Fischer Audio FA-011, let the lower end rumble your skull!

6 07 2012

Introduction

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 their open headphones, the FA-011. The Fa-011 have got quite a lot different versions, the ones I have are the light wood version. As I have reviewed the also very good and widely known FA-003, my expectation with these was quite high. Also I would like to find out if Fischer managed to make an open headphone with a broad soundstage, since the closed FA-003 had quite a good soundstage for a closed model. As I said in my former reviews, my primary musical choices are electronic music, dance, drum and bass and some dubstep. So, lets find out what these wooden babies are capable of!

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Technical Data

 

Fischer Audio FA-011

IMPEDANCE 160 Ohm
CABLE LENGTH 0.9 m
SENSITIVITY 98 dB
ACCCESSORIES 3.5mm to 6.3 converter, Storage Case, 3.5mm extension (3.0 M)
FREQUENCY RANGE 18 – 22000 Hz
DRIVER Open dynamic drivers

Packaging

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The headphones were delivered inside the Fischer Audio transport case which had a paper “closing” it, that said the type of wood which the headphones were made (European beech) and it’s color (natural). The paper also has the headphones specifications written in its back, alongside some mentions of them being hand made.

After you “get rid” of the paper, you can find the standard Fischer Audio headphone carrying case, and I think this is a very nice measure that other companies should start using, because by using the transport case as the packaging of the product, you can either save in the cost of packaging and add in an essential extra for any headphone. After you open the zip, you can find the headphones very well cushioned on foam.

All in all, great job in packaging as I had already gave my positive opinion on the review of the FA-003, about the carrying case serving as packaging.

Accessories


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Opening the carrying case, which is itself an accessory, (in my opinion an essential one), we find out the headphones and some plastic bags. Inside the bags we can find a 3.5 to 6.3 mm adapter, which seems very sturdy, and a 3 meter extension cable 3.5mm to 3.5. Overall, quite a nice accessory pack for an headphone, having the essential and they succeed in their function, because they’re all very useful, especially the extension cable since 0.9 m is a really short cable. I don’t blame Fischer for not including additional earpads, since in the FA-003 the standard ones (Pleather) were much better than the backup pair (velour).

Build Quality

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Being handmade, I had quite an high expectation for the build quality of these. Like with the FA-003 (which had a ridiculously low weight, allied to a great build quality), they are very well made. Being heavier, mainly due to the wood and metal mesh on the cups, they are still very comfortable due to the fitting system of them. As said before, the weight is concentrated on the cups, while the headband makes an excellent job in distributing the weight. One thing I’d like to stand out is the solidity of the cups, they simply seem that will last for ages (if they get taken care of, because we all know how’s wood). On the side of the mesh of the cups, you can see a metal which has engraved “Master Series” referring to the series these headphones belong to, and “FA-011”. You got to be careful though, because the metal will easily get scratches on it. Moving on to the headband, it is comfortable, but doesn’t have much padding, although it has a self-adjusting elastic, one feature that I find really good because I usually have to store the headphones and on the headphones that use the conventional step design, I usually forget the setting and even on those that have markers I usually never find the fit equal, it may be laziness though. The arches that are made above the elastic are made from what seems plastic, while the bridge that connect the cups to the headband is made from metal. Moving on to the cable, I’m sorry to see that Fischer didn’t got within the route of the FA-003, using detachable cables. I know that the FA-011 usually retail for a lower price, but it would be a great touch to have the ability to use your own custom cables, and it would give the set a really cool look, because an headphone with such a build quality, should have cables to match. Also, the included cable, while really good relatively to usual standards, being thick and supporting some stress, it still a bit not as solid as the one in the FA-003. The plug also suffers from the same issue. While having a really nice stress relief, from what I have seen from the FA-003, it would deserve a better 3.5 mm plug. The one included will definitively sustain some heaving pulling, but I think Fischer should have seen the Headphone as a whole, when thinking about build quality. It is not that is bad, maybe it’s just that the awesome set of cups got my stakes really high.

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On an overall view of the set, I’d say that what amazes me the most is definitively the wooden cups, because they provide a really nice solid feel to the cans.

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Comfort/Isolation

The FA-011 are provided with a what it seems, velour like, cloth

earpads, and these are definitively the best to use over extended periods of time, because they will heat up easily. While being useful in the winter, it may be a problem when summer comes. That being said, as I write this review, after 1 hour they start to itch my ears a bit, so I’d say about 2 hours would be the maximum. But now it’s beginning to get hot again, blame it on it. On what concerns to fit, they don’t have a very deep insertion of your ear inside the earpad, but they are circumaural, and I guess even those with big ears won’t have any problems with the fit. The clamping force, due to the elastic headband, doesn’t go on unnoticed, but I think it really helps the headphones to stay in your head well, so it’s a plus. Not the best comfort compared to the lightweight FA-003, but it doesn’t make you want rip of these off your ears. While these were designed for home use, you may need to take a few breaks every once in a while, and then, there should be no problem.

The isolation, these being open headphones, is actually good for the type of headphones and they also don’t leak a lot of noise for open headphones, but still not suitable for libraries at a normal listening volume, at least mine. As said above, these will be used mainly on your home, so having little to none isolation may be an advantage, except in cases like someone is vacuuming the house, for example. The isolation may be also helped by the somewhat higher clamping force.

