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The TH500RP is the latest Regular Phase dynamic driver headphone to be released by Fostex....

Fostex TH500RP

Rating:
4.5/5,
  • The TH500RP is the latest Regular Phase dynamic driver headphone to be released by Fostex.

    Product Features:

    Employs the uniquely developed RP (Regular Phase) diaphragm which consists of etched copper foil on the surface with high heat resistant polyimide film as the base material. The distinctive characteristic of planar diaphragm is further evolved by newly tuning the entire driver unit
    The high specific gravity resin baffle plate delivers a high resolution sound with rich mid range and good quality lows and a reduction in unwanted resonance
    The use of aluminum and magnesium for structural parts, the TH 500 RP achieves a high quality texture and light weight. A unique punched metal is used for the housing, which pays homage the original RP headphone design.
    The high quality soft leather ear pad ensures the optimum distance between the diaphragm and the ear for a comfortable listening experience even in prolonged use
    The connecting cable is made of "HiFC"(*) which for the ultimate sonic purity and superior conductivity
    The gold plated plug features the "Fostex" logo
    The package includes a quality leather texture pouch for protection during transportation
pauladisc likes this.

Recent Reviews

  1. jeffhawke
    Spirit Labs breathes new life into the Fostex TH500RP
    Written by jeffhawke
    Published Apr 6, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Precision, detailed bass, powerful presentation, transparency, musicality. Amazing value of the Spirit Lab mods
    Cons - Cable, while beautifully crafted, is slightly heavy. Earpads get warm. Need power to perform at their best, not best suited for portable use.

    Foreword

     
    I bought these headphones in February this year from fellow head-fier @dieslow, and got them after about three weeks, courtesy of Swiss customs. After reading Steve Guttenberg's rave review on Cnet, I was all too excited to try them out on my new iDSD BL. Boy was I disappointed! They sounded dull, veiled, flat to the point that my Fidelio X2 (a VERY good heaphone, btw, especially considering the price) was miles ahead of them in terms of everything, really. So I decided to put them on the chopping block, pretty much for the same price I had paid for them, and recover the investment. No such luck. But really? More of that at the very end of this review.
     
    Enter Spirit Labs. This small but very professional Italian outfit is run by founder Andrea Ricci, mainly intent on heavily modding Grados and Beyerdynamics. I bumped into his Facebook home page while I was trying to get rid of the TH500RP and saw in a corner of the page the name "Fostex" among the brands of cans Spirit Labs would mod, so I hit them up and explained what was wrong with my headphones, imo. Andrea listened carefully, then explained to me what he thought could be done. It didn't take much to convince me at that point, also because the price he quoted for the whole job, new premium cable included, was a very affordable EUR 140. So I shipped them out. What follows next is your typical ugly duckling story.
     

    Pre-Spirit Labs mods

     
    I got the headphones in really excellent conditions, just as described by @dieslow. Build quality and presentation are really outstanding. 
     
    SL10001.jpg
     
    Soundwise: overflowing and uncontrolled bass, mids not well defined and "foggy", rolled-off treble, meh soundstage, needed to be played really loud to get something out of them.
     

    The Spirit Lab mods

     
    Before the mods:
     
    SL10003.jpg SL10004.jpg SL100011.jpg
     
       The famous RP drive
     
    SL10006.jpg SL10007.jpg
     
     

    The mods

     
     
    SL100012.jpg SL100013.jpg
    Basic design change, from open to closed back.                    
    Removal of the mat covering the drive. Total internal recabling 
    Removal of the mid paper layer behind the drive, baffle/driver armoring
     
    SL100010.jpg
     
    Final product with new cable.
     

    The final sound results

     
    Bass:
     
    Powerful, tight and detailed. Clear and rhythmic mid-bass.
     
    Mid-range:
     
    Open and transparent, a major improvement over the pre-mod version! Can be played at low volumes and still retain clarity and detail.
     
    Mid-highs and highs:
     
    Crisp and well defined, without ever becoming sibilant. 
     
    Soundstage: 
     
    As odd as it may sound, there is a much better soundstage now, after being transformed into a closed design, than there was before as an open design. I believe this may be due to the vast improvement in transparency and clarity.
     
