Fostex T-X0 review

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by Bill-P, Jun 13, 2017.

  1. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Disclaimer: Massdrop ain't paying me for this. :p It reads a bit more formal than usual because finally, finally, finally, it's something that raises the baseline of the T50RP! Officially from Fostex, too. It's a milestone!

    Disclaimer 2: no, it ain't gonna beat *insert your favorite mid/hi-fi headphone here*, but again, bar is raised. All T50RP mods moving forward has this to beat.

    SERIOUS REVIEW BELOW_______________________________________


    Hi, everyone. It’s Bill-P here. Some of you may know me from Head-fi.org and SuperBestAudioFriends.org (SBAF). I frequent these communities very often to share some of the headphone tuning techniques I have learned over the years, and also to learn from others. Those who know me well typically know one constant thing about me: almost all of my headphones are modified/tuned in one way or another. I admittedly try to tune any and every headphone I own so that they would sound the way I want. However, on rare occasions, there are headphones that I would just take as is, with very little to no modification at all.

    First, let’s talk about the original Fostex T50RP. While many others started out modifying and tuning headphones with the Fostex T50RP as the base, I started with another headphone. Part of the reason for this was because there was already an abundance of information on the T50RP. On Head-fi.org, there is a thread dedicated entirely to the effect of different materials placed at different locations in the T50RP, and all of those modifications come with quantifiable measurements to show the differences as well. There really is no topping that. I do not think I could have come up with any new information on the T50RP that had not been found already by the community. I took to dissect other headphones instead, to learn more about their constructions, about the use of different materials in them, and about how they were tuned to sound the way they did. In hindsight, perhaps because I started in a different direction that I now have some ideas that I would like to try in a T50RP.

    A friend of mine once asked me “what would you do to tune a Fostex T50RP?”, and my response was “many things.” For one, the stock headphone seems completely devoid of any damping, either in the front or in the rear, and it was also devoid of any acoustic tuning. The ear pads that came with it was the very definition of a “generic” pair of ear pads. For all intents and purposes, I think the stock headphone is aptly described as a blank piece of paper. Some may say it’s bland, tasteless, and just too, well, blank! Some others would look at it and start to imagine the possibilities they could unleash with it. With what I know now, I think I would personally try to first tackle the ear pads by replacing them with the other alternatives and seeing which ones would ultimately sound the best. The stock ear pads are too shallow, too close to your ears, and too stiff. They do not allow for distance, which helps with soundstage, or thickness, which helps with bass, or even softness, which helps with comfort. I think the ideal ear pads should be thick, soft, and comfortable. As for materials, something like the Focus Pads from HiFiMAN is extremely comfortable, and is the next best thing after velour, or so I think.

    Then one day, my good friends at Massdrop called me over to the Headquarters for a sneak peek at the T-X0. I could not help but be cautiously skeptical, as I have heard quite a number of T50RP headphones over the years, modified or otherwise. My favorite up to this day are the Paradox and Paradox Slants created by my good friend Luis, who goes by LFF in the communities. Luis is a genius, and his work on the T50RP is something to be reckoned with. His Paradox headphones to this day have continued to be my staple reference for what a closed-back headphone should sound like, and many headphones afterward may best them in one aspect or another, but none has quite sounded so “correct.” Until the T-X0, that is. Wow, was I pleasantly surprised and impressed by the T-X0. One quick glance at the headphone in person and I could tell immediately that the ear pads were the right fit for them. I got a quick demo of the sound, and then the very generous Christian told me I could take them home for a bit longer. I couldn’t resist, as what I heard back then showed quite a bit of promise. Massdrop and Fostex together have created quite something. After some critical listening, it’s clear the T-X0 is not as neutral as my Sennheiser HD580, as impactful as my HiFiMAN HE-5, as technically adept as my Campfire Audio Andromeda, or as comfortable as my Denon D5000. But it is just as fun to listen to as those other more expensive headphones. It presents midrange just the way that I like: thick, meaty, with just enough presence so as to not sound boring or distant, but also with just enough accentuation such that I do not feel fatigue. This voicing reminds me a lot of the way Audio Technica tunes their headphones, and I don’t mean the studio reference line like the ATH-M50X, but the wooden ones. I have personally owned quite a few Audio Technica headphones, and the TH-X0 does remind me very strongly of the Audio Technica ATH-W10VTG. On top of that midrange, the bass is very well-controlled, tight and with good thump, unlike the slightly loose sound of the ATH-M50X. Treble as presented by the T-X0 is honestly just about up to par, but I think it does better than the other alternatives in the same price bracket in terms of fatigue. The T-X0 controls its treble just right, such that there is satisfying zing and sparkle but equally smooth and perhaps even a bit withdrawn in order to combat the more modern digital recordings that boost treble to give a sense of clarity. Overall, the T-X0 reminds me a lot of the Paradox Slants that Luis created. It is not as technically efficient as Luis’ work, but its price point is very reasonable for what it offers in both sound and comfort. Not to mention I really like the black subdued look with brown headband that gives just the right amount of accent and contrast without giving away too much.

