Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars
In box tuning options actually impact sound
Reasonably comfortable for longer sessions
Works well across variety of music and movie genres
Great platform for additional modding/tweaks
Single-ended, balanced would add more portable options
Fit/pads may not work for some
Not optimal for gaming
Good for those wanting a reasonable entry into planar technology or to dabble in headphone modding on a highly supported platform. Small niggles in design, amping and sound preventing a perfect score.
My T-X0ii came in a plain white box with the only exterior markings being the serial number but this a review unit. I've seen the production packaging and it looks to be a fairly standard box with graphic + specs affair. No presentation box or storage pouches are included but that's not out of the norm at this price point. A generic 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter is included but I do prefer the Sennheiser style adapter with a bit of cabling to relieve pressure on the jack. My only issue was a slight blemish on the left cup where the screw in the comfort strap rubbed the cup during transit. The production packaging may wholly alleviate this concern. Two sets of pads, an angled protein leather and "flat" hybrid, are included. Drop also includes two sets of foam tuning disks that slot in between the pads and the drivers. My pair came with the angled pads + denser foam discs installed. The cable appears to be a pretty standard SE cable with the locking Fostex T series connector on the headphone side and 3.5mm TRS connector.
I've been tossing them in my bag and hauling them between work and home for the last couple weeks, no issues thus far. The T50rp has been an industry workhorse for years, I don't have any concerns over the general durability.
Hybrid pads are the more comfortable of the two pairs. It offers additional space between the drivers and your ears as well better foam padding. Angled pads work well for me but may be a tad small for those with larger ears. Overall the comfort is pretty solid, I've been able to wear these for 3-6 hours without any comfort issues(no time for a marathon session yet). I do feel the headband strap could be softer as it doesn't quite conform to my head contour as much as I would like. They also have a tendency to slide a bit when leaning forward, not a big issue but worth mentioning.
I'm not one for "flashy" headphones and the matte black colorway suits me just fine. The lack of the stock t50's orange accents and white lettering is a welcome change. The only branding on these is on the interior strap, Drop appears on left side with Fostex T-X0 II on the right.
My coworkers had no complaints at my normal listening volume and some noise blocking is present. If you are looking for complete isolation, these are not the cans you are looking for.
In the Box Tuning Options
The default tuning of denser foam + PL angled pads was enjoyable straight from the box. The soundstage and imaging were what I anticipated for a semi-closed planar. The bass was decently extended if a little light on impact. The bass tightened up a bit over the next couple of days and the mid-range came a bit more forward which was an initial complaint straight out of the box. No major changes were noticed after 10 hours or so.
I next switched to the same pads but lighter foam. This was more like what I was looking for, the bass came down a shade, firmed up even more and the whole frequency response sounded more linear. I then took the foam out all together and listened for about 30 minutes, yeah this wasn't really enjoyable but it certainly illustrated what difference a bit of foam in the right place can make.
Now on to the hybrid pads with lighter foam (since it was preferable to me on the PL pads). This combination was pretty enjoyable, guitars had more bite, the bass went up a notch but lost some of its clarity/impact. Then I started to listen to some vocal tracks and the sibilance smacked me hard. I'm not overly sensitive to sibilance but I hit enough problem tracks to scratch this one off as a possible favorite.
Next up I swapped in the denser foam with the hybrid pads. This combination seemed less sibilant but the bass was also the greatest quantity of any pairing. It wasn't the tightest bass either. I could see this option being a bit polarizing. Those who like it's specific W sound profile could get a lot of enjoyment out of this pairing and certain tracks. I tend to value impact and control in the bass over quantity. The sibilance region was still a bit hot for me so I settled in to the PL + lighter foam for the remainder of my review period.
Sound Impressions (PL + LF unless noted)
These have a bass peak at 60ish Hz that adds emphasis but strays from bleeding into the lower mids. The bass to mid transition is pretty linear considering the amplitude of the peak. The impact and transients are well done, especially when paired with the iHA-6 on high current mode. I am a bit of an extension junky and these roll off a shade sooner than I would like (most headphones do for me). It's a minor quibble and these respond quite well to an extra db or two in the lower sub bass. The bass tuning works well with a variety of material and should satisfy most listeners. These run the north of neutral in the bass region, especially with some of the tuning options available.
Generally speaking I found the midrange response to work well with most genres and recordings. It's not perfectly linear and as such some tracks sound a little more forward/recessed than they should. It's never overdone or grating and more tracks sound accurate than not. The resolution and clarity in the vocal range is quite respectable at this price point. I enjoy a variety of genres and all work well with the angled/lighter foam combination. Acoustic strings have nice texture and instrument separation is above par. Vocals are a strength for the planar headphones I've tested, including this one.
I don't have much love nor hate for the treble on these. It's a touch hot in 4-8kHz for my tastes with the hybrid pads. I have no such issue on the PL pads but they do roll-off fairly quickly after a peak around 10khz. I would like a touch more extension/linearity but overall it gets the job done.