    Power:
     
    Before the mods, I really needed to drive them hard with my iDSD BL in full turbo mode, and the result was still questionable to say the least. Now, the BL drives them effortlessly (in turbo mode), but I have achieved amazing results in terms of their ability to play real loud or at low volume by using the headphone stage of an icon of the '80s, the Audiometric A10P/Adcom GFP1 semi-pro preamp, which to this day I consider one of the best preamps, bar none. However, I'm not even thinking of using them on the go, the BL being the maximum portability you can get with these cans.
     

    Conclusions

    So, thanks to these rather extensive but inexpensive mods (take a look at the cost of the Lawton mods to see what I'm talking about, and they are d.i.y!) the ugly duckling has become and elegant and powerful swan. Boy am I happy I didn't get to sell these cans when I wanted to! If I had, or if they had been sounding reasonably well, even though not amazing, I would never had them go through the Spirit Labs treatment and therefore I would not nearly enjoy them as I am enjoying them now. Yes, the cable is a little heavy, and my ears get warm after some time, but I still can't take them off after several hours!
    I am therefore renaming my headphones the Spirit Labs SL1000AR. Thank you Andrea!
      afico likes this.
  2. bagwell359
    Updated review due to successfull mods
    Written by bagwell359
    Published Mar 28, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Mids, comfort (weight, cups), recent price slide, modified bass makes big difference, easy to drive
    Cons - treble rolls off quickly - image height, details, overtones less than cans such as MD 4zz, Senn HD-600
    Edited 8/23/18:

    I have 150 hours active listening and another 150 passive/occasional on these.

    Equipment: see sig

    Low bass: reticent, lacking drive when unmodified.

    Mid/upper bass: flabby, not much impact either.

    Highs: starts to drop at 7-8k, clearly down at 12k (2-3 db), 14k just not there

    Soundstage: can be wide, and change size depending on recording, but never gets tall (an issue with this technology)

    These remind me Maggie SMG's. If you never listened to live or other better equipment you might conclude that they are very good indeed.

    IMO, the Senn HD-600's, MD 4xx, and by a massive margin the HFM HE-500 are better. I mean really, what do the Fostex do better? A little fuzzy romantic gauze in the mids?

    I have gotten nowhere with pad changes. The stock are the best. Making them balanced didn't help much.

    However the modifications I've done have changed things. I cut out the plastic grid with the mesh, and added batting between the driver and the outer mesh (very. subtle changes), but the big one is putting white tack on the outer screens. Too much, and the they start to sound boomy and ridiculous. But with 8 pieces cut into 1/4" x 1/2" pieces and oriented somewhat around the middle with spacing the bass is easily better than the HD-600's (quantity but also maintaining a sense of being lithe and quick) Might be a bit less energy then the MD 4xx, but I'd say quicker. I've tried about 15 layouts of the tack before I found this combo. I'd like to test it to see if I can improve it.

    I have never been irritated by these, but, the politeness comes from lack of detail and high end that falls off at 9k and is essentially done by 13k. A stronger bass foundation helps the treble sound a bit more pronounced. at times, but, its just sense of more, it still lacks air, sparkle, and subtle definitions.

    They are now on my keeper list which is a step up for me.
    1. cocolinho
      swap pads on these. Spectacular results. You can try Focus pads from Hifiman
      cocolinho, Mar 29, 2017
    2. bagwell359
      tried lots of pads, balanced connection, many damping options. Made mods similar to what a poster had done - except closed back. Hate closed back phones. fatter pads increase treble and decrease bass - tried six diff types. From 300 Hz to 10 KHz very nice and pleasant, but massdrop 4xx's and senn 600's have much more detail from bottom to top, and the HE-500 pounds these bloodless. Nothing is added, but too much is missing.
      bagwell359, Jul 3, 2018
  3. miko64
    Very good quality and neutral sound for the price - highly recommended
    Written by miko64
    Published May 10, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Neutal, Open, very good mids and treble, build quality, repording human voices
    Cons - bass not as punchy as for example TH900 or LCD-X, No immediate WOW and BLING
    This is an update to the review I wrote shortly after purchasing the TH500RP. By now I have these cans for over a year and I listen about 25% of the time with them (10% EL8 Open and the reminder LCD2 and LCDX). Mine has serial #419
     

    Besides the TH500, I own Audeze EL8, LCD2.2, LCD-X, TH900, HD650 and a Bayer DT1350 and the Oppo PM3
     
    In short I would consider the following order of quality
     
    PM3 < TH500 < LCD-X.
     
