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JHAudio JH|5 Pro Earphones Review

on July 7, 2010 12:41 pm

I have had the opportunity to try many high-end headphones and earbuds over the years; from the Bose QuietComfort 2/3 headphones to Future Sonics’ atrio m5 professional earphones. I have become increasingly finicky and judgmental about which earbuds I use to listen to my music. My current favorites are the Etymotic Research hf5 High-Fidelity earphones; they are lightweight, fit well, very compact, and sound great. So, when Julie asked who wanted to try/review JHAudio’s JH|5 Pro earphones, I raised my hand and cried ‘Oooo, Oooo pick me!!!’ (imagine Welcome Back Kotter). These earphones are specially created for each individual and are used by music professionals and true audiophiles.

The Audiologist Experience

The first step was to setup an appointment with an audiologist to have my ears fitted so that JHAudio could create my custom made JH|5 Pro earphones. Both the receptionist and doctor were curious about the whole ‘review-thing’ and were extremely nice….it was a lot of fun ;).

The doctor began by sticking a small cottonball DEEP within each of my ear-canals. This is to make sure that the goo did not go too far into my head.

The goo is mixed from two compounds like an epoxy. I did think it a bit funny that of all the colors the putty could be….it was pink.

Once mixed together, the pink goo is injected into my ear-canal.

The doc fills my ears completely with the pink material. This was definitely an ‘interesting’ experience.

After both ears were filled, the pink goo had to remain in my ears for about 10 minutes to setup/harden.

The molds remind me of deformed elf hats. The molds are then packaged up and sent off to JHAudio to create my JH|5 Pro earphones. Having these earphones made is not like running out to Fry’s or BestBuy and buying a pair of earbuds….near instant gratification. The whole process took about a month. A week before I could see the audiologist, a few days on either side for shipping and two weeks for JHAudio to work their magic.

The Details

After nearly a month of anticipation, my JH|5 Pro earphones finally arrived at my doorstep. I was excited to give them a try. JHAudio’s JH|5s are on the lower end and least expensive of their Pro line. There are two main series in their Pro line: 3-way products and 2-way products. The JH|5/7/10 are in the 2-way line and have low and high speakers. The JH|10×3/11/13/16 are in the 3-way line, meaning they have separate low, med, and high speakers. The JH|5′s have a single low and high speaker set.

Technical Specifications:

  • Proprietary precision-balanced armatures
  • Single low & single high speakers
  • Noise isolation: -26dB
  • Frequency response: 20Hz to 17 kHz
  • Input sensitivity: 119dB @ 1mW
  • Impedance: 21 Ohms

JHAudio not only send the JH|5 Pro Earphones but a cleaning tool, cloth carrying bag, and hardened, waterproof OtterBox case (Model 1000). The cleaning tool and cloth bag are pretty standard these days with in-the-ear-canal earbuds. But the OtterBox hardcase was a very nice touch. Giving you a great way to protect your investment.

JHAudio even monogrammed the OtterBox case.

The JH|5 Pro earphones come in 53 colors to choose from (to include Baby’s Butt, Whitegirl and Sucker Punch to name a few). As you can see, clear is also an option. I am pleased JHAudio made mine in clear so that I/we can see the electronic of the earbuds. The JH|5′s are JHAudio’s least complex earphones. I can only imagine what the JH|16′s look like inside.

For an additional $50 you can further customize your earphones with ‘Ambient Vents’. These vents reduce the amount of isolation you have to the outside world while the earphones are in. The vents allow some percentage of the outside world in, which may be important if you are a musician or motorcycle rider and want to hear what is going on around you.

In case the cables are damaged, JHAudio has engineered a plug connection between the earphones and wiring. The cables are available in 18″, 48″ or 64″ lengths and two colors, black & clear. The wiring is relatively light weight and tangle free….both pluses.

The plug and y-connection seems a hair mediocre in quality (you know,  just okay). Considering how expensive the JHAudio Pro series is, seems like they could have used materials that impressed as much as the sound quality of the earphones themselves.

Another cool touch JHAudio does is put your initials on both of the earphones. I am guessing this is for those folks who are in rock bands and need to differentiate your earbuds from others.

The Listening Experience

The JH|5 Pro earphones fit perfectly. I have worn them for hours with zero pain or discomfort in my ears. While the Etymotic Research hf5 earphones work/fit nicely, they do start to hurt and become uncomfortable after 2-3 hours of use. The only (minor) issue I have with the JH|5 Pro is that after a few hours the insides of my ears get hot due to the near perfect seal they create.

According to JHAudio, the JH|5′s provide -26dB of noise isolation. I have used them on aircraft, using a chainsaw, riding my tractor, etc. They do an excellent job of blocking out the outside world, while providing a great sound experience.

