Written by ngoshawk
Published 3 minutes ago
Pros – Affordable.
When driven, can provide a good sound.
Decent enough sound, when properly driven.
Cons – Plastic.
another modded T50RP
Bass can be bloaty.
Needs proper driving force behind it.
The Dekoni Blue. It won’t keep you in a blue mood…
From the first rip in Jumpsuit, you are hooked. The depth of bass on Turbo mode through the iFi iDSD micro Black Label will draw you in and throw you down. You feel the thrust of that bass rumble (not shattering like some but controlled) and know the Dekoni Blue means business. This headphone was meant to rock. Straight up business.
The Dekoni Blue and the official mod are the offshoot of the infamous Fostex T50RP, the venerable go-to mod headphone for those on a budget. The T50RP is legendary for its ability to be modified and hold its own against much more expensive headphones. To me, this would be the equivalent of the 70’s muscle car, which is modded to take on the world. I owned a pair of Fostex T40RP Mk2 for a bit of time. I liked its bass presence and performance. I will explain more as to why it has left my stable.
I thank Dekoni for running the Blue tour, and for the inclusion of the Fostex HPA4 BL headphone amp. The two are meant for each other.
Grado GH-2 Limited
Thebit Opus #2 w/ iFi Micro iDSD Black Label
Macbook Pro/Fostex HPA4 BL/ iFi Micro iDSD Black Label
Questyle QP2R solo
Frequency Range: 15-35,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 50 ohm
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 92 dB
Too bloody many to list all, but you want songs, so there you go:
Coldplay-All I Can think About Is You
Dona Onete-Sonos de Adolescente
Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
twenty one pilots-Trees
twenty one pilots-Car Radio
twenty one pilots-Heathens
Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leaders
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado
The new twenty one pilots album, Trench
The Dekoni Blue has the typical Fostex build quality. That means it is plastic but can take abuse as many Fostex headphones make their way into the DJ realm. With a sturdy, but not much padding band, it can bend a good bit so one need not worry about that aspect. Pads are held on by small pleather lips, which slide into narrow slits on the headphone itself. From my past experience with the T40RP mk2, I found that to be a pain. So after one listen with the all-velour, I switched back to the hybrid pad and left them there.
With a detachable cable that is fairly sturdy, you need not worry about it being Focal Elear constrictor-weight. With a good weight and feel, it is about right. A nice locking mechanism keeps it on, and you cannot mess that up.
The blue plastic housings are BLUE. Sky blue almost and not bad to look at. They are different than the Fostex phones, as they should be. Nothing too obtuse, or divisive. Overall a decent looking headphone, that will draw a bit of attention to itself, maybe even a query from those in the know, much the way another modifier of the Fostex brand would. Not a bad thing, really.
With no microphonics whatsoever on the cable, you need not worry about being interrupted by that annoying rub. The only qualm I have regarding the overall finish are the exposed cables coming out of the pads that go into the band. They stick out a bit too much for my comfort.
As for fit, the Blues are comfortable overall, but I did find after about an hour with glasses and an ear ring they became uncomfortable. To the point where I either had to change headphones or take a break. This was one of the main reasons I sold my T40’s, because they became uncomfortable, even with the lighter pressure than some of my other headphones. Take that as you may, since many have espoused the virtues of the Dekoni fit. I would love to try some of the Dekoni pads on my Elear for a cross comparison.
ON-2: better bass control. Deeper reach and more of it. Clearer sound-better detail retrieval. A brighter sound signature as well. Better isolation. Less fatiguing. Fit while good tend to slip. Grip pressure is about right. I had less of a problem with the ON-2, than the Blue.
Grado GH-2 limited ed: more mid forward. Less bass (open back…so). Details on par with ON-2, but less bright. A more “mature” sound, but not as warm as you would think. Vocals are sumptuous. Fit is near ideal as the GH-2 is about as light as a feather. Once music starts, forget about it, except for isolation, which is all but non-existent. I can clearly hear me pecking on the keys. Bass is solid, but no rumble. Simply put, it is there and clear. Heavy cable, which detracts from an otherwise stellar product. Plus, the cable is not detachable. Not a deal breaker to me.
Sometimes I peruse all that is written about a product before it arrives. Other times, I don’t. This would be a case of the latter, since I had experience with the T40, and had previously read extensively about the T50 mods. I will admit it was quite fascinating what some had achieved, and I liken the T50 mods to modifying a 70’s American muscle car, whether it be Mustang, Camaro, or Challenger. All have their benefits and some darn fine (and fast!!!) cars have been the result.
