Fostex is a high-end consumer and pro sound Japanese company but its spotty distribution in the US has made availability a "sometimes" thing. That's not a concern with the Massdrop X Fostex TR-X00 Purpleheart headphones, so I requested a review pair. Unboxing the headphones I was impressed with the build quality of the magnesium alloy frame and biodynamic drivers. The naturally purple wood ear cups looked fabulous.
The TR-X00 comes in three variants: the $470 Purpleheart, the $420 mahogany version and the ebony one is $520. They're constructed with solid wood (not veneer), and all feature the same Fostex 50mm driver which boasts over 1 Tesla of magnetic flux density, and 25 ohms of impedance. The 10-foot cloth-covered, user-replaceable cable is thicker than average, but it's nice and supple. And so are the soft leatherette ear pads -- they're made of eggshell protein. The 6.3mm plug's metal housing is beautifully finished.
So far so good, but the included soft carry pouch won't provide much protection for the wood ear cups or the headband. Drop sells the TR-X00 with a two-year warranty. The headphone is made in China.
The TR-X00 weighs 13.6 ounces, which i on the heavy side for full-size headphones. Eyeglass wearers might find the ear pads' pressure against your glasses frames a little too high to wear for extended periods. (Everyone's head and size shape is different, so it's impossible to predict comfort with full-size headphones. You have to try them on for yourself.) The TR-X100 is a closed-back design, but isolation from external noise is nothing special.
Drop offers return or exchange privileges the TR-X00 customers for up to 30 days after purchase.
Listening to the Purpleheart
The sound signature is, in a word, rich; this is a headphone to savor. The TR-X00 is a sweetheart with a very relaxed, low-fatigue sound, and I love it for that.
I brought it to a friend's recording session and was impressed with the way the TR-X00 reproduced the sounds of the singer and instruments at the session. There's nothing hyped about the sound.
At the session I compared the TR-X00 with a set of Sony MDR 7520 monitoring headphones, and the differences were stark. The Sony was much brighter, sharper and more revealing of exactly what was going on. That's why they're great monitor 'phones. But the TR-X00 sounded tonally more correct, closer to the sound of the acoustic instruments and the singer as I heard them that day.
As I continued to listen, I noticed the sound not just of the instruments, but of the acoustics of the room the musicians were playing in. Returning to the Sony, I was much more aware of little details like fingers on strings, the singer taking a breath, and the definition of the strings on the acoustic bass. The TR-X00 glosses over those things.
Back at home I listened to the Raconteurs' new Help Us Stranger album, mostly to see if Jack White's got his songwriting mojo back. Seems like not, and the album's sound isn't stellar either. It's a muddy mess, but that's not the TR-X100's fault; it was just telling it like it is.
I had better luck with The National's new I Am Easy To Find album. Matt Berninger and a bevy of guest vocalists sounded big and bold, and the weight of the sound was deeply satisfying. Bryan Devendorf's drumming packed a wallop over the TR-X00, and the nuanced and textured mix's deep reverberation went on forever.
Prince's just-released Originals album lit up the purple headphones. I loved the music and the ample bass all but massaged my ears!
The Massdrop X Fostex TR-X00 Purpleheart sound isn't for every taste. It's not going to scream high-resolution detail, it's more reserved and laid back than that. Once I stopped comparing the TR-X00 to other 'phones, it was a pleasure to use.