded cable with a 'Y' split about 40cm before attaching to each ear-cup. Just like the TH900 and D7000 I seriously hate the large plastic cover of the 'Y' split because if you're sat at a desk it continuously catches under it as you move your head. Perhaps the worst thing of the whole TH600 package though is that the cable is not removable. For the price and market trend this is actually quite unusual, but it's not exactly the end of the world.

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     COMFORT

The comfort of the TH-600 is fantastic. Being nearly the exact same design as the TH-900 and Denon there is little to complain about here. This is very nearly the most comfortable headphone I've ever used. There are only two aspects that I find better on other models and both items concern the ear-pads. For one thing pleather (fake leather) means your head will get warmer than necessary in hot weather, although a more felt-like material could improve this issue it could also negatively affect acoustics so I won't be too hard on Fostex here. The other very small issue is related to the shape of the pads, they're the same thickness all the way around, which causes the cups to sit at a slightly awkward angle. Many headphones that use 


     FINAL WORDS

For it's sheer sound quality and comfort the TH-600 is a compelling headphone with an appropriately epic price tag. It gets pretty damn close to the quality of the TH-900, but for nearly £700 less and that's pretty amazing! That said - if you're not scared by the TH-600's price you could probably stretch to the flagship and considering the quality finish, extra smoothness and exclusivity that it provides I would still recommend either.


Let me put it this way - If you have no other equipment and want to dive into the world of high-end headphones with a strict £1500 (for example) then I would recommend getting the TH-600 and spending the rest on a good quality DAC and headphone amplifier. That will yield better results than getting the TH-900 and plugging into your smartphone. Although technically it would work OK volume wise, it certainly wouldn't sound as impressive.

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    EQUIPMENT USED

 

Desktop PC, Dell Vosto Laptop, iPhone4, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, Asus Nexus 7, Arcam rBlink, Audiolab M-DAC, Schiit Modi / Magni, Benchmark DAC2 HGC, SoundMAGIC HP200, Sennheiser HD650, Denon AH-D7000, Mad Dog (Fostex T50rp mod), Hifiman HE400, 

Posted

Pros: Detail level, excellent sub bass, large soundstage for a closed headphone, great treble, impressive layering and separation

Cons: Slightly recessed and/or dry mid-range, can lack emotion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOSTEX TH-600 – initial impressions

I came upon these headphones almost by accident recently – after writing up a review on my most recent trade acquisition (the Final Audio Sonorous/Pandora Hope IV), I spotted someone on one of the forums looking for a set and having the TH-600 to offer in trade. Being a newcomer to the world of mid-range cans and never having heard the TH-series (or any Fostex headphone, in fact), I was intrigued to see what the sound would be like compared to the Final Audios and my beloved AQ Nighthawks. Needless to say, I was quite impressed…

About me: newly minted audiophile, late 30s, long time music fan and aspiring to be a reasonably inept drummer. Listen to at least 2 hours of music a day on my commute to work – prefer IEMs for out and about, and a large pair of headphones when I have the house to myself and a glass in my hand. Recently started converting my library to FLAC and 320kbps MP3, and do most of my other listening through Spotify or Tidal HiFi. I am a fan of rock, acoustic (apart from folk) and sarcasm. Oh yeah, and a small amount of electronica. Not a basshead, but I do love a sound with some body to it. My ideal tuning for most IEMs and headphones tends towards a musical and slightly dark presentation, although I am not treble sensitive in general. Please take all views expressed below with a pinch of salt – all my reviews are a work in progress based on my own perceptions and personal preferences, and your own ears may tell you a different story.