    All of these three cans are quite neutral and you will see the respective differences when you compare them directly. 
    My impression is actually limited to the type of music I am listening to - mostly classical music and opera. Having said this, I prefer a quite balanced sound, which does not overstate, nor understate the different part of the spectrum.  All the the can above (with the exception of possibly LCD2 / HD 650) fulfil this requirement to bigger or lesser degree. I am going to discuss the following three cans: PM3, TH500, LCD-X.
     
    As said all of them are in mu view quite neutral and have a similar sound signature. The warmest representation of the three is the PM3 and the most neutral possibly the LCD-X (had difficulties to make a pick between TH500 and LCD-X). This means that the TH500 is in my eyes really good. [A good indicator of a headphone is to just play your preferred piece and listen to it - you will immediately find outliers - both positive and negative.] From the three can the TH500 surprised me most positively. You would expect a very good sound from a LCD-X; the TH500 is almost there.
     
    Now where are the differences between the three.
     
    a) The resolution of both TH500 and LCD-X is higher than with Oppo PM3 (on a stand-allone basis difficult to judge - it becomes only apparent when directly comparing them)
    b) The bass of the PM3 is possibly overstated - but not as precise as LCD-X
    c) The bass of the TH500 is precise as the LCD-X up to a certain degree. If you push it too hard (-say the thunderstorm in Handels Rinaldo), you will see that the bigger transductors of the LCD-X will outperform. I think this is a not too big sin, since a lot of dynamic cans have the same flaw and you do not listen every day to music massive amounts of energy in the 10 -25 Hz spectrum.
     
    d) The mids are very good for all three cans - TH500 and LCD-X winning in terms of precision over PM3
     
    e) Highs: Same as d), here the TH500 has 'slightly' less energy. (but by far more than the LCD2 for example)
     
    Conclusion:
    I like the TH500 quite a lot and do not really understand the negative comments I have read in the thread before. If you like either PM3 or LCD-X you will almost certainly enjoy the TH500. In particular the price seems to be very competitive. You get about 95% (say) of the performance of the LCD-X for a fraction of its price. With respect to PM3 there is quite an improvement in quality (however PM3 is closed and TH500 is open)
     
    Now where is the dark side?
     
    a) The TH500 needs considerable amount of power. The sensitivity is in the order of the one of LCD2 and you almost certainly do not want to run it via your iPhone. It works very well with Chord's Hugo (TH500: c93dB per 1mW, PM3: c102dB per 1mW, LCD-X: c103dB per 1mW) 
     
    b) The weight of the can is something personal. The TH500 is quite light (as the TH900). So it is not that heavy as the LCD-X.
     
    Comment on sources:
     
    I have used the cans with Chord Mojo, Hugo and AK 240 and the TH500 plays very well with all of them. Given the higher power available from Hugo the latter one outperforms vs the others, but AK240 works well (sound level at about 124 / 150 vs TH900 with 90/150). This might indicate that TH500 can not play excessively loud with AK 240.
     
    In terms of sound quality the order is as follows AK240 < Mojo < Hugo. Having said this I almost ever use AK 240 stand alone when travelling but use mainly Hugo when working at the Mac.

      trellus likes this.
    1. Sonic Defender
      Thanks for the review mate, I liked it.
      Sonic Defender, May 10, 2016
      trellus likes this.
  4. Kiats
    Fostex RP Drivers Reborn
    Written by Kiats
    Published Mar 1, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Good Sound Quality; Excellent Value; Classy build
    Cons - Rolled off trebles; Some Inherent Structural Weaknesses
    The Fostex TH900 remains one of my favourite headphones despite its detractors who want vocals like the singer has a meter wide mouth and suggestions that its sonic signature is coloured and therefore not deserving of any suggestion that it is a reference level headphone.
     
    I later realized I was mistaken when I thought that Fostex did not make headphones in their own names. There is the T50RP which is cherished for its planar magnetic drivers. What happened is that it is one of the most modded headphones around. In fact, I understand that there is a headphone maker which made its name leveraging off the T50RP drivers. The consensus was that these were great drivers but Fostex had not realized the potential by poor enclosure and implementation.
     