The Bottom Line

Bottom line, the music experience is AWESOME (I cannot even imaging what their upper end Pro earphones sound like)….better than any in-the-ear-canal earbuds/phones I have ever listened too. The music is incredibly clear and well balanced, truly a pleasure to listen to.

That said, this type of high quality, customized equipment is not cheap. At $399 the JH|5 Pro’s are expensive and definitely more than your typical Shure, Etymotic Research, Bose earphones. But in my experience, they are the best sounding, most comfortable earphones I have ever used. If music is your thing (or want to look like a rockstar), you should really consider splurging on a set of JHAudio’s earphones….ROCK ON!!!

 

Product Information

Price:$399
Manufacturer:JHAudio
Pros:
  • - Excellent sound experience
  • - Perfect fit
  • - Very customizable
  • - Great sound isolation
  • - Tangle-free cord
  • - 2 year warranty
Cons:
  • - Expensive
  • - Plug and y-connection seem a bit mediocre

Comments

  1. 1

    Look great! Do they estimate the noise protection? How about running in the rain?

  2. 2
    Dave Rees says:

    Hi Richard,

    According to JHAudio, the noise isolation is -26dB. They do a great job blocking outside noise. Being such an expensive pair of headphones, I do not run w/them. For two reasons: 1) the rain could damage them and 2) my sweat could as well. I probably should not use them on construction efforts either….

    Dave

  3. 3
    James Branch says:

    Dave, what a great review! :)

    I’m not sure I’d enjoy having the compound squirted into my ear though!

  4. 4
    Dave Rees says:

    Heya James,

    Glad you liked the review. It was a fun one getting out & about visiting with the audiologist. The pink goo was definitely ‘interesting’.

    Dave

  5. 5
    Sandee Cohen says:

    God I wish someone would ask me to review this product.

    I have been a huge fan of the Etymotic products. First with earphones for my iPods and now with the hf2 headset for my iPhone.

    The noise cancelling for the hf2 Etymotic product is good enough that I can listen to spoken podcasts on the subway with the volume turned way down. It is listed as 35-42 db. Is that better or worse than the JHAudio product. (I also use them as earplugs for when my partner snores.)

    I would buy the JHAudio product for myself except they are earphones and not a headset with a microphone.

    Meanwhile Etymotic is coming out with some new products shortly.

    But what I really would like is the JHAudio earphones combined with an inline microphone and 3 button Apple controller.

    One thing I wonder about. Usually the appointment with the audiologist is an extra $50-$100 dollar expense. Did JH Audio pay that for you or is that cost something you would have had to shell out for?

  6. 6
    Random Nerd says:

    You have to pay for the audiologist fitting yourself with JH Audio products, which runs $100-$150. Also, many of their products are better classified as “monitors,” as opposed to “earphones.” (If you don’t know the difference, you probably shouldn’t be spending this much on IEMs. :) Monitors are about accurate sound reproduction and more appropriate for audio engineers who need to hear everything reproduced exactly. They are not necessarily what you want to listen to music, e.g., they may have little “warmth.”

    I love my Shure SE530s and I won’t be trading them in anytime soon. But I have to say I was dismayed to see you driving these with an iPhone; Apple products have notoriously awful audio quality. And even though the JH|5′s have low impedance, you would absolutely benefit from a headphone amplifier, such as a Headroom Total Bithead. So, please find a higher quality source to drive these!

    Anyway, there are some online audiophile reviews of this model, which would be useful for anyone considering buying a pair. These are JH Audio’s entry level product and I strongly suspect you can do better for the money.

  7. 7
    john says:

    I’ve ordered JH-5s for several people on our worship team and everyone absolutely loves them! Just for the record, we’ve never paid more than $50 for impressions at the audiologist’s office. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge into the world of custom monitors, you should definitely be able to find someone to do your molds for less than $100!

  8. 8
    Random Nerd says:

    The cost for getting custom molds varies widely and most audiologists are used to creating molds for hearing aids, not in-ear-monitors for musicians. This can make a huge difference in audio quality. At the low end, you can get do-it-yourself (typically junk) kits for $20. At the high end, you can easily pay $200+. As with most things, the final price depends on where you live, what you want, what you can afford, etc…

    For those who don’t want to get custom molds made, companies like Comply offer outstanding foam replacement tips for most in-canal earphones. (I’m very happy listening with Comply’s TX100s right now. :)

  9. 9
    Adam says:

    Sandee Cohen,

    You should know that JHAudio actually started out making headsets for pilots. They have a line of custom IEMs with boom mics, so you might find exactly what you’re looking for.

    For the record, JHA makes some of the best headphones available today.

    (I’m a JH-13 and soon-to-be JH-3A owner. I heard the JH-3A at CanJam, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard.)