Tech specs (from the Fostex website)

Type:    Dynamic
Driver:    50mm dia Nd magnet / bio-dynamic diaphragm
Impedance:    25 ohm
Sensitivity:    94dB / mW
Maximum Input:    1,800 mW
Reproduction Frequency:    5 – 45k Hz
Weight:    370g (excluding the cord)
Cord:    3m Y type
Plug:    6.3mm dia gold coating stereo phone plug

Unboxing / package contents

The packaging is pretty straightforward, with a cardboard box showing a full size picture of the headphones and the name, proclaiming them to be “Premium Reference Quality”. No other specs or information is given, giving the packaging a functional but minimalist look. On opening the box, a solid black presentation case is revealed, with “Fostex TH600” emblazoned in gold print on the front. This presentation box opens in two parts, and reveals the headphones inside, nestled in a molded foam insert that fills the interior of the box and allows the headphones to sit in protected comfort when not in use. As the cables used are hard-wired into the box, there are no other accessories to speak of, just the box and the headphones. The minimalist approach is used on the headphones themselves, with the solid magnesium body being a solid dark grey/light black colour, with the Fostex logo engraved into each cup. The only splash of colour that can be seen is on the stainless steel rods that connect the headband to the cups. All in all, these are headphones at their least ostentatious – just a functional (and quite attractive) design, and an elegant box to hold them in.

Build quality and ergonomics

The headphones are made of die-cast magnesium, and look and feel solid but pretty lightweight for a fully circumaural (over-ear) headphone. The headband is lightly padded, but due to the ergonomic curve of the band itself doesn’t actually exert much pressure on the crown of the head during wear, so is fully capable of being worn for hours at a time with no tell-tale “hotspots”. The headband length is adjustable and the cups swivel and rotate on two axes, so generally allows for positioning that will give a good seal. As this is a traded model, mine came fitted with some Brainwavz HM5 memory foam pads rather than the originals, but those allow for a comfortable seal and long-term wear without heating up. Clamping force is mild, with the headphones able to move slightly rather than being superglued to your head. These are designed for at-home or studio use, so the lack of firm grip is not a dealbreaker – the extra long and thick braided cable (terminated in a studio/hi fi amp friendly 6.3mm plug rather than a more mobile 3.5mm terminator) would pose far more of an issue to using these on the go, unless you fancied using them as a very expensive skipping rope.

Sound quality

Test gear:

LG G Flex 2 (via Neutron Player)

iBasso DX90 (with Cayin C5)

Opus #1

Sansa Clip+ (Rockboxed)

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (straight from the output jack)

Main test tracks (mainly 320kbps MP3 or FLAC/Tidal HiFi):

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – S.O.B. / Wasting Time

Blackberry Smoke – The Whipporwill (album)

Slash – Shadow Life / Bad Rain (my reference tracks for bass impact and attack, guitar “crunch”)

Slash & Beth Hart – Mother Maria (vocal tone)

Sister Hazel – Hello, It’s Me (bass quantity and quality)

Richie Kotzen – Come On Free (bass tone)

Elvis – various

Leon Bridges – Coming Home (album)

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (album) / Tron (various versions)

Rodrigo y Gabriela – various

Mavis Staples – Livin’ On A High Note

Don Broco – Automatic

Foy Vance – The Wild Swan

General impressions on the sound signature

One of my favourite things to do when I have a little time to myself at home for some “casual” listening is to plug in some music via my headphones, plop myself on the sofa and flick through the sports channels on satellite TV with the volume off (mainly to avoid the inane commentary from people who used to be paid to play a game, which doesn’t always qualify them to talk about it). Running through one of these early morning listening sessions with the TH600, I came across some gymnastics on one of the more obscure channels, which provided me with a perfect (and perfectly obscure) analogy for the way these headphones sound. Like a male gymnast, the sound is muscular and very well-defined, while still being light and extremely dextrous. Notes shimmer and turn on a sixpence, flicking about with precision and control. The body of the music is there, without any excess fat or flab flying around as it does its rounds through the confines of your eardrums, drawing your attention to the technicalities it is trying to execute well rather than its shortcomings. According to the description on the packaging, these are “reference class” headphones, and that is a good descriptor – the sound (in the main) is full bodied without being lush or bloated, technically impressive without being bland, and neutral enough not to colour the music too much without being ruler-flat across all frequencies. The tuning does very well extracting the micro-details from guitar based music, and separating the voices in gospel choruses without destroying the body of the music in the process.

