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Fostex TH900 Impressions & Discussion Thread - Page 149

post #2221 of 7580
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoundFreaq View Post

This is what I wrote in the Austin, TX Mini-meet thread about my comparison of these two great headphones. 

 

Cambridge 851C > Liquid Lightening + 009, Liquid Fire + TH900

 

TH900 Vs 009

 

Very nice impression.. I am toying with buying the 009... but to go with a good amp will cost me 12 grand... That is a lot of donuts..sigh..  I cam only watch from afar now.. I really need to hear it..I just got to...

post #2222 of 7580
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magick Man View Post


eek.gif AAAAAAAHHHH!!! Leave my Urushi cups alone! The pads are intriguing, but otherwise, no. He** no.
 

 

I kind of feel the same way. It's kind of like a hot chick with already nicely shaped boobies getting a boob job. Some things are just wrong. 

post #2223 of 7580

Lol.. It's a common sight  in Orange County CA. I used to stay there for a few years.

post #2224 of 7580

Indeed.

post #2225 of 7580

My impressions are also here.

 

In short, really enjoyed them. Best closed cans I've ever heard.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoundFreaq View Post

This is what I wrote in the Austin, TX Mini-meet thread about my comparison of these two great headphones. 

 

Cambridge 851C > Liquid Lightening + 009, Liquid Fire + TH900

 

TH900 Vs 009:

This is what I was most interested in. I liked the TH900 more than any other headphone there, save the 009. I thought they were far more musical, engaging, lively, fun, clear and more organic sounding than everything else (HD800, HE-500, HE-6). There is no question as to what I preferred. However, it is just not the 009. It's just not. The 009 is superior in most every way. There is no denying that, it's a phenomenal headphone. The soundstage is just beautiful with everything in it's right place, and not overly large, like the HD800 can be. The imaging is natural and precise. The bass has so much texture and control it's unbelievable. The mids are clean and pull you in. I remarked many times how it's just such an enveloping sound, pulls you in to the music. It was clean up top and not as bright as the HD800 or HiFiMAN. I was expecting more from the high end as I've read how some think they're bright... and they aren't. I am pretty sensitive to that. 

 

However good the 009 is, the TH900 is most of those things. It isn't there, but it can be close. On some stuff, the soundstage is so congested and muddy sounding next to the 009. On some stuff, the bass gets in the way and it's really annoying. For anything Classical, acoustic, ambient, most of the experimental electronic music I listen to, the 009 would be my go-to choice by a long shot. BUT, for electronic dance music, like trance or chillstep, it just doesn't have the lively slam I crave. There is no doubt the 009 is great, but I won't be selling my dynamic rig to finance it, and I appreciate and love my TH900 even more after hearing what I does against the greatest. Don't get me wrong, the 009 DID ruin my TH900 to a certain extent, but also validated it to a certain extent. Even the mids had a certain engaing lively fluidity to them that just rocked with electronic. And the rest of the genres were far from a failure by comparison. 90% of the Stax greatness. For electronic dance, I would reach for the TH900 almost every time. I would feel something missing if I only had the 009 as my main rig. That was what I needed to answer Saturday. I am in no crazy rush to get my 009 rig, but it will definitely be something I work toward as soon as is feasibly attainable.  

post #2226 of 7580
Thread Starter 

Gonna have to agree on the LA900 being a bad move.

 

Now, I actually really liked the Lawton headphones I've heard in the past. I own the LA2000, and I think the walnut cups on it are actually fairly nice. The LA7000 I heard was a bit better balanced than the older version D7000, though at double---even triple---the cost of the stock version the value is questionable (and people talk about the TH900 being questionable at double the cost of the D7000?).

 

The transition from the TH900 to the LA900 makes me cringe however. You're basically replacing cups made from exotic Japanese wood and finished using a painstakingly exacting process by a 100+ year old, locally famous lacquer company. Even if you lack good taste and happen to dislike the metallic red finish (I kid, I kid), from a purely objective standpoint you're substituting something that costs more, requires more skill and labor to produce with something of lesser value--- and paying more for it to boot!

 

The angled pads are interesting and would be worth an investigation, but the egg protein pads are quite nice IMHO, and I don't see the sound being helped by the change much. Also they'd probably be less comfortable and more suffocating around the ears. Really the only benefits potentially would be improved isolation.

