Pros - Balanced SS, lush mids, tight bass, good extension both ways, deep soundstage, detailed, comfortable, great isolation, good build quality and more!
Cons - OEM headphone design, ears get a bit hot when listening, fatigue caused by isolation
Not only am I a relatively newbie audiophile, the FA-003 were my first pair of "audiophile" headphones, therefore, I might be slightly based towards it. I originally got the FA-003 for use as a monitoring headphone for my audio engineering work, and used it through my 2 years of study in UK. I have had this pair for around 2+ years now and it's become a my go-to headphones for mixing. While I have gotten much better/more expensive headphones since then, the FA-003 has remained my workhorse pair and my standard to which I compare all other closed headphones to.
What I like love...
I used to lay on the couch of my office at night just immersing myself in music with my FA-003 (Cowon J3 > Headstage Arrow). The mids are mesmerizing, sometimes almost as if the vocals were resonating in your throat. God, how I absolutely love the sound of the FA-003, an excitement which wouldn't be replicated until I got my HE-500 paired with Asus E1. Incredibly balanced, non-fatiguing while staying musical and engaging (whatever that means). With a tight, punchy bass and excellent treble extension, it performs well with any genre I throw at it (and my choice headphone for K-pop), a mark of a great pair of reference headphones. I found them relatively forgiving to poorer recordings/mixes/masters.
It has a surprising amount of detail, especially for a closed design. Being a closed phone, the soundstage isn't very wide (feels slightly constricted beside open pairs) but it's has a surprising amount depth to it and separates instruments very well.
FA-003 isolates very well, which may be a bit fatiguing after awhile. Practically no leakage whatsoever.
The pleather pads are very deep and comfortable and should easy cover your entire ear, it can get a bit warm for prolonged usage though.
2 years of abuse and still in excellent condition. The white lettering is unscratched, with everything intact.
Not the best looking headphone. Wires get stiff after prolonged use. Alternative velour pads might have been nice.
Quite an incredible pair of headphones. Very versatile and among the best in terms of fidelity for it's price range. I would recommend these over other studio headphones such as the M-50, SRH440/840 and MDR-7506 for monitoring use or enjoyment.
Pros - Amazing value for the sound quality you get
Cons - Availability, Construction Quality
Edit: See the last paragraphs for updated impressions regarding build quality
When I unpackaged these headphones today I was expecting find a nice closed-headphone alternative for my Grado SR125i, but I got more than I bargained for.
From percussions, to strings to vocals, it seems that almost every single music track I listen to has a new breath of life. This is similar to the experience I felt when I bought my first Sennheiser earbuds, back when I had a Minidisk, and is something I haven't felt for years. Rather than feeling like I got a small sound upgrade, I feel like I've broken into a new sound-quality threshold that will be hard to match or surpass, unless I invest a considerably larger amount of money.
These headphones come with two replaceable ear cushions, one pair being faux-leather and the other being almost velvet-like (feel free to correct me on the type of materials), a HUGE carrying case that I highly doubt I'll ever use (almost as big as a shoe box in terms of dimensions).
After I discovered the Koss PortaPro I thought I would never discover another pair of headphones that would offer as great value as they did in terms of sound quality, but I was completely wrong. If these headphones had cost me twice or thrice as much I would still have felt very happy with them. Unless you already own a high-end headphone, I highly highly recommend these.
Two years and a few months after the initial purchase the plastic on the headband on part where it splits into an arch started cracking until it almost completely broke. I tried repairing it with various means but alas, none worked for more than a few days and I also considered purchasing a newer headband which has metal construction rather than plastic, meaning that the issue should not occur with them. However due to the price of the headband which was roughly... 70% of the price of a brand new FA-003 I decided instead to look for alternatives and bought a Fostex T50RP Mk3.
I would advise anyone interested in the FA-003 to make sure they are getting the newer version of the headphone with the metal headband and to avoid Brainwavz's HM5 because it uses the same band as the Fischer Audio and will likely end up having the same issue. It's worth spending the extra dollars getting the newer Fischer Audio FA-003 because the band alone is over $100 to replace.
