From the highly regarded JVC FX range comes the new (at time of review) FX-800, an incremental successor to the renowned and much beloved FX-700. I thought I would post a quick review since no one seems to have even bought a pair on head-fi yet alone post any impressions. I am coming from a set of Klipsch x10`s and a set of recently sold Etymotic er4p`s and will be listening through a HTC One X+ or Galaxy Note II with and without a Fiio e6 amp.
About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases
I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.
Immediately upon un-boxing, these earphones scream “made in Japan”, housed within a premium looking and feeling box covered in a silky matte texture that is not obnoxiously large but provides ample protection and wow factor.
The earphones themselves are nicely presented in a laser cut foam insert which has 3 pairs of eartips concealed beneath a label (1 pair of small silicone tips, 1 pair of large silicone tips, 1 pair of foam tips, the medium sized tips are pre-installed on the earphones themselves). A nice leatherette carry case is also housed beneath the foam. Overall, the set provides a quality, ample array of accessories for the price, it could have been better, but as you`ll see, I`m happy JVC put the extra time into the acoustics.
The build of the actual earphones inspire a lot of confidence and the first thing that caught my attention was the improved cable.
There were many complaints about the previous FX-700`s with their 0.8m cable however JVC seems to have remedied this by shipping the new models with a 1.2m OFC 4N silver cable terminated with a right angle, gold plated 3.5mm plug. The cable is very supple with very little memory effect, it`s compact and does not carry any microphonics, very reminiscent of the cables on the ATH-CK100`s. I appreciate their decision to use a 90° plug, they`re much better for long term portable use, but can be a bit finicky when used with an amp. The cable also looks great!, don`t mind photos, the silver cable looks better in person. I should note however that due to the increased length the earphones are quite difficult to pack into the carry case.
Moving onto the earpieces, they`re identical in appearance to the FX-700`s, and I found them to be incredibly well constructed, with a beautifully finished wooden surface complimented by aluminium vents inscribed with concentric circles that reflect light in all the right ways. No complaints here, taking into account driver size, JVC did an exemplary job.
Don`t let their large housings foul you, these earphones are actually quite comfortable. I wore them for 3-4 hour sittings almost daily over a period of several months and never did they feel weighty or slip out of my ears. Whilst I wouldn`t sleep with them, their smooth housing are free of any jagged edges and feel quite natural in the ear during general listening, however the long strain relieves did invoke some discomfort over extended periods of time. The large driver bulge sits nicely in the outer ear and a smooth gradation creates no hot spots. They benefit from a shallow, semi-in-ear fit meaning that people with sensitive ears, or those acclimatized to earbuds should not be aggravated by their presence.
Due to the large vents, you also don`t get that sense of pressure on the eardrums that most highly isolating, sealed in-ears produce. Isolation evidently suffers due to their highly open, shallow fitting nature and resultantly the FX-800`s barely isolate more than earbuds.
Impressions 3 Months After:
After a bit more use outside and in public areas, Isolation actually seems to be a bit better when the earphones are playing music, not because the music is helping to drown out background sounds but maybe because the movements of air caused by the driver act to counteract external noise?, isolation is about the same or just a little worse than the Phonaks now however isolation on the Phonaks benefit from foam tips since they are sealed whereas a better seal on the FX800`s has no effect since the vent is letting in the noise.
The JVC FX800s use an extensive filter system to achieve a warm, v-shaped sound with abundant, aggressive detailing. The earphones sound remarkably dynamic and energetic with a very spacious presentation that has both fantastic width and depth. The borderline basshead level bass remains of brilliant quality, I wouldnt hesitate to say that the FX800s have the greatest quality of any basshead level earphone. This is emphasized by the vivid midrange and fantastic highs that are both extended and textured.
The earphones when driven directly form a portable source sound great, an amp is not really needed however it should be noted that these earphones pick up hiss very easily. When driven through an amp, the bass become faster and much tighter in general, the mid recession is partly alleviated and the highs become perhaps a little clearer, no amazing transformations appear when listening through an amp though the improvements in bass are particularly noticeable. Listening through an iPhone or high end android phone will have no detrimental effect to sound quality as far as I am concerned, however once again hiss is very present so make sure its a clean source, I never knew my HTC produced such great amounts of background hiss until I used these earphones. When listening through an iPod 3rd Gen or Galaxy Note II however, there is very little hiss, barely noticeable. These earphones are almost as sensitive as se535`s if that puts it into perspective.