    There is still more to be had with the T-X0 for sure. I have tried some other simple tweaks with it, and it responds quite well to them. This does not come as a surprise to me because at the heart of the headphone is still a T50RP with all of the potential proven to the community time and time again. However, I also understand that by tuning it further, the T-X0 would obviously have to cost more to produce, and may not be able to hit this sweet price point. I think Massdrop has produced the right balance here: a good baseline to start with that more critical modders can go from, and a good compromise between price, performance, and many other factors involved. The bar has been raised! Considering that you can get the T-X0 for the same price as an original T50RP, I honestly would just grab the T-X0 over the original. Whether I modify or tune it further, or just leave it as is, I know I’ll be satisfied. Well played, Massdrop and Fostex!

    TL;DR: it's like Paradox Slants lite. Maybe not that close but it's closer than all other T50RP mods.

    Edit: I may post a mod guide for that "more to be had" but I need to verify the effects of the mod first, as always. ;)

    Photo for dramatic effect

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2017
  2. deafdoorknob

    deafdoorknob Wow, I made it this far without being a friend?

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    thanks for the review, this is quite an interesting product. Ironic that what could potentially be the best value of planars has hardly any hype on head-fi compared to other massdrop collabs or mrspeakers' aeon or chifiman stuff... have we reached "peak planar" i wonder...

    Anyhow, your review along with Marv's measurements convinced me to give this drop a go! :)
     
  3. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    I think Head-fi is just cautiously wary of T50RP mods since some are quite bad.

    Honestly, this one probably doesn't look all that good in measurements, but to even get to this point, you'd have to spend hundreds of hours with the stock T50RP. And then there are some things in this headphone that are precision machined/cut that you won't be able to have with a hand-modded pair of T50RP Mk.II anyhow. It's not obvious from the outside but a lot of the internals have changed.

    And despite measurements, to my ears, these have the "almost right" FR for a closed-back headphone. The upper mid dip should be there to combat internal reflections, as is the lower treble dip. Subjectively, I hear these as being just slightly dark, with the peak at 8KHz standing out just a little, but they're otherwise fairly balanced sounding, with tight bass. There's nothing <$200 that's closed-back that I know of with bass this tight.
     
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  4. spoony

    spoony Spooky

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    I've found the RP drivers interact a lot with the pinna, a flat FR @ ~3KHz measured on a solid-plate coupler tends to sound bright in my experience, so a dip around that area is desirable.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2017
  5. anetode

    anetode Moderator

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  6. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Hahaha, yeah, good one! :bow:
     
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  7. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    It would be better if you took it with an RX1R II.
     
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  8. cocolinho

    cocolinho Acquaintance

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    Ok. I joined the drop... Slants were my fav closed back headphones!
     
  9. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    I've been considering the t50rp mk3 for awhile. Would you know how they compare? Does the mk3 use the same driver as the mk2?
     
  10. deafdoorknob

    deafdoorknob Wow, I made it this far without being a friend?

