Okay, so Fanny Wang. Ridiculous name right? I mean who in their right mind would consider naming their company after something so…provocative? So when I found the Head-Fi thread talking about them, to put it simply, I figured it was a hoax. Especially since they seemed to look like the unholy marriage between the Beats Solos with circular cups and random weird W’s or quick and dirty “V” birds all over…or something. Apparently, they have a booth a CES, meaning that they probably mean business. I emailed the email address that the supposed Fanny Wang rep put on the site, and lo and behold, less than a week later, I get a response from Tim Hickman, the co CEO of Fanny Wang. And a week later, guess what I got in the mail! Yup, a pair of Wangs. Although, I didn’t expect them to be so…red. They’re a nice shade of red, don’t get me wrong. That is, if you so happen to be a girl (I know you girls like your Wangs am I right?). This particular shade of red won’t really work with a dude, unless you’re wearing all red when you wear them, but then you’d just look rather strange/fabulous/on fire. Now that you know what you’re actually going to read about, time to go to how they look like when you first get them!
The packaging is pretty spiffy looking. It’s a nice acrylic box with nice curved edges and lets you see half of the headphone. It’s probably one of the nicest packaging I’ve seen at this price range actually. Audio Technica ATH-AD2000 eat your heart out. When you take that nice top off, you see the headband and the other half of the headphone folded up in a plastic molding. It kind of detracts from the rest of the packaging because it’s cheap feeling plastic, but that’s not really important. I can’t really think of any other way of making that work.
I noticed that the headphone didn’t have a cable attached. Okay, time to panic. Now, the guys at Fanny couldn’t have been that dumb could they? Apparently not. I probably should be the one charged with stupidity, because I noticed there was a headphone jack on the left cup, so obviously the cable doesn’t come attached during shipping. Now, where is that cable? Using not-so-common sense, I undid the stand that the Wangs hung on, and under it, I found a nice fluffy pouch that doubles as a fingerprint cleaner (which you will need to use them as. They’re magnets to them.) and the red rubberized cable. It’s a pretty nice cable actually. No, it’s not 9N copper cable, I assume, but it’s nice and thick so probably won’t break without a fight. It also has that pretty cool headphone splitter along the cable, but more about that lately.
Now to the headphones themselves. Like I’ve said before, they’re red. And they’re glossy. Seriously? Glossy? Matte looks so much classier, although if they’re bright red, they might as well be as eye catching as possible, which is probably the goal. The plastic isn’t the nicest plastic I’ve ever felt either, but I doubt it’d snap without the help of the Hulk. The earpads are sadly pleather. They seem pretty nice though. They don’t get sweaty (keep in mind this review was written in winter time though) and they’re comfy. It’s definitely not cheap pleather that’ll just flake in a month. The headband pad is rubber. At first, I thought this was pretty strange and unfortunate for any bald people wearing this, but for us haired people, you don’t have to wait until your hair is completely dry to wear these after taking a shower, which is pretty nice, if a bit of a stretch of a reason. It’s pretty comfy to boot. The size adjuster is metal, which is the only metal part of the Wangs that I can see, and they classily have their brand name written on them. Now that that’s out of the way, I can finally get to the important part: the sound of these suckers.
When I first put them on my ears, I plugged these into a Sony A726 (a very warm player with pretty good soundstage) filled with 320kbps files and played Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Straight out of the box, I was a bit underwhelmed to be frank. They sounded pretty good, way better than I expected from a new company, but still underwhelming from an objective standpoint. They have a V-curve, no doubt, and straight out of the box it’s pretty noticeable. The intro guitar to King of Carrot Flowers had a bit too much body to sound natural, and the vocals sounded a tiny bit nasaly, and the Wandering Genie sounded pretty decent actually. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’s guitars sounded a bit too bright, the vocals lost their nasaly tone, and the flugelhorn (at least I think it’s that) sounds really off. But that may be because that’s a euphonium playing high notes (I’ve honestly never cared to notice this much before), but I digress. The Fool sounded amazingly euphoric. These headphones are probably perfect for those who just want to chill out and listen to music. Oh Comely’s vocals sounded incredibly grainy, but I’ve noticed that with every headphone I have, so I think that’s intentional.
