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Fischer audio has recently gained prominence with an extensive range of headphones and IEMs that offer a good mix of sound quality, affordability and idiosyncratic styling. The Oldskool 33 1/3 continues that Fischer tradition, particularly with respect to its aesthetics.

Fischer is ostensibly a German brand, but it appears to originate from Russia, which isn’t particularly known for manufacturing audiophile quality headphones. Whilst this does not detract from the overall listening experience, but I’ve noted certain niggling QC issues in some of the products I’ve owned or tested. Some of these issues are significant enough to be deal-breakers, and Fischer will do well to heed user feedback if it wants to improve its present stable of offerings.

Accesssories and Build

The Oldskool 33 1/3 comes in a rough wooden box – sanded, but otherwise unfinished. The Fischer Oldskool33 1/3 logo is lightly burn-etched into the cover, which is secured with a simple cheapy brass latch. At this point, I must note that Fischer do have some very nice branding and graphics, and special mention must be made of the quality of the artwork, typefaces and logo design for all the Fischer headphones I’ve used or tried. They definitely have some good designers working for them. The Oldskool 33 1/3 certainly typifies that attention to branding and quality graphics – a pity that this attention to detail and quality doesn’t seem to be applied consistently.

The inside of the box is sponge-lined, and the headphones come only with an extension cord, possibly for home audio setups. Oddly, no 3.5mm – 1/4″ plug converter is provided. Apparently some versions come with a portable ballistic nylon case, but my review unit did not come with such a carrying case.

The headphones themselves are lightweight and feel decently built, although the plasticky construction does make the headphones feel a bit cheap. The headband appears to be made of plastic, but closer inspection reveals a sturdy metal frame underneath providing structural reinforcement and shape. A thin cushioned pleather strip rounds off the top of the headband, allowing the already very comfortable headpones an added layer of comfort. That said, the headband is a bit short, and even at full extension, the headphones just barely reach my ears. I’m no giant, mind you, and I anticipate that this short headband will be a massive deal-breaker, particularly for the larger-headed segments of the music-listening market.

The driver housing is shelled with a dark-stained wood of unknown species, and topped off with an etching of the same lovely Fischer 33 1/3 logo that adorns the box. The earcups are covered with fluffy pleather cushions, making these one of the most comfortable portable headphones I’ve tried to date. That said, the driver enclosures are supra-aural, sitting directly on but not encircling the ears. The cable is thin, but sturdy, and most importantly isn’t microphonic in any way. The standard cable is long enough for most applications, but as mentioned an extension cable is provided for folks who need it. Strain relief is adequate, but they do feel a tad flimsy, although that’s pretty much par for the course where portable headphones or earphones are concerned, at least in my experience.

Short headband aside, the headphones are quite comfortable – for a supra-aural headphone. They do clamp with some force, but its not noticeably hard. At least not til the 2nd or 3rd hour of listening. The soft earpads help reduce the clamping force, but my ears do feel a bit sore after a few hours of listening.

Sound Quality

Right off the bat, I’ll say that these headphones sound way, way bigger than they appear. Soundstage is wider than average for a closed supra-aural headphone, although definitely not as wide as open-back headphones. Still, presentation is nice and wide, stereo seperation is distinct and offers a nice dimensionality to the music.

Bass is delightfully deep, punchy and well defined. I’m definitely an avowed basshead – to me, the low end gives defintion to music, and I tend to shy away from bass-light headphones. The Oldskool 33 1/3 deliver enough bass to keep any low end fanatic happy.

Mids are slightly scooped, but they are present. Fuzz guitars are delightfully abrasive and rich in harmonic content, vocals stand out nicely in cluttered mixes.

Treble can be very brittle at times. Brighter mixes can be almost painful to listen to. I detect a hint of high-mid frequency distortion, particularly with rock guitar parts, high transients like cymbals and tambourines. This signature is similar to what I heard with the ES7 a few years back. I wouldn’t say that these headphones are harsh, but they can come close to being harsh. That said, this is not a bright headphone. Compared to my Focusrite HP60s, the 33 1/3 definitely weighs in on the warmer end of the scale.

Ultimately though, these headphones sound fabulous. The Oldskool 33 1/3’s rich, deep reproduction keeps drawing me back to listen to these again and again, despite its various flaws.

The Catch

At 164 ohms of impedance, these headphones are definitely not easy to drive. They can be driven by your average DAP output, but definitely sound better when amped. Supra-aural fit and poor isolation make this a poor portable for listening on the go. Once again, these do sound a tad harsh, especially with music that’s mixed a bit brighter than average. The 33 1/3 doesn’t fold down neatly either – driver housings tend to overlap. One big boo-boo is the lack of a carrying case. I would rather not have the fancy pants wooden box, and have Fischer provide a real carrying case instead. And work on the headband length. And figure out how to get them to fold neatly.

The Bottom Line

Does it sound great? Definitely. Is it good value? Possibly. Would I buy it? Probably not. It’s not exactly portable, and even if it were, it fails miserably in the one area all portables shouldn’t – isolation. Sure, I still need to be able to hear oncoming traffic when I’m walking on the road. But I don’t want to have to push my headphone volume to ear-damaging levels every time I’m out and about.

That said, its not comfortable enough to be an indoor can either. Which leaves me to conclude that whilst the Oldskool 33 1/3 do sound mighty fine, great sound isn’t enough to make a pair of headphones.

Special thanks to Exus Singapore for providing the review unit.

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