History of orthodynamic (planar-magnetic) headphones
May 8, 2022 at 7:40 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 10

voja

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Some time ago when I was reviewing the Dekoni Audio Blue, I wondered about the history of orthodynamic headphones. To my surprise, I had a hard time finding it in one place. I had to research for weeks to extract little bits of information. Unfortunately, the history of planars isn't that covered, at least not in one place. So, my goal with this thread is to bring people together, bring people with knowledge about their history together and continuously update this post to make sure it includes as much information as possible. Without further ado:

History of orthodynamic (planar-magnetic) headphones​


Fostex RP has a very interesting history, and it has a lot to do the technology used. While manufacturers like Audeze and Hifiman were making planar-magnetic (isodynamic/orthodynamic) headphones in the high-end market, Fostex focused on producing affordable planar-magnetic headphones — that’s essentially where it found its potential.

Being more curious about the widely unknown history of Fostex’s RP range, I found out that Fostex is given very little credit for its importance in the planar-magnetic field. After some hours of digging into the history of planar-magnetic headphones, I was barely able to source the first ever planar-magnetic headphone. Surprisingly enough, in 1972 Wharfedale produced the world’s first planar-magnetic headphone: the Wharfedale ID1. Who would’ve thought that a manufacturer like Wharfedale, a company that is most well known for their speakers, produced the world’s first planar magnetic set of headphones.

Wharfedale ID1



After that, I had a difficult time tracking down exactly which models were released between 1972 and later, however, I did find some notable information.

The Timeline


1974/1975 - Fostex launches its T50v0 model - making it the world’s second planar-magnetic headphone. It would only be sold until 1976 — the v0 series is generally less documented. From my research, the only headphone in the v0 series was the T50v0, making it the first T50 from Fostex.

Fostex T50v0


The T50v0 would lead Fostex to become an OEM for other companies, and produce headphone models that are based off of the T50v0. These models would be:


1977
- NAD RP18 (it had two variations of the drivers: mylar diaphragm, and the kapton diaphragm)

Nad RP18



1977
- Aiwa HP-500

Aiwa HP-500



70’s
- Sansui SS100

11346785.jpg



1974
- Audio Technica launches its first headphone series - the AT-700 series.
*I cannot confirm whether the AT-700 series featured planar-magnetic technology, but I did find information that Audio Technica was among other manufacturers who were involved in the planar magnetic headphone market


1975/1976
- Yamaha launches its first planar-magnetic headphone: the HP-1. The HP-1 was designed by the well known Mario Bellini. Yamaha was apparently doing far better than other manufacturers in terms of sales for their orthodynamic headphones. This is mainly due to the fact that they utilized efficient marketing and follow-up series

Yamaha HP-1



Yamaha followed up with the following models:

1978 - YH-1000

Yamaha YH-1000



1982
- YH-100

Yamaha line-up (middle - YH-100)

Yamaha YH-1 (left), Yamaha YH-100 (middle), Yamaha YH-1000 (right)


1985
- YHD-1

Yamaha YHD-1



Mid 70’s
- YH1
Yamaha YH-1



1977
- Fostex launches T10, T20, T30, and the T50 models (v1) - notable feature of the 1st generation were the round ear-cups & ear-pads, and round driver

Fostex 1st Generation



1978
- Bang & Olufsen releases the U70 - designed by B&O’s well famed designer Jacob Jensen

11346775.jpg



1980s
- Fostex finally introduces its Regular Phase (RP) technology (v2) - notable feature of the 2nd generation was the change of the ear-cup construction and the headband. This generation introduced the rubber headband and also started featuring the iconic “RP” logo on the ear-cups.

Fostex T20RP v2

Fostex T40RP



2002-2006
- Fostex launches T20RP MK2, T40RP MK2, T50RP - notable feature of the third generation was the change to a square-shaped driver. This would be a significant change, as though it completely changed the sound signature, but also all future models would implement the square-shaped driver. This generation followed the same rubber headband as the previous one.

Fostex T20RP MK2


All of this being said, there’s no doubt that there were several planar-magnetic headphones in the early years. However most of them didn’t see much success - mainly due to the difficult process of manufacturing these headphones, it wasn’t cost efficient for the manufacturers.
This is why Fostex played a major role in the planar magnetic field. Besides Yamaha, it truly brought the planar-magnetic technology to the commercial consumer market. Fostex’s RP series was widely used in studios, that’s how it raised to fame.
You can also notice that most of the early planar-magnetic headphones were produced for a limited time, meaning that many companies decided to leave the field of planar-magnetic headphones. If I had to make a guess, it would be that it was for business reasons and not meeting sales or profit goals.

The most interesting part is that Fostex was founded in 1973, which is only a year or two prior to the release of the T50v0. Nowadays, names like Hifiman and Audeze are the ones that people generally associate with “planar-magnetic” headphones, however those companies were founded more than three decades later - Hifiman in 2003, Audeze in 2008 — making Fostex one of the first companies to seriously step in the planar-magnetic headphone market.

 
May 8, 2022 at 10:35 AM Post #2 of 10
ooh, interesting
 
May 11, 2022 at 8:42 PM Post #3 of 10
Part of the reason Fostex take a a back seat is that other makers keep making new designs and better designs.
 