Summing it up, comfort good, but it may make you take a break every once in a while and a good isolation for an open headphone, but its sound leakage still makes it not suitable for quiet study places.

Sound

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

Files Used –  256 to 320 kbps and FLAC

Burn-in may have given a better depth to the sound, but nothing worth mentioning (I should have around 100 hours on them), maybe the sound will improve later, but I’ll write with what I have not.

There’s one fact for why I haven’t written this review earlier, and that fact is I don’t have an amplifier. I was trying to postpone it as much as I could to see if I could get my hands on one, but unfortunately I couldn’t. And reviewing these impedance monsters without one will surely prejudice them. So, when I get one, mark my words, that I’ll update this review with the differences of them amped vs unamped.

So I guess, let’s get this started.

As said above, these are impedance monsters, so, to drive them to my normal listening levels, I have to max out the player on rockbox. On the computer, this isn’t an issue, driving them to normal listening levels, but the audio card isn’t the best.

Having come from the fairly neutral (perhaps with a slight lower end emphasis) FA-003, I was expecting the FA-011 to have at least a similar sound signature of it’s pricier, closed brother. But I was wrong, these aren’t nowhere as close to neutral as it’s brother. Let me start it this way, the lower end packs quite a nice rumble, much more than the FA-003. It it’s not a bloated lower end, it just hits you hard, but in songs where it is not requested, it doesn’t show up and ruins the song. It’s just perfect in bass heavy songs, like some liquid dubstep or some hard hitting electro. Also some kinds of rock, those with heavy bass-lines, work like a beauty with these. The lower end also reaches deeper than the FA-003, although the specifications may not say that, and with definition. It allows them to have a fun signature, but those who were looking for something neutral may have to look somewhere else. All in all the lower end of these makes them a head bobbin’ headphone but with quality, because it doesn’t cause a veil over the rest of the spectrum. On what concerns to definition, I think the FA-003 may be tighter, but that may be a consequence of the lack of amplification.

The vocals on these are superb, because in albums where the main focus is in the voices, there’s not much lower end rumbling, allowing the vocals to shine. They are not as present as in the FA-003, due to the more V shaped Sound signature, but when they are requested, they shine. Even on tracks with some bass action, like vocal trance, the voice is delivered faultless. They are pretty much suited for every genre, despite their emphasized bass, because they manage so separate really well the instruments and frequency range.

Now the high end… You can easily hear what Fischer has made in order to balance the headphone’s bass emphasis, especially on rap songs. The cymbals hit hard, perhaps harsh for some, in order to contrast with the lower end, but for me they never get harsh. The treble is definitively more prominent than the FA-003, and I think it extends more, but as said before it could be bothersome for those who don’t like such treble.

Overall, the sound of the set, is a very fun sound V shaped sound signature, with an immense feel of air to it, due to it being open back. Also they have a superb soundstage, that, alongside the rumbling lower end, make soundtracks and movie watching a beauty with these. Alongside the soundstage, you have a pretty nice instrument separation (as good as FA-003) and positional accuracy.

These are the kind of higher end headphones that a basshead should have a listen to witness that it’s really worth to spend a little bit more in order to get that extra quality. They won’t please neutral and analytical music listeners, but these were made for the listener to have fun. Thumping bass kind of fun that is, but even with these characteristics, they can adjust extremely well to every kind of music, despite their sonic characteristics. If you want me to try any specific song on them, feel free to post it below, and I’ll have all the pleasure to write my impressions on it. They are the perfect complementary set of a neutral headphone.

Music worth listening:

–       Anything produced by Dre – Hip hop really has a sweet touch with these, the bass alongside the “exaggerated” treble, really make hip hop a pleasure to listen

–       Money by Pink Floyd – Binaural recordings are great with these, and Pink Floyd is what we all know already. The quick transitions between sides are simply flawless and the vocals are great as well.

–       Doomsday by Nero – Dubstep on its epicness, one great track filled with bass and what it could be a soundtrack to some movie, the bass shakes your head, simply real good with these

These will handle without any kind of problems anything you throw at them.

Conclusion

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I went into this review with the FA-003 as a point of comparison. And, from what I have learned from it, I can’t decide which one is superior, since both have pros and cons, and support different sound signatures. The FA-011 is a hit for those who are searching for an headphone with a very broad soundstage, alongside a fun sound (V shaped) that doesn’t compromise and does very well in every genre. Also they have a really solid build quality on the cups, so for the price asked, build quality is a plus.

They are extremely well suited for the genres I hear the most, giving me a more pleasing sound signature than the FA-003, but I think if there’s one thing you can take from this review is this: neither is better than the other, they just complement each other very well, since one is fairly neutral and the other just gives you the sound to relax. So if you want to get the best of both worlds, get the FA-003 and the FA-011.
Fischer managed to establish themselves in the 100-150 $ market with both these headphones, and I take my hat off to them by doing so, because they present us with quite good sets! They just might be betrayed by the limited availability of their products.

 References

Fischer Audio FA-011

Price: Around 150 $

Site: link

As known, YMMV, as these only reflect my opinion on these.

Also, any tips on how to improve my reviews are welcomed and don’t be afraid and post any doubts you may have on what concerns to the model, I will do my best to try and help you.

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One response

24 07 2012
safwan

very well written review. i own a pair of these as well and you have described them perfectly

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