 

As for the $500-$1000 cable upgrade... well, I'll let that speak for itself. You either believe it's worth it, or you don't.

 

Honestly, to me it seems like the LA900 is paying a lot for minimal improvement at best and, at worst, paying a lot for someone to potentially screw up your headphones. In my view Fostex spent a lot of time fine-tuning the TH900 into one of the most refined, best balanced U-shaped headphones on the market. One of the finest closed-back headphones, well, ever. Like I said in my main review, they walk a very fine boundary between coloration and reference type sound for me personally. A very complex and delicately stacked signature. If Lawton could minimize any backwave reflection and perhaps counter that slight midrange suckout, then that would be fine, but any further changes to the signature wouldn't be for the better in my estimation.

 

Really, the whole allure of the original LA models is that you can get them tuned to match your preferences. The TH900 is so clean however it responds brilliantly to EQ, so it's kind of unnecessary.


Edited by MuppetFace - 11/6/12 at 5:35am
post #2227 of 7580
Thread Starter 

LOL. I love the TH900 so much, I'm actually sort of curious about the LA900 and may order one at some point on the condition that I can keep the original cups and cable.

post #2228 of 7580
Don't do it!!!!
post #2229 of 7580

I brought up the LA modding here in the first place, and although I don't intend to do it now, I feel it's tempting despite all the skepticism for a some reasons. I understand modding such a perfectly engineered headphone may not bring the most anticipated results and could even lower the resale value. But here's what I think:

 

1. While many of you would agree that the TH900 is one of, if not the best closed cans ever, when it comes to isolation it isn't perfect. I believe the new earpads by Lawton could further improve on this while making it even more comfortable to wear. Surely the TH900 is already a very comfortable headphone. Also, my experience with Hifiman cans revelaed that earpads surprisingly can make improvements in sound, sometimes more so than a cable upgrade. Even if most of you are skeptical about the LA mod, I think the earpad upgrade is worth a try.

 

2. As for the cups, I have to admit it would be a shame not to use Fostex's urushi lacquered cups. But then again, the LA cups do look *very* nice, especially the piano gloss finish over the wood, maybe just not in the same level as the TH900's stock cups. However, if you look at the pictures you can see that the LA cups are more protruding than the Fostex cups. This reminded me of Sony's MDR-R10, which has very protruding cups. While closed headphones tend to deliver a relatively smaller soundstage than open types, the MDR-R10 is probably known for having the largest soundstage among all closed cans. LA claims that using their wooden cups can further improve the soundstage, and given the amount of empty space beneath those cups, I think there's some truth to that statement. One of my minor complaints with the TH900 is its relative lack of soundstage compared to many open headphones, and if this can indeed be improved, I'll gladly let them do so.

 

On a side note, they also claim that they can use different woods to tailor to each listener's sonic preferences, as different wood material can result in different sound. They would ask me what kind of music I listen to, how I want my music to sound, and recommend what's the best wood material for me. So it's not just about choosing wood color based on looks, so they say. I'm not so sure about this one, though.

 

3. The fact that I can get the cable replaced is probably the most tempting yet most skeptical factor. The cable upgrade alone is quite expensive, for starters. However, what caught my attention was that I can recable it with a balanced plug. The only other company I know that does this is Moon Audio.

 

Now, I'm really curious to hear how a balanced TH900 will sound like. I can say with certainty that a balanced LCD-3 or HE-6 will sound better than single-ended in most cases, but I'm not so sure about the TH900. Normally, a balanced configuration gives more power to a headphone while enlarging the soundstage, so there is a significant improvement. As I've stated above I'd love anything to improve the soundstage of the closed TH900 cans, so there's that. However, at the same time, I'm slightly worried about nearly doubling the power that is fed into the TH900. The TH900 is a very sensitive headphone with sensitivity of 100 dB/mW, higher than most orthodynamic headphones. One does not need a high power amp with the TH900, unlike the LCD-3 or HE-6. What I'm worried about is, will running the TH900 balanced actually degrade certain aspects of sonic quality due to an overload of power? I mean, using the TH900 balanced on a balanced amp with high power output could be overkill, or even ill-advised in some cases. I don't know.

