Fostex TH-900 – Review
I’ve listened to Denon D7000 a while ago and I considered them to be very good closed headphones. They were a little overpriced but they were fun and quite enjoyable. Well, Denon 7000, 5000 and 2000 were actually headphones designed by Fostex for Denon.
When those models were discontinued, I remember people being disappointed and lots of them started searching second hand headphones, their actions bringing the prices up. When Fostex TH900 and TH600 were announced it lead to high levels of excitement in the audiophile communities.
The first thing that I noticed about them was of course their very well finished and nice looks. You can tell immediately that these headphones are not cheap. They manage to give a very nice and luxurious vibe.
Fostex puts a lot of effort in making them look like this, especially for the wooden cups.
You can see some of the production process right here:
TH-900 is the first headphone I’ve had to come with a stand included in the package. While I don’t consider this a must, It is a really nice feature and it should be taken as example by other companies in my opinion.
Aside from the nice looks they are also very comfortable, entering the top of my preferences in this category.
You can find more about them right here.
Driver: 50mm dia Nd magnet
Impedance: 25 ohm
Sensitivity: 100dB / mW
Maximum Input: 1,800 mW
Reproduction Frequency: 5 – 45k Hz
Weight: 400g (excluding the cord)
Cord: 3m Y type 7N-OFC
Plug: 6.3mm dia gold coating stereo phone plug
Accessory: Headphone stand
As you can see, TH-900 are quite efficient as they don’t need powerful amplification. Don’t mistake power with quality though. TH-900 pack a good amount of details and they benefit from clean amplification.
Here is more information taken from their website:
- Unique designed Neodymium magnetic circuit adopting the magnetic repulsion system with the 1.5 tesla (15,000 gauss) magnetic flux density to achieve wider dynamic range
- Foster / Fostex’s unique “Biodyna” diaphragm* for fine and high resolution sound reproduction
- Biodyna diaphragm is made by Bio-cellulose fiber featuring low specific gravity, high Yang’s modulus and high internal loss at the same time to achieve 2 times high propagation velocity and 5 times high rigidity against the conventional plastic film based driver unit
- The housings are made of Japanese Cherry Birch (Betula Grossa), the Japanese specialty with rigid and dense texture for maximum acoustic performance
- The housings are finished by the traditional “Urushi” lacquer (a.k.a. Japan) by a 100 years old artisan group. The finish used for the TH-900 is called “Bordeaux” and is simply stunning
- Platinum foiled “Fostex” logo on the housings
- The ear pads are made of protein leather made from eggshell membrane for maximum confort
- The cord is made of 7N grade (99.99999%) OFC (Oxygen Free Copper) and duralumin plug case for higher durability
- Comes with an elegant headphone stand (Model ST300) in the package
Tests and Listening Impressions
The tests were performed with Audio-Gd Master 9, Audio-GD Precision 2, AG500 Power Regenerator, Sennheiser HD800, Audeze LCD-X, MSB Analog Dac.
Hugh Laurie – Battle of Jericho
The drums from the beginning are very powerful and full bodied, but too much in my opinion as it kind of distracts you from the other sounds. Hugh’s voice was a little colored but very pleasant to the ears even if it was pushed back. The details around are quite noticeable and the guitars are full of sparkle and present a tactile vibration.
Leonard’s voice is presented in a colored but enjoyable way, having more body and a warmer tonality. The drums are again powerful and full sounded, in fact generating the same impression I had earlier when it took a little from the transparency of the sound.
Vivaldi – Autumn – Allegro (La Caccia)
TH-900 was a delight on this song. The instrument separation and soundstage were very good for closed headphones. Actually, I take the last part back. The soundstage is good for any type of headphones. What I absolutely loved about the song was the viscerality shown by the chords and other instruments. The level of details was impressive as well. The treble very well extended with good details and sparkle attached to it.