So, in that light I did anticipate what Dekoni had done as I heard very good things about the pads they produce as after-market for a variety of headphones. If they could do that to a headphone, then it would be a winner and compete comfortably with the other modded Fostex iterations. So, not having experience other than an ill-fated T20rp mk2 purchase I made as well as the new T40RP mk2 I purchased new, this would be a strict comparison to what I had on hand already.
Upon receiving, I checked to ensure all was there, and I understood how the critter worked with the included Fostex HPA4BL amp. I also had to dig deep for some interconnects, but that is OK in my book. Once hooked to the QP2R/xCAN combo I lit her up so to speak. Sort of. Not able to draw enough volume, I dragged the Fostex amp out and hooked it into my MBP. That was better. Providing decent power and a good sound, the combo wrought decent enough bass, and clarity, but seemed lacking. I could certainly get the volume high enough, but the sound did not impress me the way I thought.
Switching to my iFi micro iDSD Black Label afforded me more options with which to hook. Immediately (OK, after tuning to the “Turbo” mode) the sound was more vibrant, richer and fuller. Packing up the Fostex, it would remain in the box for the rest of the test. THEN, I hooked back into my QP2R for a quick listen and all was good. I checked the Shanling M3s as well, and my trusty M5 as well as the Opus #2. All was good. That said, the majority of my time was spent on the BL/MBP combo using either Tidal from my playlist or random bits of work, or Pine Player and the new twenty one pilots album, Trench. This album should immediately be brought into everyone’s queue for testing purposes. A more mature brand of TOP, there is still enough reverence for their history to know and understand this is the next logical iteration of their sound. Fabulous it is, and wrought with such variation of sound, that it alone would be worthy of use for a full-on review of any gear at hand. Good stuff.
Once the sorting was done, I noticed how the Dekoni needed a good bit of power to successfully play. This is the first set of cans, which has needed the Turbo setting on my Black Label. While I could use normal, the volume needed was such that distortion came into play if I tried to really drive the Blue. Once on Turbo though, no problem. So, find an amp with enough juice to drive them properly lest you do yourself and the Blue a disservice.
With the BL at slightly less than half volume on Turbo, the sound is deep, rich and near-vibrant. Changing between XBass+ being on or off as well as the 3D+, you could fine tune much the way one would to personalize your critter in hand. With both on, Smithereens sounded light delicate and pronounced. With Tyler’s thumping bass to fill in the sound, you could gain an appreciation for not only the new TOP sound, but for how well the Blue can scale and “adapt” outside of sheer driving rock/metal/edm mode.
Follow that with the melodious Neon Gravestones, and you begin to understand the tuning Tal & company brought forth in the Blue. The T50RP is good, very good for its price. The Blue is excellent. I thoroughly approve of all tuning aspects and find this a good bargain at the $299 price range. On sale for Black Friday at $199, ramps that up to an excellent value. Smoothing out the typical T50RP “harshness” the Blue provides a very good mellow sound, with an authoritative rumble of bass. Especially when you have a bass switch on an amp.
I did find the bass a bit overpowering and boomy, with a lack of control on some songs. When I switched the XBass+ off though, the sound came back under better control. Other times I left the switch on, even with that boomy sound just for giggles. Kind of fun, it was.
Dekoni Blue ($299) vs thinksound ON2 ($130):
The ON2 was a gem I took a flyer on, purchasing a used set. Having not heard it before, I was a bit apprehensive at the purchase. Upon arrival and a listen, that thought quickly left the state of Missouri and is currently floating above the Pacific I believe. As an on-ear, the fit is very different. Made from sustainably-harvested wood, and recycled plastic, I loved the environmental aspect of the ON2. It made sense to me, and I still do not understand why it has not gotten more attention. It is quite good.
Immediately different between the two was how the mids are presented. Mellow tuning would be the verbiage used for the Blue (another departure from the T50RP). Forward would be one way to put the ON2. Bass quantity is definitely present, and a bit better controlled than the Blue. Rumble is present, but not in the quantity of the Blue. I also think due to the mellow nature of the Blue, that detail representation is a bit better in the ON2. This really isn’t a slight against the Blue, just the way it is. That mellow-er sound draws you in, enveloping you and it is good. The almost-bright characteristic of the ON2 is fabulous, and due to its more portable nature as well as isolation would make a wonderful pair to use on the train. I really like the ON2, and for the price an absolute bargain. Two approaches, two different results, neither bad.
