JVC HA-FXH30: Godly Micro Driver
I’m no stranger to JVC and their outstanding products, currently in possession of eight of their earphones, my favorite of which was the FXT90. Notice that I said was…
After the announcement of the FXT100 and FXT200 last year, I was pumped. I reached out to JVC Canada to find out when they would be available. To my dismay, I was told they have no idea if they will ever be available here. It would depend on if JVC Japan saw a market for them. After that disappointing response, I loaded up JVC’s Japanese site and ogled all the great iems (in-ear monitors) that aren’t for sale in Canada. While perusing this extensive list I came across the FXH series of in-canal earphones with titanium coated 5.8mm microdrivers. consisting of the FXH10, 20, 30, and FDH-10 with an inline microphone. After my experiences with the carbon nano-tube FRD60, KZ Micro Ring, and a pretty good Yamaha EPH-100 replica I knew the FXH30 was a must-buy. On August 2nd, 2015, the time was right. I placed an order with Pricecrash Japan through Amazon.ca and nine days (that’s it!!??) later they arrived here in Canada.
A Bit About Me:
I still consider myself fairly new to the world of hi-fi portable audio, and have been buying up cheap-o earphones to find my preferred signature; thank you Knowledge Zenith! My gear is pretty basic, consisting of an old Samsung YP-K5 (revived for this review after years of lying dormant), Samsung Nexus S, HTC One M8, Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and an Asus G73 laptop with Plantronics Rig amp. I primarily listen to EDM (drum and bass ftw), hip hop, and classic rock, but have been known to dabble in metal and jazz. While I enjoy a good sounding earphone, physical design is also key. If they look boring but sound great, that’s cool, but I would like to have something interesting to look that is also great sounding.
Packaging and Accessories:
The FXH30 arrived in very attractive packaging. As with the FXT90, FDR60, and FRD80, they were on full display through a clear plastic viewing window with classy black accents. Top marks for the clean and attractive packaging.
The packed in accessories left much to be desired, however. Included were one pair each of small, medium, and large eartips. and JVC’s excellent twin clamp shirt clip. Unfortunately, that’s it. No cable winder, case, carrying bag, etc. It would have been nice of JVC to have included the clamshell case that came with the FXT90 or at the very least a cloth bag, but I suppose removing those frills helps to keep the FXH30 at a very affordable price.
Build Quality, Design, and Comfort:
The FXH30 is a pretty unique looking product in my opinion. The squared off-housing and stabilizing fins help in formulating this opinion. The housing is mostly plastic, with an attractive brushed aluminum plate on top. The rubber used on the stabilizing fins and strain relief is stiff, but looks and feels of high quality. I was afraid the fins would end up a gimmick and cause uncomfortable hot spots where they touched the inner ear, however this has not been the case. They are designed to be worn cable down but I found them even more comfortable when worn cable up as what little weight they carry was completely mitigated. JVC did an excellent job designing the housing to almost entirely negate that annoying rumble caused by wind rushing over your ears when listening outside.
The cable used is familiar, shared with the HA-FXT90, HA-FRD60, and HA-FRD80. It’s thick below the y-split and a bit thin above, with a handy chin slider that many will appreciate. Cable memory is almost entirely absent. I did find cable noise to be more noticeable on the FXH30 than the FXT90 or FRD60/80, but it’s still pretty minimal and completely absent when worn behind the ear.
Their small size and use of high quality, lightweight materials results in a very comfortable earphone that disappears when in use.
The FXH30 utilizes a 5.8mm, titanium coated, tip-mounted micro-driver, building on the foundation set by the FXD series of carbon-nanotube micro-driver earphones. The FXH30 is quite efficient for a micro-driver, and is easily powered by your average cellphone.
Bass on the FXH30 is absolutely outstanding. My understanding, from reading numerous reviews and experience with the FRD60/80, is that the entire line of FXD earphones exhibited a thinness to their sound. Any semblance of thin note presentation is absent with the FXH30. Bass has just the right amount of weight and punch, is never overwhelming, and exhibits none of the three Bs; bleed, bloat, or bloom. It is mildly boosted, but not to an extent where it ever becomes intrusive. Where their bass excels the most is in sheer speed. Never have I heard an iem so capable at handing quick and complicated basslines. Even better is that it is all handled so effortlessly. Mid-bass is perfectly balanced to my taste, and there is just enough sub-bass rumble to please the bass-head in me.
Midrange on the FXH30 is very clear, smooth, and detailed. Male and female vocals are both well-represented, neither pressing any advantage. Mids do fall behind treble in overall forwardness but are never overwhelmed and are noticeably more forward than another popular titanium driver earphone, the Dunu Titan 1. They are well balanced with the bass, vying equally for your attention.
Treble on the FXH30 is vastly improved over the FRD60, which I found bright, splashy, and a bit uncontrolled. The FXH30 is exceptionally energetic with outstanding extension into higher ranges, all while managing to avoid running into sibilance. Detail and clarity are intense, with each note sounding sharply distinct and very well controlled. As with the rest of the signature, treble avoids sounding thin.