 

That's what I'd like to ask people about, including MuppetFace: from your experience with the D7000 and LA7000, did a balanced cable lower certain aspects of sonic qualities due to too much power? Or were there only good improvements, such as larger soundstage?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MuppetFace View Post

Gonna have to agree on the LA900 being a bad move.

 

Now, I actually really liked the Lawton headphones I've heard in the past. I own the LA2000, and I think the walnut cups on it are actually fairly nice. The LA7000 I heard was a bit better balanced than the older version D7000, though at double---even triple---the cost of the stock version the value is questionable (and people talk about the TH900 being questionable at double the cost of the D7000?).

 

The transition from the TH900 to the LA900 makes me cringe however. You're basically replacing cups made from exotic Japanese wood and finished using a painstakingly exacting process by a 100+ year old, locally famous lacquer company. Even if you lack good taste and happen to dislike the metallic red finish (I kid, I kid), from a purely objective standpoint you're substituting something that costs more, requires more skill and labor to produce with something of lesser value--- and paying more for it to boot!

 

The angled pads are interesting and would be worth an investigation, but the egg protein pads are quite nice IMHO, and I don't see the sound being helped by the change much. Also they'd probably be less comfortable and more suffocating around the ears. Really the only benefits potentially would be improved isolation.

 

As for the $500-$1000 cable upgrade... well, I'll let that speak for itself. You either believe it's worth it, or you don't.

 

Honestly, to me it seems like the LA900 is paying a lot for minimal improvement at best and, at worst, paying a lot for someone to potentially screw up your headphones. In my view Fostex spent a lot of time fine-tuning the TH900 into one of the most refined, best balanced U-shaped headphones on the market. One of the finest closed-back headphones, well, ever. Like I said in my main review, they walk a very fine boundary between coloration and reference type sound for me personally. A very complex and delicately stacked signature. If Lawton could minimize any backwave reflection and perhaps counter that slight midrange suckout, then that would be fine, but any further changes to the signature wouldn't be for the better in my estimation.

 

Really, the whole allure of the original LA models is that you can get them tuned to match your preferences. The TH900 is so clean however it responds brilliantly to EQ, so it's kind of unnecessary.

post #2230 of 7580
Thread Starter 

I really don't want to sound too cynical here, but a lot of the stuff regarding the Lawton cups is just marketing IMHO. Companies say a lot of things, after all. They're trying to sell you a product. Lawton's business is on adding stuff onto headphones, so of course he's going to try to justify adding it.

 

I actually like the LA cups for what they are. They're definitely an upgrade compared to a lot of the DIY woodworking you see out there. Lawton shines them up and photographs them quite well, and on average I'd say they're not quite as impressive in person (having owned a few and seen many more), but every now and then you'll see a pair that looks better in person because of the way the light plays off the different levels of woodgrain.

 

Still, they aren't on the same level in my opinion as the stock TH900 cups. Or even the stock D7000 cups. Yes, the LA cups are thicker, but this doesn't directly translate into quality. The finish, workmanship, and staining play a big role here in determining quality. With regard to the TH900 specifically, we're talking about a lot of physical labor and technical expertise by one of Japan's premiere lacquer houses; if you read up on how they go about achieving that finish, it becomes pretty clear that it's a luxury item. People will specifically buy and collect goods with that type of finish on them, and it's highly desirable. Not only is it honestly a little insulting to simply toss the work of master craftsmen by the wayside, but I'm pretty sure you'd royally bork the resale value of the TH900 by getting rid of its cups. Not only that, but you're essentially paying Lawton MORE for cups that are, effectively, LESS. Also Lawton tells you he gets to keep the stock cups when you buy his replacements. That's because he is going to turn right around and sell them to D7000 owners. Same with the cable he'll replace too, because honestly the stock cable in the D7000 and TH900 is good.