There’s the pop/indie side to my first impression, which is usually a good indication as to how it’ll do with rock and most other genres south of classical. Now for what the Wangs are probably closer to intended to, hip hop.
I don’t particularly listen to hip hop, so the closest I’ll get to it for an informal first impression is Demon Days by the Gorillaz, which is always on my DAP for whatever reason. Kids With Guns’s bass line is pretty…bloated. Actually, bloated isn’t the correct term. It’s controlled, but slightly overpowering, if that makes sense. Vocals are a tiny bit masked by the bass and can get annoying. Feel Good Inc. yet again has a euphoric don’t-analyze-this-just-listen attribute to it with the Wangs. It’s a weird sense that I’ve never heard, and it’s pretty dang cool. The drums take a step back and become less accentuated. The bass line also takes a step back too, which shows how nicely the Wangs can control its bass. Vocals have a cool digitalized sound to them, which is probably intentional. El Mañana’s just awesome altogether, although there is a bit of smearing going on which is pretty obvious. Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head sounds a bit compressed sadly. It has a closed in sound, especially with the blowing wind in the background. It sounds realistic, to an extent, but it still sounded closed in and off. Dennis Hopper’s voice sounded authoritative and growly, and the hums sounded binaural.
That’s about it for now. I need to study for finals. I’m not continuing until after I get my N2, which should be (hopefully) 2 weeks. They have about 50 hours burn in now for anyone that wants to know, and they’ve balanced out a good bit since then. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions!
Update: Okay, so my N2 STILL hasn’t come yet, but a few notes. Did you read the first impressions? Yeah…disregard them. I don’t know what happened, probably the lack of newness, but as time went on, these sounded worse and worse…the mids are very veiled and thin, with a low treble spike, the highs are still decent. Bass has basically disappeared compared to what I heard before (probably the fact that these were the bassiest headphones I had at the time, south of the M9’s I never used, then I got the MEElectronics CC51, M31, and M21 which are much bassier than these are) But replacing the pads with ESW-10JPN clone pads remedied the spike a bit, and deep bass is somewhat audible. Either way, these are…a piece of work. My final review will come soon, but for $170, these are getting really hard to recommend. Still better than the Solos though. Barely. I really hope the Around Ears are much better.
First off, I’d like to sincerely apologize to Fanny Wang for the delay of this. HongKong Post decided to keep my DAP for an extra 3 weeks. I just got it last week, and in retrospect, I probably could have finished the review without it, but the extra power boosted the sound of these for the better.
The music that was used in this review is 256-320kbps, and the DAP used is the NaNite N2. I will be comparing them to two vintage portable headphones—the Vectorscan VSH-5 (A rarer version of the already uncommon orthodynamic Audio Technica ATH-2) and the arguably portable AKG K4, an electret/dynamic hybrid headphone. While very small, it’s a beast of a headphone to drive. They will be used purely as a testament as to how little headphone technology has progressed in the under $200 scale and just as an “in your face!” to those saying anything old sucks. Also to be featured is a comparison against the Beats Solo.
From Here to Infirmary—Alkaline Trio
Neon Bible—Arcade Fire
How It Goes—Big D and the Kids Table
Aurora Borealis—Cloud Cult
Unloved and Weeded Out—Converge
Art Official Intelligence: Bionix—De La Soul
Aim and Ignite—fun.
Would It Kill You?—Hellogoodbye
The Fame—Lady Gaga
LCD Soundsystem—LCD Soundsystem
The Dark Side of the Moon-Pink Floyd
In Absentia—Porcupine Tree
Somewhere In the Between—Streetlight Manifesto
Now that that’s out of the way, on to the review!
First off, I should probably list my sound preferences. My ideal sound is somewhat in the shape of a mesa. I like strong, forward, detailed mids, with less attention to quantity of treble and bass. I’m still picky about the sound of the lows and highs, and actually, more sensitive to those frequencies than a mid-freak would normally be. But as a band geek, I like everything to be as accurate as possible, even the frequencies that are not paramount to my listening enjoyment. But anything that is disappointing to me in the mids department is usually written off as bad to me unless they excel, and I mean excel, in either bass or treble quality. Something like the JVC DX1000 is nice in my opinion because they have downright awesome bass. Same case with the Etymotic ER4, which has pretty awesome treble in my opinion. Anyways, onto the review!
