Fostex has never been the most popular reference headphone brand on the market, and maybe that’s why it’s so cool. With its boxy, retro design and reliable studio sound, the Fostex professional headphone series will always get the job done. But do they sound any fun? And how do they stack up to heavy hitters from Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser? Let’s take a look at what you can expect from the Semi-Open Back T50RP in terms of performance and sound signature.
What’s in the Box?
- Fostex T50RP Headphones
- 2m detachable unbalanced cable (2.5mm TRRS to 3.5mm TRS) 1.2m balanced cable (2.5mm TRRS to 2.5mm TRRS)
- 1/4″ to 1/8″ (6.3mm to 3.5mm) adapter
- Quick start guide
- Fostex logo
Look and Feel
The T50RP sports a popular Fostex design, with it’s sturdy, no nonsense, retro ear cup and square finish along the faceplate. But adding an aesthetic element, the right-side housing now features “50th anniversary” (on the Anniversary Limited Edition) inscribed in Japanese characters, while the sliders are adorned with a gold finish. In fact, they look damn sexy for a reference headphone, and if you like that vintage feel, it’s hard not to gravitate towards this design. The relatively forgiving clamping force and synthetic leather ear pads also felt comfortable even after a couple of hours of wear. Though for the starting retail price of $399, I would have preferred leather ear pads.
The T50RP incorporates the same planar magnetic drivers featured in the T60RP model. A notable enhancement lies in the newly developed yoke panels, designed to optimize magnetic transmission.
Noteworthy is the inclusion of a detachable connector, and Fostex has included a balanced cable with a 2.5mm termination. Even with a relatively low impedance of 50 Ohms, I found that the planar magnetic T50RP required quite a bit of driving power. Even when paired with my small, but pretty powerful Astell & Kern SR35, my volume was at 80%.
Driver: Planar Magnetic (or Orthodynamic)
Impedance: 50 ohm
Sensitivity: 92dB (at 1kHz, 1mW)
Frequency Response: 15Hz – 35kHz
A very roomy and satisfying sense of depth here, with distance between forward and behind sitting instruments feeling vastly separated. And to be honest, I haven’t felt instruments sit this far behind the ear on a headphone at this price point. The sense of height also feels elevated and overall, the spaciousness is pretty incredible. The precision or distancing of the stereo imaging is perhaps less impressive, but in part thanks to the uber-clean separation and layering, the holographic effect is always immersive and engaging.
It should be noted that Fostex advertises the bass as being different depending on which RP model you buy. The closed back version has the biggest low-end, while the open back has the flattest response. The semi-open back, T50RP falls somewhere in the middle.
The sub-bass on the T50RP is mildly visceral, though it has a light-weight feel. And in much the same way, the bass registers are somewhat reserved. It’s the classic low-end for a reference headphone: clean, neutral and detailed. There’s a tightness to the bass that lends energy to modern tracks, while the uncolored presentation also works great for strings in this range, which sounded natural and transparent.
The profile is lean and tight in this range. What stands out is the immaculate separation, both between instruments as well as within singular instruments. But although the sound signature is less than robust, the low-mids are ever present in this range, lending good legs to the mix. Certainly, if you appreciate an even handed balance in this range, you’ll get it. Despite the flat balance, there’s nothing clinical about this sound. There’s some charm to this sound signature, bringing vocals intimately up forward bringing a delicate and super precise quality to the sound that sounds especially intricate with respect to acoustic genres. At the same time, there’s a sumptuousness to the color of the sound, which feels unquestionably planar magnetic.
Super light and airy in this range, making vocals and brass sound buoyant and silky, while lending a playfulness to strings. You’ll also get plenty of sparkle on these cans, giving brilliance to percussion in particular. There was a touch of sibilance on some tracks, though it was rarely distracting. There’s solid resolution here for the price, and certainly the clarity is more than sufficient for any kind of critical listening. Although I didn’t sense any roll-off, the treble peaks were generally smooth and fatigue-free.
The T50RP has to be one of my favorite reference headphones on the market, maybe even beating my beloved Beyerdynamic DT1770 in terms of listening enjoyment. On sale right now for $199 (usually $399, which is also not bad), I would absolutely recommend the T50RP for studio use and listening entertainment. With an honest, yet highly elegant sound signature and all the rich characteristics of planar magnetic technology, there’s nothing to dislike for the price.