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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.)