Highs: Okay, the highs in these are a bit depressing. The treble on these is definitely not its strong point. It’s laidback, yet peaky at the same time. It’s very inconsistent, to say the least. The treble is peaky—not to be confused with aggressive—in the more electric driven genres. Cymbals tend to sound veiled and damped, along with other high pitched instruments and vocals.
Mids: The mids on these are undoubtedly colored. It’s debatable whether or not it’s pleasant. The upper mids are the most colored part of the sound, resulting in a very artificial and unnatural tone. From there it starts to thin out. The middle mids are the most distant and recessed sounding of the mid frequencies. The lower mids are given a bit of warmness by the bass.
Bass: The bass on these have mellowed out since initially, and gone up and down in weight throughout the burn in process. As of now, I probably have 250 hours at the very least. Now it’s about 3-5dB north of neutral. The increase was primarily mid bass. There is very little—I daresay laughable—bass extension on these. It’s also rather smeared and lacks realism. Not terrible though.
Detail: The detail on these, as of a direct result of the veiled highs, is not too impressive. Sure, there are small nuances in music that you can hear on these that you won’t hear on the Solos, but compared to other Head-Fi favorites like the V6, it’s about even. Bear in mind the V6’s are a third of the price. The decay of instruments is a bit too quick.
Soundstage: As expected from a headphone such as the Wangs, the soundstage isn’t exactly brilliant. It’s actually rather small, even compared to what I was expecting, which wasn’t much. The sound is very claustrophobic. The drivers seem to sound like they want to sound bigger than they actually are, and as of a result, sound confused. Everything is compressed, but extended forward somehow.
This may sound a bit too harsh, but I’m better at pointing out negativities in reviews than superlatives. The general sound of these is relaxing yet fun. They’re basically chillout headphones. If you bought these expecting a reference quality headphone, I really have to question your thought process. These are called Fanny Wangs for a reason. They are not meant to be taken as seriously as an HD800 sound-wise. You should not dissect every bit of music with these. These are headphones to listen when you’re in the mood to space out and think, which appeals to the target consumers of the Wangs. The colored mids, while artificial, are admittedly fun to listen to. Sure, they’ll never take the place of any of my mid centric headphones like the DT48, Sextett, or orthos, but I wouldn’t dare take them outside where they can get damaged, since I’d have a hell of a time finding a replacement DT48, VSH-5, or RP50. The Wangs look cooler anyways and turn more heads. And these have surprisingly great PRaT (Pace, rhythm, and timing) It’s basically impossible not to rock out to these.
Now this part of the review will deal with specific genres, for those of you who are wondering if these will sound good for your genres. Again, I will mainly post negatives since I can gush about these all day long on how great their PRaT is or how fun these are, but will they really help you as a potential buyer? Not really. I’ve listed the positive attributes in the prior paragraph, so use those figures and apply them to your situation. This is probably a unique approach, but I feel as if for every superlative review, there are at least 10 unhappy buyers because the review failed to list the negatives that the buyer assumed they would not find to be too much of a problem, and the negative attributes turned out to be too much to handle. That, and I’m assuming as of now I am the only one with a detailed Fanny Wang review, so anyone will believe anything I say because, well, there’s no other information out there.
Pop: Okay, since the main target consumer base of Fanny Wang is females and “hipsters,” I’ll make a dumb generalization and use pop as the first genre to test these on. While I’m making generalizations, I might as well use one of the most polar artists of recent memory other than Biebs. Lady Gaga’s The Fame because, well, she’s in the top 10 list (..of worst artists. I kid. Sorta. I dislike using this album for my reviews, but feel it’s almost necessary for the general consumer base.) and well, everybody knows her songs, whether they’d like to admit it or not. The entire album sounds veiled throughout. The bass was punchy, and a bit uncontrolled. Vocals have a drop off in texture, and sound like they’re singing from behind a curtain. Drums decay too quickly. However, on the bright side, these seem to like synth; they present synth in a euphoric way. Now that that’s over with, the other pop album that will be used here is Hellogoodbye’s Would It Kill You? The vocals in this album are equally thin, which is very annoying. Drums are too muddled together, ukulele sounds too bright and out of tune, and any complicated passage tends to smear.
