Just like I mentioned in my review of the TE-04, those and these headphones were sent to me by Fostex after reviewing their TH-900 Mk II and their TH-610. I've now spent two weeks with the TE-05, and have a fairly polished opinion of them. They sell for $150, featuring a single dynamic driver, just like the TE-04, but implementation is everything, and these use a much more standard acoustic enclosure than the aforementioned.
Fit and Form
The design that Fostex employed here is much more standard than the TE-04, as mentioned above. It's essentially the most basic form of a dynamic driver implementation: a cylindrical body, with a cavity for air expansion behind the driver, the nozzle at the front, and dual venting on the bottom, by the MMCX connector and on the nozzle. This allows them much better acoustic performance than I found in the TE-04, but we'll get to that later.
The design itself is fairly attractive, with a black anodized aluminum body, with silver ring highlights, and some apparent, but not ostentatious, Fostex branding. The cables insert at the bottom of the body, and the earphones are worn with the cable straight down. Headphones with this design generally don't agree with my ears, in terms of staying in, but these are shallow and light enough to stay in with little issue. They won't tolerate the head-shaking that the TE-04 did, but they generally stick in pretty well.
As mentioned above, the cables insert with MMCX connectors, and care is necessary in order to make sure that no pins are bent on insertion. If the MMCX connectors are put in and anything but directly orthogonal to the body of the headphone, one risks bending a pin and creating a channel imbalance in the headphones themselves. I was careful though, and never encountered this problem.
Accessories included are just slightly more scant than the TE-04, with these having the same accessory set, minus the extra cable. This felt odd to me, as the TE-05 is a higher-end offering than the TE-04, and I'd logically expect Fostex to include the same, if not a larger, set of accessories. The cable included is the same microphone/single-button controller cable as with the TE-04, and I have the same commentary - good stress relief all around, good right/left indication, and seemingly of good strength, but the propensity of the cable to kink while in storage is a little bit annoying.
The cable is slightly microphonic, but this isn't noticeable if there's music playing, even with lots of movement, thankfully. The cable terminates to an 1/8" TRRS auxiliary connector (with the "S" being used for the microphone and controller, not balanced operation). Speaking generally to the design, it's visually inoffensive, acoustically intelligent, and works well (both in form and function).
The TE-05 takes the TE-04 and removes many of its issues, while improving on other aspects. There is still a slight bass-emphasis, but the treble seems to be slightly restrained comparatively, which is a benefit. The mids retain their engaging nature, while removing some of the lushness, which allows for a more natural and realistic presentation of vocals and instruments. Overall, this sound signature is very musical and engaging, without straying so far from analytical accuracy that they become unpleasant to listen to.
The soundstage is slightly larger than that of the TE-04, making it slightly larger than average for closed-back IEMs. Additionally, the imaging is an improvement over the TE-04, which was already above-par. Panning effects, phasers, and moving parts are especially pleasant to listen to, in conjunction with good default locational positioning. These remind me, in this regard, of Periodic Audio's IEMs, which is a heavy positive in my mind. They aren't quite as crystal clear, but they also are not as expensive as PA's top-end offerings.
Just as an aside, I'm using the same playlist that I did for the TE-04, so that any comparisons I happen to make in the specific frequency range sections are based on the same listening.
Songs used: Feels by Calvin Harris feat. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry & Big Sean, Smoke Again by Chance the Rapper feat. Ab-Soul, and Show Me Love by Hundred Waters feat. Chance The Rapper, Moses Sumney & Robin Hannibal
The bass emphasis in these headphones isn't necessarily lower in volume than the TE-04, but it is much more controlled. There is less bloom and a better ability to control the attack and decay of fast transients. This range is generally very clean, with good texture and detail retrieval in the low-end. Sub-bass extension is good and offers a nice rumble sensation, so props to Fostex in that regard. Low-synths and baselines have a really pleasant tactile nature about them, and where in the TE-04 it felt as though some mid-range detail was being obscured by bass volume, that is not the case here - there is essentially no bleed into the mid-range.
Key descriptors: clean, textured, and tactile
Songs used: Fortunate Sun by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Mama's Gun by Glass Animals, and The Way You Used to Do by Queens of the Stone Age
The mids are another improvement over the TE-04. They are slightly less lush and a little bit more defined, which allows a more natural presentation. Vocals of both genders present well, as the frequency range lacks a particularly notable emphasis, to my ears. They aren't the most realistic in the world, but they do very well for the price-point. I will admit that they are still slightly recessed when compared to the bass, but this wasn't so extreme that vocals or instruments presented as far from forward. With the decreased lushness, there is an increase in detail, in conjunction with the cleaner bass. You won't catch every breath of a singer or every rattling guitar string, but they have, overall, a competent sense for clarity and detail.
Key descriptors: detailed, accurate, and natural
Songs used: Ageispolis by Aphex Twin, Grebfruit by Benny Greb, and Morphogene by Machinedrum
This is another range that is an improvement over the TE-04, and that means that I've established that trend across all frequency ranges. It is slightly less emphasized than that of the TE-04, and simultaneously less peaky. I experienced pretty much no treble-based fatigue in my listening sessions, which I appreciated, comparatively. The sound signature is, as a result, ever-so-slightly darker, but it isn't dark in general, by any means. The treble does do a good job of highlighting vocal overtones, which is an element of the natural presentation that I referenced in the "Mids" section. Similarly, cymbals are well-presented, as are electronic emulations of the same, with a good sense of poignancy and definition, without airing on strident or grating. The only detriment I found to the lowered emphasis of this range is that there is less sense of air to the sound signature, and it does feel a little bit more cloistered.
Key descriptors: poignant, defined, and airy
I feel that this review is generally reflective of how I feel about these headphones. For the $150 price, they are very competent. Their sound signature is conducive to enjoying music, without sacrificing detail, clarity, and realism. I think these are a very good example of the "musical" sound signature that I and everyone vaguely reference so frequently. The slight bass emphasis adds a sense of warmth and character to the music, without messing with any of the other frequencies. The mid-range clarity and realism allows for good fidelity in vocals and instruments. The treble, although slightly restrained for my tastes, is not offensive and adds good definition to overtones and cymbals. I feel that, at the price point, these are a very good option both for the casual listener and for those that occasionally find themselves listening more deeply to their headphones.
These headphones were provided to me by Fostex. I am not being paid by anyone to write this review, to endorse the product reviewed, or for the content that I put in the review.
These headphones were powered by an Astell&Kern AK Junior, a Google Pixel, a Neurochrome HP-1, and by whatever soundcard is in the motherboard of my computer.
I have had these headphones for about two weeks, and I have put about 20 hours of analytical listening through them during that period.