  10. 10
    Random Nerd says:

    Yes, I hear that JH Audio makes some of the best IEMs available but I’ve never tried them. (It’s yucky to share custom ear molds.) And I’m sure I’d enjoy their JH16 Pros, but I can’t really justify anything beyond my Sennheiser HD 600s. (I’d love a pair of balanced 800s, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon in this universe.)

    Still, as important as the headphones is what you drive them with. Hooking up a pair of Stax to an iPhone would be throwing pearls before swine. I have a custom 7-tube amp (and matching preamp) that feeds lossless codecs (via a Squeezebox) to Rogers speakers or my cans. I love the warmth of tube amplification, which makes all the difference in the world to me. (And of course, the Headroom Bithead travels with my laptop.)

    Anyway, I’m glad to see there are other headphone junkies here!

  11. 11
    Mstevenson says:

    Hey, I just got my ear molds made for my pro 5s. The cost was $10 / ear here in Raleigh at a well-respected ENT that I have used in the past. Over the years, I have had etymotic er6i, shure ec2 and grado sr80. The etymotics were may favorite so far but the left driver just failed after 2 yrs. As a musician, I am looking forward to using the pro 5s when rehearsing. I’ll post again once I have them in my hands.

  12. 12
    jordan says:

    i got an question for jh5 pro custom despite they lack a midrange drive is there any midrange on this headphone and i hope the soundstage is not tinny for 400 dollars and can they all genre of music over universal fit earphone period mr. dave rees. i expect my money worth coming from jerry harvey himself the pioneer of all custom earbud last stories short is there midrange and how is the soundstage i hope is not small?

  13. 13
    Ryan says:

    @ Random Nerd
    -Do u even know what your talking about saying: Apple products have notoriously awful audio quality. You should know what your splooging out of your month try iMod from redwindaudio.com then after trying it see what comes out of it thanks have a nice day.

  14. 14
    Sy Travis says:

    Hi Dave, I have been Using JH5′s & JH7′s (which i use for mixing Monitors), for almost 2 years and find them amazing. i liked your reveiw. very honest. I am about to order JH11′s later this month.

    it makes you think when Shure E5′s cost just slightly less than the JH5′s, that more people dont switch to custom IEM’s.
    Jerry and his team rock

  15. 15
    Scrypt says:

    I have zero issues with Random Nerd — mostly because everything s/he said has been repeated so often by newer members of Head-fi that his/her comment is really more an Apple-hostile catechism. I’ve heard it often enough to be patient.

    That said, a lot of what Random Nerd said might be helpful to people who have visited this page.

    I’ll answer the few problems I found with RN’s post.

    First, anyone who owns an iPod or iPhone has got a better-sounding source than if they carried any blackberry or any of the Android phones I’ve tried (including the Droid, the Evo, my Epic 4G and the new Epic Touch, which has a worse DAC than mine even though it’s marketed as an upgrade). Besides which, people who hate the Apple sound often prefer more bass, and Apple’s engineers strive for neutrality. I’m a studio musician, and for me, mo’ bass ain’t necessarily mo’ bettah.

    Second, a source is only as good as its DAC and amp, and the iPhone/iPod/Touch has now got access to external DACs through devices like the Cipher Labs Algorithm Solo (external DAC that connects to the Apple’s dock connectors) and the Fostex HP-P1 (dock-connecting external DAC and amp in one small package). And before that, there was the Red Wine iMod for the iPod 4G, which I reviewed for Head-fi and tested against many other DAPs.

    All of which means that a naked iPod is OK (but certainly not abysmal), but its ubiquity guarantees that the highest quality options are available for it by third parties. The biggest reason to buy an iPhone is the myriad of third party options.

    If you truly want a DAP that goes beyond it, you need an HM-801 or HM-602, which do have better DACs than the CLAS (and also operate as dedicated DACs themselves) but also cost anywhere from $400 to $800. And don’t exact the same versatility as a Touch, either: both HMs have minimal UIs.

    Third, newbies should disregard comments like “if you don’t know the difference [between monitors and earphones], you probably shouldn’t be spending this much on IEMs.” In the first place, trying a pair of earphones before you buy them is the only way to know what you’re getting. With custom IEMs, make sure your vendor has a great return policy.

    Besides which, earphones made to be used as monitors *are still earphones*. No professional I’ve ever met calls headphones monitors (we reserve that term for full-sized speakers); we call them *reference headphones*. Additionally, it’s wrong to tell people they won’t like the reference sound unless they’re sound engineers, because a lot of people I know at every level of interest *do* like the reference sound, which is often called analytical or detailed and tends to be slightly bright.

