June 21, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA
Headphones

A new bass beast? Fostex TH808 Review

Fostex is not a new company; has been manufacturing reel-to-reel recorders, speaker controllers and headphones for over 50 years. What's new is the introduction of $1,000+ high-end headphones made for audiophiles and professionals. The TH808 is priced at $1,299. He TH909 It came out 5 years ago, which means this is the first major open backed release at this price in a long time. However, with a plethora of options from almost every brand, Fostex will have to compete with options like Audeze LCD-X, Sennheiser HD800and HifiMan Arya Organic. Let's find out if the TH808 is worth its high-end price in the TH808 review.

What is in the box?

  • TH808 Premium Open Back Dynamic Headphones
  • Φ ¼” / 6.3 mm gold-plated stereo standard connector
  • leather bag
  • The owner's manual

Look and feel

For me, the most striking feature of the Fostex TH808 was the inclusion of high-quality black walnut. As a fan of furniture, hollow body guitars, and mid-century modern homes, I loved the way these were presented. The wooden casing is reinforced with aluminum parts and excellent assembly. These headphones feel sturdy and durable, with a flush fit on all major components. Weighing APPROXIMATELY 370g, these are absolutely nothing like air. Upon weighing more, I discovered that the models I got actually weigh 397g. I'm not saying that Fostex made a mistake in their measurements. Not all organic materials have a uniform density.

Overstuffed ear cushions and an ultra-soft leather headband made them incredibly comfortable to wear during hours of testing. I especially enjoyed how secure everything felt without putting pressure on my head or ears. I was very impressed with how little noise reached the listening environment. I'm not sure how Fostex managed to make everything sound so isolated without the pads stuck in my head and without ANC, but this is nothing short of brilliant.

Design

The Fostex Φ50mm neodymium magnet with its 'BIODYNE' diaphragms makes a welcome appearance here after being used in the TH900 series. I noticed great sensitivity at 100 dB/mW. These headphones are not at all difficult to handle, making them incredibly dynamic. Listening to calm music or music with colorful dynamics made the songs seem palpable and interesting. I could hear details in some incredibly nuanced music that drew me into the compositions. Listening to Apati's “Morgondagen Inställd I Brist På Intresse” was especially enjoyable, as the sections changed dramatically from overdriven to clean guitar sounds. This is undoubtedly due to Fostex's responsive design.

The TH808 comes with a 6.3mm gold-plated input cable made from OFC copper. A balanced XLR cable can be purchased, but it does not come with headphones. In my opinion, the 3 meter cable does not follow the same quality standard as the headphones. The braided fabric wrinkled quickly while using it and the plastic cable piece doesn't feel sturdy. They are absolutely usable, but if I were to buy these headphones I would quickly opt for an upgrade.

sound stage

What impressed me the most was the sound of the headphones when I listened to them. Comparing them to other open headphones, I would call it a medium soundstage. It doesn't feel abnormally big, but it doesn't sound shallow either. The 50mm driver brings great verticality to the staging, allowing different parts to rise and fall with the music. Listening to songs on Tidal optimized for Dolby Atmos provided detailed representations of the stereo image.

What I don't like about some very wide headphones is when sounds that are close and centered in the mix still feel spread out beyond where they normally would be. The TH808s are not like that and are capable of processing stereo images fantastically. Dry, close sounds feel tangible, while echoing processed wet sounds are opaque and ethereal. Neil Young's “Down by the River” has a particularly interesting feel, as all the rhythm guitar parts are panned to the left, with the lead guitar track panned to the right. It really felt like I was in a room full of amplifiers, with the band facing each other and me in the center. I'm hard-pressed to think of any open-bottom model under $1500 with a better soundstage.

Listening Impressions – Fostex TH808 Review

Minima

The bass and mids are undoubtedly the focus of Fostex's sound signature. I'm not surprised considering their TH909 headphones have some of the most powerful bass of any brand. The TH808 is no exception, with a warm and resounding bass character. Songs that thud and bap still have the rawness that some bassheads may be looking for depending on how the volume is adjusted. When these booming beasts are tamed by limited volume, they have an ultra-clean presentation of the bass frequencies.

Overdriven bass and deep vocals sound pleasantly effervescent and rich. Necrot's “Cut the Cord” had a decadent brutality that filled the sonic space with harmonic complexity. Modern high-gain metal sounds oppressively rich on these, and the bright mixes are complemented by the bass character of the headphones. Rap and RnB also make me feel like I'm swimming in a pool full of candy. The rich sweetness of the 808s and kick drums is supported by this bass signature. Overall, the bass was responsive and clean.

media

Mids in bass-boosted headphones can present a problem for designers in many ways. If the bass extends to a large mid-bass boost, your music can sound harsh, muddy, and muddy. If there is a dramatic shelf after the low frequencies, there is a certain square void that makes the music feel empty. Where they sit is much warmer than “flat”, but there is enough upper-mid information to still shape the sounds.

Fostex's expert tuning makes most of the musical information in many songs sound present. Guitars, voices, keyboards and drums sound unmistakably. There's enough value to make these elements growl when active, but the texture of these sounds remains clear and dynamic. Songs mastered for radio have the vocal brilliance that pop music fans will be accustomed to, but there is a complete character that these mixes sometimes miss. Fostex has done a great job in presenting the mid-range. 'Half addicts' should take a look at the TH808.

Triple

Of all the frequencies, I must be honest: the treble is the most discreet. There's enough presence for the sound to have shape, but there's not really enough for you to get a clear idea of ​​the colors of certain parts. This is not a bad thing if you are very sensitive to treble, have low-register hearing loss, or just don't like hearing too much treble.

I must admit that I personally don't care for the warmth of the headphones. That said, if you really enjoy the voice from bright headphones, don't pay too much attention to them. I noticed a loss of glassy attack in acoustic music, due to how much the bass can be boosted. That being said, listening to Bill Evans' “Nardis” calmed me down. All the click of the double bass disappeared and I was left with a rich timbre flooded with harmonics.

Summary

Fostex's newest addition to their catalog fits perfectly into the lineup with a similar sound signature to its predecessors. These are not flat, one-size-fits-all headphones, and the designers working on this product have certainly added some distinctive character to this model. Sleek styling, luxurious soundstage, punchy bass and clear mids make a lot of information stand out. At the same time, the only option of an average unbalanced cable and subtle treble means that not everyone will be rushing to purchase this pair. The TH808 does what it does well and does what it doesn't focus on properly. If you're a fan of the Fostex sound or bass in general, these would be a great addition to your collection.

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