Metallica – Wherever I May Roam
I thought that TH-900 could have very nice potential to rock and roll. On this song the treble was sharper and more annoying than on HD800 which was considerably more enjoyable here. The voices and guitars were recessed on the Fostex. Adding the piercing cymbals, I could not listen to the song till the end.
Infected Mushroom – Dancing with Kadafi
I think I’ve hit one of the strong points of these headphones, electronic music. They sounded fun, presenting very good and present sub bass with a strong punch attached to it, very good amount of details and good PRAT.
The guitar on this song was addictive. It’s tactile and sparkly nature won me over immediately. The voice was again a little pushed in the back but very enjoyable nevertheless.
Sometimes the colorful nature of TH-900 adds a very nice effect to the song like with this one. The strings have a fat extension and the effect achieved by using the guitar’s body as drum has a very strong and good impact.
The bass on these headphones is quite nice. It has one of the strongest sub-bass sections I have ever heard in any headphone. It also packs a good kick and control. However, the sub-bass is sometimes too much in my opinion and it can take away from the transparency, even if doesn’t bleed into other frequencies. It may be a source of distraction and it also may get tiring after a while. I am not a bass head, but if you find yourself in this category, you should definitely check these headphones out.
The mids are detailed but are kind of recessed compared to the other frequencies. The voices are also pushed in the back but still manage to be enjoyable through their colored and pleasant tonality. TH-900 has a V shaped frequency response and you can easily hear that.
On some songs the treble could be enjoyable because of it’s sparkly and detailed nature but on some other songs it is ear piercing, even more ear piercing than on HD800.
Soundstage & Instrument Separation
The soundstage is atypical to closed headphones as TH-900 manages to give quite an open and airy experience. The instruments have their place in space very well defined showing good layering and imaging as well.
Trasients and Viscerality
These headphones are not slow at all. The attack is quite strong followed by a controlled and natural decay. Some instruments, especially the guitar strings, have a full and visceral extension that give energy to the sound.
Or as I like to say : it has a very good “blackground”. While the isolation of TH-900 is not very good, it still is superior compared to opened headphones. This helps in achieving a blacker background that creates better sound contrasts in music.
TH-900 packs an impressive amount of details. I’ve been able to pick subtle sounds in some songs, especially very subtle plucking/touching of the strings from guitars or other instruments that have them.
Compared to LCD-X
I like both headphones, but being a freak for midrange, details and transparency, I ended up liking LCD-X more.
The bass on TH-900 goes deeper, showing more present sub-bass, while LCD-X has a stronger kick. Both headphones have good control over their bass, but the bass from LCD-X is faster, while the one in TH-900 is a little more detailed and better textured, especially on the mid bass and sub bass. I find the bass in LCD-X to be more natural and closer to reality than the one in TH-900 which is too colored in my opinion but can get to be very enjoyable on some music genre, especially electronic.
The mids are more present on LCD-X and you can hear this in the first seconds after you switch headphones. The voices are the first thing that pops into attention as they have better presence and textures. You can notice this with the instruments too, except with some guitar plucks which are more apparent and sparkly on TH-900.
The treble on TH-900 is more present showing better sparkle on TH-900 but better linearity on LCD-X. The treble on TH-900 leads to a more airy sound presentation than the one in LCD-X. LCD-X is more enjoyable on rock as it doesn’t have a piercing peak as TH-900.
Soundstage & Imaging
Considering TH-900 is a closed headphone, its performance in this section was remarkable as it was quite comparable with LCD-X in this section, sometimes offering a little more air on top and a wider soundstage, while the one on LCD-X was deeper. The imagingis good on both headphones, but LCD-X is better in this category.
Both have good details, but LCD-X wins overall, especially because of the midrange which is more present and also adds more details to the instruments and textures to voices.
The transients on LCD-X are faster and have a stronger attack, leading to a more energetic sound signature overall.
I feel like LCD-X wins here offering a cleaner window into the music than with TH-900 which gives you the impression of seeing through colored glass.
