Fostex TH-X00 Measurements and Subjective Impressions

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by purr1n, Nov 23, 2015.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Fostex TH-X00 (press embargo until noon Thursday Nov 26, 2015)
    Hmmm, looks like someone jumped the gun on the press embargo at HF. Well, I might as well spill the beans now.

    @Hands Impressions and Measurements: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...-subjective-impressions.623/page-5#post-21180

    DSC_2033.jpg
    FOR THE SAKE OF JEBUS, PLEASE DO NOT LAWTON MOD THESE HEADPHONES. Yes, they came out much better looking than the early prototypes (for those who had seen them). They also came out better sounding from what I remember of the prototypes. And yes, they will be on the loaner program. I plan on buying my own.

    No doubt these headphones are colored (not totally neutral). Before I post measurements, I will say that I went through a ton of recordings and I have to say that despite the coloration, the tuning of these headphones is absolutely masterful (explained here: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...stex-x-massdrop-th-x00.628/page-10#post-17509). They are a lot of fun. The quality of the bass is much better than what some of the first graphs might suggest. The bass is strong but not overwhelming. The control of the bass isn't quite as good as on the TH-900, but it's close. No treble weirdness like on TH-600 and TH-900. Because of its more approachable frequency response, I feel the TH-X00 is superior to the TH-900.

    These are preliminary measurements. I was only able to take one channel really quickly this morning as I expected the press embargo to be in place until said time and date.

    TH-X00 Frequency Response
    TH-X00 L.png

    TH-X00 R.png

    TH-X00 CSD
    TH-X00 L.jpg
    Fostex TH-X00 R.jpg

    TH-X00 Harmonic Distortions In Percentage Left

    TH-X00 L HD.jpg

    TH-X00 Harmonic Distortions In Percentage Right

    TH-X00 HD.jpg
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2015
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Forward from Marv: I like stories. Here's a good one about the Fostex TH-X00 from Will.

    Fostex TH-X00 Summary


    Concept Story

    With all of our collaborations, we start by investigating the history of products in that enthusiast community. This investigation encompasses analysis on Massdrop sales data, Massdrop product discussions, Massdrop polls, discussions elsewhere online, and direct communication with top ranking community members. The goal of our investigation is to identify products with a strong community mandate, something many community members would like to see, that doesn’t yet exist, or doesn’t exist anymore.

    Following the success of this process, resulting in the K7XX, we turned our investigative attention to other product categories, one being closed back headphones.

    Looking at the last ~25 years of closed back headphones, Fostex has been the driving force behind every major advancement, and most people have no idea. This is because, while Fostex is a consumer facing brand with their own line of products, their parent company Foster Electronics Co is one of the world’s largest audio OEMs meaning they make products for companies to brand, market, and sell. This is where the story gets interesting.

    Most old-guard headphone enthusiasts know about the Sony R-10, a legendary headphone considered by many to be the best closed back ever produced. The driver in the R-10 (and MDR3000) is a bio-cellulose membrane, sealed driver. Fostex is the only manufacturer to produce bio-cellulose drivers.

    Some years after the success of the R-10 and MDR3000, Denon released a line of headphones, the D2000, D5000, and D7000. Designed to span from $350 to $1000 price points, this was the first time that bio-cellulose driver technology was widely available. While in production, these Denon headphones were the de-facto recommendation for anyone looking to buy closed back headphones, with the most recommended being the D5000, offering ~90% of the performance of the D7000 at half the cost.

    Eventually, Denon discontinued the DX000 series and shifted their headphone production to another OEM. Results were not great.

    At the same time, Fostex released it’s own closed back TH-600 and statement TH-900. While these are both great headphones for specific purposes, the sound signature (especially that of the TH-600) and price point was not appealing or accessible for some consumers.

    Around this time, Fostex T50rp modifications went from a hobby to a business for many community members. In my view, this is pretty clearly attributable to the power vacuum created by discontinuing the D2/5000.

