Audio

Classy headphones for the serious listener

The wooden earcups let the headphones present a richer, more natural sound.
The wooden earcups let the headphones present a richer, more natural sound.

The Tago Studio T3-01 is a pair of prosumer reference headphones with serious consumer appeal despite its relatively high price.

Dressed in a classy wooden finish, they were designed for professional monitoring use by Japanese producer Kunio Tago, who has worked with the likes of J-pop star Ayumi Hamasaki and Japanese idol girl group AKB48.

Mr Tago had produced the T3-01 for use in his studio. It was only recently that he started producing them for consumer sale, as they were popular in the studio.

Like most professional-grade reference headphones, which tend to be pricier, the T3-01 retails at $835, putting them squarely in audiophile territory.

The over-ear headphones are exceedingly comfortable, with plush soft velour earpads and a mesh wire headband that lets them breathe in the Singapore heat.

The wooden earcups, combined with the metal construction, give them a charming mid-century modern look. But wood has distinct audio qualities as well, aesthetics aside.

Wooden headphones can sound quite different, depending on the type of wood used to make them.

  • SPECS 

    PRICE: $835

    DRIVER DIAMETER: 40mm

    FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 5Hz to 40kHz

    WEIGHT: 321g

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 5/5

Musicians such as guitar players, for instance, like to espouse the different qualities of various types of wood, from the warm, punchy tones of mahogany to the rich, full tones of rosewood.

The T3-01 is crafted with wood from the Japanese maple tree, which Mr Tago said was chosen for its smooth, natural sound quality.

Maple lends itself well to a sonically transparent sound signature, which fits the precision required in a pair of reference headphones.

The wooden earcups let the headphones present a richer, more natural sound with a balanced and neutral sound signature.

So skip this pair of headphones if you are a basshead looking for deep, rumbling lows. The T3-01 does not boost the lower ends and generally favours sparkling highs and brighter tones.

It is precise without being analytical, and sufficiently bright without the risk of fatigue. It has quite the wide frequency response from 5Hz to 40kHz, making it perfect for high-resolution audio.

The soundstage does not stretch as wide as on a pair of open-back headphones, but is not too cramped or claustrophobic either.

The T3-01 really shines when paired with female vocalists - possibly influenced by Mr Tago's work with Japanese female artistes. The headphones draw out the higher treble registers in most female vocals with detailed clarity.

It was fitting to sample a few J-pop tracks with the T3-01. AKB48's saccharine pop anthem, Sugar Rush, which appeared in the 2012 movie Wreck-It-Ralph, sparkled with natural warmth and energy, with all layers of the pop mix coming through nice and clear.

With that said, the T3-01 is also versatile enough to showcase the gamut of classical, jazz and classic rock music. I enjoyed playing back rock classic Sweet Child O' Mine by Guns N' Roses, which was presented with satisfying timbre and electrifying detail.

•Verdict: The T3-01 will endear itself to listeners who want a balanced, neutral sound for songs to sound as they were produced.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2018, with the headline 'Classy headphones for the serious listener'. Print Edition | Subscribe