While the FXH30 doesn’t have a huge soundstage, it still manages to sound open and spacious. Their ability to move audio cues into distinct locations with utmost precision is uncontested by anything my collection of sub-100 dollar iems and easily bests even the Titan 1. Their overall signature is one of endless energy and detail backed up by smooth vocals, unbelievably quick bass, and tons of refinement. While this does get fatiguing, man is it entertaining! They also managed to singlehandedly get me back into speed metal and thrash. I find these genres to be very challenging to pull off right, yet the FXH30 aces it.
* For the purposes of this review testing was done with the stock medium tips. I actually prefer the large wide bore tips that come with the Huawei Honor earphone which further boost mids/treble detail and clarity, and mildly reduce midbass.*
The FXH30 produce a quality of sound far beyond what I expected and is without a doubt the most capable and enjoyable earphone I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. While the vast majority of earphones in this price range and under offer a more comprehensive accessory package, some a more sturdy build, and others still a consumer friendly v-shaped signature, the FXH30 offers up a distinct and endlessly entertaining experience. They would make an outstanding alternative to the Dunu Titan 1 as they offer up a similar signature while toning down the bass and boosting overall clarity. I really have nothing negative to say about them and can only recommend that you try them out if you enjoy this style of earphone.
Some Choice Comparisons:
Vs. Dunu Titan 1
– JVC and Dunu followed completed different design philosophies when creating their respective titanium coated driver iems, yet in the end they sound quite similar.
Titan 1: Semi-open 13mm titanium coated dynamic driver
FXH30: Tip-mounted 5.8 mm titanium coated dynamic micro-driver
– The Titan places more emphasis on lower frequencies while the FXH30 places more emphasis on mids and highs.
– Prior to hearing the FXH30 I never thought of the Titan as a bass-heavy iem and didn’t notice the mid-bass boost nor that it would occasionally appear when undesired. The FXH30 has that special quality of only pushing it’s bass when asked for by the song. Comparing the two really shows how massive the Titan’s bass can be. It also shows how much quicker the FXH30 is.
– Both are exceptionally competent at pulling out minute details, however the FXH30 is noticeably superior when it comes to separation and panning. Each note is just that much more distinct with the FXH30.
– Build quality on the Titan is noticeably more impressive with is full metal housing, dual material cable, and heavy duty jack. Their cable is more tangle prone however.
– The Titan easily outclasses the FXH30 in accessories. No comparison here:
Titan 1: 3 varieties of ear tips that each come in three sizes (s/m/l), a shirt clip, carrying case, 6.3mm adapter, and Dunu’s patented cable strap.
FXH30: 1 set of ear tips (s/m/l) and a shirt clip, albeit a really good one.
– Both iems are very comfortable. I can wear either one for hours without any discomfort. I do find the FXH30 slightly better fitting as the Titan 1 often works its way out of my left ear, unless worn with the cable behind the ear which requires reversing channels.
Vs. Ultimate Ears UE600
– UE600 is thicker and more neutral sounding, lacking the energy, detail, and timbre of the FXH30. In comparison it sounds quite muddy.
– Build and material quality on the FXH30 is hands down superior. The UE600 still has an attractive design for it’s age, but the FXH30 is more interesting imo.
– There’s really no comparison. The FXH30 is a flat-out superior product in this day and age. The UE600 is a worthy purchase for around 30 CAD and is a great single balanced armature earphone.
Vs. JVC HA-FXT90
– The T90 is a special iem for me, and was the first proper hi-fi product I owned. Even amid the company of newer iems like the Titan 1 and FXH30, it holds its own quite well.
– It lacks the refinement and smoothness of the FXH30, but that translates into a welcome aggressiveness with rock and metal.
– Mids are not as forward or clear
– The T90s offer up more mid-bass thickness vs. the FXH30
– The FXH30 completely trounces them in upper end clarity and detail retrieval
– FRD80 sounds much thinner, especially in the upper midrange and treble
– the boosted emphasis in the upper regions frequently results in piercing sibilance and discomfort, even at reasonably low listening volumes
– the thinness allows the FRD80’s excellent detail and resolution to shine, but it still isn’t up to the standards the FXH30 outputs.
– The FRD80 exhibits less midbass punch. On very visceral and emotional tracks, this leaves it feeling a dry and cold vs. the FXH30.
– Both are very quick earphones, but the FXH30 exhibits more realistic decay on drums and a noticably more natural sound overall.
– Mids on the FRD80 are noticeably less forward than on the FXH30 (which still does not have forward mids….only slightly recessed).
– The FXH30 is much easier to power from a basic smartphone.
– The FRD80 is more polarizing with a cold and analytical v-shaped signature. The FXH30 is instantly more gratifying and engaging to listen to with a much warmer, thicker u-shaped presentation.
– While their signatures are quite different, the FXH30 feels like a step up in every way. It is infinitely more pleasant to listen to without sacrificing the FRD80’s strengths.