JVC HA-FXC80 Black Series IEM review
I only got them a couple of days ago. So, believers of burn-in, please take this review with an adequate amount of sodium chloride.
The front-end material (DAP) is a Sony PCM-D50.
I won't review the packaging as pictures of it are all over the Webs. But I will say a couple of things about its build.
JVC calls it "Tri-Form" which is a vaguely pyramidal form of the main IEM body. It looks very well designed, at least. JVC claims "carbon" as a selling point of this IEM, but really today's plastics are all made from hydrocarbons, so their point is basically moot. There is no driver unit in this body as JVC employs the unique "Micro HD" unit. This incredibly small dynamic (!) driver is housed inside a metal barrel which is glued onto the black body. Coupled with the force required to detach/attach the tips, there is a risk of pulling it right off although due to this particular design, no other aftermarket tips can fit on them to my current knowledge. So once you find the right size, you should be good.
There are shiny accents on the back side of the body. I cannot confirm whether they're actually metal or painted plastic. There is a mesh grill there. Some say that it is a giant vent but I do not believe so.
Cables... Very soft. The strain relieves on the body are short but flexible. There is nothing on the Y-splitter and although any capable person can apply a length of heat-shrink tubing on it, JVC, how big a company you are, should have thought of it. The relief on the stereo mini-plug is functional.
Others... There is a little bump on the strain relief on the left body to help you identify the sides in the dark. There is "HA-FXC80" printed on one side of the Y-splitter.
I have big ears and relatively wide canal openings. I use the largest tips (well, they only provide three pairs). As a personal convention I never wear IEMs straight-down. JVC claims this Tri-Form design is comfortable both straight-down and loop-round-the-ear. I can say that it is working on me as I tried wearing them straight-down for once to test their claim. To help the IEMs stabilize around your ears, JVC has kindly provided soft ear-hooks there are really rather nice. There is also a little bump on the left hook. These ear-hooks come with bonus features: They keep a portion of the cable away from directly contacting your skin (which could damage the cables with greasy secretions as seen on the Shure SCL5) and they will basically force you to insert them to the correct depth. The depth of the insertion is very important...
I purchased this IEM mainly due to reading reviews that say it is treble-focused. On the D50, this is very untrue. However my D50 may have the unique faculty of overdriving basically every IEM I throw at it:
Reference. I previously owned the Monster Turbine Pro-Copper. Driven from a (somewhat outdated) Discman D-32, they are very balanced; however once connected on the D50, they become horribly overdriven as the bass is so strong, it is unlistenable so I had to sell the Copper. And this coming from a guy who enjoys the Sony MDR-XB700...
Back to our FXC80. Reviews say they're treble-focused; they may be actually right as directly connected on the D50, they remind me of that Copper driven by the D-32. There is very strong bass presence and --
Hey, why don't I list some of my listening experiences with actual musical pieces?
Basshunter - I'm your Basscreator
I do not dare to try Techmaster PEB on them so here comes by second-best bass test. There is density, absolute density of the bass; it seems about as tight as the Copper on D-32. The highs are not that high but this is a generally darker musical piece of my bunch. Impact is excellent if not apparently excessive at first. Your ears do get used to it rather quickly.
Kate Ryan - Évidemment
This is a cover of France Gall's original Évidemment. The original one, on tape, cannot be listened to if your phones are of high quality due to the high amount of noise (yes I had Dolby B enabled). This Kate Ryan's cover version, ripped from CD and loaded on D50, is a good test for vocal "distance", warmth and intimacy. The FXC80's performance is palpable but not too spectacular: you distinctively feel a certain distance between you and the singer but it is as if a milky membrane is separating you from her. The imaging stops half-way.
Nelly Furtado - I'm like a Bird
Although mostly a vocal piece, it's got some good highs. The FXC80, on this piece, finally unveils its treble potential: air, extension, detail. It isn't harsh, but occasionally you can hear a bit of sibilance or three. I should probably get more treble-y music. I should try listening to Only Girl (Rihanna) or Impossible (Shontelle). Much treble on my speakers.
Nightwish - Bye Bye Beautiful
No, no. Nightwish, with Annette, is downright pop and not metal. You can call it heavy pop if you will. Anyway, people have said that Jap phones are not too good on hard rock and metal music. This could be true with Audio-Technica since every phone of ATH that I've came across are soft. Grandiosely soft, maybe. But soft. Especially the air and the wood ones. The JXC80 can generally perform metal with few problems, however the midrange may sound marred due to the previously mentioned milky membrane effect.
Others... Sound stage: Enveloping. Size is about average. Dimensionality... About better than the Copper but they have quite poor dimensionality anyway.
JVC gets it right. What I can tell you is that its Micro HD dynamic driver has the detailing capabilities of a freaking balanced armature. Per reference, the Coppers have electrostatic-level detailing, but at a much higher price. Yes, the Japs have made a phone sounding like Coppers for about six times less (Canada: FXC80 $80 Coppers $450). Law of diminishing returns at its best. Although get this: if you have a "normal" source (i.e. not a D50 and definitely not an HM-801), the FXC80 is still more treble-focused than overall balanced.
I probably have tin ears as I believe an HD215 (Sennheiser) sounds about the same as the DT880 (beyerdyamic), on the same amplifier. So when I say that the FXC80 have near-Copper levels of performance, it's either a Dodge Viper is as good as a Ferrari F40 or I just don't know how to drive. Although if you buy from an adequate seller you should get a month of trial period. Listen for yourself.
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