Monday, March 21, 2016

Headphone Obsessed

I've been obsessed with Headphones lately.  I'm a huge fan of Sennheiser.  I like the clean sound their headphones reproduce.  I recently discovered a few new sources of information, which have reignited my interest in trying different brands and types of headphones.
You can spend any amount of money on audio equipment $20, $100, $200, $500, $1500, $10000, $50000.  Generally speaking the more you spend the better things sound, but you have to go higher and higher in price to get smaller and smaller improvements in quality.  And, don't even get me started on tube amps, and Hi res music.  I'm not sure my ears can tell the differences between 44 khz and 192 khz audio.  I've taken the audio tests, and unless a track is encoded poorly, it is very difficult for me to tell the difference.  You have to listen for very specific cues to tell the differences between low and high quality mp3s even.  My ears are old and abused.

While consuming all this new information I kept seeing buzz about Planar Magnetic headphones, basically the cheaper cousins of Electrostatic headphones. Planar headphones provide a clean crisp wall of sound, they don't require special amplifiers to drive them, though they often require more power than your smartphone may be able to provide.  They are better suited to home / work listening.

One of the many companies making Planar Magnetic headphones is Fostex, a Japanese company that has been around for years.  They make a line of headphones that have been long loved by the modding community. 
  • T20RP Mk3 Open
  • T40RP Mk3 Closed
  • T50RP Mk3 Semi-Open
I purchased the T50RP Mk3 from Amazon.  I also ordered a closed pair of modded Fostex from Mr Speakers.  I love my Alpha Dogs, they are the most comfortable headphones I have every worn.  But, the cheaper un-modded headphones sound better to me.  I have not received the replacement ear pads I have ordered for them yet, which should make them more comfortable for extended listening.  I also replaced the cable they came with.  This review by Zeos provides a better description of these than mine.





However, I don't agree these are as difficult to power as he implies. They do take more power than normal cheap headphones.  But, at home I use an Aune XS1 with no trouble, and at work I use the USB powered SMSL M2.  My phone can power them to an ok listening level, but not really enough to make them loud.

Other than comfort, which you can modify, the T50RP MK3 are nearly perfect headphones. If you need fully closed headphones, the T40RP should be great.  If money were no object I would seriously consider getting a pair of Fostex TH900. Hopefully I'll be able to listen to these some day.

Oh and if you want to see something completely insane check out Sennheiser's Project Orpheus. $55,000 for Electrostatic Headphones and Amp.  Welcome to crazy town.