Fostex T50RP Review
I am not an advertiser or do I work for the Fostex company and/or HeadFi. I wish to voice my opinion on a set of headphones and wish to enlighten people about these headphones. By no means I wish to insult anyone by doing this. Aka: My Opinion!
About me and my set up:
Avid Music enthusiast my entire life. Extremely sensitive hearing and an amateur going into expert audiophile.
Dell Desktop, Foobar2000, Mp3 320kbps, Flac 920kbps, RCA to 3.5mm, Sony STR-D590 Receiver out to T50RP
So since I’ve researched for a headphone that could carry its own with Mids in mind, I’ve came across the Orthodynamic thread and low and behold, Fostex T50RP.
So then after several days of research like any other person who is as cheap as me, I decided to purchase these Vintage styled headphones while tightly holding onto my bank card.
Four days later after I entered the order through B&H, they arrived! YAY!
So I took them over to my kitchen, cut the tape, only on the sides and a small amount on top from both ends. If you cut all the way down you could harm the packaging, no one wants that!
So then I took out the box that appeared similar if I would have ordered any $30 cans. No inside view, a small description of the RP Technology, some large font stats and enough UPCs to cover the globe in sales. In fact, the box only shows one side of the headphones, making me question: do I have to order the other side?
So then I pulled the top off, scratched my finger on the hanger hole and looked inside. A clear bag with the headphone in it and a piece of paper. The headphones were bland, *snore* and the paper was in Japanese and English. Good thing I can read both, it described how to remove the cable! YAY! And that was all other than the same the box said.
So I removed the headphones from their stifling clear bag. No adapter fell out. Oh, this doesn’t look good. “Ok,” I said “maybe the adapter is on the male end already”. I looked, it’s a 1/4 inch plug with not adapter. I wasn’t as sad about this as I thought. Which I would only use these in my Receiver (called Amp later on) anyways, so it didn’t matter if I wanted to put them to my Cowon S9 – not used.
So the headphones:
At first I thought the headband was plastic, no it’s actually a very nice stretch of rubber or closer to silicone. There is a metal band in the band like a Grado headband is wrapped with vinyl. Twisting the headband produces a creaking sound from the sliders but a strong resistance and gives good spring while pulling away. The slider joints are of hard plastic that would seem to bend opposed to break away if anything would go wrong. The adjustment rails seem not of copper, but of a very stiff and lightweight aluminum. They are held to the slide joints by a fastening screw that could be backed off to allow them to move more freely. Even at the tightest, the band will barely move and stays in position well. Down the aluminum piping is a 4 directional joint that connects the cans to the headband. Good for front, back, up and down. But not any other direction and they kind of move in and out a bit. This is the weakest part of the headphones I would say. The bowls I would call them are of cheap plastic, yet not very weak and not very strong like the slide joints. There are also two vents on each bowl, but only the lower one is real and covered over after further investigation from the inside with glued felt.
The pads are of thicker pleather then I would guess, versus my Sony MDR-V6’s and give some support. I have the Version 2 model that the pads are smooth and offer more isolation and coverage I believe. The inside of the cups are of a rough felt which I do not approve of. People remove this felt, I haven’t just yet.
The Cable is of a regular thickness, but still likes to stay in the packaged “wound” still several days after they are loose. The plug of the cable comes out after turning them 90 degrees to the right and come out with a good squeeze and pull. But I have no idea why they did this, it would be impossible to find that 3.5mm jack to fit the headphone design. The cord is long! 10 feet in length. And then it ends up on a cheap joint to ¼ inch jack that’s nothing special. No gold plating anywhere.
The build quality is not very impressive but serves and if treated well can last for quite a long time. I would throw these with confidence. But the cord lacks and then the joint where the bowls are attached scares me a bit. Against the Grado SR80i build quality, I would say these do justice but won’t last as long due to the cable and that joint.
The headband is nice if the silicone/rubber if used from the front to rear, but since most people position them directly in the middle (lengthwise) the silicone serves almost no purpose and seems only be used when you hold them in your hand by the band “hey, this band is nice” that’s about it. Similar to the feel of Grado.
The cups swivel in the 4 directional pattern and give enough movement to position on your head.
But then the pads are nice. They are soft and smooth because of the Pleather and the material is just thick enough to provide strength and support. The cups are “over ear” design that works fine but then the headband is situated in a top down fashion that make the band be positioned more on the back side of your head and might take some finagling to position correctly. I’m used to this already. There is some sweating issues but not as bad that I won’t notice until I actually touch the pads.