Rock: The first album I’ll be using for this rock test is Tool’s 10,000 Days. The entire album consists of mainly vocals, usually ethereal, aggressive guitars, and percussion. The vocals are presented surprisingly well, tone stayed somewhat realistic, and remained eerie. Guitars retained a good amount of crunch and aggressiveness, but were still too polite for my tastes. Percussion sounded a trifle veiled, but cymbals were never sibilant. Porcupine Tree’s In Absentia is next up. Acoustic guitar and tenor vocals are what this album features. Acoustic guitars are rendered with extra color, but it’s pleasing color. Vocals are smooth and relaxing.
Metal: I’ll start off this section with Finsterforst’s Weltenkraft. For those of you that have no idea who Finsterforst is, it’s, put simply, a combination of folk accordion playing and screaming vocals and guitar riffs. The accordion is a bit veiled sounding (no surprise there huh?) but the coloration adds a cool sense of euphoria to the sound. Same with whenever an acoustic guitar plays. The vocals are mostly incomprehensible though. Bathory’s Hammerheart is next. The Wangs seem to work pretty well with these. They still sound veiled, but it somehow works really well with the album. It’s hard to describe exactly, but trust me, it sounds pretty cool. The aggression that seems to be hidden came out in this album, and it’s incredibly fun to listen to metal on the Wangs.
Rap: De La Soul’s Art Official Intelligence: Bionix is the first album up for rap. The Wangs excel in rap, if that wasn’t obvious. The bass comes out from the shadows and shows itself in its full glory. It is impactful yet tight and doesn’t intrude on the mids. Vocals are airy sounding and rich, pretty cool. It’s a no brainer to recommend for rap as long as you don’t want XB500 amounts of bass. RJD2’s Deadringer is no worse, so the De La Soul album is no strange exception.
Indie: Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible is the first indie album to be demoed. Sadly, the vocals are hopelessly recessed, along with basically everything else other than acoustic guitars, which are still slightly veiled. A dare I say painful experience altogether. In direct contrast, fun.’s Aim and Ignite is the exact opposite sound of the Arcade Fire album, which leads to the obvious mastering problems. In which, the Wangs obviously are revealing to. Vocals are extremely prominent, to the point of being annoying. Piano and sting instruments are meh to be frank. Nothing spectacular about it. There is actually some sibilance in this album, but all of my other headphones have sibilance in this album, so no big deal.
Electronic: As with rap, the Wangs shine with electronic music. Simple as that. If you like electronic music, you’ll absolutely love the Wangs. It’s their colored sound that makes them exponentially more fun with electronic than most of my other headphones.
Fanny Wang On Ear Vs Monster Beats Solos
First thing’s first, Tim Hickman asked me specifically to compare them to Beats Solos, so that’s what I’ll do first. Now I don’t own a pair (I’m not into wasting money) but I’ve heard them so many times I know them well enough to have an informed opinion. In all honestly, the Solos aren’t garbage. They have one task—bass, not particularly detailed bass, but a lot of it, because that’s what the general public is getting into, which is sad, because that’s the easiest way to get the farthest deviation from the original recording one can get. Too much of it, and the mids get masked, which is the case with the Solos. Are they inherently crap? Not really. They have more of a purpose than the Wangs seem to have. In my opinion, the Wangs sound confused. They don’t exactly appeal to the average Beats “Ghetto blaster, big bass” types, and they aren’t exactly “audiophile” material in that they’re ruthlessly detailed and such. If anything, the Wangs aim to please those who care more about sound than your typical Beats buyer, but don’t want to sacrifice looks. And they sound the part too. They’ll never ever replace something like my Beyerdynamic DT48 in music analyzation, or even my VSH-5 for most portable situations, but honestly, I have the most fun with these than anything I own or have heard, which is a lot. (Name it, and I’ve probably heard it unless it’s a Shure headphone or extremely obscure. No, I haven’t heard a Wharfedale ID1. Anyone want to offer up a pair for me to hear?) Anyways, the Beats Solos’ basic sound signature is a drastic V shape. There is a ton of bass, mids are pretty distant and recessed, and treble is sibilant. Detail is lacking, and the soundstage is compressed, but they get too much flack. They don’t intend to impress us audio geeks, and it shows, both in sales and sound signature. The Fanny Wangs have much better mids, less bass, but it’s much more detailed and extended, which isn’t saying much, considering the bass extension of the Wangs needs a lot of work. The highs are much smoother than the Solos’, and it aids in the euphoric sound signature that the Wangs put out.
