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Over-Ear item created by runswithaliens, May 7, 2010
Pros - Very nice sound, good tight bass. Very comfortable
Cons - Oh you are going to need a good amp for this...
At a relatively low price you can enjoy really good sound with these headphones.
It is so popular for good reason, you could customise it to your personal taste, I just swapped out the cables to the Vmoda cable, and swapped the pads for Shure pads.
The FIIO E10K is not able to drive this headphones well.
The SMSL M3 and Grace Design M9xx is able to drive it well.
The sound is very balanced and neutral. Very pleasant headphones to use all day.
Pros - Fast, detailed, crystal clear, great bass quantity and quality
Cons - Midrange is recessed, mid bass a little light,
This is a quickie review... not the standard head-fi thing.
I've been listening to the Mk III T50RP for a week now and I've been able to compare them directly to Sennheiser's Amperior and HD580, Fidelio X2, Grado SR125, Meelec A151, and DreamEarz VOX3 CIEMs. Source is a Fiio X5 HO or LO feeding a Schiit Asgard 2.
The X2 has been my reference for a year of listening now, and the first time I picked up the T50 I knew I liked it better. Crazy!
I have a thing for fast, neutral headphones. My previous favorite was the Ety HF2, but I no longer have them. I switched to Meelec A151, which are great, but are now just for listening off the phone. Those single driver BA IEMs just have magic in them... the T50 is the closest dynamic headphone I've heard to that single BA sound. There's just so much more bass. Compared to the X2, they're faster, lighter, and have more slam in the bass. Going from the famously veiled (and slow) Senns to the X2, I noticed a slight change in smoothness- the X2 picks up some clarity, speed, and bass extension, which are all great, but wind up being harsher than the Senns. I liked them because they had a similar sound sig to the HD580, just better all around. The T50 has a radically different sound sig, but it's just so fast and clear that I fell in love immediately. The bass extension is like nothing I've heard from headphones except maybe in the VOX3s and those have a whole host of problems. Even the insane bass of the Amperior doesn't come close. These cans are fantastic.
What I'm not sold on is the mids. I like my midrange warm and sweet, but these are a shade too recessed to be called flat, and it's definitely dry. The treble leans closer to the "boom and tizz" side of the spectrum than the hifi slant. From what I can tell, there are mods to "fix" these little issues even if they're designed for the MK II. I can't wait!
For the price, there's nothing like the T50RP... now to start my mods
Pros - Mod-able, cheap, good driver, PLANAR MAGNETIC
Cons - Not comfy stock, too midcentric stock, reverby stock, stock stock stock.
Well, this will be my first review at all on head fi, but the t50rp is not my first audiophile headphone. If one considers the sennheiser hd558 and audiophile headphone, then they would be. It is my first planar magnetic headphone, though. I noticed the enthusiastic modding community of head fi's past and I really got hyped about these headphones. I listen to classical, jazz, progressive rock, and blues almost spread out evenly. I don't touch electronic and seldom listen to hip hop or country. I did most listening out of a creative soundblaster e5, but also tried them on a McIntosh MHA100 amplifier, hifiman ef100, audeze deckard, and auralic tauras, each fed by a sonos connect that cleaned a PC usb output. I listen to high bitrate spotify when I want to listen for pleasure, but critically listen to flac files of songs that I know inside and out on many different rigs. I compared to the hifiman he400i, the grado rs1i, my own sennheiser hd558, and philips fidelio x1s. I bought them for 140 usd shipped and new, but spent around 60 usd in modding materials:
Mrspeakers comfort strap
shure srh840 pads
DBV3 modding materials
I was set on modding them to my hearts content, but I did give them around a weeks worth of listening, and here are my impressions:
The stock Fostex T50RP are a fairly underwhelming, but not insulting headphone. They are midcentric, but I did not notice it too much initially; rather, I remarked at the ethereal black background and transients that stomped on my newly purchased grado sr60. They were surprisingly fast and it struck me as a very beautiful and addicting characteristic. I probably could've been happy with how these sounded stock for 140 usd; they didn't punch too far above that price(I have auditioned a few headphones in my time with the T50RP), but they are totally acceptable at their price point. They sounded much more clear than my sennheiser hd558s, but I never liked the sennheiser house sound anyway: they were always much too veiled and slow for my tastes. They also sounded fairly thin, though, in comparison to the sennheisers. Out of the box, these headphones measure atrociously, and it will show with any listening devoid of the planar wow factor:
As you can plainly see, and as I heard, the bass is not only rolled off at the end, but pushed down even in the lower mids. Not only is the bass subdued to the point of nonexistence, but the lower high frequencies roll off VERY early and have a massive dip in the lower treble. The dip surprises me because I found the stock T50RP very forward sounding in the upper mids. I guess it's because the mid range is so accentuated in comparison to the bass and treble. It sounds really weird with most rock music because the percussion is completely gone and taken over by the vocalists and guitars. There is no thump of a kick drum or slam of a snare, cymbals are thin and not impactful either. Not only is the stock frequency an oddball, but the decay of the headphones is nowhere near its potential. I was really impressed with the decay stock, but by the time newplast was mass loaded into the baffles, the speed was unreal at the time.
