Build Quality (6.5/10): The 33 1/3 is a compact supraaural headphone with a flat-folding, collapsible structure. It is very similar in construction to MEElec’s HT-21, seemingly sharing all of the same external bits except for the cups. Like the HT-21, the Oldskool sacrifices some solidity for its light weight and extremely portable design. It features the same thicker-than-average, single-sided cable and 45-degree 3.5mm plug. Aside from the metal inner headband, the only non-plastic part is the wooden insert on the rectangular cups, which features an engraved winged ‘F’ and a stylized model name. The engraving quality is fantastic, which makes the plastic outer structure just a bit disappointing, but the rpm 33 1/3 does hold the honor of being one of the most lightweight headphones in its class as a result.
Comfort (9.5/10): While the headband pad is identical to that of the HT-21, the earcup padding is of the flat (non-doughnut) variety a-la Sennheiser’s HD238. The pleather and stuffing are extremely soft and the light weight of the headphones makes the thin headband pad a non-issue. Clamping force is very low and the multi-axis folding system allows the 33 1/3 to conform to the wearer’s ears comfortably at all times. The only potential issue is the headband length, which might rule the 33 1/3 out for those with larger heads.
Isolation (5.5/10): Being a small supraaural headphone, the rpm 33 1/3 is hardly noise-isolating despite the closed-back design. Much of the isolation is traded off for comfort with these. Leakage is still reduced significantly compared to most open sets but they are best used in low noise environments
Sound (8.5/10): While the original Fischer Audio Oldskool pursues a crisp and aggressive sound, the 33 1/3 is radically different, offering up a darker, smoother signature. For a tiny on-ear portable with a plasticky outer structure, it sounds remarkably mature and refined. The bass is good – clean and punchy, but not overly aggressive or dominant. The note presentation is on the soft side, resulting in full, rounded bass notes and a smooth, liquid sound. The low end is similar in depth and quantity to that of the AKG Q460, beating out the Phiaton MS300 and lagging just behind the V-Moda M-80. Compared to the Oldskool ’70, the rpm 33 1/3 sounds warmer and fuller, with better bass depth and more realistic note thickness. The Oldskool ’70 sounds a touch quicker and more crisp, but the rpm 33 1/3 is clearly the more natural-sounding of the two.
The midrange is neutral-to-warm, with good detail and a lush, full character. While the bass is punchy, the mids are not at all recessed and barely affected by the low end. The V-Moda M-80 does bleed a touch less but both sets have clean, smooth mids. Like the pricier M-80, the 33 1/3 manages to impress with its clarity and transparency without sacrificing note thickness, as Sennheiser’s HD428 and Superlux’s HD66B tend to do. It also doesn’t push the mids forward to create an illusion of greater detail and presence, again unlike the HD428 and AKG’s Q460. Compared to the Oldskool ’70, the mids of the rpm 33 1/3 are warmer and fuller, maintaining similar detail levels without sounding thin or aggressive and making the ’70 sound grainy and a touch cold in tone.
At the top end, the 33 1/3 is again smooth and refined. The treble is not at all peaky but at the same time doesn’t sound recessed when the headphones are properly driven, offering up a bit more sparkle and air compared to the V-Moda M-80. Treble clarity and detail are on-par with the brighter Oldskool ’70 and ahead of the Phiaton MS300 but the real strength is the realism of the top end, with the 33 1/3 beating all but the M-80 in timbre. The same can be said for the presentation – while the 33 1/3 lacks the imaging and layering of the M-80, it beats most of the competition handily. The sound is a bit laid-back, as expected, but far from overly distant. While the soundstage is not particularly big, it is very well-rounded, revealing just how poor the depth of the Oldskool ’70’s presentation is.
A note on powering the Fischers – despite the high rated impedance, high sensitivity allows them to be driven reasonably with portable players. However, they do scale up quite well and just don’t sound as impressive as they should at lower volumes, leaning towards a darker tonality and a duller, less detailed, and less dynamic sound. Driver by a Cowon J3, the 33 1/3 doesn’t come alive until around 50% of maximum output – quite high compared to most portables and about double that of its lower sibling, the ’70.
Value (8/10): The Fischer Audio Oldskool 33 1/3 is a retro-styled on-ear headphone with a smooth and pleasant sound signature. Admittedly, it is not all things to all people – the 33 1/3 isn’t a rugged, highly isolating DJ headphone. It isn’t a good match for bass junkies or those looking for sparkly, emphasized treble. It isn’t aggressive or analytical. What it is, is an extremely compact and comfortable supraaural designed for casual listening. The sound is clean and detailed, with a slight tilt towards the bass and midrange, and scales well with proper equipment. Its design is unobtrusive and – even with the engravings – unassuming. Keeping in mind that it can sound a touch boring at lower listening volumes, the 33 1/3 is certainly one of the more capable performers in its weight and price class and a great example of what portable Hi-Fi is all about, making it easy to focus on the music and forget the headphones are even there.
Frequency Response: 15 – 22,000 Hz
Impedance: 164 Ω
Sensitivity: 114 dB SPL/1mW
Cord: 4ft (1.2m), single-sided; 45º plug
Space-Saving Mechanism: Flat-folding, collapsible