Highs

Treble on the TH600 is clear and defined, with a nice sense of space and air for a closed-back headphone. Notes are clean and sharp, with a nice sense of crunch and crispiness to more aggressive treble. Detail is excellent, with the famous Fostex bio-dynamic diaphragm keeping the information flowing into your ears no matter how quiet or peripheral. Despite being sharp, the TH600 steers clear of sibilance issues on all but the most spiky of tracks, drawing the line just shy of overcooking the treble while still giving these a reasonable splash of sparkle. To be clear, my preference for treble is firmly in the clear and smooth/rolled off category, so there may still be too little high end pizzazz for the true treble-hounds out there, but to my ears they draw a very good line between the detail and rounding of each note to satisfy most listeners.

Mids

The mid-range feels slightly further back in the landscape compared to the highs or lows, giving a feeling of the singer projecting from mid-stage rather than leaning over the front row of the crowd. Texture is good, with guitar tones ringing clear and authentic, and a nice sound and bite to string instruments in general. The mid-range is close to neutral in tuning, with neither an abundance of warmth or leanness, treading the line between body and definition well. Chords (both electric and acoustic) jangle when strummed and crunch when chopped out, with the more recessed tuning allowing plenty of space for the instruments to spread out in all three dimensions. “Kashmir” by Escala drives along with great dynamics, the symphonic violins buzzing with energy and seeming to float slightly above the chugging guitar riff underpinning the track without muddying either. This tuning is slightly less forgiving of my badly mixed or lower quality tracks, with the lighter mid-range volume making some vocalists seem a little lifeless compared to the bass and highs – not exactly surprising for a “reference class” headphone, but still worth noting if you haven’t gone totally down the lossless/320kbps route yet with your electronic music collection. Like the highs, detail levels are very high, with the space between the instruments allowing each strand of music enough room to fully unload all the associated harmonics and studio noise into the background hum. Listening to Rodrigo y Gabriela provides a great example of the beauty and beast of the driver in the same track: fingers slide over nylon strings with great authenticity, notes shimmer just far enough forward in the soundscape not to disappear, but the body of the note can sometimes feel just a little out of reach.

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Bass

The bio-dynamic driver delivers a quick, solid bass performance, with more emphasis on sub-bass rumble than mid-bass “slam”. The excellent placement of instruments and underlying rumble represents drum fills very well, and electronica sounds suitably full and pulsating when the volume is pumped up. Listening to tracks from “The Wild Swan”, the well-mastered sub bass on a few of the middle tracks like “She Burns” add a fullness to the lower end that is very enjoyable. Feeding the TH600s a diet of recent Prodigy tracks, the bumping basslines are there in full effect, driving the sound forward with authority and no little enjoyment. For more traditional bass driven tracks that live a little further up the frequency charts, the bass is more towards neutral than full, with a good substance to the notes and controlled presentation that never intrudes into the mid-range. In truth, a little bass bleed would probably add a little warmth and body to the analytical slant of the mids, but being proper reference headphones, the accuracy is to be expected. The texture of the bass is also to be applauded, with a nice authentic rasp and grain to bass guitar and a realistic sound to drum-head impacts.

Soundstage/separation

For a closed headphone, the soundstage is excellent, expanding outwards in a bubble that feels like a larger version of the hemispherical speaker cups you are wearing. Separation is outstanding, with multiple voices in large choral numbers sounding clear and distinct without divorcing themselves from the chorus. Spatial cues can be a little wider than on other closed-back headphones I have heard, with a reasonable height but more width. “Better Man” by Leon Bridges sounds sublime through these headphones, with the sounds coming from either side and sounding “fleshed out” and three dimensional as the saxophone and Hammond organ fills roll through different areas of the stage, easily painting a picture in your mind of where the music is coming from in the room. Due to the way this song is recorded, the “room noise” can sometimes overpower the chorus lines, but the TH600 takes it all in stride, preserving the live feeling of the track and the clarity of the individual pieces at the same time. The high detail level helps with the separation as well, bringing clarity to the faintest of noises in the soundscape without blurring any of them together.

