Dell XPS15 > JDS Labs Element > FA-003ti
Packaging, Build quality, Comfort and Isolation:
Packaging is simple, the cups come in a small card box, with the type of wood written on the end, they also come with wood screws as the original ones for the plastic cups are not suitable, they come well protected and I have no problems with the packaging, as these are supplied as an accessory.
The leather pads came in a bag, not retail packaging so I cannot comment on the packaging.
Build quality, firstly I have been told this particular pair of cups are a prototype before they started making them under their sister company Kennerton. All the wooden cups are handmade and unique, the inner part of the cups is stepped and also has spikes to help absorb and reflect sound waves.
The cups are not varnished which gives them a much more natural feel and look, and they are superbly finished with only one slight blemish (to be expected for the prototype pair) right at the top of one of the cups (barely visible once installed).
These cups, being Bog Oak are very solid, but I would also take care of such a headphone, as they are a thing of beauty and wood is susceptible to scratches.
The pads are made from genuine lambskin leather and smell lovely (you cannot beat the smell of genuine leather). There are no physical blemishes on the pads, and they feel very well made and should hopefully last a long time with some care and maintenance.
Comfort wise, the wood cups add a little weight but nothing I found to be too uncomfortable for long listening sessions, the headband pad could be a little better padded for added comfort though. The pads are very spacious, my ears never touched the drivers and I found my ears could breathe better with these pads over the synthetic leather pads, compared to the velour pads, I find these compliment the sound better than the velour pads, and are just as comfortable.
Isolation is similar to stock and perfect for blocking out outside noise at home, you could use them for portable usage but the headphones are quite large and you would look a little odd, but if you want to show off your fancy wood, feel free.
Well cups and pads can make quite a big difference, but the same essential sound is still there usually. The pads on their own didn’t change the sound very much compared to the synthetic leather pads, but are a lot more comfortable.
The main difference came with the change of cups, the stock sound is incredible for the price, but doesn’t have the widest of soundstage or airiest of sound. Stock they are balanced and have good definition and detail retrieval, with the Bog Oak cups I found the soundstage to widen substantially and to have a much more open and expansive sound.
This also lead to an increase in instrument separation and air, but I did find that the lows became a little uneven during certain tracks. This is not on all tracks though, however I did find the stock cups to have more controlled lows but not as articulate, in terms of presentation, not quantity.
The lows are better separated and bass guitar is very articulate, mids are spot on and where they should be with no substantial warming from the lows, nor sibilance up top.
I find the highs to be a little more crisp and to extend slightly better.
Overall the sound is very open and well separated with good detail retrieval, they sound great with most genres but to some people they might sound a tad thin. This is very track dependent though, as some tracks have plenty of body. For a closed back headphone, these probably have the largest soundstage I have heard in a closed back design, very spacious and airy.
I would not say these are the best for sitting back and relaxing as they are quite engaging and detailed, rather than smooth and sweet.
The sound takes a little time to get used to if you are used to the stock cups, but in my opinion they are improved with the wood cups, brings them on to a new level.
The pads are also very good, soft and comfortable with no big change in sound compared to the synthetic leather pads.
Sound Perfection Rating: 9/10 (well priced handmade accessories, that bring the FA-003ti up a level in terms of detail and space)
Posted by Oscar Stewart