Put all of these qualities together and you have what we regard as one of the most compelling mid-priced headphones we have heard in a long time.
Frequency Response: 11Hz – 27kHz
Sensitivity: 105dB (no reference power level specified)
Impedance: 200 Ohms
Weight: Not specified.
Warranty: One year, parts and labor.
We could probably cite dozens of examples to illustrate the sonic qualities we sketched above, but in hopes of being concise we’ll limit ourselves to just two. To hear both the subtlety and sheer power of the FA-002W on display at the same time, play “Tin Pan Alley” from Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Couldn’t Stand The Weather [Sony Legacy]. On this track Vaughan’s famous backing band Double Trouble provides percussion work that is at once subtle and delicate, yet high in impact, plus rock-solid low-frequency bass guitar support. But most of all, you’ll hear the full range of both Stevie Ray Vaughan’s voice and his famous Fender Stratocaster guitar, which has perhaps never been captured more powerfully or eloquently than on this track.
Listen carefully to the way the Fischer’s handle the sound of the drum kit, and you’ll be floored by how distinctively they present (and effortlessly they differentiate) the voices of each individual drum and cymbal. Where some headphones leave you somewhat in the dark as to how players are managing the dynamics of their instruments, the FA-002W’s show you exactly what is going on. On the bass guitar, the Fischers reveal both the instrument’s sheer depth and weight, while also showing you bassist Tommy Shannon’s deft touch and timing on the fingerboard, which means the right supporting notes always appear at precisely the right moments and with just the right level of emphasis (or de-emphasis, as the situation warrants).
But it is Stevie Ray’s Stratocaster that steals the show, in part because the Fischers are able to show how the instrument can—in the master blues man’s hands—speak with soft, almost subliminal runs of notes and trills at one moment, and then turn on a dime to fairly explode with fierce outbursts of sound in the next moment. In it’s ability to capture stark dynamic contrasts like these, the FA-002W High Edition reminds more than a little of the sound of today’s superb planar magnetic headphones, which are real champs in this area. Sure, most headphones manage to get louder when electric guitars are cranked up, but they don’t always capture the explosive rise in energy and acoustic power as immediately or as effectively as the Fischers do. Given the veritable guitarist’s “master class” that Stevie Ray Vaughan put on in this track, its almost inevitable to fall under the Fischer’s’ spell, so that even if you plan to listen to “Tin Pan Alley” for just a few minutes, you may wind up listening to it from end to end, simply because the sound is addictive and compelling.
Next, let me reference another audiophile favorite that showcases many of the FA-002W’s strengths:
namely, the jazz standard “Bye Bye Blackbird” from Patricia Barber’s Nightclub[Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, SACD]. This is a track that, admittedly, tends to sound very good on most headphones, but what the Fischer’s made be realize all over again is how very intimate and realistic the MFSL/SACD version of this record really is. Literally everything about this recording is not merely good (or even very good), but downright great—as the FA-002W helps you realize. If you listen carefully, which the Fischers certainly invite you to do, you’ll hear distinct variations in touch as Barber’s fingers work across the piano keyboard, subtle variations in finger pressure, attack, and release as Marc Johnson works his magic over the fingerboard of his acoustic bass, and the sure, deft, precise and yet expressive feel that percussionist Adam Nussbaum supplies as he crafts the rhythms that drive the song forward. My point, here, is that you don’t just hear instruments at play, per se, but rather hear the ultra-subtle sonic cues that let you know these performers are listening intently to one another and responding accordingly—together creating a group sound that is greater than the sum of its parts. It takes a very fine headphone to let you hear this kind of group expression, craftsmanship and communication, and it is one of the things separates truly fine headphones from merely good ones.
Most of all, though, listen to the way the Fischers capture the intricacies of phrasing, articulation, enunciation, and tone that Barber brings to her vocal lines in this song. Like many writers, I suppose, I’ve sometimes used the words “smoky” or “sultry” to describe Barber’s voice, but the Fischer’s invite you to make finer distinctions than that—revealing delicate shades of tonality that show why, where, and how Barber shapes her vocals to convey those qualities of “smokiness” or “sultriness.” All of this is perhaps a roundabout way of saying that the Fischer ‘phones have sufficient resolving power and finesse to take you deep within the innermost recesses of recordings to see what really makes the music tick.
Consider this headphone if:
you want a mid-priced, high performance, closed-back headphone that combines the best sonic elements of both closed-back and open-back designs. Consider this headphone if you like the idea of a headphone that is for the most part accurate, yet never sterile-sounding or overly tightly constrained. This headphone offers extremely good resolution and fine-grained sound for the money, and is—or with the right amp can be—extremely dynamically expressive. In short, one of the best mid-priced high-end ‘phones we’ve heard in a long time.
Look further if:
you want a relatively light headphone; the FA-002W is comfortable, but a little too hefty for some tastes. Also look further if you aren’t prepared to match this headphone with an amp that can do it justice (the FA-002W tends to sound a bit thin, edgy and somewhat midrange-forward when driven by inadequate amps). Finally, look elsewhere if you prefer to stick with familiar and time-tested brands; Fischer is a comparatively “new kid on the block,” though one we think you’ll want to know better.
Ratings (relative to comparably priced headphones):
Tonal Balance: 9.5 (somewhat amplifier dependent)
Sensitivity: 9.5 (but even so, the FA-002W is amplifier sensitive)
Noise Isolation: 9.5
Value: 9.5-10 (though only time will tell if Fischer products deliver the kind of unit-to-unit consistency and quality that are expected in this class)
The Fischer FA-002W is a wonderful debut product, and one that has immediately become one of our favorite dynamic driver-equipped designs in this price class. We hadn’t received the FA-002W at the time we prepared Playback’s recent Editors’ Choice listings for headphones, but if we had it would certainly have won a place on our “Headphones Priced Between $250-$699” list. They’re that good.
Read original version at AV Guide