Isolation

For a closed back headphone, these have only average isolation, and suffer from quite pronounced leakage. In a normal room, it is possible to hear what is going on (in a muffled manner) and for other people to hear what you are listening to without too much effort, so these are definitely cans for quiet listening or studio environments only – librarians need not apply.

Amping

The low impedance does allow the TH600s to be driven adequately from a volume perspective from a phone or low-power DAP setup, but to get the best out of the “reference class” sound these are capable of, then a good amp or powerful standalone player is required. Pushing these through the high-gain setting or the DX90, the skull-crushing power of the Cayin C5 or the refined but punchy output of the Opus #1 all give a marked improvement in tightness and overall soundstage, bringing a little more substance to the music and smoothing out some of the rough edges on lower-res tracks.

Comparisons

Audioquest Nighthawk – I have written a review of these headphones recently where I pointed out that they are more or less perfect for my tuning preferences, and while the TH600 are a technically impressive headphone, they don’t quite reach the same heights of enjoyment. Sub-bass is deeper and more pronounced on the TH600 (making them better overall bets for electronic music like dubstep), but the Nighthawk pull ahead in the mid-bass, with a warmer and fuller sound. Mids are more recessed and dry on the TH600, sticking closer to analytical, with the Nighthawks pouring out some beautiful, liquid midrange that is packed with feeling. Treble is a draw, with the smoothly detailed take used by the Nighthawks contrasting well with the sharper and more extended feeling TH600. Detail levels are similar on both, with the TH600 having a slightly sharper tuning so greater perception of detailing on initial listen, the Nighthawks keeping the detail present but a little less obvious in the overall tuning. Soundstage is won by the TH600, with a greater sense of width and distance between both sides of the stage. Separation is similar, with both excelling at keeping the instruments separate but still cohesive. Isolation is won by the Nighthawk, with both headphones suffering a similar amount of leakage. Comfort is a slam dunk by the Audioquest flagship, feeling like a pair of fluffy clouds on your head compared to the comfortable but still large-headphone-feeling TH600s.

Final Audio Sonorous/Pandora Hope IV – I acquired the TH600s in a direct swap for the Sonorous, so a direct A/B was not possible. Therefore these comparisons are from recent memory only, so please treat them as such. On initial listen, the Fostex presents a sound that is a little more detailed than the Sonorous, with better instrument separation and placement. Peripheral sounds and micro details are easier to pick out of the overall soundscape, without overpowering the main music, leading to an impression of more going on in some tracks I know well. The extra detail also helps to avoid a feeling of congestion, with the soundstage still feeling distinct and not overcrowded on the Fostex no matter how much instrumentation is on it. Width of soundstage is similar, with both outperforming the “standard” closed can expectations and sliding sound outside the imaginary confines of your head. Bass is slightly more pronounced on the Fostex – it is close, but seems to just have the extra pinch of volume that is occasionally lacking from the Sonorous for me. Mids are a little more dry and lean on the Fostex, with a similar presentation in terms of distance from the listener. The Sonorous tuning provides a bit more “soul” to vocals and string instruments, with the Fostex presenting a more clinical but still enjoyable sound. Treble is on the sharper end on both of these headphones, with the Fostex having a slightly more laid back treble presentation than the more in-your-face Sonorous, but detail levels and air are similar for both. Overall it is a close comparison between both, with the Fostex leaving an impression of being slightly more technically capable in terms of detail and resolution, but the tunings not being a million miles away from each other.