May 11, 2022 at 8:58 PM Post #4 of 10
Part of the reason Fostex take a a back seat is that other makers keep making new designs and better designs.
I understand why Fostex isn't paid much attention to these days, but I think it deserves respect for what it has done in the early days of orthodynamics. Especially considering how young Fostex was when it came into the orthodynamic market. That was a risky move, but a move that certainly greatly contributed to this new headphone driver technology.

Nowadays there are much more extreme and unique orthodynamic designs, and most of them are luxury-priced. All these decades later, people still made a number of modded version of the 'newer' versions.

I think it's safe to say that Fostex deserves a place in the history of orthodynamic headphones. It earned its place in history. I hope we can agree on that.
 
May 11, 2022 at 9:06 PM Post #5 of 10
I understand why Fostex isn't paid much attention to these days, but I think it deserves respect for what it has done in the early days of orthodynamics. Especially considering how young Fostex was when it came into the orthodynamic market. That was a risky move, but a move that certainly greatly contributed to this new headphone driver technology.

Nowadays there are much more extreme and unique orthodynamic designs, and most of them are luxury-priced. All these decades later, people still made a number of modded version of the 'newer' versions.

I think it's safe to say that Fostex deserves a place in the history of orthodynamic headphones. It earned its place in history. I hope we can agree on that.
No question.

but they put out a pretty version of the FH50RP in 2014. 4 years after the HE-6 and 3 years after the HE-500. They didn't meet the explosion of 2015->2022 either.
 
Mar 21, 2023 at 9:59 AM Post #7 of 10
Some time ago when I was reviewing the Dekoni Audio Blue, I wondered about the history of orthodynamic headphones. To my surprise, I had a hard time finding it in one place. I had to research for weeks to extract little bits of information. Unfortunately, the history of planars isn't that covered, at least not in one place. So, my goal with this thread is to bring people together, bring people with knowledge about their history together and continuously update this post to make sure it includes as much information as possible. Without further ado:

History of orthodynamic (planar-magnetic) headphones​


Fostex RP has a very interesting history, and it has a lot to do the technology used. While manufacturers like Audeze and Hifiman were making planar-magnetic (isodynamic/orthodynamic) headphones in the high-end market, Fostex focused on producing affordable planar-magnetic headphones — that’s essentially where it found its potential.

Being more curious about the widely unknown history of Fostex’s RP range, I found out that Fostex is given very little credit for its importance in the planar-magnetic field. After some hours of digging into the history of planar-magnetic headphones, I was barely able to source the first ever planar-magnetic headphone. Surprisingly enough, in 1972 Wharfedale produced the world’s first planar-magnetic headphone: the Wharfedale ID1. Who would’ve thought that a manufacturer like Wharfedale, a company that is most well known for their speakers, produced the world’s first planar magnetic set of headphones.

Wharfedale ID1
OH NO
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO :scream:
I believe my dad owned this one
And I completely wrecked it as a child, because it was laying unused in the shed, I assumed it was broken, and wondered what was inside :confounded:
 
Mar 21, 2023 at 4:53 PM Post #8 of 10
OH NO
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO :scream:
I believe my dad owned this one
And I completely wrecked it as a child, because it was laying unused in the shed, I assumed it was broken, and wondered what was inside :confounded:
Yup it was this one
He doesn’t recall that I wrecked it (so that probably didn’t happen) but he remembers owning it. Paid 60 guilders for it (Dutch currency, in better times)
It now goes for $400 on ebay 😆
 
Apr 15, 2023 at 4:36 PM Post #9 of 10
Surprisingly enough, in 1972 Wharfedale produced the world’s first planar-magnetic headphone: the Wharfedale ID1. Who would’ve thought that a manufacturer like Wharfedale, a company that is most well known for their speakers, produced the world’s first planar magnetic set of headphones.

Wharfedale ID1

Fun Fact: "Wharfedale ID1" were never called the ID1. Their name was "Wharfedale Isodynamic". ID1 seems to be a name retrospectively given to them due to the next wharfedale isodynamic headphone being called the ID2. Unsure by who and when this started happening, but I don't think it was wharfedale themselves.
 
Apr 15, 2023 at 5:03 PM Post #10 of 10
I will copy for you the old Wikiphonia page :


«Fostex T10 - Overview
The cheapest of the original 1978 lineup of Regular Phase (RP) headphones, the T10 is not a simplified version of the world-famous T20, as one would expect, but something unique, and, as it turns out, arguably a better-sounding headphone in stock form than the T20. The T10's magnets are unique: instead of small drilled holes as in the T20 and T40 and most other manufacturer's planar magnetic headphone drivers, or several parallel slots in the case of a few (e.g., T30), the T10's magnets have concentric slots.

General Description of the Sound
The T10 in stock form is smooth but dull or bassy, though not in an uncouth way, just tilted downward, as so many stock iso/orthos are, toward the treble. The treble is present, it just seems to come from far away-- the Stax SR-30 entry-level electrostat, for example, beats it easily in treble output. The T10 delivers better than average sound for an unmodified isodynamic headphone, better than the stock T20v1 and arguably better than the stock T30. Fostex made an attempt to damp the T10 with the same type of absorptive mineral-wool puck it used in the far more costly T30 and T50v1 and that Stax used in the SR-30. Interestingly, the T10 is a little more efficient than the T50. Modifying the T10 for flat response should be simple, and it could be recommended as a good starter isodynamic if only it weren't rare.»
 

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