High end closed-back headphones for audiophiles. In a landscape as barren as this, the few models that inhabit it are sure to stand out with varying degrees of merit. The $1499 Fostex TH-900 MK2 is such a headphone – at least from what I’ve been hearing about it. So now that it has arrived at my review desk, I can jump down the rabbit hole with these cans and see just how good they actually sound.
The TH-900 MK2 comes in a huge box that contains the headphones, a removable cable, and a headphone stand.
In my hands and on my head, the headphones feel solid, with aluminum extension bars and thick pleather padding on the headband and earcups.
The cups themselves utilize Japanese Birch Cherry wood, supposedly to deliver better tonal accuracy across the frequency range.
Driver Type: Dynamic 50mm
Impedance @ 1kHz: 25 ohms
Sensitivity: 100 dB SPL/V
Frequency Response: 5Hz – 45kHz
Connector Type: 1/4″
Cable Length: approx. 10 ft. (3 m)
Cable Style: Straight Dual Side
Weight: 14 oz. (390g)
Manufacturer Warranty: 1 Year
As these specs show, the TH-900 MK offers a larger-than-normal driver size (for extra “oomph” in the low end), a low nominal impedance, a whopping big frequency range, and decent volume levels.
The low end on the TH-900 MK2 is deep and full, with excellent control. Bass is strong, with decent impact, while never appearing too overblown. That control in the low end also translates into a impressively clean bass that doesn’t bleed into surrounding low-frequency notes.
Where the midrange is concerned, the sound of these headphones is chock-full of details. Accuracy is top-of-the-line, with no compression or distortion. If there is any downside to the mids, it’s the impression that the bass and low end seem to overshadow some of the clarity lurking there. As such, these headphones can sound a little less detailed when there is a lot of action going on in the low end.
Sparkling with detail, the high end might come off as bright sometimes. However, even the highest highs don’t get too screeching or piercing. The smooth high end is rich, but well-controlled. Strings sound amazing, while female vocals are smooth.
The soundstage on the TH-900 MK2 is breathtaking. With plenty of depth and placement, the sense of space is sprawling. Helped along by the dynamic sound of the headphones, you can almost feel instruments around you. If you’re searching for that open-back sound in a closed-back headphone, you’ve found it.
Fostex TH-900 MK2 vs Beyerdynamic T5p
Perhaps the closest competitor to the Fostex TH-900 MK2, the Beyerdynamic T5p definitely enjoys a similar reputation as a high-end closed back headphone. While the T5p offers slightly better isolation, the soundstage is a bit more compressed and lacking the grandeur of that found in the TH-900. The Beyerdynamic may also offer slightly more detail – or, this could simply be my ears playing tricks on me, because the T5p definitely seems to have a sharper edge to certain notes, and the sound in general features a bit more contrast. In comparison, the sound of the Fostex is smoother, with more life in the low end and less piercing in the highs.
If we throw price out the window, I’d say the TH-900 MK2 is the objectively better headphone. It just seems more controlled and on-point than the T5p. However, if price is a huge concern to you, the T5p still comes close in terms of general performance. But it may be worth it to spend that extra $500 on the cleaner sound of the Fostex.
The Fostex TH-900 MK2 is one hell of a good headphone. Even though it utilizes a closed-back design, the grand, sweeping sound is open and overflowing with detail. The dynamic sound and robust low end do much to recommend these headphones for the closeted basshead hiding inside all of us, but the finer details aren’t lost either. With a price tag of $1499, it could strain your wallet, but if unbridled sonic awesomeness is the goal, the price is a fair admission fee.
As mentioned above, the sound is dynamic, with low lows and high highs. But you shouldn’t take that to mean the midrange is really lacking in terms of detail. This headphone knocks it out of the park with almost any genre I’ve thrown at it, including rock, edm, hip hop, classical, and jazz. Is there any reason not to buy it? Clearly, if you’re on a budget, this headphone may be a little too pricey. In which case, we would probably recommend considering the T5p. Likewise, if you’re after an open sound and you don’t need the closed-back design, a similarly-priced open-back headphone might offer a even wider, more expansive soundstage. If this last bit appeals to you, we might recommend the Sennheiser HD800S or Grado GS2000E.
You can get these headphones for the best price at:
Audio46 (Use our promo code, “majorhifi” to get 10% off)