Fostex TH808 Headphone – Classic Performance

Our good friends at Dekoni Audio sent me a Fostex TH808 Headphone to review because they are just that cool and would like to promote the hobby. For people of my generation, Fostex was known as a speaker driver manufacturer and still remains a big player in that field, though they actually made the world’s first planar magnetic headphone back in 1974. For today’s Personal Audio community, they are probably known mostly for being the small Japanese headphone manufacturer who was the inspiration behind many of the top American headphone manufacturers of today. Both Dan Clark Audio and ZMF Headphones started by building mods of Fostex headphones, and the Dekoni Audio Blue Headphone is a joint project between Fostex and Dekoni Audio.

Interestingly enough, Fostex builds exemplary and cost-effective headphones of both planar and dynamic design. The TH808 is a dynamic headphone utilizing a proprietary 50mm “BIODYNA” Diaphragm dynamic driver with Neodymium Magnets boasting a 1.5 Tesla magnetic power, the same driver used in the Fostex TH900 series. (the “BIODYNA” diaphragm is made using a Bio-cellulose fiber featuring low specific gravity, high Young’s modulus, and high internal loss at the same time to achieve 2 times high propagation velocity and 5 times high rigidity versus a conventional plastic film-based driver unit.)

The Fostex TH808 Headphone

Here is a quick list of the Fostex TH808 Headphone features:

  • Equipped with in-house crafted driver units from the TH900 series.
    The proprietary in-house driver unit, crafted from technologies honed over numerous years, blends bio-cellulose fiber with various other materials on the diaphragm. This meticulous combination, under optimal conditions, results in a diaphragm with low specific gravity, high Young’s modulus, and superior internal loss. Utilizing a repulsive magnetic circuit with neodymium magnets, the 1.5 Tesla ultra-strong magnetic circuit delivers exceptional responsiveness and an expansive dynamic range across all frequencies. This design enables the reproduction of exquisite mid-high frequencies with detailed resolution, while also faithfully capturing the rich low mid-range with significant amplitude.
  • Ingenious open housings made of solid black walnut and aluminum
    The housings, crafted from premium solid black walnut, showcase a distinctive design. Its open aperture, coupled with a dual arrangement of etched aluminum components,
    offers varying impressions depending on the light and viewing angle. The carefully calibrated aperture ratio and precise fine-tuning of each internal component, enhanced by the resonance of the solid black walnut wood, result in a natural sound field that offers a comfortable and fatigue-free listening experience.
  • TH808 original high-purity OFC unbalanced cable included
    It comes with TH808’s exclusive high-purity OFC (Oxygen Free Copper) unbalanced cable, free from impurities, ensuring optimal transmission performance.
  • Detachable connector port and 7N grade cable for internal wiring
    The removable connector on the headphone body, as well as the detachable connector terminal, are both rhodium-plated to enhance hardness, abrasion resistance, and corrosion resistance, ultimately boosting their reliability.
  • Ear pads with low-resilience cushions

In appearance, the Fostex TH808 Headphones are simple elegance with their matte finished black walnut ear cups with black mesh inserts and their sturdy synthetic leather wrapped dual metal bar gimbaled headband. The ear pads are wedge shaped to create a deeper soundstage and the detachable cable is cloth wrapped.

Living with the Fostex TH808 Headphone

Not knowing the history of the particular pair of Fostex TH808 Headphones I was sent (I don’t believe they were brand new, but didn’t know how many hours were on them) I went ahead and did my customary 100 hours of burn-in as I was in the process of doing my AXPONA show report anyway. After that, I did a little random Qobuz background listening just to get a feel for the sound of the headphone using the HIFIMAN EF 600 R2R DAC/Headphone Amplifier.

I found the headband adjustment to be uncommonly easy, yet they stayed secure in the chosen setting.  The seal was solid but not uncomfortably tight, and the headphone was not easily dislodged with head movement.

The sound was pleasantly warm with a large soundstage and a slight live performance feel. I first noted this live characteristic listening to “Ballerina Radio” by Kings Of Leon (“Can We Please Have Fun” – 24-bit/48kHz – Qobuz) but verified with a quick listen to other albums. I’m not talking about that brittle brightness often associated with live music, but something in the soundstage and the blending of the instruments, there was a sense of distance. As one would expect with a dynamic headphone, the dynamics were excellent and the bass was full and rich, the top-end mellow.

