Havi B3 Pro 1: Yup, they’re amazing
Today we are going to be looking at a Head-fi classic revived, the Havi B3 Pro 1.
“Those are nothing new B9” you might be saying to yourself.
“Ah, but that is where you are wrong” I retort.
The Havi B3 Pro 1 has been a staple recommendation for a neutral audiophile sound on a budget for a while now. While everyone has been patiently waiting for news on when the Havi B6 will be released, Havi has stealthily renewed the classic B3 Pro 1 and re-released it with new packaging, accessories, and improved tuning. When Baycode posted in ‘The Lab’ that Havi was looking for a few reviewers to check out this newly revised B3, I jumped at the opportunity.
I was provided a complimentary review copy of the Havi B3 Pro 1 for review purposes. I am in no way affiliated with Havi, and there is no financial gain for me writing this review.
A Bit About Me:
2015 was the year where I got to try some great new earphones and headphones like the entire Dunu Titan lineup (sans the 1-ES), the stellar JVC HA-FXH30, and the full-sized AKG K553 Pro. The Topping NX1 introduced me to portable amplification and the benefits this can offer. I learned a lot from experiencing such a wide variety of products and am thrilled to see where things go in 2016.
My general preference is for aggressive and energetic sounding earphones like the JVC HA-FXH30, but hemming myself into listening to only one signature is not something of interest. My average day sees me carrying three to five earphones of different signatures to ensure there always variety in my daily listening experience.
Liquid drum and bass is my favorite genre of music, followed closely by other variants of electronic, classic rock, and metal. Jazz and classical occasionally fall into the rotation as well, but to a lesser extent.
Now that you have an idea of where my opinions come from, let’s check out the B3 Pro 1.
Packaging and Accessories:
Looking back to past reviews and videos I saw that the original Pro 1 came in Piston-like packaging. While nice, it didn’t look to be anything overly special. Not a statement that would apply to the new B3 Pro 1 in my opinion. The new packaging is vastly improved.
The box the B3 comes in is very understated. There is a subtle image of the earphones on the front, specifications and package contents on the left, a dude playing the gee-tar on the right, and a product description on the back. While I agree with most of what the description says, they keep bringing up the B3’s bass output for one reason or another. We will come back to that later.
Opening the initial package reveals a second box. I love the fibrous texture Havi chose. The matte finish, the way the Havi logo catches the light at certain angles…it’s cool. Despite the understated and simple design, it is definitely something I would be happy displaying.
Flip up the magnetically sealed ‘lid’ and you are greeted to the Havi B3 Pro 1 and a spare set of eartips nestled in foam that has a felt-like coating. Underneath you find a manual, the cable wrapped in a thick velcro strap and two cases; a soft pouch and a hard clamshell case. Inside the clamshell case is a set of ear guides, one pair of medium-sized, high-quality foam eartips, a set of Sennheiser style dual flange tips, and one final set of opaque white tips.
All-in-all, this is quite the unboxing experience and something I would really only expect from a significantly more expensive product, such as the Dunu Titan 1. They offer a slightly different but equally impressive unboxing experience.
The Havi B3 Pro 1 is constructed of durable, high quality plastic. The rear-facing section of the housing is plated with Gorilla glass featuring an image of Havi’s twin triangle logo. The red/black color scheme continues the understated theme put forth by the packaging and is tastefully done. It’s a clean design that I think is aging well.
While strain relief on the housings is minimal, the y-split and 90 degree angled jack are covered and good to go. The cable on the B3 is unlike any I’ve come across yet. Below the y-split you will find a quad-wire flat cable. Above the y-split is your standard twin cable affair. These cables are a touch thin, but the sheathing feels robust and confidence inspiring.
Comfort and Isolation:
The B3 Pro 1 fit my ears like a glove. Over-ear wear is my preferred method, so it was fine that the Havi B3 is designed with this in mind. They can easily be worn cable-down, but then you run into a bit of cable noise. With the included large dual flange tips, it was a set-it-and-forget-it affair. Some time was spent tip rolling trying out a variety of single and triple flange tips that came with other earphones. In the end, the included dualies always provided the best balance of sound quality, comfort, and isolation.
Isolation on the Havi B3 Pro 1 was excellent for a dynamic driver earphone. They did a great job of passively drowning out external noise. Should you wear these while out-and-about, be wary of traffic since you probably won’t hear it.
Primary testing of the Havi B3 Pro 1 was done through my aging Asus G73 laptop with Plantronics Rig usb amplifier, and through an HTC One M8 with Topping NX1 portable amplifier. To my utter shock and amazement, the B3 paired surprisingly well with a hyper cheap MP3 player, the Sylvania SMPK8858. This player doesn’t output the cleanest sound, but it maintained the B3’s uncolored presentation and could comfortably power the B3 even on it’s lowest volume setting. Overall I preferred the B3 through the Rig given it’s natural warmness and bass enhancement setting, but the NX1 provided a more natural and detailed experience.
The original B3 Pro 1 has been a staple recommendation on Head-fi for it’s clarity, detail, flat signature, and massive soundstage, IF you had an amp that could properly drive it’s thirsty twin 6mm drivers. I was pleased to see that this new B3 played well straight out of my cellphone, though there were auditory benefits to be had by amping them; improved clarity, tighter bass, more sparkle in the treble, and a more spacious soundstage to name a few. In fact, pretty much everything benefits from being amped, but not to the point where I felt it was absolutely necessary. They can still be enjoyed through basic equipment.