Response to EQ
I'm not a big proponent of EQ but I'm also not against it. I tend to use it sparingly to adjust peaks or roll-off. Most of my time was spent sans EQ but when I did adjust it in JRiver I added +2db at 35Hz and cut 4-8kHz by 2db. This yielded some improvement but I would need more time to settle on the adjustments. If EQ is your thing these should respond just fine.
I've never found a planar with an especially large soundstage. I do feel they generally excel at soundstage depth, imaging and a three-dimensional presentation. With my preferred combination (angled pads + light density foam) the presentation is very cohesive with good height/depth and decent width for a semi-closed design. The hybrid pads expand the soundstage width but it develops gaps/creates clusters in the instrument placement. The cohesive "wall of sound" of presentation of the PL pads is my preference. The Lyr brought out the best of the soundstage and 3-dimensionality, but these tubes tend to have that effect on other cans as well.
I don't have much in-house competition to this style and price of headphone. I briefly compared it to my Audeze Sine as that gets duty at work, a use which the T-X0ii also fits. The Audeze was a more forward presentation with a more linear response from the bass through the lower treble. The soundstage was smaller and not quite as deep on the Audeze. Comfort was easily in favor of the Fostex. Fostex has a slight lead in perceived bass extension and a greater bass presence, the Audeze does present more control in the region. The Sine was more classic reference aimed while the Fostex added a bit more flavor/fun to the source. The Fostex will continue to see work duty due to comfort and balance of ambient awareness/isolation.
Very briefly compared the T-X0ii to my HD650 as they now fall in a similar price class on Drop. Better bass extension and more forward presentation on the Fostex. I prefer the imaging/instrument separation on the Fostex but there is still something special to the Sennheiser classic. Pop, EDM, Hip-Hop/Rap go Fostex, Acoustic, Orchestral, Jazz go Sennheiser. Rock could go either/both ways depending on your specific tastes.
These are not going to work well with many portable sources, planars like as much current as you can throw at them. Having said that I did spend the first several hours of my time with the T-X0ii using my V20 as a source. The T-X0ii didn't trigger high impedance mode so I was missing out on the 2V output (yes you can trick this option but portable really isn't the niche for these). Bass lacked impact and I had to run them at near max output. Like the Sine, this headphone isn't an ideal pairing for the V20.
After my phone I decided to test the HP out of my Marantz receiver as another budget option for these. While this had sufficient power I found it to be a bit bass emphasized and warmer than I like. Receivers aren't a bad option for planar/ortho headphones as they can typically deliver decent current and the almost universally high OI doesn't matter for this driver type.
I next tried the Fostex on my Lyr + Marantz as source and really liked what it did to the soundstage. These tubes have a nice bottom end but it isn't the tightest and didn't help the soft bass presentation with dense foams. More than enough power, better bass impact/control than either previous combos, still not tight enough for me but I didn't circle back after settling on the PL+lighter foam combo.
Last up was the Cayin iHA-6 with Marantz/TEAC as sources. The Cayin was ran in high current mode which lowers the overall wattage output while "enhancing current delivery". Whatever they are doing with that button it does squat for 9/10 of my headphones. The exceptions being all three planars sound fuller and the Elex sounds thinner (other dynamics show no change). This is by far my preferred amp for the T-X0ii but we aren't talking a proportional increase in performance over my work chain of Dragonfly 1.2 to Massdrop O2 (Original ver.). Any headphone amp of roughly 1 watt into 32 ohms should do just fine. If these were balanced (I may get them converted) I could tap into the 5 watt, high current mode on the Cayin and compare further. I also think balanced would take advantage of the more powerful 2.5/4.4 outputs on modern portables.
An amp is needed for these, Mobo and phone users be warned.
I've spent most of my time playing with the default options but fully plan to explore additional pads and tweaks as I go. I see some blu-tack in my near future. A certain mod purveyor offers a balanced option for these headphones as well as a reduced price for their tuning conversion due to the TX-0 already including the comfort strap. If you don't feel comfortable modding these yourself there are definitely reasonable sources for additional tweaking beyond the in-box options.
I think the T-X0ii represents a solid value for someone looking to get into planar magnetic headphones and has a need for some isolation/noise blocking. It is also a good match for those looking to get into modding or having a pair modified. The T50 has been a staple of the headphone modding community for many years. As someone who seriously considered various pairs/iterations of Mr. Speakers Mad Dog modified T50's I'm glad I finally got the chance to audition a modified T50 in my own system. The included mods will accommodate a greater variation of sound preferences and are a nice introduction to the effects mods can have. I have not listened to the first iteration of this collaboration but based on my time with the current release and what I do know about the reception of the previous gen, it should be a notable improvement.
The T-X0ii was provided free of charge for the purpose of this review.
LG V20, Marantz SR6012 Receiver, TEAC UD-501, Dragonfly 1.2
Lyr w/Phillips MiniWatt SQ tubes, Cayin iHA-6, Massdrop O2 (Orig. Version)
Tidal HiFi & Master up to 96kHz, Spotify, various lossy, lossless and hi-res formats via JRiver