Pros: Soundstaging size, instrument seperation, openess, sub bass rumble, comfort
Cons: sharp and somewhat harsh treble, somewhat receeded mid range
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.