So now let's take my impressions of the DBV #3 modded T50RPs on my head playing some sleeping with sirens right now:
The DBV #3 modification aims to raise the bass response into a flat, audeze lcd like bass response, all around fix the treble, and reduce resonance(this will provide quicker transients and a blacker background). Most of these are achieved with the mod. I guess I will start with the bass response, which is absolutely insane to my ears. They are like the audeze lcd line in the sense that it is a very, very linear bass response. It is one of the smoothest progressions I have ever heard out of a pair of headphones, rivaled only by the truly high end planar magnetics. The he400i does not even come close with weaker, more erratic bass. The he400 gets a nod from me simply due to the visceral bass it can produce with truly wonderful extension and a slight midbass hump. When I say midbass hump, do not think dynamics like the hd650, though, it is better supported by the subbass region. Back to the T50RP; they are short of the lcd line in impact. I do not know how or why, but even the audeze lcd 2 will smack these modded T50RPs in bass response. There is just such an impactful weight that is exemplified in every pluck of a string bass and strum of guitar that brings it to a whole other level. No headphones I have demoed come close to the lcd line, but I haven't tried the he-6. Regarding the mid band of the modded T50RPs, they are wonderfully obedient. I say obedient in the sense that they become forward with the demand of the song and lax when the song calls for a laid back presentation. I do not know how exactly, but I suspect it is the relatively linear mid band as well. Brass instruments are fast, a bit too fast for the lower brass IMO, but perfect for the higher registers of a trumpet; I would love for trombones to have a more dramatic and impactful presentation, but their uptight presentation is not something I resent too harshly. The hifiman he400 and 400i impressed in this regard, as well as the lcd 2. A pair of headphones that I find have this issue as well is the philips fidelio x1 due to its mostly recessed mid range. Not only is it too recessed for me, but it is nowhere near as effortless as the planar magnetic mid range of the T50RP. The treble region is the area I have a bit of issue with. It will not extend. Flat out, I will admit that my babies don't do it for me in treble extension, and I think this will be a popular consensus among owners of DBV #3 headphones. They still lack impact and shimmer in cymbals, bells, and chimes. They do wonderfully for full range instruments like the piano and trumpets; their high registers are free of sibilance and still give a properly bright presence. The strings are a different story: I find them very unbalanced. The meatier frequency range of a violin is accentuated because the more nimble bite will not register. If only these had better extension, the frequency response would be nearly perfect for me, but maybe I am a treble head. The upper mids do have proper bite and forwardness, though, so grado lovers rejoice. I would like to end my impressions with the overall presentation of these headphones. They are closed back, and so they are small. They have proper layering and exemplary imaging in the small space that they possess. I am entirely confident in the fact that they image well enough to wipe the floor in an fps, but the soundstage congests seperation in large hall pieces. I find myself gravitating to small ensemble jazz with these headphones. I would love to gravitate to small orchestral pieces as well, but the violins are too dull for me. Cello soloists are meaty and gorgeous, though. The lower register of the cello rumbles with body and it is the one lower mid instrument that portrays emotion extremely well on these headphones. The smaller soundstage is also helpful in preserving the energy of my progressive rock favorites, so the presentation has its ups and downs. I am totally fine with the soundstage tradeoffs considering these are closed backs and don't leak too bad at all. In comparison to the grado rs1, these have a much wider genre bandwith, smoother presentation, less leakage, and similar soundstage. The avid rock and blues listener would no doubt choose the rs1, though, as their forward mids are much more suitable for these genres. It is much more harsh than the T50RP with jazz and classical though, very wrong with large concert hall music. The T50RP also benefit fairly greatly from amping. While the creative soundblaster e5 is suitable, the deckard achieved quite a synergy with these and definitely transferred some of the lcd line's impact to the T50RPs. My conclusion will be short. If you have the money and want to have some modding fun, just buy these. Even if you have your hd800s on your head plugged into the wonderful soloist, just get these. You will appreciate how much potential the driver has to offer and will have some fun on the way to unlocking its potential. I hate that I have to say goodbye to them, but I had to get Mr. Clark's revered Alpha Dogs with these ridiculous prices. Thank you for your time, hope I can write for you again soon.
