The next headphone up in Giki Gill’s Mass Review (see Part 1 here) is the Onkyo ES-FC300.
When I first heard the FC300 I wasn’t particularly impressed. I thought it sounded nice, but a little bit “commercial”. When I saw that Tyll over at InnerFidelity really liked it I figured I should give it another chance and I’m glad I did!
The FC300 is an impressive,subtle and sleek looking headphone, especially for its sub $200 price. (I’m not sure it’s recommended retail price, but it’s easily obtained for under $200 based on some quick searching I did for this review). Anodised aluminium cups and sturdy plastic headband and frame make for a light, but quality-feeling headphone. The specs are as follows:
- 40mm titanium drivers
- Detachable dual-entry cable (1.2m)
- Frequency response: 10 Hz – 27,000 Hz
- SPL: 97 dB / mW
- Impedance: 32 ohm
The FC300 doesn’t feel at all like a sub $200 headphone. Even though it’s design is very simple, it doesn’t look or feel cheap. The cups are well padded (as is the headband) with nice soft faux leather and were comfortable for a relatively long session as I wrote this review. Eventually, I became aware of some pressure on the top of my head and a little where the pads sat on my ears, but it was minor and something I expect I would adapt to. Not only that, but I see these as a commuting and short stint can, not an all day listener so their comfort is absolutely fine for that.
The FC300 isn’t foldable, but the cups rotate flat so the headphones could easily be slipped into a satchel style bag or backpack.
The final design item of note is the detachable dual-entry cable which makes cable replacement upgrades possible. The dual-entry design also means you could set these up to run balanced (dedicated positive and negative / earth for left and right, instead of shared earths). Of course, you might question the point of running a <$200 headphone in a balanced setup, but if it’s cheap and easy, why not?
The stock cable is really nice. It’s relatively thin, but feels like good quality and is terminated with a nice looking right-angled jack which is perfect for portable devices.
The most impressive and immediately obvious feature of the ES-FC300’s sound is its bass. You just don’t expect this quality and quantity of bass from an affordable on-ear. The bass is tight and controlled, but deep and punchy at the same time. It’s some of the nicest bass I’ve heard from a portable type headphone. Whether running from a full-sized headphone amp or from a portable player (RWAK100), the bass remains impressive. At 32 ohm and 97 dB sensitivity, the FC300s are easy enough to drive that you’ll enjoy great quality from any source including phones, iPods, etc.
Despite that mini-rave about their bass, the ES-FC300s aren’t a bass monster. Unlike the previously reviewed JVC HA-SZ2000s, the Onkyos are less about bass and more about overall musicality. The mids and treble are really nicely balanced with the bass and the overall sound is enjoyable and musical.
I wouldn’t describe these as neutral headphones, but they’re also not overly emphasised in any one area. I would describe them as dynamic with a slightly boosted bass, but not heavy colouration.
At first listen, I thought the FC300s had slightly tinny upper mids and this may be true, but I adapted to the different signature very quickly and didn’t mind it at all. I think it’s a case of it being different to my daily listen (Beyer T1s / Unique Melody Miracles) rather than them being good or bad. Now that I’m used to their sound I don’t feel like they have any significant flaws in the upper mids other than them being a little drier in that region than my other cans, but they’re not bad, just different.
My final comments on the listening experience with the FC300s has to go to their staging and imaging. Closed cans are rarely an exciting experience when it comes to staging and often sound very closed in. While the FC300s aren’t going to beat many open cans, they are extremely impressive for a closed can at their price point.
The stage is well defined and of a good size extending just beyond the ears to each side. It has fairly good depth (very good for a closed can) and a nice sense of vertical layers. I really like how it presents the image of the sound because everything is very nicely defined and not at all crowded despite the closed design.
Overall I’d say these are an exceptional sounding headphone and I’m so glad I gave them a second chance – thanks Tyll and Inner Fidelity!
- Well-balanced version of dynamic sound
- Stylish and quality-looking design
Would I Buy These?
Absolutely! I’m seriously considering grabbing a pair to share with my fiancée because I think they’re excellent value, look great, sounds great and are a nice option for fold-flat portability.
Alternatives for the Price (or Less)
At this price and with this performance it’s a hard headphone to beat, but you could try:
- Audio Technica ATH-M50
- SoundMAGIC HP100 (a tad more expensive)
- Shure SRH-840