Fischer Audio FA-003 (new version)

9 01 2012

Introduction

To start this, I would like to greet David from Frogbeats for making this review possible. They are the most known retailer for this Fischer Audio product, so be sure to check out their site.

Fischer Audio is known for their great Audio Eterna IEM, which managed to deliver a “full” sound without compromising much the rest of the spectrum. This time, I’m going to review a closed  circumaural headphone, the FA-003. These are the newer version, which received a facelift from the previous versions. The previous version had quite a high hype on head-fi, so I was really looking forward to hear those, and see if that hype was justified.

As I said in my former reviews, my primary musical choices are electronic music, dance, drum and bass and some dubstep. It is said that the FA-003 are excellent all-rounders due to their relatively flat response, so I’ll try to hear as many types of music as I can.

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Technical Data

Fischer Audio FA-003

Impedance 64 Ohm

Cable Length            2m

Sensitivity 105dB

Accessories 3.5mm to 6.3 converter, Replacement ear pads, Storage Case

Frequency Range 10 – 26500 Hz

Drivers Closed dynamic drivers

Packaging

Instead of using a separate packaging to ship the headphones, Fischer Audio chose to use the storage case as the packaging. It was a good idea though, because the headphones are tightly packaged and safe, and it also saves some money that would have gone into the packaging. In the case we can see the Fischer Audio logo in white, contrasting with the black color of the case. The case opens easily with a zip. Inside we can see the headphones neatly packaged with some sponge in order to protect them from some sort of damage throughout the shipping process.

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Accessories 

Upon opening the carrying case (aka packaging), which is an accessory itself, inside we can find the headphones, a pair of replacement earpads made from what seems velour and a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter that screws on the tip of the 3.5 connector. The mechanism to change the earpads consists of rotating clockwise the earpad and removing it from the driver. After that the earpad has some sort of locking mechanism that you have to remove from the original pad and transfer to the one you want to have. (Will post pics if requested). All in all, it’s quite a good accessory pack for an headphone, having replacement earpads, along with the usual adapter. The big plus here, goes to the carrying case, which is excellent, mainly due to the padding inside. Of course, it isn’t the most portable of the cases, but it’s not to the portable use these headphones are aimed for, so it is completely comprehensible the approach they took on the case. I prefer it that way, so that when travelling, my headphones feel comfy.

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Build Quality

The first thing you can notice, whilst grabbing them is: “where did all the weight go?”. Judging by the size of the cups and of the materials that presents, I though these would be quite heavy. But no, surprisingly, Fischer Audio managed (or the OEM?) to maintain a quite high build quality, while keeping an acceptable (very acceptable indeed) weight. The cups are made from what it seems some sort of aluminum or metal, which has engraved the name of the series of the headphone, alongside the name, with a silver finish on it, surrounded by quality plastic that is soft to the touch.

The earpads, one pair made from what seems pleather and another from velour, are also well finished and comfortable, alongside the system that permits the use of the different types of earpads. The headband insides are made from metal, whilst the padding is there right on quantity.

Also one great touch is the detachable cables that make possible the use of your own cables, with the length you desire, being the jacks that go into the cups, mono’s. The included detachable cable is one of good quality, being a bit big and heavy, but very sturdy, built to last. The cable is suitable for home use, not portable one since it’s a little bit big. It would be good to see what improvement could be made from custom cables, since it’s not very difficult to change them. The jack on the included cable is 3.5mm, with the possibility of screwing in the 6.3mm jack. The plug is quite big and well finished, and the jack is gold plated.

Overall, I think Fischer Audio made quite a good product when it comes to build quality as the product managed to be well-built, while not having excessive weight, which makes them pleasant to use.

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Comfort/Isolation

First thing to be said in this chapter is, they need to be wear down, because, when they’re out of the box, they have a somewhat excessive clamping force, that may be tiresome to the user. Luckily, with use, the clamping force fades away, but is always there, so if you don’t like phones with a somehow bit higher than average, clamping force, you might have to look somewhere else (or use velour pads which help in the comfort).

Now, I found the comfort of these phones something remarkable, this due to their weight and their clamping force (yeah I don’t mind being forced, if it brings something beneficial to it). I can wear these for hours without feeling tired. As they’re light, the clamping force isn’t something that tires you down. Between the pleather and velour earpads, the comfort is better on the velour.

The isolation, this is where the clamping force comes in. Being closed headphones and circumaural, it would be expected that they blocked some sound, that would be normal, but due to their higher clamping force, they block a lot of sound just by simply putting them on your ears. With music, you may have to remove them in order to hear someone calling. That being said, it’s important to remember that these shouldn’t be used in situations where awareness is needed (or if used, with low volumes). I found the isolation to be superior on the pleather pads, than on the velour due to the deeper cup they form around your ear. Also I found the sound better from the pleather when comparing to velour.

Overall, comfort is great, if clamping force is not a worry and isolation is a dream. Moving on to what it matters, the sound of these!

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Sound

Source – Rockboxed Sansa Clip +,  laptop (LG R400), TMN A1 (Huawei Pulse)

Files Used –  256 to 320 kbps and FLAC

When these arrived, I didn’t managed to put them right away on burning-in and gave them a listen. They come from factory with an already great sound, being the burn-in just a way to get the driver ready for some music listening, as I haven’t found any major sonic differences, before and after burn-in.