    After Fostex flexed its developmental muscles by releasing the TH900 which was heads and shoulders above the Denon D7000 it used to produce for Denon, everyone sat up and took notice. Including myself. So, when it was announced that Fostex was coming up with a new open headphone leveraging off and improving on the T50RP drivers, it sent more than a ripple of excitement in the head-fi community in Singapore. Particularly, when the announced price would place it lower than the Audeze LCD2.
     
    Claire was kind enough to inform me when the TH500RP arrived at Jaben Singapore. Her modus operandi is simply to send me a photo of the gear she wanted to let me know had arrived. Simple but effective strategy. I suppose I responded much better to visual stimuli. After all, a picture does paint a thousand words. J
     
    Even though I have plenty of choices and have in recent times been known to be open to being persuaded to let go of my cans, the TH500RP retains its place, alongside its more visually impressive sibling the TH900, in my little collection of full sized headphones comprising most of the top tier Grados, the LCD 2 & 3, HD700 & 800, Hifiman HE-6, HE-5LE, HE-560, HE-500, HE-1000, AKG K702 & K812, Stax SR007 MK1 & MK2.5, SR 009, SR L700, the Final Sonorous X and the Abyss. 
     
     
    Home Desktop Headphone Set Up
     
    As a background to what I hear from the TH500RP, I think it is important to be able to compare differing experiences in the context of the rig in which it is hard. My chain comprises an Auralic Aries (with external linear PSU), connected via a Audiquest Diamond USB 3 cable to a Bricasti M1 DAC and then JPS Superconductor V RCA to the Cavalli Liquid Gold. Power cord for the DAC is a Tralucent Uber power cord, and power cord for the Liquid Gold is a JPS Kaptovator power cord. Power to the components of the desktop rig and sources is fed through an Isotek Aquarus and all the power cords use US plugs. Mains power is fed to the Isotek Aquarius via a Tralucent Uber power cord.
     
    My Synology DS 414 and a Seagate Backup Plus HDD (connected directly via USB to the Aries) are powered by the new Plixir Elite BDC Power Supply kindly customized for me by James Soh of Sound Affairs in Singapore. James had also helpfully suggested that I run a separate switch for the audio components away from the wifi access point. The switch is also powered by the Plixir Elite BDC Power Supply that James customized for me. The Aries and the Synology DS414 NAS are connected via the dedicated switch by a pair of Ranko Acoustics OCC audio LAN cables.
     
     
    Build Quality
     
    The build quality of the TH500RP takes a few cues from the TH900 – the headband is based on the same idea, while the ear pads seem to be the same. In place of the lovely urushi lacquer ear cups, there is this flat aluminum ear cup with perforations. The cables are very much the same as those of the TH900 and comes with a ¼ inch plug.
     
    As with the TH900, there is no possibility of cable rolling as the cables are not detachable. Again, the ear pads are covered with pleather, the protein leather made from egg shell membrane. I would assume that the same caution, as with the TH900, to be exercised in keeping them dry or the pleather may degrade. The same precautions should be exercised in respect the stress point where the ear cups swivel on a joint. This had displayed fragility in TH900s in some cases.
     
     
    Comfort and Isolation
     
    Like its older sibling, the TH500RP ear pads are comfortable. And the weight of the headphone is really well distributed. The clamp force of the headphone is as gentle as on the TH900.
     
    The TH500RP being an open can offers minimal isolation.
     
     
    Music Genres
     
    As confessed in one of my other reviews, I am a music slut. J I do enjoy most genres of music. My music collection extends from medieval to classical to contemporary music. It is a pretty epic and complete collection, if I may say so myself.
     
    Like its older sibling, the TH500RP is versatile:  it is at least competent with all genres. Again, I do enjoy it with jazz and acoustic vocals. It is also very nice with Mandopop vocal tracks. One category it does less well with is probably full orchestral classical music. Its soundstage is not as wide as I would like it probably because of its slightly rolled off trebles.
     
    To be fair, generally, it is an easy headphone to enjoy.
     
     
    Sound Quality
     
    The sound quality of the TH500RP is pretty good. I frankly think it is on par with the LCD 2 and 3. Which is pretty impressive at its price point.
     