Dekoni Blue ($299) vs Focal Listen ($249, blowout for $129):
I will openly admit that my pair of Listen get shoved to the back of the queue too often. Purchased as a comparative tool, I do not bring them out often enough. So as luck would have it, they fit right into this review. If you have been around the planet for the last several years and within the audio world, you know of Focal. First a loudspeaker maker, then branching off into headphones, their Utopia is widely (not without criticism) thought to be one of a handful of the greatest headphones ever produced. Outrageously priced, the sound is of legend. Many purchased a pair simply because…Me? I opted for the more “affordable” option and the Elear. That purchase spurred the purchase of the Listen. In and of itself, the Listen is rather uninspiring. Not really a bass model, nor neutral; it was thought to be Focal’s attempt at drawing the Beat crowd, what with its more affordable price. Relegated now to the wireless version (mine are not), it quickly became the forgotten model. But at that blowout price…another story.
As an overear, the Listen isn’t that comfortable, or versatile. It can fold quite small for portable/commuting use, which is a benefit. Without the XBass+ or 3D+ on, the Listen becomes quite average. With both on, there is good bass, and a clear treble sound. With mids well behind the ON2, it takes a second in that realm. The Blue bests the Listen in the bass department, and other than the transparency of the Listen, pretty much beats it in all categories. Don’t get me wrong, the Listen is still worth a look at the price now, but there are better options.
Dekoni Blue ($299) vs Grado GH-2 Limited Edition ($650):
As part of a TTVJ demo tour, I was lucky enough to audition the GH-2. I liked it so much and appreciated the history behind the brand that I purchased one of Todd’s last pair. I do not regret it at all. Unfortunately, due to my “family” circumstances, using an open-back headphone is not very copacetic with the wife-unit (whom I love very, VERY much). So, other than the odd day alone or review comparison the Grado does not get much love.
The open back belies the bass, which is present. Rich, full and on par with many semi-open and closed-back headphones make the GH-2 a stellar representative of the Grado brand. My review sung of the virtues of the tune. Details galore, as well as a transparency, which allowed the history of Grado to shine through, there is a reason some follow the brand fanatically. A method that works should not be messed with. I will state that there is a bit of an odd sound regarding the mids which some may not find appealing. I like it simply because it ties the treble to it with aplomb. A bit of sparkle leads to a sound, which contradicts the open nature of the headphone. With decent enough bass, and a fit, which makes the GH-2 feel as if they are all but non-existent on your head make for a winning combo in my mind. Even with that silly Anaconda of a cable. This is a good unit but looked at for completely different reasons. I posit the comparison still holds, as some within the Fostex modded department aspire to bring the price into that range. Thankfully, Dekoni did not.
Dekoni Blue ($299) vs Focal Elear ($699ish):
Fashioned as the result of another TTVJ tour, the Elear was my second purchase into the realm of upper-end headphones, after the Grado listed above. I love my Elear and everything about it (except that silly Anaconda cable, which was consequently replaced). I quickly replaced all cables with three sets of LQi cables of the 3.5mm SE, 2.5mm bal and balanced 4-pin XLR variety. It still holds its place in my signature as favorite along with that incredible Apex Pinnacle 2 and the QP2R. Wow, just wow. That said, I believe the comparison is again valid as Dekoni strives to achieve above the level of the T50RP, and based upon all of the comparisons above, it has. Better bass quantity than the Elear it moves ahead. It cannot compete with the detail or clarity of presentation though. It really isn’t meant to, since the price is at least 2x between the two. Where there is better detail retrieval with the Elear, there is better bass in the Blue. Where there is better clarity in the Elear, there is that mesmerizing planar sound. So, you see, the Blue is quite worthy.
What leave us, thee?
So, after all of that non-sensical comparison gibberish above, what are we left with? We are left with a pretty doggone decent headphone. One in which a company took an established model and is trying their hand at raising that to the level of other modifiers. With full blessings I might add. And in that regard, the Blue is worthy of consideration should you be looking. I am one of the few who mentioned the fit issues, so it must just be my silly big head. Take that as you will, but know that if you wear glasses, it may be a compromise you make. And it would be OK in the long run, since the Blue is a pretty darn good iteration of the Fostex T50 RP mk3.
The Dekoni Blue is a wonderful sounding headphone when properly driven. It ticks all the boxes for someone who wants good bass, decent transparency, and a decently-wide soundstage. Under the tutelage of my Black Label, I could make it sing properly and that is a good thing. Well done, Tal & crew.
I thank Tal & Dekoni for sending their product out on such a lengthy tour, we greatly appreciate the opportunity to peruse the product. And as mentioned I have ended up with a couple of very fine products as a result of tours. Not a bad way to spread the wealth.