    To RN’s comments on custom earmolds, I’d add that it’s best to find an audiologist who’s in the habit of creating earmolds for this use. You can try them out on a pair of cheaper fitted Etymotic ER-20s, if you like (earplugs that represent the FR accurately but at a lower volume instead of muffling it, as conventional earplugs do — useful for club and concert situations). Dave Rees’s earmolds look a bit over-elaborate to me; I had earmolds like that originally but replaced them with ones that were smaller, less tortured, and fit into my ears more easily. To me, creating overly elaborate earmolds translates to a lack of professional experience on the audiologist’s part.

  16. 16
    Scrypt says:

    One quick correction to my comment: The Etymotic earplugs to be fitted for are called *musician’s earplugs*. I own a pair and use tem only for concerts and studio work. The rest of the time, I use ER-20s, which do the same job but are a little less revealing, cost much less and don’t require custom fitting. With AFM insurance, my muscian’s earplugs cost me cost me $89 *including* my visit to the audiologist, and I was able to use the exact same molds for the earpieces of my Westone ES-3s.

  17. 17
    Neil says:

    Scrypt….

    I was with you all the way until you ruined it by saying:

    creating overly elaborate earmolds translates to a lack of professional experience on the audiologist’s part.

    Oh Oh,

    There are a whole host of reasons to make a “full shell” impression of the ear when moulding for use with IEM’s and for you to say different shows that in this particular subject you don’t really know what you are talking about.

    I manufacture and sell custom hearing protection. My company also specialise in high end IEMs and funky bespoke hearing aids for musicians. It’s a strictly referral business. We build custom equipment for people who know. Over 99% of our custom work is full shell and “elaborate” and thats to house drivers/receivers and chip-sets no bigger than two match heads.

    ER flat response filters are nice but extremely over priced. (ten times ore expensive for me to buy in) There are just as good (some say better) flat line attenuating filters on the market for much less. How can there possibly be a difference in sound ( I hope your asking yourself) is an entirely different discussion !

    You musicians love your analogue signals and I’m right next to you on that BUT I’d argue that few people understand sound better than an audiologist. Maybe you should order a set of our triple drivers?

    They do require extremely elaborate impressions and yet they aren’t even fitted to your ears. Weird huh!?

  18. 18
    Scrypt says:

    Strapping Young Master Neil:

    If you were truly “with” me “all the way” until I “ruined” my entire comment by making an observation with which you disagreed, then you wouldn’t have opined that I “don’t know what [I'm] talking about.”

    If you truly agreed with my post, then you supported the idea that people with whom we differ deserve our patience and tact; that, instead of frothing with disdain over a point of contention, we should politely offer evidence to the contrary, since even correcting someone else can make them feel as if you *had* used invective. To berate is to overchasten (as it were).

    That was why I showed respect for Random Nerd, maintained that parts of his post were useful, and then went on to discuss the parts of his argument with which I disagreed.

    If, instead of assuming you knew what I meant by “creating overly elaborate earmolds translates to a lack of professional experience,” and instead of wishing to froth venom in response, you had asked me to explain my comment, I’d have said this:

    If a customer buying custom earmolds for, say, a universal IEM such as the Etymotic ER4 is given no other options but a full-ear fit, and if the resulting earmolds are huge affairs that must be pressed into the whorls and volutes of the entire ear like a multi-leveled jigsaw puzzle piece every time one wants to listen to a Sansa Clip Zip or iPod Shuffle unobtrusively in a cafeteria, then yes, I would conclude that the professional who sold said earmolds did not show a great deal of experience in understanding the point and application for that customer of the product they were selling. Inexpensive earmolds are sometimes molded to the entire ear (including the fossa triangularis for reasons that seem not to have to do with fidelity) in ways that create bother for the user in the same sense that thumb-thick cables can be obtrusive to the point of self-defeating for daily use.

    If, however, an audiologist discusses the options for earmolds with a customer, and explains (as you have not done so far — your readers might want to know more) the benefits of a full-ear fit, then the customer would be given a practical choice about the particular kind of earmold that would satisfy their needs.

    My own experience with full-ear molds has been disappointing. They were not only annoying to wear but seemed to add nothing to the sound of the various IEMs with which I tried them.

    Also:

    In quoting my post, you left out my important qualifier, “to me,” which was written to acknowledge that my observations are based on my own experience and not intended to apply to everyone.

    That I cite personal experience and am not making universally applicable pronouncements should be as clear in this post as it was intended to be in the last.

    Herr Neil:

    Rather than handing me a corsage of rotten vegetables and expressing outrage at the pitch of the Marchess of Queensbury, why not tell us of the specific advantages and circumstances in which you feel that full-fit earmolds are the wisest choice?

    While it’s always fun to be accused of posing as a sodomite, I wonder whether your comment is as useful as it could be to the (-3 at this point) people who are actually reading this thread. Judging from the professional experience you say you have, I expect you could enlighten us all in ways that might condition our future purchases and possibly increase your own sales.

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