Pros - Awesome value for money with the sound it produces for its price. A more transparent and clearer tonal signature compared to it's predecessor.
Cons - Treble sensitive audio listeners could find it a little "hot". Still lacking in sub bass.
Thanks You's A great thank you to Fostex Japan for graciously passing me this T50RP Mk3 and giving me the opportunity to write this review. Further a great big thanks to @Wallabee for loaning me his T50RP Mk2 for a comparison.
Introduction Fostex T50RP models actually require no introduction as it's been a running model since 2002 (with a revision around 2007). And in 2015, Fostex has done a 3rd revision of the T50RP. The RRP in Japan is 20,000 yen (equiv to USD$161).
Unlike it's predecessor, the Mk3 is more easily identifiable with changes to the text & colour of the labels, a padded headband. Strangely just such tiny little changes does make the headphone look more fashionable. Internally however, the Fostex has made some changes that does make the headphone sound like a different model altogether. The diaphragm is still the same but the ventilation portion and the baffle has been re-designed.
There are a few traits that keep that "Fostex T50RP" house sound however the tonality of the T50RP has changed significantly. But more about that later.
Package and Ergonomics As with the Mk2, the T50RP Mk3 includes a 3m long black cable terminated with a 1/4" plug. In addition, it comes with a shorter 1.2m orange cable terminated with 3.5mm locking plug. The shorter cable is actually more practical for portable use. Ergonomically the Mk3 is just as comfortable as the former. Despite the headband being padded, personally for me it hasn't really made much of a difference from the former in terms of comfort. The Mk3 weighs at 316g and is about 10g lighter than the Mk2.
T50RP Mk3 Headband
The headband differences between the T50RP Mk2 and Mk3
T50RP Mk3 earpads
The firmness seems to be very similar but design-wise has changed. The Mk2 pads were made from regular urethane whilst the newer is made of low repulsion urethane. Design-wise, notice how the flange of the older (right) goes over the rim of the up of the cup, whilst the newer (left) is more like the TH-900/TH500RP style.
Sonics As always, this is what we're here for. Firstly my setup is having Audirvana Plus 2.1.1 running off my iMac USB3 into my Aurender Flow. There I have a splitter to run both versions of the T50RP concurrently. Although there's been criticisms about the T50RPs needing amping, I've actually managed to drive the Mk3s (and Mk2's) reasonably off the iPhone 6 whilst the iPhone 4s may seem to struggle just a little bit more. Further with the tonal differences between the Mk2 and Mk3, the latter "feels relatively easier" to drive at least to my ears. However, I've been accustomed to using my Aurender Flow included as my base reference recently and continue to do so with the impressions of this Fostex model.
So tonally, to my ears, the T50RP Mk3 feels more natural than the Mk2. It's reminiscent of the Alpha Dogs although there's sufficient differences that gives the T50RP Mk3 its own identity. Comparing directly to the Mk2, the newer Mk3 seems to have a tighter bass, a veil lifted in the midrange to lower trebles range, and the transition from the upper midrange to the lower treble range feels more uniform whilst the older Mk2 seems to me to have a little treble rolloff. There is one common feature in the treble range of both the Mk2 and Mk3 that reminds me they're both from the same Fostex family, and that is a bit of a 10kHz hump/spike. This is more noticeable in the Mk2 as the treble is more rolled off, then an unexpected "spike" around the 10kHz range. The Mk3 also seems to have that but as the trebles aren't rolled off, the spike isn't as obvious.
The midrange of the T50RP Mk3 also isn't as prominent as the Mk2. In fact comparatively the Mk3 feels there's a slight dip to the midrange. However this makes the Mk3 signature to be an overall easier signature to like.
The bass is part that I do like in the T50RP Mk3, where I feel Fostex has taken the effort to clean up the bloom that the T50RP Mk2 had. The midbass bloom seems be tighter and the speed of the T50RP drivers is more noticeable. The sub bass is lacking however I don't personally don't really miss it.