Overall conclusion

The TH600s are my first proper foray into the world of reference over-ear headphones, and as such present a slightly different take on tracks that I have listened to previously. While staying true to the music, the slight V-shape apparent in the sounds adds just enough flavour to make most types of music enjoyable, with the excellent sub-bass and light but detailed treble bringing out the details in the music in a great way. As a pair of at-home cans, these would be an excellent choice for those who aren’t looking for a musical and emotive mid-range, but want accuracy and detail packaged up with just enough sparkle and rumble at either end to bring it to life. People who need portability or “soul” in their mids are better off looking at other options in the same price range, but these make an excellent listening companion to a more musical headphone if you have the luxury of keeping more than one.

Posted

Pros: RICH AND CLEAR , MUSICAL

Cons: too bad they stopped producing them

first, let me say that i very rarely write reviews...however, these headphones are so exceptional, i just had to.

my listening set up is a pair of Magnapan 7s powered by Macintosh ....you get the picture.  of course with sub woofers.

my musical tast is from bach to beatles, with emphasis on symphonies like almost any of the Beethoven or Tchaikovsky ones.

from choral to violin concertos.

 

i have had many headphones, starting years ago with the koss pro4a  bose, and recently beyerdynamics, and a couple of others.

i have listened to many many headphones in NYC, to try and find what i considered the best , under $1,200 or so.  i kept coming 

back to the Fostex TH600.

 

Very Comfortable....i can and do wear them for hours.

Rich and CLEAR sound....and full sound with great base, that doesn't flinch.  

Mids are very clear and musical.  The highs at first did have a slight sibilance, HOWEVER,

YOU MUST BREAK THESE HEADPHONES IN...after 100 hrs or so, just letting them play,

they became exceptional at the high end, with not a hint of sibilance.

 

YOU MUST POWER THESE HEADPHONES PROPERLY.  Obviously, the person who would

not rate them amoung the best has no idea how to power them.  I use a CLASS A amp designed

for the impedance of these headphones, to power them properly.  In short, it is my opinion 

that these are as good as it gets, unless someone produces better.  It's not just my opinion, but any of my

friends who are audiophiles who have tried mine, first smile, and can't take that smirk away....and always say 'amazing'

in short, these headphones are a  keeper....a trip to heaven !  Thank you Fostex.

Posted

Pros: Comfort, Precise, tight bass response, clear midrange and treble

Cons: Cord is long (for studio use) and non-detachable

Excellent closed headphones. I primarily listen to bass-heavy music (deep house, tech house, etc.) but I do enjoy many other genres. That being said, I was very pleased with the Ultrasone Pro 900s which are known to be excellent for the deeper side of music. Indeed, the Ultrasone 900's are an excellent pair of headphones. The bass hits hard and the highs are very bright. The mids are what I'd expect from headphones with a driver emphasis on the highs/lows (for specific genres this works well). After some experience with Denon's old AH-D series (D2000/5000) I was looking to see if I could find a headphone that could contend the Ultrasone 900 "bass monster" while providing the comfort of the Denon design.

Now to the Fostex TH-600 - I recently picked up these headphones as they looked to be a good contender to the Ultrasone 900s. Price range is higher but that was to be expected as the TH-600 is a step up in hardware and soundstage. The 900's are very hard to beat -- I've tried out Denon AH-D2000's before and found them to be very comfortable and nicely designed yet too balanced for my taste.

 

I got a great deal on these cans - under $700 new - so the value is great, especially in this case. On to the review ----

 

 

The Fostex TH-600 provides everything I was looking for in an upgrade from the Ultrasone Pro 900s:

 

  • Significantly increased comfort over the Ultrasone 900s these use almost the same body as the Denon D5000/7000 as Fostex designed those except the TH-600 has a solid magnesium frame that feels very good in the hand - I am going to be upgrading them to Lawton Audio wooden cups shortly, however, as wood is still superior to the material used on the 600's. Nevertheless, the material used is much, much better than the plastic on the D2000 and plastic in general. It's a good contender to wood but the specificity and lightness of wood extends the soundstage and helps the bass stay tight - something that is important in the genres that I mainly listen to (deep house, tech house, etc.). Also waiting for Lawton Audio's Angle Pads to arrive which should be a nice upgrade to the leather pads they provide, although I'm happy with the comfort (always looking to get better!)

