Firstly I would like to thank Fischer Audio for sending me this sample to review, I always try and write honest reviews, these received over 50hrs of burn-in and small differences were noted.
Dell XPS 15 > JDS Labs C5D > FA-003ti (pleather and velour pads used)
Frequency range: 10 - 26000 Hz
Sensitivity: 101 dB
Impedance: 64 Ohm
Maximum Power Input: 500 mW
Set: additional cushions, 6.3mm jack adapter, storage case
Current Price: £118
Packaging, Accessories and Build quality:
These headphones come in their carry case with a small cardboard sleeve which includes the specs and additional information around it. No box to speak of, but they are well protected in their carry case. All together I don't think they need any extra packaging as the protection from the case is good enough to protect them during shipping and the card sleeve provides all the relative information.
Accessories included are great, you get a screw on 6.3mm jack adapter, velour pads and the carry case, the only thing I could imagine would be another great accessory would be a shorter more portable cable, for on the go use, even though these are more designed for home use. Very happy with the extra pads included, and I think more companies should do this, one it means they last longer and as in the case of Fischer Audio, you can tune the sound slightly with different pads.
Build quality feels solid, the headband is well padded and metal reinforced, they use high quality plastics throughout and also very nice metal arms. The cups have a metal plate with the Fisher Audio logo on them and the detachable cable uses a clip in system that I can see wearing out in the long run, but it works great and is an efficient and well designed system. It is not too difficult to make custom cable to fit either, so another good point there, and the cable is dual sided which I prefer.
Comfort, Isolation and Cable noise:
Comfort is great with both sets of pads, I personally prefer Velour pads but the included pleather pads are very soft and comfortable. Both sets of pads are big enough for most ears and also deep so your ears don't touch the driver and cause discomfort.
Isolation is good with both sets of pads, the pleather pads do isolate a little more than the velour, and I find my ears don't get too warm with either set of pads. Even with the velour pads they isolate enough to be used when out and about, but they are quite big on your head. If you don't mind the look and the long cable, they do actually make good portable headphones.
Cable noise is not an issue, and again these are mainly for use at home.
I will split it in to the usual categories, but will also do a comparison with the Lindy HF-100 which are the rebranded version of the original FA-003. I will also compare Pleather vs Velour pads.
Lows: the lows are very well controlled and never sound too full or overbearing. They are always tight and accurate, but with good extension and also impact when called for, the lows are very neutral in presence and never become the centre of the sound. Bass guitars are easily distinguished, and the lows work well with every genre, but bass heads will not like the amount. I personally prefer this neutral approach, as it just blends well with the rest of the sound. Sometimes I do find they lack a tiny bit of body, but this is track dependent, the lows are also very fast in attack and recovery which is great for faster, heavier music.
Mids: The mids like the lows are very neutral, which makes them great for all genres, as they don't suffer any warming from the lows. They are well separated and airy, and I find both male and female vocals sound excellent and from acoustic to heavy rock they handle everything with ease. The mids might be a little on the leaner side, but they don't suffer from sibilance or harshness, neither do they sound too clinical. Detail retrieval is excellent, all subtle details can be heard with ease, acoustic guitars have great body and reverberation whereas electric guitars have good crunch and power.
Highs: The highs are not lacking either, they are not aggressive or in your face, but they are not recessed and dull. They have excellent shimmer and sparkle, they have great detail and extension without any harshness. People sensitive to treble might not be the biggest fans but I also wouldn't say these are fatiguing. They portray the highs quite realistically in terms of presence, and also extension. I cannot fault the highs as they are where they should be without sounding harsh or fatiguing, but neither are they dull.
Soundstage is good, not the widest but they are also not too aggressive. Everything sits in its correct space and it's easy to pinpoint all the instruments.
The sound has excellent PRAT*, due to the Ti coated driver it is very quick in attack and recovery, but can also linger when called for. Overall a balanced and neutral sound, that lends its hand to every genre out there.