    For a long time, this ~$500 closed back headphone product has been missing. There have been notable attempts by NAD, Oppo, MrSpeakers, ZMF, and others to fill the gap, but nobody has created the dominant product. This is what we hope to do with the TH-X00, create the closed back headphone the community needs for $399.

    Collaboration Story

    Before getting into the details, I want to say working with Fostex has been a pleasure and a privilege. I can’t endorse their team enough, every stage in the process was handled with the kind of clean professionalism you dream about when starting a collaboration.

    This project started as a simple email exchange and introduction from Jude to Hiroaki Kawahata (Kawa for short). Following the introduction, I sent over the basic idea of what we’d like to do, create the dominant price to performance closed back headphone ~$500 shipped to consumers in the united states. We’d base it on the TH-600/900 driver and frame, but adjust the sound signature (flatten the highs where possible, bring up the mids a touch, keep bass extension but reduce emphasis slightly) and bring back gloss finished mahogany earcups (taking the D7000 as inspiration). Kawa immediately understood the vision and value of what I proposed.

    After some basic fact finding around MOQs, material availability, and logistics process, Kawa’s team started working on early prototype samples.

    The biggest challenges were producing the mahogany earcups, and solving what we considered problems in the sound signature of Fostex' previous headphones. On the second point, rather than looking at it from a pure “frequency response” perspective, Kawa first requested we send his team some music to use when tuning the headphones.

    Amusing aside, but with sharp highs as our biggest concern, I looked for music with a lot of emphasis on high-pitched female vocals and electronic effects. Know what genre does that best? J-pop. Needless to say, Kawa was a little surprised at this selection, and sent me an email essentially saying.

    "Thanks for the links! By the way, are these Japanese pop songs usually listened to by many of your community guys? Or did you select them as we are based in Japan? If so, we also want to share international songs widely listened to"

    I explained our logic for the selections and added a number of Bob Dylan (harmonica solos on the TH-600 got our point across) and Mariah Carey tracks to the list.
    ---

    After a couple of months of work on Kawa’s side, Fostex was ready to show the prototype. Got on the phone with Kawa and had a conversation that went something like this:

    W: “Hey Kawa, saw your email, can’t wait to see the sample and discuss sound signature with you! Can you email over pictures or a couple renders? Seems like the easiest way to start the discussion”

    K: “Hello Will, we would like to show you the prototype, discuss revisions, and decide on sound signature. When are you free to meet?”

    W: “Meet?”

    K: “Yes, we feel it will be faster to communicate in-person”

    And so without sending a single picture, Kawa and his colleague (Mr. Uchida) traveled to our office in San Francisco. Says something about their confidence in the product, even such an early revision.

    We set up in the boardroom and spent several hours discussing options, debating pros and cons, and arrived at the tuning that would become the final sound signature for the product.

    From there, it was on Fostex to determine if they could produce everything at the scale we needed. There were a number of smaller discussions around packaging design (what box would be used, what would be printed on the box, can we include a bag, etc) but by and large, that day in the boardroom set the tone and direction for the rest of the project.

    After another couple months, Kawa let me know that everything could be achieved at a cost that would allow us to bring this product to consumers for $399 shipped in the united states.

    We fired up production and 2000 pcs are in our warehouse waiting to be shipped to customers for early December delivery.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2015
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  3. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    If the measurements are anywhere close to that of the TH900 as measured by Tyll, this is going to be a game changer in terms of affordable phones with quality bass
     
  4. antifocus

    antifocus Friend

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    There goes my thanksgiving allowance.
     
  5. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    At a load impedance of 25 ohms and sensitivity of 94dB/mW, should my Zana Deux Super have no trouble driving these TH-X00 in L Mode (output resistance of 3 ohms) in terms of juice? Will there be plenty of power?
     
  6. Tuco1965

    Tuco1965 Suffring from early onset Alzheimer's - Friend

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    I wouldn't mind hearing these.
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Old Changstar V1 measurements of the TH900. Not quite comparable to the V2 system measurements, but provided as another data point for reference.

