Firestone Audio is a Taiwanese audio company that specializes in electronics for headphone, earphone, and personal audio enthusiasts. The firm’s Can-Jam display highlighted the five models that will be distributed in the US by HDL: the Fireye Mini headphone amp ($39)--a miniature (roughly USB dongle-sized) headphone amp that sports a rugged rubber outer covering and whose batteries can be charged from a USB port; the Fireye HA Headphone Amp ($149)--a larger format (roughly iPod-sized) portable headphone amp with Lithium ion battery pack; the Fireye DA DAC/Headphone Amp ($199)--a roughly iPod-sized portable, USB-powered headphone amp/DAC with support for up to 24/96 resolution digital audio files; the Fireye HD Headphone Amp ($399)--a roughly iPod-sized portable, “High Definition” (hence, “HD”) headphone amp; the Bobby Headphone Amp ($999)--arguably Firestone’s most ambitious design, the Bobby is a desktop headphone amplifier with balanced (XLR-type) inputs and outputs; and the BlackKey 24/96 USB DAC ($99).
In recent years Fosgate has been best known in the high-end audio world for its impressive $2500 Fosgate Signature Tube-Powered Phonostage, but now Fosgate has directed the same sort of design insights that went in to the phonostage to create the Fosgate Signature Tube-Powered Headphone Amplifier ($1500). Aesthetically, the headphone amp takes design cues directly from the phonostage (which many regard as a lovely piece of audio sculpture), but you can also see Fosgate’s distinctive influence in the somewhat unusual user control offering the headphone amp provide.
As many enthusiasts know, Mr. Fosgate was one of the prime movers’n’shakers behind creation of the famous Dolby ProLogic surround sound circuit (as found in almost all modern home theater systems). He has evidently applied some of that same know-how in this headphone amp, which sports control settings for two levels of headphone-oriented surround sound processing (though for purists the surround circuit can of course be disengaged completely. Likewise, Fosgate has set up his amp with neutral voicing, but has provided two switch-selectable levels of low-frequency boost for those ‘phones that may need a bit of lift in the bottom octave(s).
Many people think of the Japanese firm Fostex primarily as a giant in the pro-sound world, but the fact is that the firm has had and will continue to have a very strong presence in the high-end headphone/personal audio universe as evidenced by three products highlighted at RMAF.
First up are the firm’s flagship TH-900 full-size headphones ($1999) whose exotic dynamic drivers feature motor assemblies that offer a staggering 1.5 Tesla (yep, you read that right) of magnetic flux density. To put this remark in context, bear in mind that the previous flux density record holder was Beyerdynamics’ world-class T1 Tesla headphone, which upon its inception offered a then groundbreaking 1 Tesla driver. At least one friend of Hi-Fi+ and Playback (though not a member of either magazine’s staff) has volunteered the opinion that the TH-900 may be the most linear and best-sounding dynamic driver-type headphone now on the market.