Had an extended morning listening session to these through my Musical Fidelity X-CAN V3, being fed by... *gasp* a headphone out cable from my PC directly to the X-CAN. Yes, understand the implications of doing this as my current DAC (PS Audio PWDII) is out for a repair on the display currently. I couldn't wait to get started to listening to the "potential" of the TH900s.
Note: These are NOT broken in yet so my listening impressions are after perhaps 2-3 hrs time on them. Take them with a grain of salt but some may appreciate the fact that I'm posting these impressions for those that don't believe in break-in. The X-CAN V3 has about 250 hrs+ on them so plenty broken-in.
Started off by playing a hirez track (Bill Evans Trio' Waltz for Debbie - HDTracks), which has a fair amount of ambient sound from the club it was recorded in, as well as a lot of spatial information giving this album a great soundstage to it. Despite the sub-optimal configuration of feeding these headphones, with the X-CAN V3, the presentation was quite sublime, with lots of detail retrieval and great soundstage. Instruments are placed distinctly apart from each other and the ambient crowd noise (you can hear the glasses and get the feeling of smoke and alcohol being consumed). The recording was definitely miked on-stage (or relatively close and upfront) with the performers. The bass is rich in tone and is stage right, drums slightly offcenter to the right and the piano occupying the entire left stage. The audience laughter, coughing, breathing and general whispers can be faintly heard from the background but are also part of what makes this album quite immersive in the listening experience. I've listened to this track through the HD700s & HD650s (driven by the SPL Phonitor) and the HD700s present it very nicely balanced, with great detail retrieval. Through the TH900s & X-CANs, it sounds slightly muted but very intimate, much more suited to this type of music and setting.
Next up, my current favorite, Two Steps From Hell's Invincible. This album contains a lot of choral music and the duo is responsible for a lot of dramatic music that you hear in MANY of the movie trailers today. There's a lot of subbass in their tracks but quite a bit of choral music mixed into the electronic landscapes. For example, with the track "Freedom Fighters", which was the trailer for the new Star Trek reboot (and gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it), the X-CAN and TH900 combination doesn't quite nail the expansive and vastness of what this track has conveyed via the Phonitor and HD700s. The track was presented with a relatively flat soundstage & muted detail retrieval and the sense that something is lacking. Tonality was all there though, just the presentation is missing the impact that this track should convey. (I'm all about presentation of the music.) "Am I Not Human?", another favorite track from a Tron: Legacy trailer, was also similar in nature. Will likely need to try it out with the Phonitor when I get my PWDII back to follow up on the impressions.
Kicking it up a notch, I usually pull out Velvet Revolver (their first album, Contraband), just to listen to some of Scott Weiland's vocals & Slash's guitars. I'm a big STP fan, so this band itself is a bit of an extension of STP, especially with the hit single "Slither". (Some folks liken it to G'n'R minus Axel and this may be true on some of the ballads, like "Loving The Alien".) This is not an audiophile album but it's pretty hard hitting and enjoyable on the TH900s. It doesn't come through like a "wall of sound" as it did on the HD650s, with nice separation in the soundstage of vocals and instruments. (You'll see I keep referring to the soundstaging capabilities of this can. See the theme? ). Slash's guitars shine here in a more mature style (outside of his piercing G'n'R days) and Duff Mckagen's bass guitars drone on in rhythmic coherence. This is an overly compressed album but still ends up being a highly enjoyable listen, as the mids aren't overbearing here and lets the detail from the highs shine through.
With my head banging finished, I take the pace all the way down with Sync24's Source album. This has some serious synth subbass in some of the tracks, notably the first ("Walk on Spheres") and second ("Memloop") track. You'll need a headphone that can actually reproduce this track to hit your cerebral and aural "gut" with. The TH900s does this quite nicely. The HD700s with the Phonitor also fared quite well here, surprisingly. With the right amplification & synergy, this should be fairly easy to reproduce but mostly gives other headphones I've had fits on the impact of the subbass. I can't imagine with more break-in, a better amp and getting my PWDII DAC back how these TH900s are going to sound. There's a massive thread and plenty of nuggets of information on the amp + TH900 pairings which work better than others and I don't have an amp that allows the full capabilities of the TH900 to shine just yet.
I have some further notes and different albums/tracks I've gathered but I'm going to wait to post follow-up impressions. It's time to let this headphone break-in, listen some more, make some comparisons and mental notes, take a break, come back to it again and provide more impressions with different tracks. Suffice it to say, this headphone stages pretty well (I'm not going to compare against the HD800s since I don't have that handy with me to evaluate against), reproduces the subbass pretty decently, and doesn't do a whole lot wrong on initial listening.
I'm probably being more analytical that I should be but when I get to just doing some work and listening to these, it's become apparent that several hours have gone by already and I'm still enjoying the music! This is what it's all about, let the gear get out of the way from the enjoyment of the music and the TH900s allow me to do that a bit more than any of the other headphones I've had in the past. Placebo effect happening? Not sure. I've heard the Stax SR-009s and HD800s before and will likely have to borrow those again from friends to see where they stack up against the Fostex TH900s. I'm pretty sure I may go back to my analytical self if I do attempt to do a comparison, which may not be totally fair to the TH900s, which doesn't necessary stack up technically well compared to these 2 TOTL offerings.
Edited by twizzleraddict - 3/28/13 at 2:01pm