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  11. Outerspace Wasabi

    Outerspace Wasabi Almost "Made"

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    Well, I bit the bullet and joined this drop. They're the only planars I can afford for now without jumping on the Monoprice train.
     
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Stop down a bit too. Wide open all the time is not good. Think about what you to be in focus and what you want to be blurred. Having only a small part of the headphone in focus and everything else, including other parts of the headphone out of focus makes me think I need glasses, which I don't. Also lose the Sesame Street / Fischer Price / CHORD color mode.
     
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  13. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    Amen, those super-bright bokeh are really tiring. It's an effect that should be used sparingly.
     
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  14. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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  15. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    Headband is quite different on the Mk3. Baffle has a slightly different design too (strange porting), that doesn't work well with most pads used with Mk2 mods.
     
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  16. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Haha, note taken on the photo thing. :)

    And I got some victims to try the Fostex T-X0 today when I came over to @brencho's for coffee (and just for coffee ;) ). I think they can comment more on how these sound like to them then, since I can see that impressions are still pretty scarce.
     
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  17. TheIceman93

    TheIceman93 El pato-zorro

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    Well, I was one of the victims who had a chance to hear these at @brencho's place today (Thanks again for inviting me over to your place. Meeting up with other members is one of the best parts of this hobby). I stopped by to pick up the Audio Zenith PMX-2 loaner but had a chance to hang out for a bit and chat headphones and speakers with @brencho and mod maestro @Bill-P. I'll post my PMX-2 impressions in the right thread but I did have a chance to listen to Bill's lightly modded Fostex T-X0's. I have to say that Bill did an awesome job tuning these. I listened to it out of Bill's Geek Out as well as brencho's Schiit MJ2 and my new Lake People RS-08 being fed by brencho's kickass vinyl rig. Also on hand were the HD580, Campfire Andromeda, Audio Zenith PMX-2 and the LFF Code-X. Also, Brubeck's Take Five sounds killer out of brencho's speakers.

    For the price, the T-X0's are seriously impressive. I owned some stock mk3's for a little while that I considered modding but ultimately sold. These are a noticeable improvement on those headphones, in terms of both comfort and sound quality. These, along with the HD6XX/650, are the perfect foundations for modding. I honestly can't think of anything under $300 that I would take over these. If you have been thinking of trying your hand at modding, these are a no brainer. This headphone has great presence. Boring it certainly is not. I have to agree with Bill's detailed impressions above. Treble has a nice sparkle and is in no way fatiguing. Bass is pretty tight, good impact. The midrange is nicely integrated, vocal clarity is pretty high. I would need to listen a bit more to comment accurately on the sound stage but for a closed back, it didn't sound congested or closed in. For $150, these things are stupid good. Its not going to compete with the 650 or flagships in terms of technicalities but it gets pretty close and if you are looking for the perfect starter headphone to jump into this hobby, I honestly can't think of anything better. Thanks again to @Bill-P and @brencho for giving me a chance to listen to their gear and chat about it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017
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  18. cocolinho

    cocolinho Acquaintance

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    @Bill-P : Is the Geek out V2 powerful enough to drive these? Maybe they like even more current than what GO can deliver...
     
  19. tgx78

    tgx78 Acquaintance

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    Hey, @Bill-P have you listened to the mr. speakers AEON by any chance? I wonder how this T-X0 compares to the Aeon given they are similarly closed headphones with planar magnetic drivers in them.
     
  20. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    Great, keep taking 'em, though :)

    Nice to see some impressions, though- cheap, decent closed-backed planars are pretty unusual. One stupid question though- since I've never used any T50RP variants.. do they mostly sit on or around the ears? If around, how roomy are they?

    I don't often use closed headphones, but I keep an old pair of HD-25 at home for when I don't want to annoy the piss out of my girlfriend. Sometimes they can be a bit uncomfortable if I've been using similar at work all day. Something closed that sits over the ears might be a good fallback position for non-critical listening/discrete gaming.
     

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