Wadada Leo Smith and Amina Claudine Myers’ “Central Park’s Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens” (16-bit/44.1khz – Qobuz) was served up spectacularly by the TH808. The opening piano refrains of “Conservatory Gardens” were robust and weighty in a massive hall and the trumpet was dynamic and throaty without a hint of harshness.

While I am not a particular fan of Hip Hop, I couldn’t pass up an artist named Dälek. “Images of .44 Casings” from his 1998 release “Negro Necro Nekros” (24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz) was well represented played through the TH808, pulsating and clear, bass heads will not be disappointed by the TH808’s performance.

The TH808’s ability to bring justice to the club sound was further evidenced by listening to “Silver Thread Golden Needle” (A. G. Cook – “Britpop” – 24-bit/44.1kHz – Qobuz).

Before moving on to my reference system, I wanted to sample a little orchestral music so I picked “Violin Concerto No.1 in E Major “Spring”, RV 269:I. Allegro (with Sonnet)” as performed by Jordi Savall, Alfia Bakieva, and Les Musiciennes du Concert des Nations (“Vivaldi: The Four Seasons” – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz). That sense of space exhibited by all the previous tracks remained, especially during the spoken word segments, while the tonal balance and timbre of instruments seemed spot on.

Launching my reference system consisting of my LSA VT-70 Tube Integrated AmpAudio-gd R2R-1 DACBlack Dragon CablesCore Power Technologies A/V Equi=Core 1000, and Vera-Fi Audio VBH-1 (Vibration Black Hole) isolation feet, I plugged in the TH808 and cued up my usual sub-bass track “Can-utility And The Coastliners” (Genesis – “Foxtrot” – DSD) to test tonal balance. There is a note bend in the sub-sonic region that only the best headphones can reproduce and the Fostex passed with flying colors. In fact, the tonal balance was much better than expected, from Peter’s voice to the triangle hidden in the background that came through clearly. One thing that has always made this track enjoyable is the extreme dynamic range of the piece going from a quiet intimate vocal opening to a cacophony crescendo finish, and the TH808 delivered it all.

To draw from the opposite side of the spectrum I chose “The Look of Love” (24-bit/192kHz) as performed by Dusty Springfield and Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass for Burt Bachrach’s “Casino Royale” soundtrack. Dusty’s voice was sweet and compelling, the upright bass and piano natural, the horns smooth and musical, and the transition from band to orchestra came across as being a piece with the rest of the song rather than something tagged on as it often does.

As a final test I picked Muddy Waters’ “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had” (“Folk Singer” – DSD) and that slightly live feel served the TH808 once again, making it sound as if you were in a large auditorium listening to Muddy in front of you.

Conclusions on the Fostex TH808 Headphone

Having reviewed Fostex headphones in the past what I was expecting was a competent if generic Japanese headphone that offered excellent sound for the money and housed the bones for a great headphone with a little modification. What I got was a great headphone, warm and musical, accurate and dynamic, with a huge soundstage, something to give the boutique headphones a run for their money.

The Fostex TH808 Headphone is attractive, comfortable, easy to drive, and extremely well constructed. I will note that the proprietary connectors might limit access to after-market cables (Cardas offers one), but a great deal of thought appears to have gone into the cable provided.

An all-arounder, the TH808 seems to work well with all genres of music, providing copious levels of bass when required but not coming off boomy or dark when playing more delicate music. For those who want a raw edge to their sound, the TH808 falls out more on the forgiving side providing clarity but not glare. I will say that the Fostex scaled up nicely and is very tube friendly, though not as resolute as some of the better planar designs, it is one of the better dynamic headphones I have heard. I am happy to give the Fostex TH808 a full recommendation to anyone shopping in its price range.

Price: $1,299.99

Manufacturers Website:  

Dekoni Audio:


Type: Open-back Dynamic
Driver: Φ50mm Neodymium Magnet / BIODYNA Diaphragm
Impedance: 25 ohm
Sensitivity: 100dB/mW
Max Input: 1,800mW Freq. response: 5 – 45,000 Hz
Weight: Approx.370g (excluding cable)
Cable: 3m Y-type 2-pin (detachable connector rhodium plated)
Detachable terminal: 2-pin (rhodium-plated on the gold-plated base)
Plug: Φ 6.3mm gold-plated stereo standard plug
Accessories: Leather pouch, Owner’s Manual

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Gary Alan Barker

Gary Alan Barker is a writer who has been a member of the Audio Industry since 1978, having acted as technical writer for several high-end audio companies, and been an electronics hobbyist since 1960. He has also been a musician and writer since the mid 1960s.


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