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Drop + JVC HA-FWX1 Review – Golden Hour

Comparisons –

Fiio FD5 ($319): Though the FD7 represents a fairer comparison, unfortunately, I do not have that model on hand at present. The FD5 does represent a modern Be-plated design that I found to offer great value one price class down. It has a similar tuning but is slightly more even-handed overall. The two have a very similar bass tuning but the FWX1 has a few dB more emphasis throughout. This gives it a slightly grander presentation. The FD5 is slightly cleaner and has a hint more sub-bass focus. It has faster decay and slightly more sub-bass pressure giving it better separation. The FWX1 has slower decay and greater mid-bass texture. It sounds more articulate, controlled and detailed overall despite being less separated.

The midrange takes one step forward on the FD5, but it remains U-shaped overall. The FD5 chiefly has a cleaner tonality and less body, in turn, it is more separated and slightly more defined. It has slightly higher resolving power of small details. The FWX1 is warmer, lusher and richer. It is more articulate and a more forgiving tonality overall. It sounds more full-bodied and structured. The FD5 has a crisper, brighter lower-treble peak. However, as it is more isolated, it does sound thinner. The FWX1 has slightly more bite and better body and texture. The FD5 has slightly better fine detail retrieval here and a bit more air but not by a huge degree. The FD5 has a wider stage while the FWX1 is deeper. The FD5 has sharper imaging and better separation.

Moondrop Variations ($520): One of the most versatile recommendations around this price, the Variations assumes a tribrid setup and has a slightly more u-shaped balanced tuning closer to the Harman curve. The Variations has a cleaner mid-bass but greater sub-bass focus. In turn, it has greater emphasis on slam while the FWX1 sounds warmer, fuller and less intense. The FWX1 decays slower and has thicker note but also a noticeably more textured mid-bass. Meanwhile, the Variations is a bit faster decaying and has better separation and note definition but lacks the same texturing. The Variations has a cleaner midrange tonality in turn, both are slightly laid-back here, the Variations to a lesser extent.

The FWX1 meanwhile sounds fuller and warmer in the midrange, being more forgiving. Both are well-articulated; the Variations comes across as less coloured and more consistently voiced while the FWX1 is sweeter and slightly more articulate and female vocal biased. The Variations has a crisper, brighter treble. It also has a cleaner transient response delivering superior note definition and fine detail retrieval. The FWX1 has slightly greater note body and decays and shimmers more naturally. The Variations extends much better, delivering far more sparkle and background and micro-detail. The Variations has a slightly wider stage, the FWX1 has a bit more depth. The Variations has sharper and more organised imaging in addition to better separation.

Kinera Skuld ($550): The Skuld is another in-ear that I lauded for its organic and full-bodied sound though with an all-BA setup. The Skuld has a more balanced sound overall. It has a cleaner and less substantial bass with a lighter warmth. The FWX1 has a lot more depth and drive in addition to generally greater impact and texture. The Skuld decays faster, it has greater note definition but lacks the same texture. The Skuld has a more present midrange, especially with regards to the lower/centre-midrange. It has less contrast here and more midrange body and room. Though a little boxy, this permits it to sound similarly well-structured despite having less bass.

The FWX1 is more engaging and V-shaped. It has more clarity in the upper-mids and treble sounding more contrasted. Similar, it has more warmth and a sweeter character. The Skuld has more even focus on male and female vocals, both being pushed in front of instruments. By comparison the FWX1 has a richer instrument timbre and sounds more laid-back here. The FWX1 has a crisper lower-treble while the Skuld has more air and better extension. The FWX1 has a more accurate note body and timbre here while the Skuld is thinner and a touch more defined. The Skuld has more air and background detail retrieval yet the FWX1 has it beat on soundstage size. The Skuld has sharper imaging by a fair degree.

Verdict –

Each day the sun follows its cyclic rise and fall between the revealing neutrality of noon to the soft dusk before dark. But between lies a special time where all before you is painted by a lavish warmth. If you’ve ever tried to take a flattering portrait, you’ll know this as golden hour. The FWX1 certainly providers a similar impression. It is warm and forgiving of imperfection. At the same time, it brings out the best in the recording with its unabashedly coloured tuning and gentle note presentation. The strange thing is you can’t really consider the FWX1 a great value proposition. For instance, when comparing it to the Variations, I was having a difficult time finding where it was objectively superior. That said, if presented with the two as a paying customer, I might find myself reaching for the JVC as the entire package is just so cohesive and easy to listen to.

The fact that it is coloured makes it less of a generalist and more of a specialist, be that sheerly its organic tone and textured note presentation. This is also what makes it such a rich listening experience. While modern audio gear is simply so good at everything, I do find myself being drawn to these more focused packages that provide an even better experience if only over a select number of genres. The FWX1 is not the most versatile performer not is it the most revealing IEM. Rather, it is resolving where it needs to be and its technical traits act as more of a conduit for its organic analogue tonality. If you don’t mind a laid-back midrange or a relative lack of treble extension, the FWX1’s highly textured notes and rich instrument timbre permit a sublime listening experience with classical, jazz and acoustic.

The HA-FWX1 can be purchased from Drop for $449 USD at the time of review. I am not affiliated with Drop or JVC and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.

Track List –

Billie Eilish – dont smile at me

Beach House – Space Song

Bob Seger – Night Moves

Courtney Barnett – Rae Street

David Bowie – Glastonbury 2000 (live)

Eagles – Hotel California

Elton John – Honky Chateau

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

H.E.R – I Used To Know Her

Jeff Cascaro – The Other Man

John Mayer – Continuum

Johnny Cash – American IV

Kanye West – Donda

Michael Bublé – Crazy Love

Missy Higgins – The Sound of White

Nirvana – Nevermind

Portugal. The Man – Woodstock

Radiohead – In Rainbows

The Beatles – Abbey Road

The weeknd – After Hours

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

Vance Joy – Dream Your Life Away

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