    The TH500RP is quick and nimble as one would expect from a planar-magnetic. The trebles are smooth, albeit not as extended as I would like. The mids are rich and textured wihout being too forward or fatiguing. The bass is deep and tight. It may not have the same slam and impact as that of the TH900 but it is nonetheless of good weight.
     
    In fact, I would say that the TH500RP is probably slightly more neutral than the TH900. Only pity is the treble roll off. The lack of immediate bass slam as there is in the TH900 is perhaps due to the  fact that it is not a closed can or it may be that the RP driver just doesn’t generate that sort of power as the 1.5 Tesla driver of the TH900.
     
     
    Pairing
     
    I currently run my TH500RP with the Cavalli Liquid Gold. On a desktop amp as this, I cannot understand or appreciate the oft-cited complaint that it lacks bass, whether quality or quantity. I can only guess that, being planar magnetics, the TH500RP are hungry for driving power and need power to show off its true nature.
     
     
    Conclusion
     
    Fostex has done a good job in breathing new life into the much loved and modded RP drivers. While the sound is generally balanced and neutral, it would have been a more complete package and even better value for money if the trebles had been more extended. That should however not take anything away from the Fostex TH500RP. It showcases what Fostex is capable of. It only leaves me eager to see what else Fostex comes out with in the headphone arena.
      trellus, Mr.Tom and H20Fidelity like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. cocolinho
      I wonder how they compare to Nighthawk & HD650. I'll know soon :
      cocolinho, Mar 2, 2016
    3. Mr.Tom
      They sound similar to 650's, less some midrange peak and bass bloat.
      Mr.Tom, Mar 2, 2016
    4. miko64
      I find it interesting to see how different the sound quality of the TH500RP is assessed. I own this can quite a long time and find it superior to many other cans I have used. Perhaps it is the type of music one is listing to - I am mainly in classical opera with natural sounds. There neutrality is key and I agree with Kiats that TH500 is a strong contender for LCD 2.2. What I like also the building quality of the it. I with agree ostewart that this is not a wower - but rather a can which you will never want to miss after you get used to it.
      miko64, May 10, 2016
      trellus likes this.
  5. YoYo JoKeR
    Fostex TH500RP: New Benchmark in Upper Mid-Fi Category
    Written by YoYo JoKeR
    Published Mar 18, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Great Design, Supreme Build Quality, Mid Centric Sonic Presentation
    Cons - Lows, Clarity, Resolution, Value


    Me: I am a 21 year old student living in a small town in India. I would like to call myself a music enthusiast, rather than an audiophile. I was inspired by music since childhood, and as the time passed, the passion of music grew in me, and that subsequently led me to join Head-Fi. Eventually, I found the pleasure of listening to music mainly by the HD600 and recently, by the seductive LCD2 headphones, and realized the true components of recorded music. I usually like to listen to Indian Classical Music along with Bollywood songs. My main listening genres include classical, vocal, instrumental, jazz and sometimes pop.

     

    Intro:  Fostex is a well known & established audio brand which is headquartered in Japan. Established in 1973, it is one of the oldest audio brand specializing in the area of headphones and audio equipments. Their products are all designed, developed in Japan, but manufactured in China. The TH600/900 line is a very popular and long running closed headphone range by Fostex. TH500 is the first open back audiophile grade headphone offering from Fostex.

     

    DSC01954.jpg

     

    Fostex has a specific vision in making their products: Their products should employ the best possible, precise engineering and last long (very long) and accurate, yet with an enjoyable sonic reproduction. In fact, Fostex’s precision and engineering has made them memorable across the oceans and continents.

     

    DSC01930.jpg

     

    Specifications of TH500RP:

     

    Driver: Regular Phase Dynamic Driver

     

    Rated Impedance: 48 Ω

     

    Frequency Response: 20 ~ 30,000 Hz

     

    Sensitivity: 93dB/mW


    Weight: 375 Grams

     

    Plug: 6.5mm Gold plated

     

    Cable: straight, Oxygen Free Copper, anti RF & non removable.