Lows: The lows lose a little body and fullness, the bass kicks are not quite as full as they are now lacking a little sub-bass. But bass guitars still sound articulate and they gain a little more space. Overall I prefer the lows of the Pleather pads due to them being slightly fuller, but they don't sound too bad with the Velour pads, I would say with the JDS Labs C5D bass boost position 1 helps bring out a little more punch in the lows to bring them up to how I personally like them which is closer to neutral than without bass boost. I think a Tube amp would make the FA-003ti with velour pads sing.
Mids: The mids are colder but cleaner, tonally they are slightly cold but they do have great detail and separation, a little sibilance can be detected but nothing troublesome. I prefer the more aggressive mids with the velour pads, the pleather pads have a smoother sound.
Highs: This is where the main difference is, and I like it, the highs are definitely more pronounced, and some would find them a little fatiguing but I think the cues in the highs are greatly improved, and also they are also present with excellent shimmer now. If you want detail I would recommend the Velour pads, if you want a balanced and smoother sound I recommend the Pleather pads.
Soundstage is wider with the velour pads, everything has a little more air surrounding it.
Instrument separation is excellent, everything has its own space.
With the velour pads you get a more aggressive, but more spacious sound. The lows do suffer a little as they lose a little body which can be made up by an amps bass boost, the mids are cleaner but sometimes suffer from a little sibilance, and the highs are now more present and detail throughout is more easily audible. This does mean they do sound more fatiguing with the velour pads, but if you like detail you will like the velour pads.
Vs Lindy HF-100 (rebranded FA-003) Thanks to Hifiheadphones for lending me the HF100 for this comparison.
Current Price: £74.98
First off the build quality is slightly different, the HF-100 have plastic arms that hold the cups on, the new FA-003ti has metal arms, and the L and R indicators are a slightly different design. Apart from this, they are the same, headband is the same, and so are the earpads. Note that the FA-003ti comes with 1 pair of Pleather and 1 pair of Velour pads, the HF-100 comes with 2 pairs of Pleather pads. Also the HF-100 come with a flight adapter and the 6.3mm adapter is not screw on even though the jack has thread on it.
I will be comparing the sound using Pleather pads
Lows: The lows on the HF-100 are fuller and have more impact than the Ti drivers, but they are not as quick and responsive. The sound comes down to preference, the Ti is more accurate but the HF-100 is more fun and you might enjoy the sound a little more, but if you wanted to mix music then the Ti is better. I do like the impact and depth, but I find the speed is not quite as good, I also find them to sound a little bloated when compared side by side with the Ti drivers.
Mids: The mids have a little bleed from the lows, mainly male vocals suffer from this and have a slightly off timbre, but overall the mids are still very good. And they still cut through the mix cleanly with good detail, they are just not quite as separated and detailed as the Ti drivers. They still play most genres very well and most would be satisfied, I just find the Ti drivers to have the edge in detail retrieval.
Highs: The highs actually don't seem as subdued on these with the pleather pads as on the Ti version, which is odd. I find these to have a slight V shaped signature, but not overly pronounced. The highs are still not fatiguing, they are just always audible in the mix with good spaciousness, detail and extension.
The soundstage is not hugely different, the Ti driver has a small advantage being ever so slightly more spacious.
Overall I personally prefer the FA-003ti just because it has an extra little bit of detail and the sound has better PRAT* and sound tighter and more controlled.
It really comes down to personal preference, as they are both very good headphones. The FA-003ti is technically better, but that does not mean everyone will prefer them. The HF-100 are still an excellent buy and they definitely have a warmer sound, with more punch and fullness down low, slightly warmed up mids and well balanced highs. So for analytical sound, FA-003ti all the way, for general home listening, you won't go wrong with either.
Now, how would the FA-003ti sound with wooden cups?
Hopefully that will come soon...
PRAT = Pace, Rhythm and Timing
FA-003ti Sound Perfection Rating: 9/10 (Excellent all round closed back headphones)
HF-100 Sound Perfection Rating: 8.5/10 (Not quite as controlled but still brilliant for the price)