    TH900 Frequency Response
    th900fr.txt.jpg
    A lot of bass with the TH900, but the things that really bothered me in order of annoyance were the sharp treble spike at 7kHz and suckout in the lower mids. Bass quality and clarity were excellent. As an aside, the TH-600 sound like crap compared to the TH-900.

    In terms of technicalities outside of FR, the TH-X00 lies somewhere in between the TH-900 and TH-600, I'll post TH-X00 frequency response in a bit. No doubt this is a colored sounding headphone, but the tuning on it is absolutely masterful (I bet you'd never hear me say that!) Will and his crew at Massdrop were responsible for tuning this baby. He dropped me a text "Daw Makin me blush" when I told him this. Yes, this is sort of a game-changer given the price.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2015
  8. antifocus

    antifocus Friend

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    Thanks Marv, I would also love to see some comparison with Kennerton Magister.
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    No problem on the ZD Super on high-gain at all (my ZD was the Super prototype with fixed high-gain). On paper, the impedance out seems too high, but the TH-X00 driver is efficient and does not need to gobs of power like orthos. I'll take an impedance curve measurement to confirm, but on the TH900 (and I assume the same or similar with TH-X00), the bass bump was only 5 ohms higher, so minimal effect on frequency response. Resolution is very good. This is one of the few headphones that can take advantage of high quality tube amps.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2015
  10. JoelT

    JoelT Friend

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    Any idea if the wiring is color coded, for easy conversion to a 4-pin XLR connector? I assume that it would be easy to look at where the positive wires fall relative to the 1/4 TRS, but I didn't know if the two negative wires attached to the shared ground would be differentiated.
     
  11. takato14

    takato14 Doglover

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    What is this shit? Another wood cupped dynamic? Release the T50 successor already, you fucks.

    (In all seriousness I'd love to see a TH series dynamic that doesnt have hugely overblown bass and sucked out mids, this is exciting)
     
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  12. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Posted story on the development history of this headphone in the 2nd post.
     
  13. drfindley

    drfindley Secretly lives in the Analog Room - Friend

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    This is a quick way to get fired at Apple or if you're press to get dropped from the getting cool things early club.
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Second time this has happened in the past half year. I won't say who else. I got these headphones shipped to me weeks ago (I don't know if it was by mistake), but the first thing I did was ask Will on press embargo.

    FYI, this is going to @Luckbad first. Shipping it out next Monday.

    Yes, I am teasing you guys on the measurements. Actually, I am syncing contents to my work PC right now. Soon.
     
  15. drfindley

    drfindley Secretly lives in the Analog Room - Friend

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    Both of these have made me upset, but there really is no threat of losing something. Being the first and having that 10 seconds of fame is super appealing even if 10 minutes later it just means you pissed everyone else off. It's too bad as it's fun when the embargo ends at the same time for everyone.
     
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  16. drfindley

    drfindley Secretly lives in the Analog Room - Friend

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    Here's my question: I had the TH-900, but I didn't love the isolation as it would leak sound to my neighbor. How are these?
     
  17. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    They seem to leak a little bit. From memory a better seal than TH-900 which seemed more like an open headphone. Hard to say without direct comparison. I have them cranked up pretty loud at work right now. Could be pad differences.

    BTW, frequency response posted.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2015
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  18. TMRaven

    TMRaven Friend

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    Are there any over V2 measurements of notable closed cans to compare to? The Z7 is the only one off the top of my head.
     
  19. numbercube

    numbercube Acquaintance

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    compared to the HD650 and nighthawk, D4 in the bass looks great. D2 ist much higher than the nighthawk but a bit lower than HD650.
     
  20. drfindley

    drfindley Secretly lives in the Analog Room - Friend

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    Yeah, my theory was that the TH-900 had a pad sealing problem. I'm excited about these headphones for work.
     

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