 

Of course, people in this hobby will profess it's all about the sound. If the end result sounds better, then it's worth it. Regarding the change of cups however, it's honestly not making much---if any---difference in my experience. The vast majority of the difference comes from the damping scheme (the "level 1" option on LA's site). The other two levels---which actually constitute the majority of the cost---really give you diminishing returns IMHO. The whole thing about tonewoods is controversial, and I (nor others I've spoken to) simply haven't heard the vast differences in sound that manufacturers selling woodied upgrades describe. There is a much bigger difference in my experience between, say, plastic versus wood compared to one type of wood versus another. Different woods have different densities and porousness, so in theory a change in tonal qualities might result, but again I haven't found it to be anything but negligible. The whole bit about asking you for your preferences and then choosing a wood based on that strikes me as a marketing ploy, though Lawton could genuinely hear those differences and believe it. Not my place to say honestly, though I will point out on his site he mentions that the differences between tonewoods is "subtle." In light of that the Q&A thing seems a bit excessive, and more in line with making the customer feel as though he / she is part of the process and getting a truly custom tailored piece.

 

The R10's cups were precision engineered with a very specific shape. You'll notice it's not just a matter of their being big, but that they're big and specifically angled. Also what's inside those cups is more important: inside the R10's cups there is very, very intricate woodworking that acts as a natural diffuser. It's by no means just a lot of empty space. The Lawton cups are basically like the stock D7000 and TH900 cups in that they're more or less a hollow shell.

 

Again, I'm not picking on Lawton's mods in general. I actually like the LA2000 / 50000 / 70000 and have owned several pairs over the years. I think they improve the sound somewhat, but then the original (pre-revision) D2000 / D5000 / D7000 had a lot of room for improvement. Really, at its best, the mods made the sound more even and better balanced, offering more control in the bass and slightly reigned in highs. Basically bringing the D7000 a bit closer to what the TH900 is. I think there's room for improvement on the TH900, but it's not so much an issue of overall balance, and any fixes like the backwave stuff can be accomplished with the "level 1" package. Any other FR tweaks are readily obtainable through good EQ.

 

The "level 2" and "level 3" packages on the LA site were always gratuity in my opinion. They didn't enhance the sound to my ears, but they added an extra level of aesthetic difference that helped single out the Lawton headphones as their own thing. With the TH900 however this gratuity is simply too gratuitous.

post #2231 of 7580
Quote:
Originally Posted by MuppetFace View Post

I really don't want to sound too cynical here, but a lot of the stuff regarding the Lawton cups is just marketing IMHO. Companies say a lot of things, after all. They're trying to sell you a product. Lawton's business is on adding stuff onto headphones, so of course he's going to try to justify adding it.

 

I actually like the LA cups for what they are. They're definitely an upgrade compared to a lot of the DIY woodworking you see out there. Lawton shines them up and photographs them quite well, and on average I'd say they're not quite as impressive in person (having owned a few and seen many more), but every now and then you'll see a pair that looks better in person because of the way the light plays off the different levels of woodgrain.

 

Still, they aren't on the same level in my opinion as the stock TH900 cups. Or even the stock D7000 cups. Yes, the LA cups are thicker, but this doesn't directly translate into quality. The finish, workmanship, and staining play a big role here in determining quality. With regard to the TH900 specifically, we're talking about a lot of physical labor and technical expertise by one of Japan's premiere lacquer houses; if you read up on how they go about achieving that finish, it becomes pretty clear that it's a luxury item. People will specifically buy and collect goods with that type of finish on them, and it's highly desirable. Not only is it honestly a little insulting to simply toss the work of master craftsmen by the wayside, but I'm pretty sure you'd royally bork the resale value of the TH900 by getting rid of its cups. Not only that, but you're essentially paying Lawton MORE for cups that are, effectively, LESS. Also Lawton tells you he gets to keep the stock cups when you buy his replacements. That's because he is going to turn right around and sell them to D7000 owners. Same with the cable he'll replace too, because honestly the stock cable in the D7000 and TH900 is good.