 

  • Powerful - driver is very powerful at 50mm/1 tesla - very versatile

 

  • Better soundstage - while the Ultrasone's are still power machines and great headphones, the TH-600 really takes that to another level. The bass hits clean and hard. With the amplification in place and proper sound files music sounds amazing. Very natural but powerful and crisp. The sound is extremely clear and the frequencies are distinct. Mids are not recessed, highs are not too bright. Everything is in place and hits perfectly. The design of the headphones creates a very natural sound while maintaining clarity. Adaptive to multiple genres of music too as it holds a good soundstage for most types of music. I am excited to try out the wood cups that I will be modding in the next 6-9 weeks once they arrive - should make the excellent soundstage even better.   These headphones are better than the D5000 (for my musical taste) in my opinion even without the wood however the D5000s are very good and the closest thing I've heard to the TH-600 - I've listened to both and the TH-600 has better bass response without being too bright on the highs. I haven't heard a D7000 so I can't speak on that but comparing a D7000 to a  TH-900 would probably be a better side by side for those cans vs. the 600s which are priced somewhat similarly to the D5000s current market price.

 

  • I would strongly recommend amplification for this as it really improves the experience. At this price range headphones should have some type of amplification to utilize the power. Without an amp (or an AMP/DAC) these sounded dull to me (as expected). I always used my Fiio E17 with the Ultrasone headphones as they too need ample power to show their true potential. This is a popular portable headphone amp that will provide plenty of power for these cans (E17). Personally I have been recently using the JDSLabs C5D AMP/DAC and it has replaced the E17 for my portable amp use as I prefer the product over the E17 and have had good results with it. This is of course preference and there are several threads on this forum discussing the different AMP/DACs including dedicated ones for the Fiio and JDSLabs C5/C5D.

 

  • It also comes with a non-detachable cord which is very long with a 1/4" output -- if you wish to use this with a 3.5mm you'll need an adapter. Personally this is not an issue for me as I can easily adapt if I need to with a proper grounded adapter and the 1/4" works well in the studio natively with all the equipment.


As with any new headphones I'm still burning in (have had for about 2 weeks) but these are excellent so far and I'm really enjoying it. If you are looking for a pair of headphones that has an excellent low-frequency response, clear mids and sharp highs while still adaptive to many genres of music (much more so than the Ultrasone's which are very bass heavy and muddier in comparison - works well with some genres like EDM but not so much with others) the TH-600 is a great choice. Well worth the price (I paid $699).

Posted

Pros: Minimal leakage, good clarity, solid bass, wide/open soundstage for a closed headphone, very comfortable

Cons: Bass not very powerful, treble not very clean, low isolation

Note: this micro-review was previously posted verbatim in HeadAmp's Headphone Demos thread on 6/30/13. Cross-posting here for greater visibility. Note the date, as that was before Fostex reduced the MSRPs on the TH600 and TH900 to $1K and $1.5K (USD), respectively (from $1.3K and $2K, respectively).

 

Micro-review: Fostex TH600 vs TH900 Comparison

Disclaimer: this micro-review is based on 3 days of listening, with an approximate total of about 7-8 hours of listening across those 3 days.

Equipment Setup

- Source component: Plinius CD-101 (CD player) (Signal Cable Silver Reference power cord, directly into wall)
- Analog interconnects: Emotiva X-Series RCA
- Headphone amplifier: HeadAmp GS-X MK2

Setup Note: Since the HeadAmp GS-X MK2 has dual 1/4" headphone outputs, I plugged both the TH600 and TH900 into the amp to be able to "hot swap" between them.

Equipment Note: Other currently-owned and previously-owned headphones are listed in my profile.

