Review: Fostex TH-500RP (Fantastic planar-magnetic headphones)

Firstly I would like to thank Matt at SCV distribution for lending me this pair of TH-500RP to review, I only had a short amount of time to review them, but I did get a few hours of burn-in on them before the review, a few small changes were noted.

Gear Used:
Dell XPS15 > iFi iDAC > Silver RCA's > iFi iCan (+10 gain) > TH-500RP

Tech Specs:
Type:    Open RP (Regular Phase) Planar-Magnetic
Frequency Response:    20 – 30kHz
Impedance:    48 ohm
Sensitivity:    93dB/mW
Maximum Input:    3,000mW
Weight:    approx. 380g (without cord)
Cord Length:    3m (Y-type)
Plug:    1/4" stereo phone (gold plated)
Accessory:    Leather texture pouch
MSRP: £529

Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality:
The packaging is great, as these are more of a high-end product you get a shiny outer box with the Fostex logo and a picture of the TH-500RP on it, inside this outer box is a matte black card box which the top lifts off to show the headphones neatly placed in a foam insert. The packaging and box is big, and provides a great place to keep the headphones when not in use. Overall the packaging provides stability during shipping, but also a place to store them when in not in use.

Accessories are non-existent except a pleather carry bag, this is good as it protects them from scratches, and being open-back and more home-use headphones you don't need a full hard carry case. I would have liked to see a 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter cable, as some people only have portable amps (I do recommend a dekstop amp for these though). However I cannot fault the accessories as they are not really needed for these headphones.

Build quality feels excellent, the headband is well padded with metal sliders, and all metal trim, the housing is aluminium and feels light yet sturdy. The cable is thick and fabric sheathed to look nice and also provide durability, the Y-Split does not have any strain relief but the jack and also the entry to the housing have very good strain relief. I cannot fault the build quality, I really do like the swivel joints, and the all metal mechanisms, very high quality feel.

Comfort and Isolation:
Comfort is very good, the headphones are not too heavy for long listening sessions, due to their lightweight aluminium cups, also the headband is well padded. The earpads are real leather, which is always welcome in high-end headphones, as they provide superior comfort, they are also angled and should fit most sized ears.

Isolation is not what these are for, with their open back design they don't isolate at all and also people around you can hear what you are listening to.

Split in to the usual categories, with a conclusion at the end.

First I would like to talk about power and amping, these do require a good headphone amplifier, they are not suitable for using with a standard portable source. Even thought they only have 48Ohm impedance, the sensitivity is only 93dB/mW, I had to put the gain on my iFi iCan up to +10 for these, and it drives them with ease like that. Also note these use Planar magnetic drivers, not your usual dynamic drivers, by design they do prefer more powerful amplifiers.

Lows: The lows are very full and thick on these, but not overwhelming. They have articulation and speed to keep up with most music, whilst adding a nice amount of warmth to the sound without masking the finer details. Their timbre is very good, along with having good impact and extension, they work with any genre, but jazz sounds superb on these. The double bass really comes forward and you can hear every pluck and reverberation right down to the lowest of lows.
(just a minor note, Pendulum with level 2 bass boost on the iCan sounds superb!!! I can't imagining anyone needing more bass, and it's not just the quantity, they provide the quality too)

Mids: The mids are warmed up slightly by the lows but they still remain nicely separated with a more realistic approach rather than a clinical, detail oriented sound. That is not to say these lack detail though, they just portray both male and female vocals with a little added warmth without taking away the sparkle and detail. The sound is very omnidirectional, and the guitars circle around the vocals, whilst the lows give the sound great foundation. In terms of presence I find the mids to sit just behind the lows, but not recessed per say.

Highs: I cannot find much to say about the highs, the sound is definitely more tuned to a warm and lush, fatigue free sound, which does mean the highs are lacking a little something to make them really stand out. They don't do anything wrong but they are also not the most defined and crisp. They do extend nicely but sit a little far back in the mix. This is mainly noticeable when listening to rock as it has more aggressive treble and these seem to not be able to keep up in that respect. But when listening to Classical and Jazz the highs are usually adequate.

Soundstage is very wide and deep, these really present you with a very spacious sound which lends it's hand to classical music beautifully, they portray a very immersive sound.
In regard to the instrument separation it is equally as good, everything is pinpoint accurate and in its own space.

Conclusion, well for the price these are actually very good, I know they are £529 but for that you get fantastic build quality, great comfort and also a relaxing sound. These are excellent headphones for listening to at home, they have an excellent soundstage, a warm and natural sound with good detail to boot. For my tastes they are a little too warm, but the mids are excellent and really portray vocals in a realistic way. They may not be the best technically, or the fastest, or the most detailed, but for actual listening enjoyment they represent great value. You get real high-end sound, for a reasonable price, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these, and enjoyed listening to them a lot, which says a lot. Classical and Jazz both sound excellent on these, but other genres do not fair badly either, don't forget you'll need a good amp to power these too.

Sound Perfection Rating: 8/10 (Could use a little treble boost)


  1. the title says planar magnetic, but the actual review says dynamic.


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