 

Of course, people in this hobby will profess it's all about the sound. If the end result sounds better, then it's worth it. Regarding the change of cups however, it's honestly not making much---if any---difference in my experience. The vast majority of the difference comes from the damping scheme (the "level 1" option on LA's site). The other two levels---which actually constitute the majority of the cost---really give you diminishing returns IMHO. The whole thing about tonewoods is controversial, and I (nor others I've spoken to) simply haven't heard the vast differences in sound that manufacturers selling woodied upgrades describe. There is a much bigger difference in my experience between, say, plastic versus wood compared to one type of wood versus another. Different woods have different densities and porousness, so in theory a change in tonal qualities might result, but again I haven't found it to be anything but negligible. The whole bit about asking you for your preferences and then choosing a wood based on that strikes me as a marketing ploy, though Lawton could genuinely hear those differences and believe it. Not my place to say honestly, though I will point out on his site he mentions that the differences between tonewoods is "subtle." In light of that the Q&A thing seems a bit excessive, and more in line with making the customer feel as though he / she is part of the process and getting a truly custom tailored piece.

 

The R10's cups were precision engineered with a very specific shape. You'll notice it's not just a matter of their being big, but that they're big and specifically angled. Also what's inside those cups is more important: inside the R10's cups there is very, very intricate woodworking that acts as a natural diffuser. It's by no means just a lot of empty space. The Lawton cups are basically like the stock D7000 and TH900 cups in that they're more or less a hollow shell.

 

Again, I'm not picking on Lawton's mods in general. I actually like the LA2000 / 50000 / 70000 and have owned several pairs over the years. I think they improve the sound somewhat, but then the original (pre-revision) D2000 / D5000 / D7000 had a lot of room for improvement. Really, at its best, the mods made the sound more even and better balanced, offering more control in the bass and slightly reigned in highs. Basically bringing the D7000 a bit closer to what the TH900 is. I think there's room for improvement on the TH900, but it's not so much an issue of overall balance, and any fixes like the backwave stuff can be accomplished with the "level 1" package. Any other FR tweaks are readily obtainable through good EQ.

 

The "level 2" and "level 3" packages on the LA site were always gratuity in my opinion. They didn't enhance the sound to my ears, but they added an extra level of aesthetic difference that helped single out the Lawton headphones as their own thing. With the TH900 however this gratuity is simply too gratuitous.

 

Well said, a lot of good valid points here.  I'm not particularly fond of the idea that Lawton charges someone MORE for the cups to get LESS of a cup, only to potentially turn around and sell it for MORE.

 

That seems shady.  If he keeps the TH-900 cups and resales them, then the Lawton cups should be free or reduced in price significantly.  Sorry, but that's the way I see it if the above information is accurate.


Edited by tokendog - 11/6/12 at 7:04am
post #2232 of 7580
Okay, but what can you tell me about my primary question? Recabling the TH900 with a balanced cable to use with a balanced amp? I elaborated my opinions and worries regarding this in my previous post, so could someone fill me on that?
post #2233 of 7580
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by songmic View Post

Okay, but what can you tell me about my primary question? Recabling the TH900 with a balanced cable to use with a balanced amp? I elaborated my opinions and worries regarding this in my previous post, so could someone fill me on that?

 

I'm probably not the best person to ask about this, but in my experience balanced recabling neither improves nor hurts the sound signature. I haven't heard the TH900 in balanced operation, but on the D7000 and LA7000 that was what I observed. The biggest issue for me is that with sensitive headphones like the D7000, running them balanced leaves even less room for fine volume adjustment on certain amps. Balanced operation is going to be louder than single ended, and so my experience is sometimes such that things would get very loud very quickly with just a small nudge on the volume.

 

In terms of pure SQ in and of itself however, I didn't notice any problems (or improvements). If you have a balanced amp you really like and want to use the TH900 with, go for it. Otherwise if you're just looking for sonic benefits, I personally wouldn't bother.

post #2234 of 7580

I went on to research Urushi techniques involved and after reading several ariticles, I cannot understand how anyone would favour LA lacquer cups over Urushi cups, ended up paying more and eventually loosing your Urushi cups. That Urushi layer is not an easy task to perfect and they are used for luxury item including very expensive Japanese paintings from the 18th century..

 

Here is one article on Urushi and its work.. the shine far exceed your typical lacquer and has been used to enhance the art in woorkwork .http://www.urushi-kobo.com/urushi.html.

 

The Angle pad look interesting though..

 

 

 

post #2235 of 7580

Muppet,

 

Do you prefer the cosmetics of the TH900's earcups or those from AT line such as W2002, and W11JPN?  Those W2002's cups were gloriously beautiful.  I miss my W2002.

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