Even coming from a set of Klipsch x10`s and having previously owned a pair of Phonak PFE 232`s, these earbuds provide very competitive quality combined with bass-head quantity. The bass is not as tight as the 232`s but not as laid back as the x10`s, it remains as fast as the majority of bassy armature based iems whilst retaining the kind of impact that can only be experienced with a dynamic driver. Furthermore, average decay times and a fairly linear bass response maintain a visceral presentation that never feels muddy or flabby, whilst remaining fun and exciting, perfect for movies, drums and epic bass solos, with perhaps a little more emphasis on mid-bass than sub-bass. The earphone possess great low end extension compared to any iem and sub-bass rumble reminiscent of a well integrated home theater system. Perhaps attributed to the shallow fitment, every drum beat is felt not heard and every note plucked on a bass guitar resonates in a natural and enjoyable way. Bass is revealing, fast but not as fast as top end armature based iems, punchy and improves upon all the traits audiophiles love about dynamic drivers. These are definitely not neutral iems but that does not mean that they are not analytical. Summing it up, the bass is impossibly composed, detailed and dare I say refined considering the quantity, its truly astounding.
Many reviewers felt that the FX700`s were v-shaped and whilst this is definitely the case with the FX800`s, the mids are not overshadowed by the higher bass or treble presence. They definitely feel a lot like the PFE 232`s here, the bass and highs are just so good, the mids although still great are worse in comparison, not helped by their more recessed presentation. The mids are by no means bad they just don`t shine like the bass and treble. Coming back to my analytical point, the mids are quite resolving, picking up minuscule details with great accuracy and speed, but these traits are not always apparent as the mids can get a bit lost in complex tracks with great dynamic range. I am actually quite impressed with the speed of these earphones compared to other dynamic earphones I have listened to. The mids are smooth, effortless and male vocals are assertive and full bodied without sounding chesty however they can also sound distant at times. These earphones are V shaped but not to the extent that the mids are drowned out, they remain enjoyable and resolving at both low and high volumes. They don`t seem as bad as FX700`s users report but then again I can`t really say as I haven`t listened to them before.
Sparkly, carrying great energy and well extended, the highs are emphasized but not overly sibilant or piercing, these earphones should be ok to use for extended listening periods. The highs much like the bass are one of the stronger points of the earphones, they have an airy feeling but still carry emotion and are more musical than analytical, much like audio-technica earphones, they portray music not sounds. The treble is very well done, not too thin, but still incredibly resolving, almost as good as my Ck100`s, they are actually better than some flagship iems well above their price range.
Soundstage, Imaging and Instrument Seperation –
The soundstage on these earphones is massive, it approaches and even exceed that of the ie8`s and is definitely more spacious than the 232`s, which is no small feat. Vocals are located frontally but seems kind of distant, due to the recessed presentation. Compared to the x10`s, the FX800`s are on a completely different tier, the soundstage is much more spacious and three dimensional, far more enjoyable than claustrophobic and artificial armature iems such as the sm64. Instrument separation is also very good, the resolving signature really pulls through on this one, I don`t know what JVC did to that wooden driver but when listening to an entire orchestra playing I can hear the lone man situated in the back hitting away on his triangle. The soundstage is accurate and detailed, my ears don`t get the congested feeling they do with my Klipsch earphones. They favour depth over width, giving a very rounded and natural presentation that grants them a great sense of scale, once again prefect for movies and well suited to classical.
Fit and Isolation – 7/10, Fit and comfort are fine but are let down by sub par isolation (a positive for home listening)
Bass – 9/10, Well extended, bass-head quantity combined with audiophile quality, not overdone, but lacking that last bit of tightness. Sub-bass is not overdone and does not produce a fatiguing listen. Could be a bit faster but is definitely among the best.
Mids – 7/10, Compared to the flat sound signature of the er4p`s, the mids are not as linear but rather scooped. While they are very resolving and aggressively detailed, they do not produce a balanced sound and therefore prevent the FX-800`s from being a master of all trades. The great treble and bass definitely produce an engaging listen though.
Highs – 9/10, the highs are great, more moving than etymotic`s yet just as revealing, as airy as audio-tehcnica earphones yet not biased or coloured and very natural.
Soundstage – 10/10, Could do with a little more width but otherwise spacious, well separated and natural, just superb.
Overall – 8.5, the FX800`s are one of the best in ears I have ever heard, rivalling the PFE232`s. They sound great and work well with mostly any genre of music. If I had to describe the sound signature I would say natural, the sound is organic and dynamic, the bass, mids and highs work in great synchronization and resonate well without the artificial and claustrophobic sound of many sealed ba iems. They are only let down by their poor isolation and weight (their size is ok since they`re ergonomically shaped). I can only say that I am very happy with my purchase, I highly recommend Accessoryjack for their prompt postage and communicative customer service. Most of all, I hope you enjoyed the review!