     

    Let us see what the TH500 has got for us,

     

    Packaging and Accessories: The TH500’s arrive packed inside a black cardboard box. Once the lid is lifted off, The TH500 is seen resting. Nothing fancy a carrying pouch included. But each and every part has a premium quality and feel to it. Packing is in a typical Sennheiser style. The matt black box, the foam cutout simply reminds us of a Sennheiser box.

     

    DSC01928.jpg

     

    DSC01929.jpg

     

    DSC01933.jpg

     

    DSC01934.jpg

     

    DSC01936.jpg

     

    List of accessories in the box, which include the following: 

     

    Carry Pouch: This is a pleather case, and supplied to protect and store the TH500.

     

    User Manual: Contains instructions to operate the TH500 and other warranty information.


     

    Design and Build: The Th500RP has a phenomenal build quality. Simply one of the greatest build and design one would ever see on a headphone. Build is very similar to higher TH600/900 models. Absolutely no compromises/cut shorts to seen anywhere. The TH500’s are open (practically, semi open) cans which are powered by a Regular Phase Dynamic drivers as called by Fostex. If we take a closer look, the driver looks very similar to a planar magnetic driver, but the drivers are dynamic.

     

    DSC01937.jpg

     

    DSC01955.jpg

     

    DSC019555.jpg

     

    The entire housing shell is made up of high quality forged aluminium & fibre. It isn’t painted, but is anodized, which is again a step forward in engineering. TH500 weights about 375 grams, but when worn on, feels very light and comfort. Headband is made up of steel, covered by a pleather cushion. Earpads are made up of pleathers. These earpads vaguely reminds us of Audeze’s LCD series pads, but TH500’s pads are much narrower and aim towards a tight and fixed fit.

     

    DSC01943.jpg

     

    DSC01941.jpg

     

    DSC01946.jpg

     

    DSC01960.jpg

     

    Cable has again has a superb build.  Cable build is extremely fine. It is light, flexible and does not get tangled. I could not notice the presence of any microphonics. Plug is straight and gold plated. The stock cable does a great job in transferring signals along with great transparency. But the cable is fixed & not detachable, which is quite disappointing. This can also be troublesome in a long run.  If the cable gets damaged/cut one may have to visit service centre. 

     

    DSC01948.jpg

     

    DSC01959.jpg

     

    DSC01947.jpg

     

    TH500 has a specific ‘rail’ & ‘ball bearing’ mechanism to stabilize and control the headband length when user shortening/elongating them. This mechanism is one of the smoothest, reliable & most reliable one I have ever experienced. The TH500’s also have a well implemented and very comfortable clamp force, and headband angling, for a good listening experience.  Overall, It has a phenomenal Summit-Fi level build quality, which is similar to the build of TH600/900.

     

    DSC01942.jpg

     

     

    Comfort:  TH500’s are very comfortable to wear even in long sessions; Length of the headband, clamping and cushioning are very fine and comfortable. Since TH500’s are semi-open headphones, these do leak sound, but not as loud as fully open cans. But the earpads of TH500 may feel somewhat lacking in width to almost all enthusiasts, due to its narrow width. So this results in our ears touching the edges of earpad or inner area. Our ears are soft and sensitive, and this contact results in pain or discomfort.

     

    DSC01958.jpg

     

    Though TH500 is ergonomically designed and are really comfortable, the only issue here is, TH500 primarily designed for a tight fit to achieve an optimum angle to the drivers, for a natural sound perception. Concept is very creative, but comfort is compromised in the process.


     

    Sound:  The TH500 has an overall neutral character; tonally it’s a dark sounding headphone. It can be called as ‘Mid-Centric’.

     

    Burn in: These improve a lot with time. Let’s say a playback of 50 hours provides audible improvements, along with softening of earpads.  Bass prior to break-in is slightly more sterile, and eventually it becomes more in body, Mids will sound more open, airy. Highs which were ‘slightly doused off‘become slightly more noticeable, soundstage opens up by a margin.

     

    Lows: are extremely accurate, tight and refined; but as a trade-off, have a considerably low impact. Depth is less than average. Lows did not quite satisfy my sonic tastes.

     

    Mids:  sound pleasing and natural. Mids are slightly more intimate than rest of the frequencies. This makes TH500 a good contender for vocals.  .

     

    Highs: are clear, detailed, yet smooth and not harsh.  Highs are presented in such a manner that these do not attack the music, but take a back seat.