My preferred earphones all have reasonably prominent bass and it took me quite a while (almost two weeks) to become fully accustomed to the B3’s toned down style. It was especially difficult for the first week since I was coming from a solid seven days of one of the most bass heavy earphones I’ve ever heard, the dual driver KZ ZS1. On one hand, I would like a boost in flat out quantity. On the other hand, adding even a touch more bass would throw off the near perfect balance Havi achieved with the Pro 1. There is certainly nothing wrong here on a technical level as the B3’s bass is tight, snappy, well-textured and accurate, it’s just very, very under-emphasized. Those that like their bass to be very audible will likely find the B3 Pro 1 to be lacking in this regard. Bassheads need not apply, unless you feel like broadening your horizons.
Most of the music I listen to is instrumental, but on those few albums I frequent that do have vocals, the B3 is spectacular. My two favorite albums from King Crimson, Red and Lark’s Tongues in Aspic, completely envelop you. The B3 is so natural, detailing so very precise, and the soundstage so broad you can’t help but be sucked in and enjoy a full run of each album without realizing how much time has passed. What a perfect match.
Reading others reviews of the Pro 1, there was a worry that they would sound thin in the upper frequencies. Luckily, this isn’t the case. While sometimes notes lack weight due to the lack of low end presence, they are thick enough to maintain some body and presence. The Pro 1 can feel a touch dry at times, but generally there is ample sparkle breathing life into familiar music.
I didn’t find the Pro 1 lacking with any particular genre, except for those that benefit from silly quantities of bass. They handled all my old favorites (King Crimsom, Supertramp, Pink Floyd, Rage Against the Machine, etc.) just fine, and took on my favorite drum and bass, and other electronic tracks with ease.
Some Select Comparisons:
vs. JVC HA-FXT90
– The T90 is less balanced with it’s mildly v-shaped presentation. Treble can get a little hot and as a result they are more fatiguing. Bass doesn’t dig exceptionally deep but has better texture and more punch compared to the Pro 1
– The Pro 1 has a very slightly thicker treble and upper mid presentation and is the better of the two for female vocals. They are also slightly warmer which doesn’t hurt.
– Lower mids on the T90 have more presence. I find male vocals and guitars carry greater presence.
– The Pro 1 is not as energetic and lacks the pizzazz and character of the T90. They compliment each other quite nicely with the T90 being the more fun and aggressive listen.
vs. NarMoo W1M
– Where the Pro 1 is very neutral, the W1M brings to the table prominent mids backed by smooth, deep bass that is not overblown or muddy.
– The W1M has a thicker and more forward mid range. While they occasionally border on sounding woolly, I actually prefer the W1M here, and by a fairly wide margin. They do not sacrifice any detail while maintaining a natural and realistic tone, making the Pro 1 sound reasonably thin and weedy in direct comparison.
– Treble presentation on the W1M is it’s least impressive quality, though they are similar in tone. The Pro 1 is notably more sharp, precise, detailed, and doesn’t roll off early like the W1M
– The W1M is more laid back and doesn’t hold up quite as well to critical listening since they are less neutral, bassier, and lack the sheer detail and technical abilities of the Pro 1. That said, they are still a wonderful earphone and like the T90 compliment the Pro 1 quite well by offering up a unique signature with some minor similarities
– Prior to receiving the Pro 1, the UE600 was probably my most balance earphone.
– The difference in power requirements is intense with the Pro 1 being infinitely more difficult to drive.
– The UE600 produces more mid-bass with the Pro 1 taking the sub-bass trophy.
– The Pro 1 has more natural mids, though they are not quite as forward as on the UE600.
– The UE600 has more pronounced treble. It’s not quite as smooth as on the Pro 1 and outputs with a minor metallic tinge. They benefit from some quality foam tips which smooth out the overall experience.
– Pro 1 is the more balanced and refined of the two, with a cavernous soundstage in comparison.
The Havi B3 Pro 1 has been an ear-opening experience for me and I definitely see why they have some die-hard fans. There isn’t another earphone I’ve tried that offers up what most would consider such an audiophile-grade signature, and certainly not at this price range. While they lack the sheer energy and vibrant sound of my favorite earphone, the JVC HA-FXH30, the Pro 1 offers of a very difference experience that is just as enjoyable under the right circumstances.
There are some improvements that could be made, such as with their ergonomics. They fit my ears fine, but the wide housing and shallow fit will undoubtedly cause issues for some. The stock signature could use just a teeny, tiny bit more bass, but a warm source can negate this need.
With the B3 Pro 1 you get a wicked unboxing experience, tons of accessories, a very detailed and neutral signature with a massive soundstage, and as a result a very high quality listening and ownership experience. They are flat out awesome and if you can learn to live with some seriously laid back bass are definitely worth your hard-earned cash (though you won’t have to part with much of it).
Thanks again to Baycode and Havi for giving me the opportunity to try out this Head-fi classic! I can’t wait to see what Havi has in store for us next.
Thanks for reading!