Fanny Wang Vs Vectorscan VSH-5
The Vectorscan is a strange headphone from the 70’s. It uses isodynamic technology for its drivers instead of the usual dynamic driver. The traditional isodynamic driver has a flat voice coil (as opposed to a raised one on dynamics) with magnets on both sides of the coil. Because of this, they are usually faster than dynamics in the same realm. The VSH-5 (modded) is no exception. The VSH-5 has clearer mids, and less coloration than the Wangs, at the cost of bass quantity. The bass quality, however, is a smidgen better. I managed to eek good treble out of the VSH-5, so the Wangs are beat in that too. The VSH-5 wins in soundstage and detail (duh) too. What the Wangs do win out on however, is the fluidity the headphone gives to most music that’s thrown at it. They’re also a heck of a lot easier to drive through a DAP. The VSH-5 may be one of the most sensitive isodynamic headphones, but they’re still somewhat power hungry and won’t sound their best through an iPod or whatever.
Fanny Wang Vs AKG K4
The AKG K4 is even stranger than the VSH-5. It is an electret-dynamic driver headphone. This means that there is both electret and dynamic driver technology in the headphone (duh) For those of you that have no idea what an electret is, it is a diaphragm, usually made of mylar, in between two stator coated plates and given a permanent charge. The diaphragm moves back and forth according to the stator. Wikiphonia has a great illustration of this technology under the electrostatic principle page for anyone curious. This causes an even faster sound than isodynamics. Anyways, through my DAP, which is far from ideal, because these need a good bit of power that most portable devices will struggle in. Despite this, the K4 still has stronger mids than the Wangs, but more unnatural treble, which really doesn’t surprise me, because there is a theory that the electrets driver controls the upper part of the spectrum, and without the necessary power, they won’t sound anywhere close to their best. Bass is nowhere close to the Wangs, and at this point, I’m not even completely sure why I’m comparing the Wangs to the K4. They’re silly rare (as in my pair is the only pair I’ve seen for sale in the last 2 years) and don’t compete against the Wangs directly. At any rate, the Wangs win out in this round.
So, what do I think of the Fanny Wangs? I personally think that the Wangs are a great portable headphone that does its job wonderfully. Do they compete against other headphones in its price range of $180? Technically, not really. But for outright listening pleasure, sure, they do that great! I don’t have any other headphone that makes music this fun to listen to, and it’s a guilty pleasure to listen to. They don’t have the best mids, deep bass, or extended treble, but they definitely do a great job at making them mesh together in a euphoric way, that makes them pretty hard to put down if I’m just spacing out and listening to music or want to bring a pair of headphones around that sound more fun than my IEM’s. Do I recommend them? It depends on what you want. If you intend to dissect every detail of your music, then no, stay away from these. You’ll be sorely disappointed. However, if you just want to jam out to your music with no care as to how accurate the music sounds, then by all means get the Wangs! You’ll be in for a treat. Do they beat the Beats? If you care about overall sound more than bass, yes, they do. Are they worth $180? In my opinion, no. If they were priced at around $130, then it’s an easy recommendation. At $180, they have some competition in the Sennheiser HD25, Audio Technica ESW9, Beyerdynamic T50P, and Aiaiai TMA-1. Whether they sound better to your tastes is within your discretion. The design is also something to take in consideration. Will they look great or ridiculous on you? (This is a portable headphone that is intended to be used outside, so looks pay a small factor in this) Is their “iconic design” something that tickles your fancy? At any rate, the Fanny Wangs On Ear is a great start to the company, and I can only imagine them getting better from here! So what are you waiting for? Go ahead, start thinking if these are the headphones for you!