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Burn-in

My burn-in consists in pink noise along with a playlist that is composed of the songs I usually hear on my daily basis.

I would like to start my analysis on the sound of these, by saying, probably, with an amp, they’ll become even better (my sansa clip is almost on max with them), perhaps Santa will be nice to me and bring an amp, so I could update the review. But now, no amp, direct from source, here we go.

I was expecting a closed headphone, darkish nature, recessed treble, not so much detail, small soundstage, the usual closed headphone sound. The moment I put these on, I was surprised by a huge soundstage (boy I have heard open headphones with less soundstage), a natural sound, bass with texture, great sounding vocals. They don’t deserve the name of closed headphones, because, when it comes to sound, they aren’t.

The lower end of the sound, packs texture and punch, being there when the producer meant, and not when “Oh hi, I’m bass, nice to meet you!” or so to say, there just because people like it. The bass line on the “Queen – Another one bites the dust”, sounds marvelous, progressing alongside the rest of the sound, because it fills the sound without removing something, it gives, but it doesn’t take away. On dubstep, the “wub,wub” parts, also feel great, with the headphones giving quite the rumble (not an excessive one), while not bleeding into the rest of the spectrum. Overall, very controlled bass, which packs texture and amount, while not bleeding into any other area of the sound spectrum.

The mids, also feel like they’re not coming from the normal closed headphone, usually recessed, but instead from an open one. You can hear the voices right where they should, nowhere recessed, and on one quick note, female voices feel absolutely right. For example, “Aurea – Okay, alright”, is one hell of a tune to hear in these. Her voice, along with the instrumental, it’s just so soothing and relaxing. Rock or metal are also very listenable in these, as the vocals from the lead singer, don’t get lost in the middle of the guitar riffs. Another band I found to be very listenable in these, is Linkin Park (I personally love “Faint”). Overall, it deals very well it both kind of vocals, male or female, while having the right amount of distance (if it was meant to be distant, it is).

The higher end sounds right on spot, with the cymbals being crispy, and having that tonality that gives you shrills. They are there, not recessed, not afraid to be heard. With some of that so called “dubstep” (those who know doctor P, know how many piercing highs, his music has), you can feel the highs going along the bass line, for example on doctor p’s – “Big boss” (although this should be called not dubstep, but irritating thing). Overall, the highs are there, and have a good resolution.

The overall sound signature of these, could be characterized as flat. This shouldn’t be a downer to much users though, because, while the sound response is flat, it doesn’t mean  that the sound isn’t musical. It is, and even bassheads, should give these a listen, because this could be a portal to a world where, although the bass is there, is doesn’t overwhelms the rest of the frequencies, and a good starter point for higher end Hi-Fi. The sonic differences between pleather pads and velour ones, is mainly the advantage of a fuller sound, at least on my point of view, on the pleather ones. Rather than that, it is mainly the difference of comfort and isolation.

On sonic qualities, I think these don’t have any disadvantages, and the only way they could be improved, would be an improved micro-detail throughout the spectrum (can only be obtained by far pricier headphones I think). On their soundstage, it is relevant to say that it is quite large, and their positional accuracy is one of the best I’ve heard. Also the instrument separation is great, I could tell where and how far the instruments are, so this is also good for electro music, as it doesn’t feel like everything was clogged into one track.

Due to this and also for the fact that they isolate, I think these would be quite good for competitive purposes on gaming, due to their soundstage and positional accuracy. At least, on the gaming I’ve made, they were quite good on distinguishing where the footsteps came from. Add a clip-on mic and you have a pro headset.

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Music worth listening:

–       Vangelis – Chariots of Fire

The beginning is so soothing that it makes me feel lightweight and relaxed, truly a delight to listen to, on these

–       Deadmau5 – Sofi Needs a Ladder

The perfect song to hear the synergy between female vocals, and hitting electro

–       Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

The song itself, it’s beautiful, but with the soundstage of these, along with the vocals these put out, you’ve got a sound that is capable of reproducing the true value of the song

These are just to mention a few songs, from different styles, to show how good all-rounders these could be. Of course, I could be all day referring songs, but I think they are enough to pass the message.

Conclusion

These have got all it takes to become a staple on entry Hi-Fi. Relatively flat sounding, adequate to multiple sound preferences, an affordable price, sound of an open headphone within all the advantages of a closed one (or disadvantages on what regards to isolation), detachable cables, carrying case, pair of replacement earpads, for a small price (in comparison to similar sounds).

These are perfect to get you started into higher-end or perhaps to make you truly enjoy your sound. They are perfect for you to step up from that old Sony, or Philips headphones you got at your local chain shop. These are what may turn you into an Hi-Fi addict, or simply someone who likes to hear his daily music with quality. For the price they sell, they’re a steal, and perhaps their success will only be stalled by limited distribution. But once you got the opportunity to get your hands (and ears) on one of those, you’ll probably never want to get back to consumer grade headphones, or something that is below the sonic standard of these.

Just remember one thing, these are not spectrum focused headphones, don’t search here for something with emphasis in some part of the spectrum. What you’ll find in this package is natural, musical sound with fine detail. You pay less than what you get and congratulations to Fischer Audio to be capable of presenting such a fine product.

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References

Fischer Audio FA-003

Price: 109.00£

SiteFischer Audio FA-003

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23 02 2012

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