Compared to HD-800
Wanted to get into a detailed comparison between the two, but I found that there aren’t too many categories where TH-900 would win, at least from my perspective.
I would say that TH-900 wins overall in the bass section having a more present sub/mid bass that leads to better impact especially on electronic music. Besides this, TH-900 also seems to have a blacker background than HD-800. I think that this happens mainly because TH-900 is a closed headphone and the isolation helps a lot in achieving that.
Except the above, HD800 wins the game in all categories from my perspective. However, the winning sections of TH-900 are not to be under-estimated, as they are very important in some music genres and it might be enough for you to prefer them to HD800.
TH-900 was quite a nice surprise as it managed to be considerably better than the old Denon D7000. The review got me through a very nice audio journey and they proved to be a fun and worthy companion.
Their bass section is impressive on some songs and music genres and I think that they have the strongest sub-bass I’ve heard until now. Fostex managed to do this without bleeding into the midrange.
However, combined with a recessed midrange and peaky treble, TH-900 offers a colorful sound that can be quite enjoyable on some songs, but distract your attention on others because of a too powerful bass or piercing treble.
The soundstage on TH-900 is another important plus that Fostex managed to bring to the table. Even if they are closed headphones, their soundstage was in the league with some open ones.
TH-900 doesn’t have a strong isolation, so if you need that, they might not be the best choice for you as they leak sound almost like open headphones. However, they isolate a little bit, and this helps in getting a blacker background.
I would have loved them even more if not for the recessed midrange and sometimes piercing treble. If you like rock music, they might not be the best solution as the cymbals were painfully screechy in my opinion.
I think that overall, they might be the best closed headphones I have tested until now.
Considering that the price has lowered considerably, I recommend these headphones, especially if you like electronic music and heavy bass.
- King of sub bass with good bass that goes deep but manages to keep control packs a good punch
- Very good soundstage, instrument separation and imaging
- Good transients with strong attack and fast decay
- Good viscerality on some instruments, especially guitar strings
- Good amount of details
- Black background
- Appealing design and looks
- Good build quality
- The bass is sometimes too much and distracts you from the rest of the spectrum, also gets tiresome after a while on some songs
- The treble is sometimes more piercing than on HD800
- Recessed midrange that puts the voices and instruments in the back (with the exception of some guitar string plucks)
- Non detachable cable
i had the TH900 twice, and for this can to sound the best a lot of the people had to go with some tube amps, not the warm typical types ofc, i had it with the WA7 EH tubes and it sounded nice, the problem for me it was leaking the sound out, and my room mate was annoyed, it was like a small speaker, i mean for a closed headphone thats quite sad, ended up selling it twice, and thanks to some TOTL new CIEMs i were able to forget about the TH900.
though the TH900 with the right amp still sound so so epic, thats for sure, and if you dont mind the coloration then your j-pop or electronics will sound so epic.
Nice review of the TH900. I am using the TH900 at my office and it fares better at isolation due to being closed-back. However, as you (and many other reviews) have mentioned, it is not completely sealed and still leaks sound not it is of course still better than say an open headphone.
Caveat: I listen at around 9 to 10 o’clock on my CEntrance DACport and that’s fine for me and there’s very little leakage. I suppose if you go higher, the leakage from the TH900 will become more pronounced.
What GIF image would you use to illustrate sound signature? 😉
I suppose you have read some of my older reviews, Andrew :)) . Meanwhile, I decided go with a more professional approach for headmania.
Lcd 2Fazor: how is the sub bass(depth, quantity and power) on these compared to the th900?? I’m a mild bass head.
Have you had a chance to listen to oppo pm1?
I enjoy this review ,Thanks
I have tried the TH 900 on a lot of amps. Master 9 does not have good synergy with TH 900. Amongst the ones that I have tried, WA22 & Cavali Liquid Glass just bring out the best in TH900.