My Panasonic HJE900 Review
Okay, so I've been enjoying the Panasonics for just over a month, and I've been thinking of making a review for a while, but today a song really just hit me (almost literally ) and was just too good not to write my thoughts up on it.
Over the past year or two I've been getting a little more and more into the sound quality of my music. After going for a while with the JLabs JBuds Sony ex75, I decided to go for some better quality Ďphones. After searching around for a while, it was a choice between the Head-Direct RE0 (one of abiís favorites :P) and the Klipsch Image S4 (which was CNETís favorite). I mistakenly went with the S4, mostly because of the bad rep the RE0 had for build quality (I have terrible luck with electronics durability), and the fact that I could get the S4 at Best Buy with a two-year warranty. But I wasnít all that happy with the sound, which had way too much bass for me. Somewhat luckily, they broke after 3 months (the stress reliefs on the housing started separating, and soon after one ear cut out), and I was able to return them.
Enter the new search for a pair of Ďphones, and hopefully one that would really last and would have a sound signature I could be happy with. I managed to remember that one review of those Panasonic something-somethingís by dfkt that I saw on the ABI main page. I tracked it down, and I was hooked. The build quality was what really, really sold it for me, because thatís what really let me down with the S4ís. I finally got them a few months later for Christmas.
I'm by absolutely no means an audiophile, so Iíll keep this quick. But I do know that I donít have to be an audiophile to know that the HJE900ís are by far the best headphones Iíve ever heard. Everything just sounds absolutely amazing. The bass sounds way better than what I remember of the S4ís, even though thereís a lot less of it. Thereís a ďthumpĒ that the S4 quite simply did not have (so basically, I think they go lower). The mids are incredibly smooth and, I guess, ďprecise.Ē The highs arenít sibilant like the ex-75ís, and they go really high too. Everything is just crystal freakiní clear.
My favorite song with these phones is Franz Ferdinandís Lucid Dreams. The second part of the song (around 4:30, for anyone wondering) sounds so fantastic that I have to stop whatever Iím doing at the time and just revel in the awesomeness of it. None of my other headphones have the same precision, detail, and whatever to reproduce those textures like the HJE900 does... Ahh, take me on a ride, Pana.
This was an interesting aspect of the Panasonics that I thought should be mentioned, because they turned out a little different than expected.
The included ear tips are decent, but nothing special. Theyíre harder than most of the other ear tips Iíve used (with the exception being the stiff, oval-shaped S4 tips). I know a lot of people replace them, so itís probably not a big deal.
The fit itself is rather strange, and unlike how I normally use other headphones. Most headphones Iíve tried, to get a good seal, I must push the Ďphones deep into my ear, and maybe twist and pull them back out a bit. When I first tried these I pretty much just lightly set them in my ears, figuring I would adjust them while the sound was playing. To my surprise, I immediately could hear the whole sound spectrum, bass and all. Everything sounded perfect right off the bat without having to do dig them into my ear. The fit is far easier than any other canal phone Iíve used.
Noise isolation on these isnít overly fantastic. My S4ís, ex75ís, and Skullcandy Inkíds (blech!) all isolate better. Interestingly, the Inkíd isolate the best out of any Ďphones Iíve heard (despite the effing Skullcandy logo effing *embossed* on the effing eartips!!!), but theyíre so crappy it doesnít matter. Anyway, I actually prefer a low amount of isolation since I still like to able to hear people when Iím not listening to music or listening at low volumes.
What I mainly wanted to focus my review on was the build quality of the Panasonics, since I found that part to be the absolute deal-maker for me. I was extremely impressed with their build quality as a whole. Everything just seems great, and if I had to make a pair of headphones, this is probably just how I would make them.
Starting from the bottom, the headphone jack is a little on the big side, the biggest that any of my headphones have had (not saying a lot Ė most of mine are pretty small). But itís made of metal, unlike any of the headphones I have had, and itís got a nice very-slightly-ridged texture on it thatís fun to run your fingernail over. The stress relief on the jack is good, and definitely should its job well.
Next comes the cable. I was most impressed by the thickness of it. It seems to be made of the same type of material as my sony ex75ís, which is really nice, but itís way thicker, probably right around double the diameter for each part. The thin part (after the Y-splitter) of the HJE900 is the same thickness as the thick part of the ex-75. It doesnít stay stiff like so many other headphone cords, so it wonít look like a lightning bolt if you fold it up and then unfold it.
The Y-splitter is decent. Itís not quite as nice as the one my S4ís had which completely separated each cord. Itís also made of plastic, and is one of the very few places (and the only one that makes any difference at all) on the Ďphones where you can see any plastic-y substance at all. That seems like quite a miracle considering how many headphones nowadays are made from pretty much pure plastic outer casing. And anyway, plastic here is probably fine. Oh, and the little slider has a plastic inside, but that same type of metal as the headphone jack on the outside, which is a nice touch.
My absolute favorite part of the headphones is up next: The replaceable cable. Considering that the cord shorting was the reason my S4 broke (along with two or three other headphones), not having to worry about that issue was a big deal for me. The connection between the housing and the cord is solid, but just easy enough to take apart so it doesnít feel like youíre going to break something in the process. The stress relief here is a little worrisome, though, and a little bit too-closely resembles the S4ís crappy stress reliefs. Theyíre made of a semi-flexible material, but not quite as flexible as Iíd like. But, like I mentioned, the cable is replaceable, so itís not terribly concerning.
Some people mention that the cord is rather short, but I find the length just about perfect. Iím about 5í9, and the cord reaches about to my knee. But if youíre using these with a desktop or something and need a really long cable you might need a cable extension.
Finally, thereís the famed zirconium housing. At first glance, they look like plastic because of the smooth curves and super-glossy finish. But my never-fail hardness test of teeth-to-material shows itís a lot harder than plastic As many people here at ABI can attest, the housing is all but indestructible. To me, theyíre actually less bling-y than my ex-75ís or S4ís, but they do seem to be more ďsophisticatedĒ than those two. Theyíre more straightforward than the ostentatious fake-chrome (*cough* plastic *cough*) housing of so many other phones.
Also, from what I can tell each housing is identical, which means that you should be able to interchange each side for absolutely no difference in sound. The L/R separation is done by the cord, not the housings. I donít think this is overly useful, though it might be useful for diagnostic purposes if one ear stopped working (figuring out whether to replace the cord or the Ďbud) or if you somehow managed to get a hold of just a single bud.
I donít think I could ask for more out of a pair of headphones for the price. I was wary of paying the ~$140 I had to get these (this was after Panasonic stopped shipping the HJE to the US), but Iím more than happy with what I got. While I canít compare the HJE to headphones of its price range, I can easily say that it beats out every other pair of headphone Iíve heard by a huge stretch. And the build quality is nothing short of amazing.
Crystal clear sound
Amazing build quality
Excellent value for their (even raised) price
Few cable replacements around unless you go the DIY route
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