Evaluation Music

- Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane
- Diablo Swing Orchestra - Sing-Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious
- In Flames - The Jester Race
- Infected Mushroom - Vicious Delicious
- Julia Fischer - Bach Concertos
- Laika - Good Looking Blues
- Massive Attack - Mezzanine
- Ruth Moody - These Wilder Things
- The Prodigy - The Fat of the Land
- Trifonic - Emergence

TH900 Preface

I should start by saying that I think the TH900 is one of the best dynamic full-size headphones that I've heard, closed or open! I thought it was good enough against my previous OII/BHSE, that when I sold the OII/BHSE (for reasons unrelated to the TH900), I felt like I wasn't losing that much sonically. It's easily the closest dynamic equivalent to the OII MKI that I've heard to date!

Since acquiring the TH900 in December last year, it's been my preferred headphone for classical & jazz primarily, but also ambient electronica, bluegrass/folk, and even electronica & metal, for those times when I want a different flavor from my Audio-Technica AD2000.

TH600

The reason I signed up for the TH600 loaner program was more for curiosity than anything else, and to see if I could potentially downgrade to the TH600 from the TH900. I can now say with certainty that maybe I could downgrade to the TH600 without being too dissatisfied, but it wouldn't be without regrets.

The TH600 was very good on its own, and for all the music that I tested it on, it plowed through everything surprisingly well - good enough that I didn't have any complaints listening to it by itself. Just like the TH900, it handled the musical range from classical to metal extremely well, better than a lot of other headphones that I've heard! It also really worked great for electronica too and had enough bass quantity for personal satisfaction (though I wouldn't call it a bassy headphone).

To get straight to the direct comparisons:
- The TH900 had more powerful bass. If that sounds unclear as to what means, sorry but that's the best way that I can describe it. The TH900 exuded substantially more bass & authority—more depth, force, etc. The TH600 didn't have the driller-like bass of the TH900 either, which marginally took away from its overall bass impact. It wasn't enough to be a huge detraction, just something noticeable.
- The TH900 had a more spread-out, expansive sound with more apparent 3D depth. It placed instruments/layers more obviously further away than the TH600. The TH600 had more of a closed-in sound—not that it sounded closed-in per se, only relatively in comparison to the TH900!
- The TH900 had more clarity and more refined treble, leading it to sound cleaner. This was most evident with ambient electronica, which the TH600 didn't handle very well, as it was semi-indistinct on various "hairline" effects.
- The TH900 had more overall mid-range as well and exuded more "fill" than the TH600, particularly in the lower mid-range and mid-bass. This enhanced its physical presence factor over the TH600. The TH600 had a slightly thinner & brighter tilt compared to the TH900. Music with either vocals (male or female), bass guitars, or drums tended to be the most negatively affected by this, although it was only a minor detraction, not huge.

Conclusion

Based on sonics alone, I'd take the TH900 over the TH600 any day. While the TH900 could be considered an incremental improvement over the TH600, I think those increments easily make the TH900 distinctly superior. The TH600 wasn't bad though and would be a very viable cheaper alternative for most people. That said, I think the $700 difference plays more in the TH900's favor—i.e., I'd say it makes more sense to just spend the additional money to get the TH900. If the TH600 cost less than $1300 though, say $1K flat (or less), I think it would be more fairly priced relative to the TH900 and the other competition from the HD800, LCD-2/LCD-3, et al. But even at its price I'd still say it's generally superior to the HD800, LCD-2 (and LCD-3), and Beyerdynamic T1. Plus it has the advantage of being a closed headphone (with isolation being good enough for home or office).

 

Note: I'm assuming MSRPs for the TH900 and TH600 in the USA btw, as might be inferred. Both the TH900 and TH600 can be bought for substantially less than MSRP through Japanese export sites but I personally wouldn't recommend that when Fostex has distribution in the USA - IMO, it's worth paying MSRP for a valid warranty in the USA. (I only use Japanese export sites to buy headphones that aren't distributed in the USA, like certain Audio-Technica models.)

Fostex TH600 Dynamic Headphones
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50mm transducers of a magnetic flux density of one Tesla Frame & cups made of magnesium alloy. Egg protein Grancuir faux-leather.

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