Earbud Review: JVC Xtreme Xplosives HA-FX3X
JVC HA-FX3X Detail
I've been on a mission lately to try several different (affordable) types of earbuds to see what the differences are, and what $20 or $40 or $70 will get you. So far, I've tried several - from $5 Big Lots specials to NuForce NE-600, Klipsch S4 to ThinkSound TS02. These JVCs are the latest to cross my path and I decided to give them a try.
Looking for a sturdy pair of 'buds, I decided to opt for the metal-case version of these IEMs (they're also available - and slightly cheaper - in an all-plastic version, the JVC HA-FX1X). Also, I just personally prefer the feeling of metal to plastic. To me, it just seems to make the earbuds appear all the more durable.
And durable seems to be a very good word to describe these. Along with "stout," "indestructible," and several other adjectives along those lines. These things are certainly big, but not uncomfortably so (well, not to me, at least). If you imagine what most people would consider to be an average size for earbuds - then add about 10% - you'll probably have an idea of the size of these JVCs. Even the cord seems somewhat thicker and tougher than most - having survived getting caught in a co-worker's locker door without a scratch during my initial evaluation. (And no, that was not a planned part of the test.)
The pair I bought were used but in very good condition and in original packaging, which was the usual over-done layer upon layer of theft-resistant plastic sure to clog our landfill as it slowly refuses to degrade over the next century. Very hard to open, but - since they were used - someone else had done the hard work for me. Score.
With a hard plastic storage case and three sizes of eartips, they came with pretty much everything anyone could ask for. Well, all I could ask for, anyway. The different eartips allow a somewhat custom fit to the wearer's ear canal (especially useful with larger, heavy earbuds like these) and are easily swapped out to find the best fit. The mediums seemed best for me.
Other reviewers remarked that the higher frequencies seemed somewhat harsh, at least until after burn-in, and I would be inclined to agree. Since I bought these used, it is impossible to know how many hours they already had on them before they came to me, but I would venture to say not many, since there was virtually zero wear and tear on the set, and the highs did indeed seem sharp and pronounced. They seemed to settle down a bit after several hours of use, but remain noticeable.
The bass is what most other people seem to love about them and yes, they do have bottom. The bass is very pronounced - full and tight - but not to the point of being obnoxious. These seem to be tuned to what I've often seen referred to as "Rock" or "Pop" equalization, where the lows and highs are bumped up and the mid-range frequencies are left relatively flat, or perhaps even diminished slightly. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it seems best when used for loud, lively, modern tunes - indeed, "Rock" or "Pop." I tried them with classical and they felt a bit uneven, the equalization unnaturally accentuating the dynamics of the music. Even jazz would, I think, do better on 'phones that are more balanced across the spectrum. The separation was good, however and the soundstage seemed decent, if not remarkable.
- Driver: 10mm, neodymium magnet with carbon diaphragm
- Frequency Response: 5Hz - 25kHz
- Sensitivity: 104db/1mW
- Impedance: 16 ohms
- Max Input: 200 mW
- Cord length: 1.2m
- Weight (without cord): 6.2g
- Features: Extreme Deep Bass Port
- Metal construction
- Rubber protector
- Accessories: 3 sets of silicone ear pieces (S, M. L), hard plastic carrying case, cord keeper
- Price: $69 MSRP (but can be found much cheaper online)
To get a few other opinions, I took these to work and had a few other people try them. One - a petite Asian woman, said they sounded fine, but were too large for her (admittedly small) ears and another - a 20something guy of average height/weight - said they even seemed uncomfortably large to him. He described the experience of wearing them as feeling "like Frankenstein... with bolts sticking out of his neck." Wearing these while jogging might require looping the cords up/over the backs of the ears. Speaking of which - the cord - red and thick and reminiscent of Monster Cable - terminates in a straight, gold-plated 3.5mm plug. The cord is tangle-resistant and does not seem to transmit as much noise through the cable when moving around as I've noticed with other IEMs.
If you like your music loud and punchy with lots of bass and lively high-end, and you need earbuds that can take a beating, these JVCs might be just the ticket!
Which earbuds should I review next?
© 2013 Daniel Petreikis