I did find a small problem. I find that my right ear (which always has problems) pushes against that awful felt on this inside of the cups and causes me pain. So I added some foam under the cups and this added more an around ear “free” floating type of feel to the headphones, which is one of the reasons why I love these headphones. After this I had no problems.
They also adjust well enough and if tightened well enough will not come loose and hold your position tough enough so that you might never adjust them again.
Comfort is tried and just not there. But in the Modding aspect of these cans, you can go to any limits. Versus the MDR-V6’s, I find that these are better as a studio set, but no as comfortable on top of your head. They also fail at the around ear design that rest your ear on the driver port, like the V6’s. But after a slight mod, find that they free floating design I found works very well and after that I found these to be a little more comfortable than V6’s in long runs.
As all around ear headphones these do take out about 60% of ambient sounds away, but then the do leak about 15% and 50% if off of your ears.
The newer smooth pads allow for more closure and envelope your head better than a wrinkled set.
The deciding factor!
So I placed them on my head and started up the same song I try every new headphone on, John Mayer, Gravity, Live in Los Angeles 2008.
The highs sound like they go through a Tin can. The mids sound fat and floppy, and the bass is almost not there. They are like the best earbuds you can find at the dollar store!
But I wasn’t mad. I was excited, because I could hear the potential, the latent and underscored potential.
So then I let them play while I listened in and tired out other genres and song. About after 2 hours it seemed that my ears grew accustomed to them and I move back to Gravity.
After 2 hours of burn:
Mayer’s beginning solo was up front and lethal. The slow aspect of his playing with abrupt highs and clips from his strings came through a mixture of mids and latent highs that were hidden well. His crackled voice and reverb from the concert hall fed through the mids and combined to a magnificent structure of sound. Then Steve Jordan’s drums just hit and Pino Palladino’s bass rolls over everything to envelope you ears with a warm and slightly bright melody. Separation wasn’t clearly upfront, but as these turned out and the song led on, I could feel even more potential lying in the background.
Another 2 hours:
At last, they were almost to their full burn time. YES, 4 hours burn in!
So then I return back to Gravity and listen in. Even without paying full attention I could feel these babies go.
The Mids were out front and alive. Not so much that they could distort the others, but chords, drums and vocals came in extremely clear.
The highs were still a little grainy, but as the mids and highs were intersect, a warm and calm roll of the treble can shoot out and guitar solos sound like a chorus of reverb. I could clearly hear not just the note played, but the vibrations the chord made. Being a guitarist myself, I could clearly pick up the dying wavelengths of the chords as they would disappear and reappear as Mayer strummed. The full chords Mayer would play could be heard and I can figure out what strings he dodged and what he hit on.
The bass are closely to what Grados can provide. They are there, yet afraid to come out in certain situations. As a Bass drum, they are mixed with the mids and create a subtle but distinctive structure. The bass guitar is a different world. As Pino goes on, it’s not that it’s a bass line as much as groove. You cannot decide between what strings he’s playing but hear the tone and feel of his wooden tool. The overall tone and mood he wished to show is there and needs to be discovered behind the drums.
What I find amazing about these is that as you concentrate, the driver makes it sound like there is more than two points from which the sound is broadcasted, as if there are more then two drivers in the headphones. The soundstage on these feel close and intimate, but then widen and spate individual instruments and allow the sounds to move and give directional queues to where the instruments were record from. The drums were in the rear, symbols on the right, bass on the left, vocals and guitar up front. This may sound very “noobish” but as I digress, seeing them from their price standpoint, the soundstage on these is utterly amazing.
After a while I took some Bluetak, a reusable glue material and added it to the inside of the driver enclosure and the corners of the inner bowls to smooth out the inner structure. This increased the bass and clarity to bring them up between my Grados and V6’s. The mids were recessed a bit, but there are plenty to go around. Tests performed are taken before this mod!
I also read that these things could take a HUGE amount of power and I tested them on my amp. I thought V6’s were power hungry, these things take some power to move but move well when supplied wrong. I see that most people who have these and give them bad reviews never use a decent amp to power them. A FiiO E5 will do nothing, only a full sized Amp like my receiver will give these puppies enough juice. I am also not afraid to blow these. People say they can handle more power than you can throw at them, and I’ve tested them out to the point of which I could hear them perfectly as speakers and they do not even warp at full blast. Most the time I have my computer set to 1% and 25% out of my Amp. These take 2% and 30% to listen correctly. At 100% and 100% which could blow my Grados, these ask for more…
They have a sound structure like Grados with more of a wider mid-section with decent highs that separate as well as Grados and a low structure that mimics a Grado sound structure, but with a V6’s punch. If you like vocals and guitars you will love these, as long as the guitars are not distorted beyond belief.
