Review: Fostex TE-03

Firstly I would like to thank Matt at SCV Distribution for lending me these to review, I always try to write honest reviews. These received over 30hrs of burn-in. No major changes were noted.

Gear Used:
iPod Classic 7G > TE-03 (bi-flange tips/Comply TX-500)

Tech Specs:
Frequency Response - 20Hz - 20kHz
Impedance - 16 ohm
Maximum Input - 5mW
Sensitivity - 91 (at 1kHz, 1mW)
Cable Length - 1.2m (two-tone non-tangle flat cable with microphone and phone control)
MSRP - £49.00

Packaging, Accessories and Build quality:
The packaging is nothing remarkable, it does it's job of looking pretty yet minimalistic, and protects the IEM's during shipping too. The front is simple and just says Fostex TE-03, with a plastic window showing off the IEM's. Specifications and details can be found on the back of the box. The IEM's are held securely in place in a foam insert, and the accessories can be found in the carry case below. Simple but effective, I like the minimalist approach.

Accessories are nothing too special, you get 4 pairs of tips (XS, S, M and L) all normal single flange. I would have like to see some bi-flange tips, or even Comply tips, but at this price point I cannot complain, you also receive a soft carry pouch. Nothing over the top, but all the essentials are included.

Build quality on the whole is good, the housing is lightweight aluminium and well finished, the jack has good strain relief, but the y-split and housing do not have good strain relief, it is very stiff. The cable is flat and should last providing you don't abuse them too much, and the mic/remote feels a little cheap unfortunately, the plastic does not feel very nice. Overall for the price, they don't fair too bad, and providing you look after them, they should hold up fine over time.

Comfort, Isolation, Cable noise and Driver flex:
Comfort is ok, I find the housing to be quite big so they do stick out quite a bit, but the edge closest to your ear is smooth and doesn't cause discomfort. The cable is flexible enough to not get in the way, and overall comfort is not too bad for a go to IEM.

Isolation is fairly average for an IEM with a vented housing, they block out enough for most uses and are fine for daily train commutes, but cannot rival custom monitors or fully closed IEM's for absolute isolation.

Cable noise is an issue, it is just about possible to wear these with the cable behind your ear, which does help with reducing cable noise, but a chin slider would have been a good inclusion.

Driver flex is not an issue, the vented housing prevents this.

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

Lows: Well for a budget consumer IEM these do not have over done bloated lows, which is refreshing. They actually have quite accurate and quick lows that still manage to come across articulate. However I would actually call these a little bass light as I find them to lack a little body in the sub-bass region. They could do with a slight boost to give them a little more body.

Mids: The mids are very clean and detailed, very impressive for the price but the do lack a little body. They come across a little sterile sometimes, but I do like how they are not lacking and you can hear subtle details in the mids, I do find they suffer from a little sibilance which can sound quite sharp on some tracks, they do have a slight metallic timbre to them.

Highs: Well I do like the highs, these seem to go against most consumer IEM's in having quite a lot of focus on the treble, and not making them bass cannons. You can hear every cymbal tap and crash clearly, and they extend well with good sparkle. They can sound a little bright due to the slight lack of body, and treble sensitive users may not like these, but for someone that wants more detail and enjoys a slightly brighter sound they are good, as the highs are where most budget IEM's fail.

Tip choice: Well they are quite fast and bright with the stock silicone tips, along with the bi-flange tips I used with them.
Using the TX-500 comply tips the bass sounds a little loose and but has extra body, they did tame the highs somewhat and the sound was a little more balanced overall.

Instrument separation is very good for the price, and the soundstage is quite good also, not huge but there is good air between the instruments.

Conclusion: Well with the supplied silicone tips I found these to be a little on the harsh side, and the treble can be a little overbearing and sharp. I would recommend using the Comply TX-500 tips with these as they completely change the sound, for the better. The now have enough body to not sound thin, whilst retaining good clarity and balance overall.
I can now listen to them for longer periods of time with no fatigue but I personally think there are better IEM's at this price point (SoundMAGIC E50 come to mind).

Sound Perfection Rating: 3/10 (build is good, as is the treble, but they lack too much body for me to recommend them over other offerings in this price range)