Good neutral set. I play them out of a vintage Sony Receiver from the early 80's and it provides plenty of power to push these to their limits.
Most versatile set of cans I've owned, everything really sounds good with them. I would however not recommend them for Bassheads, they have the extension needed, but not quite the force of presence. I would say vocal reproduction is their strength, and that for their price they're likely the best option for neutral fans.
I would like to thank Tyll Hertsens for lending me his pair of FA-003 headphones for this review.
If you take a look at the charts you cannot help think that they will sound a little like the Audio Technica M50. The wavy midrange jump and the peaky impulse response had me worried.
At first glance I was not sure if they were headphones or earmuffs for cold winter trecks. Once I placed them onto my noggin I could tell there was some serious engineering here. Things were well made and nothing was an immediately obvious weak point.
The FA-003 is one of the more comfortable headphones I have worn. They look and feel big, but once they are on they melt away.
They were amazingly comfortable sans a bit of pinch that I knew could be relieved with some stretching over a tissue box for a week. The headband is really comfortable, but the strength of the hinges feels a bit weaker than the M50.
The earphones appear to be well made from synthetic materials. The ear cups are plastic with some nice looking metallic veneer. The headband adjusts easily and the cable is detachable which is a huge plus in my book.
The sound is definitely dark with an audible midrange attenuation. I heard this easily while listening to John Williams' Double Trouble. It sounded clear and neutral until I switched to my AH-D2000's and realized there is a big dip in the midrange of the FA-003. The soundstage is wider than the Creative Aurvana Live and the highs were crisp, be it slightly rolled off.
The bass was deep and not as boomy as other dynamic driver headphones. It extends quite well but using Collective Soul's "Forgiveness" gave me a sense of attenuation in the low end. There was some audible roll off in the bass. The bass was no where near as deep or impactful as the AH-D2000 or M50.
The mids were fun. They were airy and extremely enjoyable with percussion. The slight echo that is common listening to drums was easily heard and enjoyed. Due to some dips in the midrange many tracks were not as wide as the AH-D2000. I especially heard this on Yoshida Brothers' Aiya.
Much like the midrange the highs suffered from some extreme dipping and roll off. Coleman Hawkins & Duke Ellington' Wanderlust was lifeless sans the saxophone. I will admit that the sax and trumpet sound very pleasing through the FA-003.
The image was big, but not very. Using Buddy Miller & Julie Miller' Long Time, which is my favorite test track for imaging and soundstage, sounded too laid back and muffled.
Conclusions: I think the FA-003 is a super comfortable headphone and perhaps with a few EQ tweaks could be much better sounding. For me the M50 was a far better headphone and did better with both soundstage and the high end. There is a lot that the FA-003 has going for it. The comfort is outstanding, the design is well thought out, and the comparative cost to some alternates is very reasonable. For me, however, there are some issues with the sound out of these cans that are extremely apparent while A/B testing with other cans within its price point.
Pros - SQ in whole frequency range, neutral and natural sounding, good with large variety of music, case, extra pads now velour, value
Cons - extra velour pads don't have the plastic part that connects and locks the pad to the rest of the headphone
A surprisingly light pair of phones. It sounds great with every genre of music I've thrown at it so far, which is pretty much everything but dubstep, death metal, rap and techno. It hasn't even burnt in much yet, coming in at close to 2 hours by now, yet sounds AMAZING. Detail, soundstage and SQ can be comparable to open headphones twice it's price.
The build quality is quite good; it feels quite sturdy, and everything has that feel of quality to them. They look pretty nice too; I love the brushed metal panels. Isolation is excellent; with the sound turned to about 25% on my laptop, I can't hear a person trying to talk to me from a metre away. Note that they're fairly easy to drive, so 25% on a laptop should be about moderate listening volume, depending on your preferences.