The Song I will be testing these on are:
John Marytn, Solid Air, Solid Air
Fort Minor, Rising Tied, Right now
Gustav Holst, Holst: The Planets, H125, Op.32, I Mars – The Bringer of War
Rage Against the Machine, The Battle of Los Angeles, Guerrila Radio
Daft Punk, Discovery, One More Time
These song will be listed from worst possible for the T50RP's to the best possible choice to listen to.
It may seem very odd that I put a Electronic/House selection in for tested, but that's why it's called TESTING.
So from this, the T50RP sound like the bass is upfront but could be forgotten. The highs are not as distinctive as I would wish, but the vocal and reverb throughout the entire song sets it apart in these cans.
Now I move onto some Rap, which will pass also as Pop for me.
So upfront is the bass like always and the vocals have their own place, but I find the highs to run and hide as the vocals get busy. I do enjoy the openness given to the vocals and the complete separation of the drums. Everything feels crisp and clear but then there is difficulty with the highs behind everything going on.
Now I start off with the favorites. I see a lot of people using RATM for testing you'll understand why if you watch your Visual EQ. They just flat out floor it.
What I find absolutely amazing is that through the T50RP, the separation is massive. I easily break up between Bass, Guitar, Drums and Vocals. I can follow and lead each instrument without problem and I also find that Tom's guitar is just the headline of the song. As the mids are the factor of these cans, Guitars and some vocals can shine like gems even from a Youtube stream. Sadly enough there might be too much going on for the T50Rp's to cover and they have difficulty figuring out between playing symbols or guitar riffs and the separation falls out.
It was a tough decision of the runner up, but I decided that Classical fit with the soundstage and allowed the mids to run free.
With this, I find that the strings are extremely clear and not broken up or shattered as I would hear from my V6's. The winds are far int eh back, yet present and open as the song continues. Rolling drums and alliteration of symbols are hear clearly before anything else. What I could give off a feeling is that it would be like listening to a very close 7.1 surround sound speaker system around you, just enveloping you in sound without a clue of where the instruments were originally placed.
But then, the highs are drowned out by the lows and then reversed time and time again as the mids set up their own stage.
I wanted to showcase a song that took mids at a premium and gave all the highs and lows a run for their money.
This song relies on John's rumbling vocals and his lazily and somewhat energetic guitar playing followed by a alternating bass line.
The guitar comes out as the greatest sound, the chords and strings are separated and alive. It's smacked in the center of everything. John's voice is flopping every which way but without causing the stereo overkill. But as you listen, the bass lines surround the entire stage, the Vibraphone is alive and hidden to the left and the Saxaphone lifts and sings in the right.
But still upfront is John with his vocals and guitar. This song is simply amazing through these cans.
I purchased these for $75 with faster shipping from B&H. If mids is what the higher end headphones crave, then these would price around $300 range. If you would put a price for them overall, I would suspect about a $175 price tag would suit just fine. If the design wasn’t flawed so badly, and the sound structure was improved with a different bowl design they would increase to about $300-500 cans. Which all of that you can do through mods.
Overall, of Overalls:
These headphones are surprising. After a week by just listening to these, I find that I have a new appreciation for music. Remember that feeling of your first HiFi headphone and searching out those songs you've listen to your entire life and hearing sounds, chord and notes that you've never heard before? These will reignite that passion. I've tested headphones from $3000 sets to $0.25 sets and never, never, I have never found a set of headphones that are so inexpensive and give off such high priced feel. If the build and comfort wasn't an issue, these headphones would be a Classic set of cans along with many loved around HeadFi.
I recommend the T50RP's for people who would love to get a high class set of headphones for a low price point. These would be great for a Guitarist or Bassist to keep around or for anyone who loves Acoustic and Instrumental music. These are loved by Modders and will give you a great platform and driver you can customize and only the sky is the limit with these.
For anyone looking for a starter set of cans, I would pass on these. They do need a Amp to drive and the personal sound signature of these will not be what you expect.
For anyone looking to add a new headphone to their collection, these are cheap enough to throw in easily, they will give you a nice project to play with and give you a set of cans that are unique and uncommonly profound in the headphone world.
Thank you for reading.
Comments and Questions are highly accepted and wished to be voiced.
Edited by BotByte - 6/27/11 at 9:47am