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A casual review of Fostex x Massdrop TH-X00, my current favorite headphone

TH-X00-1

Last year’s Massdrop collaboration with Fostex is a hit among audiophiles, selling all the allocated 1950 units in just a few days. The drop has been successfully run the second time and has now added Purpleheart version to the mix, which has attracted more than 1600 buyer at the time of the writing.

There is a reason why TH-X00 is popular, since it follows the predecessor success, namely the Denon D2000, D5000 and D7000 made by Foster, which later Fostex (Foster consumer brand) succeeded with TH600 and TH900. The Denons has been discontinued, while Fostex TH600 and TH900 is still regarded as one of the best closed headphone today, albeit not for everyone.

I got mine from the first drop last year, while late, here’s my review.

Joined drop and waiting

Before I got into the review, I would like to share some experience with Massdrop. I first heard of the TH-X00 from Head-Fi video by Jude, his detailed introduction and review sold me immediately, if you want to know the story of TH-X00, I recommend you to watch his video. And also read this thread from SBAF which added more story to the mix.

The first drop is quite interesting, that about 1000 units was sold in just the first hour. I was one among those that joined in the first hour. After that, the drop runs for a couple of days and sold out before the drop ended. The first drop has all the units ready in Massdrop warehouse, so they are shipped in just a matter of days. If you joined the later drops, they will ship months away since they are still in production.

Waiting is no fun though. My TH-X00 arrives safely after 1 month+ of waiting for the shipment. There is no expedited shipping available from Massdrop, so no luck for us that lives continents away from Massdrop headquarter and wanted it to arrive sooner. I hope Massdrop would consider giving us expedited shipping option in future, especially for a more expensive item like this one.

Packaging and build quality

TH-X00 arrived in a rather throw-away box, so there is no pleasant unboxing experience to have. Can’t complain though, they offered such quality headphone with affordable price.

TH-X00-2

The TH-X00 came with only a carrying pouch (seems like made of the same eggshell protein leatherette as the earpads did) and a Monoprice brand 6.3 mm to 3.5 mm adaptor. The carrying pouch is great and have a good quality to it, although it won’t protect the headphone from physical damage, so I’ll suggest you to buy a hardcase if you planned to take it around.

The Monoprice adaptor, however, is of the lower quality. The already bulky 6.3 mm termination of TH-X00 become even bigger with the adaptor, but the bigger problem is the 3.5 mm jack is loosely connected, a small movement could disconnect the jack in my experience. I would recommend an alternative adaptor with small extension cable like the Grado Mini Adaptor that I used (seen in photo above).

TH-X00-4

The build quality of the headphone itself is really good. The construction is mostly made of metal, eggshell protein leatherette headband and earpads, along with Mahogany wooden cup to round up the package. The Mahogany cup is beautiful, while the headband doesn’t have a lot of padding, it sit comfortably in my head. The earpads didn’t have a lot of opening, it isn’t really soft at the first time, but after some break-in, it is quite comfortable for prolonged use.

The cable is covered with some kind of fabric, is quite thick and have no microphonic at all. The length is 3-meters and terminated to 6.3 mm gold-plated jack. Perfect for home use, not so for portable use due to the length and 6.3 mm termination. The only problem with the cable I could find is it could tangle sometime, not really bad though, so I actually just nitpicking an already good cable. I wished it was detachable though, which has started to appear in the mk2 revision of TH900 and the soon-to-release TH610.

Sound quality

Fostex TH600 and TH900 is well-known to have V-shaped signature, while TH-X00 is tuned to be more neutral. I never heard TH600, TH900 nor the older Denons, so I have no idea how it compares to TH-X00. I don’t have other headphones in this price range either.

To my ear, TH-X00 have a really great bass response, the best I have ever heard to be honest. It is tight and punchy with a good separation from the midrange. It has plenty of bass but not boomy and it is very detailed. I could say the bass region of TH-X00 is very addicting, plenty of bass to keep excitement in my music, yet not overwhelming.

The midrange has enough body, but it can’t be categorized as thick sounding. It is definitely not forward, slightly laid back, but it doesn’t feel recessed. It has plenty of detail, quite smooth and also pretty sweet in my opinion.

The treble is well extended, energetic and very detailed. There is a hint of sibilance, but I have no problem with it. While energetic, TH-X00 treble is quite smooth too, so it doesn’t sound harsh to my ear.

The character of TH-X00 is fun, slightly V-shaped but has a good balance in all area. Of course, sound impression is very subjective, so what you like might be different than mine. I found that TH-X00 sounds very good indeed and is now my favorite headphone, replacing my old and trusty, but bass-light AKG K551. 🙂

As for isolation, unfortunately TH-X00 is quite poor in this aspect, it is after all a semi-closed design. That said, I don’t find TH-X00 to leak sounds much, at least in my normal listening level. So it take more sounds in than leak the sounds out.

TH-X00-3

TH-X00 is also rather easy to drive, connected to DX90, I only need to set the volume around 185 at low gain and it sounds lovely. I also have no problem connecting it to my Macbook and iPad Mini 2, they drive TH-X00 with a lot of room to spare.

Conclusion

Fostex x Massdrop TH-X00 is a lovely headphone. It has the beautiful Mahogany earcups with a great sound quality to back it up, and priced at $399, it is possibly one of the best headphone to get in this price range. The problem is how to get it, since it is exclusive to Massdrop, you have to wait for the drop to happen before you can order it and even then, you have to wait for months since they are still in production. You can request the drop here. Alternatively, if you don’t like to wait, you might be able to find a used pair somewhere.

The updated Purpleheart version is also now available, but will ship on August. It costs $50 more and have a slight differences in the frequency response, for better or worse, but those Purpleheart wood is definitely a looker! You can find the drop here.

Another version of TH-X00 has also surfaced, now comes with Ebony version. It is said that the Ebony is more refined than the original Mahogany, with closer frequency response than the Purpleheart. It is currently the most expensive TH-X00, adding $100 more to the original price and will ship in November. You can find the drop here.

Alternatively, Fostex also just recently announced TH610, which make appearance at CanJam Singapore. It comes with detachable cable, but with different wood finish than TH-X00 here. It also might arrive with a higher price tag, but the impression from those that attend CanJam Singapore is positive. My friend said the sound is more balanced, similar to TH-X00 than v-shaped like the predecessor. And of course, if you want a flagship, the big brother TH900 is still regarded as one of the best choice in closed headphone category.

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