• Case: The FA-002W comes with a heavily padded, canvas-covered travel case. How sturdy is it? Let’s just put it this way: The Fischer headphones shipped in this case, with no outer box whatsoever, within a thin, plastic Russian Federation postal pouch, and made it all the way from St. Petersburg, Russia to Austin, TX without the slightest hint of damage.
• Warranty: Never let it be said that the Russians and/or Germans lack a sense of humor. On the Fischer Warranty card, the company includes a brief list of types of product failure not covered by the warranty, including these:
“…circumstances out of the control of Fischer Audio, including, with out limitation, fires, storms, earthquakes, floods, stupidity or maniacal stubbornness. Failure caused by the acts of God, fall of asteroid, Martian attacks, hungry piranhas and/or swallowing by Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts of Traal, is covered by Fischer Audio if such accident has been proven.”
Hey, you can’t make this stuff up.
One of the things I learned early on is that the “characteristic sound” of the FA-002W tends to be somewhat more amplifier-dependent than is the case with some other headphones in its price class. On paper, nothing would suggest that the Fischers are difficult to drive, though their impedance rating of the High Edition model is higher than some, but in practice they worked significantly better with some amplifiers than others, meaning it will be worth your while to spend time finding a good match. Two specific amplifier recommendations would be the Burson Audio HA-160 and HiFiMAN EF-5, both of which gave great results with the Fischer headphones.
Heard at their best, the FA-002W’s turn out to be one of the most impressive offerings in the sub-$700 price class. Here’s why. For starters, the Fischers give you everything you would expect from a fine closed-back design, such as very effective noise isolation and taut, deep, well-controlled bass. At the same time, however, the Fischer’s somehow manage to produce the sort of vibrant, transparent, and dynamically free-flowing sound that many listeners associate with today’s better open-back designs. If you’ve bought in to the myth that closed-back ‘phones invariably sound a bit compressed and overly tightly constrained, the Fischers will quickly make you change your mind, in part because their sound is remarkably open and fine-grained—especially so in light of their less-than-stratospheric price.
Highlights include terrific purity of timbres and some of the finest resolution we’ve heard from any dynamic driver-based (as opposed to planar magnetic driver-equipped) headphone in this class. These qualities are further underscored, as you might expect, by the very quiet listening backgrounds these closed-back ‘phones provide. Frequency response is very smooth, though I think some listeners might perceive the FA-002W’s overall tonal balance to be tipped just slightly to the warmer (or “darker”) end of the audio spectrum. This perception is influenced by the fact that—if you choose your amplifier carefully—the Fischer’s’ bass will be quite deeply extended and powerful, though never loose sounding or under-damped. Similarly, the headphones’ highs are, or at least can be with the right amplifier, pleasantly extended yet almost eerily smooth. Listeners who equate faint traces of treble edginess with “accurate highs” may mistake the Fischer’s’ smoothness for treble rolloff, which I think is not the case.
One point I would like to emphasize is that the FA-002W’s midrange presentation is remarkably energetic, dynamically expressive, and alive. I believe this is partly attributable to the headphone’s midrange transient speed, which is excellent, but also attributable to the apparent ease with which the headphone delivers “energy on demand” when high-powered transient sounds come along. Two good examples might be the almost volcanic eruptions of sound that occur, say, when a snare drum is struck forcefully or an electric guitar is plucked vigorously. Under such circumstances, the Fischers speak with real authority and punch, making some competitors sound almost “choked” by comparison. Some might feel, in fact, that the Fischer’s’ transient response can be—especially in the midrange—a little overwrought at times (though I find this problem arises only when using amplifiers that are inadequate to drive the FA-002W in the first place). Even so, the power and force with which midrange transients ramp up in energy can be a little unnerving at first—though I personally feel this is also a quality that helps make the Fischers consistently expressive and enjoyable over the long haul.