The only thing I'm not happy with is that the included extra earpads, which by the way are mostly velour, with the portion of the ring facing your ears being pleather, don't have the plastic part required for attachment to the headphones. It looks like the plastic part could maybe be removed from the pleather pads, but this seems quite troublesome if even possible without damaging the pads. It detracts from the otherwise generous and well thought out set of accessories that accompanies this very nice pair of headphones.
Cons - portable use is not as pleasing as home use due to its size and cable length
i can actually listen to everything with it. whether its music, movie, games, even just for voice chat, it does amazingly.
looking forward for more FA products like the fa-004 or fa-011! i hope their prices dont go up! ^_^ it can go up when i get a job.
best item that i have bought for its price! besides food!
Pros - Neutral sound signature, incredible value, high detail, good soundstage, no sound leak, good isolation!
Cons - If you are a +20dB basshead, look elsewhere.
These are probably the best value for under $200 if you are looking for neutral, balanced sound.
I have just a little bit of experience with headphones; I have owned the M50 and the HD555 and 558, and then I got the Sunrise SW-Xcape and the FA-003.
I can confidently say the FA-003 is the epitome of what I've been searching for all this time: a neutral headphone that sounds RIGHT no matter what I throw at it. But the FA-003 is more than just neutral; it has the most detail among the headphones I've owned, and a great soundstage.
It is somewhat hard to gauge neutrality quantitatively, but I can say this: when I listen to music on the FA-003, I just sense that the frequency balance is just right. Instruments and vocals sound very realistic, and I sense that if I were the mixer, this would be the exact way I would mix the song so that all the parts of the song (the vocals, guitars, drum kit, electronic beat, synth sounds, bass) complement each other without overpowering each other. And as a result, the whole song just shines.
This might be obvious to you, but for me, coming from the HD558 and the M50, which had very different ways of coloring the balance (with some songs this was good), I feel very relieved to hear a headphone that makes anything mastered well sound *right*. In retrospect, the HD558 was clearly a little too warm in the lower mids to be neutral, and the M50 (which I had the chance to A/B with these) had too much bass emphasis to be neutral. And I have heard my share of piercing treble in many other headphones. But I can't find any obvious emphases in the FA003.
As for the soundstage presentation, it is excellent. It sounds like an open can and is MUCH better than many closed cans I've heard, but it's not like the best of the open cans. The isolation is also very good. The comfort is also superb. Some have issues with clamping force... I have not had any since I stretched them on some books. They feel 90% as comfortable as Bose headphones to me.
Overall a superb headphone, the first I've had no small, nagging reservations about recommending.
Pros - Sound quality, comfort, best headphones south of five hundred dollars. Seriously.
Cons - Design kind of bland, lacking the tank-like build quality of the HD25s, requires full burn-in to appreciate
LFF said it best, I just wanted to post a rating. They will take any genre you throw at them with ease, injecting fun while retaining absolute accuracy. After burn in the FA-003s surpassed every other headphone I have tried unamped, becoming the pair I reach for for almost all situations. A must buy!
Pros - Great Sound, Extra Pads, Pretty Solid Build
Cons - No Velour Pads, A Little Tight When Brand New
Great Headphones, but these are my first high quality headphones so there really is no basis for comparison except for a couple of my friend's headphones that I have tried(Bose, Drebeats, astro). Anyway, these are great, the bass is not that heavy but it is there. If you want a more in depth review about the audio quality look at LFF's review because his review is spot on.
I use these to listen to hip-hop, r&b, alternative and they are great. It is very balanced, nothing really overpowers me. I also use them for gaming and these are great for gaming. You could tell if people are coming up behind you and the location of gunshots for FPS games.
The build quality is good, but I am careful with my headphones so I would not know it they could stand a beating. They feel pretty sturdy and they come with extra pads but they are leather. The only real con I would have with these headphones is that they clamp on your head pretty tight in the beginning but after two day of use they loosened up and now they are quite comfertable. Also, they do not have velour earpads also but I can live with that.