Fischer Audio is a relatively new European headphone manufacturer whose performance aspirations are high, but whose products are not yet well known in the U.S. Judging by the sample of the firm’s flagship Master-Series FA-002W High Edition headphone ($395) reviewed here, however, Fischer is a name that headphone enthusiasts will want to get to know, and for all the right reasons. But first, some background is in order.
The Fischer Audio web site (www.fischeraudio.com) says only that the firm “was born when the expertise of four professionals decided to join forces.” As best we can tell, at least one of those professionals was German, as the official name of the firm is—in traditional German style—Fischer Audio, GmbH. However, it is also apparent that the firm has roots (and, it would seem, manufacturing headquarters) in Russia, since our review sample ‘phones shipped from an office in St. Petersburg in the Russian Federation. Accordingly, documentation for the FA-002W headphones came printed in Russian (complete with the obligator Cyrillic alphabet) and in English.
As you might expect, you can see both German and Russian influences in the FA-002W ‘phones, which offer both a clear, precise sound and a certain fineness of fit and finish that reminded me of upper-tier designs from German firms such as Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser, yet also exude wonderfully Russian qualities of soulfulness and strength. Indeed, the overall vibe of the Fischers reminded me of some of the rugged yet elegant and sophisticated Russian submariner’s wristwatches I’ve admired in the past. When you first lift the FA-002W’s from their padded travel case, then, you can’t help but feel that you’re holding headphones of substance whose beauty runs more than skin deep (there is nothing flimsy or cheaply-built in this product).
The FA-002W is a closed-back headphone whose ear cups are precisely machined from exotic hardwoods (several options are available) and that offers high sensitivity (105dB) and presents--in the special High Edition model--a medium-to-high impedance load (200 Ohms). Fischer also offers a lower impedance version of the FA-002W plus an open-back version called the FA-002, but for now we will focus on the closed-back High Edition model. As you’ll see in a moment, the FA-002W High Edition makes an impressive entry in this keenly contested market segment.
• Closed-back design: The FA-002W is a closed-back design featuring precisely machined hardwood ear cups. According to Fischer 23 different wood options are possible, many of which will be offered in the USA, including Rosewood, Zebrawood, Snakewood, Bubinga, Karelian Birch, Paduk, and more. Our samples came in a lovely dark red hardwood called Amaranth.
• Headband/Frame: The adjustable headband of the FA-002W features what appears to be a beefy spring-steel top strap that fastens via robust mounting brackets to articulated, molded thermoplastic ear cup “arms,” which are finished in gloss metallic gray. The only potential drawback I could see was these arms allow the ear cups to swivel vertically, but not from side-to-side. As mentioned above, the headphone looks and feels sturdy and very well built, as if meant to stand up to years of use.
• Leather Padding in All the Right Places: The top strap of the FA-002W features a nicely made leather pad whose inner surface features a fabric liner that gently caresses the top of your head. The ear cups, in turn, feature soft, thick, leather-covered ear pads that are extremely comfortable to wear and that achieve a much better than usual degree of isolation from external noises. The only price to pay for this sense of isolation, however, is that clamping pressures with this headphone are higher than many others in its class—though not to a degree that I personally found at all uncomfortable. So, let’s simply say the fit is “snug.” Our review samples came with an alternative set of fabric-covered ear pads, recognizing that some prefer the feel of fabric to leather.
• Signal cables/connectors: Fischer provides a detachable, 3.5-meter “Y-shaped signal cable. The cable features a gold-plated 3.5mm plug and a threaded ¼-inch phone plug adapter, also gold-plated.