Aside from it's tonal signature, it provides a decent soundstage. It's not as wide as it's TH-900 cousin however does give the perception of a wider soundstage than it's predecessor Mk2s. Similarly for it's depth imaging. I can't help to think (and having experienced the Alpha Dogs) the cup size and dampening used of the T50RP plays a part in how it presents the stage. However again, the Alpha Dog is a complete rework and a further 3x the cost of the T50RP Mk3s.
Detail retrieval to me is one of the most I've personally heard in a $200 (or even $300) headphone. Of course there are other headphones with miro detail-level retrieval performance however those headphones are priced rather differently. This is where I feel the T50RP drivers do really reveal their capability.
I think Fostex has done a fantastic job in improving the long running T50RP name. This is a marked upgrade (and probably a long overdue) over the T50RP Mk2. I can't help to speculate that Fostex has been sitting on the sidelines a little too long watching what other makers could do with its T50RP drivers and selling their versions of the headphone at 2-4x the price.Now the T50RP Mk3 can get a piece of that action too without increasing its price line too differently. Whilst I'd dare say the Mk3 still isn't an Alpha Dog, they are tonally closer than the Mk3 is to the Mk2; yet price wise it's much closer to the Mk2 sibling than the no longer produced Alpha Dog.
For the price and the sound quality it produces, T50RP Mk3 stands on its own. Should any maker decide to continue using the T50RP drivers, they'd need to consider how to keep their mods more competitive.
Pros - great sound after pads replaced with better ones
Cons - stock sound is boring but not bad, need to replace the pads
The stock sound is boring. Now discontinued and newer revision coming out.
Replaced the pads with HM5 pads and modded the ports and internals. Got an OCC angled cable from VMODA.
Result: great headphones for the price when I bought them, considering the total. Gave them as a gift and he who got them was very happy. Still using them.
They survived being thrown! Not most comfortable headband unless you have large head. New pads make them quite comfortable.
There are much more impressive mods out there. Changing the cups and the cables and pads and these can deliver great sound. They are boring with stock sound, but not bloated. They have reasonable detail for the price <200$.
Pros - To mod them is to love them.
Cons - Even at $90 they suck out of the box. Can't fix ugly.
Buy it, mod it, slip on a pair of alpha dogs, smile.
Not worth owning if you don't mod. I got maybe a half hour on them unmodded just to satisfy my curiosity. I own better cans that cost more and less, so pretty worthless to me until modded.
Ratings are based on modded cans including comfort strap and alpha pads (comfort and sound).
You will forget they are ugly as soon as you put them on your head.
Pros - Good midrange, low price, quite easy to drive, surprisingly detailed
Cons - Very uncomfortable, mods are a must, treble
OK cans for price when modded, but certainly doesn't deserve the attention it recieves here.
Unmodded sound lacks bass (rolof starts at 200Hz !!), is very mid-centric, highs and upper midrange is attenuated. It sounds cavelike, honky, and hollow - takes a lifetime to get used to it. The headband is extremely uncomfortable to me, earpads are thin, but comfort is good.
When modded the bass is much better (the old earpads are thin), quite linear but still nothing special. The upper midrange and treble have more power, but it still sounds somehow cavelike, honky and hollow. Overally much better than original T50RP.
For the price it's barely acceptable. When modded it's OK for the price.
Pros - Highly Modifiable, low price, smooth sounding
Cons - Lacks sparkle in treble, ugly
These headphones are great in the sense that they are the ultimate modding headphones. You can adjust the sound to almost anything you want with a few relatively simple mods.
Before modification, the resonance is horrible, the headphones are all mids, and nothing else, but the sounds is smooth.
After modification, the sound remains smooth, but there is an obvious increase in treble and bass to balance out the sounds. The treble does not have the necessary sparkle that I would want from it, but it is a matter of skills, I am sure someone out there has the ability to mod these things to provide smoother and better sounds.
The headphones are relatively ugly (nothing you can do about this), and is quite uncomfortable unmodded, but you can increase the mods (change the ear pads, add comfort strap) to significantly increase the comfort.
Overall, a bargain of a buy, and it forced me to learn more about how sound works in headphones and in the orthodynamic technology.
Pros - Modder's dream w/ incredible potential, easy to mod, cheap
Cons - Must mod them, cord connection issues, kinda ugly?