     

    Soundstage: The TH500’s soundstage is airy, spacious, but not fully circular or 3D soundstage, but more of a 2D like with left and right separation. Depth is pretty good. Since TH500’s are bass shy, Presentation is in such a way that, focus will fall more on, mids and highs, hence giving a perception of better Instrument separation & detail retrieval. According to my observation, these cans sounded good particularly in instrumentals, and classical. Performance on electronic/Trance were not particularly likeable due to its lack in lows. I can say the TH500’s are partially forgiving to poor recordings. Hence these are not very revealing not resolving. Another aspect which puts me off is the clarity and resolution on TH500’s is not great, but just decent.

     

     

    Components of TH500: (Image Courtsey HeadRoom)

     

    TH500RP_Inside_2_grande.jpg

     
    TH500RP_Inside_8_grande.jpg
     
    TH500RP_Inside_4_grande.jpg
     

     

    Comparison: Price point of TH500 is somewhere in between that of Mid-Fi cans and Summit-Fi ones. Therefore, important contenders are Sennheiser HD700 & Beyerdynamic T90.

     

    HD700: A popular and a long standing headphone from Sennheiser, and is sonically well acclaimed. Sonically, HD700 is the Little brother of HD800, neutral has a accurate bass; Mids are very good, highs are transparent with very less harshness. Highs are present in just the right amount to keep the music alive. Soundstage wise, they are very 3D and lifelike.

     

    T90: Younger sibling of the T1 from Beyerdynamic. The T90 is very detailed, unforgiving to poor recording, and has a slightly bright highs. The T90 also has a accurate but slightly stronger bass than HD700, neutral mids, and slightly bright highs. Soundstage is very appreciable and 3D like, but a step behind the HD700’s.

    Build quality wise all three cans are in same league. Sonically, both HD700 and T90 are very neutral & revealing, but they present sound ina slightly different kind of signatures. But the TH500 is way darker when it comes to presentation and tonality. Sound quality (especially clarity, detail, resolution) wise, TH500 is noticeably inferior, and is left behind the two.

     

    TH500 is available at around 699$, and Both the HD700 & T90 are priced at 649$. The price point of TH500’s does not justify its sonic qualities. Sadly, TH500 is not only outperformed, but outclassed by HD700 and T90 sonically.


     

    Amplification: These TH500’s are rated at 48 ohms, but are not to power efficient, hence cannot be run by weak sources and thus need a dedicated headphone amplifier. Although TH500 can sound ‘good’ with setups like setup like an O2/ODAC or M/M stack, but the full potential is unleashed on  powerful setups like Gustard H10 or Audio GD’s: It is like these cans are on a whole new level now. And the difference in quality is clearly audible by any enthusiast.


     

    Conclusion:  The TH500’s are a good pair of headphones. Build quality is really great and on par with acclaimed headphones. I also liked the TH500’s tonality, as it is easy to focus on the Mids. This type of presentation will be useful for vocals and classical.

     

    But as drawbacks, Lows were although very accurate, had low impact and below average depth. The clarity was also lacking & did not quite appeal my tastes. Also, due to TH500’s design, enthusiasts with moderate to large ears may not prefer the comfort in these, since ears will touch the surface of earpads. I also feel Fostex should improvise the drivers for TH500 t perform sonically well.

     

    Pros: 

     

    1) Build Quality: The TH500 has a phenomenal all-metal/fibre build.  Even the cable has a great and appreciable build.

     

    2) Sound quality: Sound presentation here is easy going, but also fairly detailed with a good amount of soundstage. The TH500 is mid centric, and quite enjoyable for vocals and classical music.

     

    3) Comfort: Comfort is very good in general. But it is definitely a downside for enthusiasts with moderate to larger ears. The TH500 cannot accommodate larger ears inside its earpads. .Also, the earpads lack ventilation, and may cause sweating/discomfort in warmer climates.

     

    Cons:

     

    1) Lows:  Lows on TH500 lack in quantity, impact and depth, leaving the listener longing for more.

     

    2) Clarity & Resolution:  The TH500 when compared to its counterparts lacks clarity, detail, and resolution in its sonic quality.

     

    3) Value: Because of the mentioned drawbacks, TH500 will ultimately hold a lower price to performance ratio.


     
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