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The Fostex TH-900 MKII closed-back full-size headphones are painstakingly manufactured in Japan in tiny batches by one of the most exacting headphone design companies in the industry.
Fostex are renown for making top headphones marketed under other brand names including the superb line of DENON cans in the late 2000s. The Fostex TH-900 vastly exceeds the sound quality of any of their previous releases and remains one of the first 'audiophile' sealed headphones we considered capable of delivering galvanizing musical performance. Back then, both its sound and over-1K price were eye-opening achievements. My how time flies.
In the years since, other closed headphones have appeared offering stratospheric levels of performance - along with commensurately sky-high prices - so although some of the initial sticker shock has worn off, the newest TH-900 MK II model remains among the most expensive sealed headphones currently available. As with many of the best things in life, you get what you pay for.
As before, the TH-900 MKII employs the same sumptuous Japanese Urushi Bordeaux lacquer technique on the earcups. The frame softly encases the earlobes with a very light, even weight distribution that makes these one of the best wearing experiences we’ve had with a full-size can. The plush circular earpads complete the luxuriant feel with a synthetic protein leather material that is supremely supple and long-lasting. There's no doubt the Fostex TH900 MK2 looks & feels like a true high-end headphone.
The ambient noise isolation ability remains decent despite the featherweight clamping force, but smaller heads take note: the headband is so light it may be hard to achieve a secure seal without the headphone tending to slip off the ears. Average-to-large headed types may actually forget they’re wearing headphones at all.
Sonically, the Fostex TH-900 MkII presents a warmly burnished tone that has some extra weighting in the deep bass giving it a more forthright kick than some other sealed headphones. The lowest octave sounds deeply rooted with great extension but also exhibits a vague trace of boominess that could benefit from a touch more control at times.
However, that’s basically an audiophile quibble because the curvy low-end also brings a luminous warmth and authority to the bass texture that’s a lot of fun with well-produced rock, jazz and funk/soul recordings. Midranges are ultra-smooth without any sense of etching or vocal grain while the highs soar clean and unfettered sans harsh edges. Voices sound full-bodied and well-meshed with a pleasing amount of air but the vocal space can occasionally become slightly recessed with some recordings. We did detect a splashy edge to the uppermost highs that can sound a bit sparkly, most notably on cymbals and hi-hat work. Using a tube amp or judicious EQ might help to effectively tame those lofty head-for-the-hills frequencies.
The Fostex TH-900 MK II is nicely efficient (25 Ohms/ 100 dB sensitivity) and will work fine direct from portable players, although only the tip of the performance iceberg will appear until the headphones are properly driven via a quality headphone amp. The large 50mm dynamic neodymium/Nd magnet transducers benefit from the added control and dimension afforded by a nice amp. We also hear the TH900’s slightly wayward low bass audibly tighten up with a headphone amp in the equation.
What's In The Box:
Fostex TH-900 Frequency Response
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