If you don't plan to mod these, then you shouldn't buy them. My ratings are based upon the state of my pair after modding, which I believe is fair because most of my mods can be cheaply and easily replicated.
However, everyone should buy one and mod it. These are by far the best value headphones I've tried. For about $100, you can get these headphones, upgraded ear pads (Shure SRH840 are good), and the materials to do basic mods. If you are willing to put in a couple hours, pretty much anyone with patience can perform the necessary mods to make these shine and compete with headphones that are much more expensive. These are now competing (and receiving about equal playtime) with my Markl modded Denon D5000 w/ J$ pads.
Initially the sound on these was mid-centric with bass and treble roll off. I thought sounded thin and tinny as well, though my point of reference at the moment was my D5000. However, post modding these are completely different headphones. The sound seems fairly neutral with a couple dips and peaks in the treble. Very impressed by the amount of detail and clarity these now have.
The soundstage is good for a closed can. I am sure that there are different ways to mod these to further improve soundstage, but I don't feel like the sound is cramped or stuck inside my head. The separation is also very good.
Isolation is excellent on these and leakage is minimal. The stock pads are quite poor in sound and comfort, but there are a number of much better pads that improve both of these aspects. The headband is alright, but for longer listening sessions, installing some sort of padding is a smart choice.
EDIT: I changed out my Shure 840 pads for the J$ pads from my Denons. The J$ pads are super comfortable, and once a new headband is added, these will be one of, if not the most comfortable headphones I've had!
It is also important to note that these require some power. They need an amp to get up to good volume levels
The one real issue with the T50rp IMO is the cable. The angled plug and locking system seems nice, but I had many issues with one of the sides cutting out if the plug wasn't in just right. I tried a different cable and it worked just fine. I've since cut the proprietary pieces off of the angled plug so that it is free to rotate in the plug and the issue seems to have been solved. The other thing I am not a fan of is that the cable terminates into a 1/4" plug and no adapter is provided. I enjoy using the 1/4" plug when I have an input for it, but when I have to use a 1/8" adapter, the plug becomes bulky and heavy. I am a much bigger supporter of 1/8" standard termination with a 1/4" adapter.
Buy these and set aside an additional $30 to try your hand at modding them. It is a fun learning experience, and with all of the great resources here on Head-fi it is pretty easy to end up with a very impressive headphone.
PICS (more to come soon):
This pic shows the Denon J$ pads that I added, and the liner on the underside of the headband is some Silverstone acoustic foam. It's a temporary help on the comfort side until I get a HD580 headband.
I now have my new headband padding and I can say with the padding and the J$ pads, these are one of the most comfortable headphones I've ever used.
Here are the three different pads I've tried (Left to right: Stock T50rp, Denon J$, Shure SRH840):
Pros - Good SQ even when unamped, sturdy, nice aesthetics
Cons - Hard, unforgiving headband, Sub-par detachable cable
Prior listening experience: Audio Technica ATH-M50, AKG K240 Studio
My time with these headphones was limited, as I bought them for a friend who lives far away.
The overall sound signature isn't overly bassy or dark, but there is more bass than treble. Good imaging, sound feels like it emanates from nowhere as opposed to from two distinct spots over your ears. Soundstage is slightly better than most closed cans. Bass is really good and tight, though it rolls off a bit. Mids seem very slightly boomy. Very smooth treble. Isolates very well and little sound leakage.
Heavy and sturdy. Feels like a tank. Mostly ABS construction. Metal headband with a rubber sleeve and no padding. Matte copper-finished yokes. Free-motion, non stepped headband adjustment.Pivoting earcup design helps ensure proper fit. Detachable 10-foot cable.
Not very comfortable. Earpads are very soft and encompass your whole ear, and not overly heavy as to cause neck pain, but for a headphone this heavy to have an unpadded headband makes me wonder what Fostex was thinking. After about 20-ish minutes of listening the headband begins to feel like it's digging into the top of your head. It's very unpleasant and usually results in needing to remove the headphones.
*Amazing build quality, very sturdy
*Great sound quality out of an iPod, sounds many times better when properly amplified
*Sound quality rivals $600 headphones with proper modifications
*Headband is hard and unforgiving, I expected comfort to be better for a headphone of this caliber
*The detachment method for the cable could be far better
*Sometimes hard to adjust
That sums up this review. At this price, there's no contest. Definitely go for these, Fostex doesn't disappoint!