Pros: Superb sound quality, great comfort, great price
Cons: Some creaking noise, not for portable use, needs long burn-in for best sound
First and foremost, this is not an expert review. You may call it amateur if you please. But it's more of an owner appreciating his gear and sharing his thoughts and opinions about it.
After reading multiple reviews, mostly here in head-fi, I've decided to purchase the JVC HA-RX700. It struck me as a hidden gem since it has been compared multiple times to headphones several times more expensive. I bought it for $30+ in B&H and had it shipped here in the Philippines. We don't have that model here so it's safe to say that I was not able to test it before buying. Aside from reviews, my other basis for buying is I always loved the JVC sound. We had a component system before and unlike other component systems I've heard, JVC to me is the only system that doesn't have a "veil". Everything is so clear and open. So I thought maybe, just maybe, they'd keep that legacy in their headphones.
So let's begin shall we? Please excuse any terms that are not head-fi worthy.
PACKAGING AND PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES
*Packaging - The packaging looks average, in transparent plastic that is almost moulded to the shape of the headphones, except for the straight edges. You need cutters to really open it cleanly. It's sealed.
*Size - When I first saw them out of the box, I would have to agree to one of the most consistent observations about these headphones. These are huge. I only know of a few headphones that are bigger, like the AKG K550.
*Cord - The cord is really long, and I mean really long. You can walk around a small room not needing to unplug it from the source. It's safely more than 3 meters.
*Build - The build, I would say, is tough. I've owned it for months now and I'm yet to see a scratch on it. The only issue were creaking sounds when you suddenly turn your head left or right or when you do some slight head banging while listening to lively music. I believe others have observed this as well but learned to ignore the problem. I just can't because it affected my listening experience at first. The solution? Upon further testing and observation, most of the creaking sound is coming from where the cord and drivers are joined. It's either loose or the cord's friction with whatever it's connected too creates the creaking sound. There is nothing that a simple electric tape can't fix. Wrap the connector with the cord then you're good to go. No more creaking sound.
*Sources - Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8 smartphone, iPad mini, Acer Aspire 4738z laptop, Fiio X1. Sorry but I do not own high end sources like amps and I'm hesitant to buy a portable amp since these gadgets can drive the RX700 quite easily. The iPad and X1 are not mine. I borrowed them from a relative and a friend respectively. And as I noted previously in the introductions thread, I'm a budget audio enthusiast, not an audiophile. If I can stick with the basics - a decent source and decent budget headphones, I’m good with that.
*Music Samples (mostly MP3 at 320kbps and a few flacs) - Jazz (e.g. Spyro Gyra), Prog (e.g. Porcupine Tree), Hair Metal (e.g. Warrant), Acoustic (e.g. Disney Fairy Tale Weddings (an awesome guitar album)), Pop (e.g. Grammy Nominees (to really test that bass since newer music are mostly bass-oriented)), and everything else in between, including Jazz Fusion (Dave Matthews Band). Oh yes, I'm a music lover. :)
*Out of the box – Out of the box, I would say that the sound is quite balanced yet ordinary. I wouldn’t say I was impressed at first but I was satisfied. Not as satisfied after more than 100 hours of burn in but it was enough for me to keep on listening. What struck me immediately is how mellow these headphones sound. But out of the box, the mids, I would say, would not show their true colors yet. There is just that feeling of wanting to hear more of the guitar and other instruments in the mid-frequency yet it really lacks volume and power in that area, especially acoustic guitars, again, out of the box.
*After 100 hours of burn-in – Then I understood why this is highly regarded as one of the best budget full-size headphones there is. I believe reading one review saying that guitar sound reproduction is the most realistic among headphones he had listened to. Not that I listened to a lot of headphones. I auditioned a few and I must say it is quite true. Sometimes it feels like the guitar player is just sitting beside you plucking or strumming to his heart’s content.
**Lows – The bass! Good lord! How accurate and quick and visceral it is (at least in my opinion)! In almost all of the reviews, I believe this is the strongest characteristic of these headphones. You would never hear it boomy or artificially extended. It’s just there, thumping and guttural if it needs to, and quite clear and groovy when it comes to bass guitars.
**Mids – Clear, clean, and mellow. Overall, I think this is what gives the impressive fullness to the sound of these headphones. Of course instrument separation is very decent yet not too far to enjoy the song as a whole.
**Highs – Just the right blend with the rest of the spectrum. Some people, especially audiophiles, may crave for more but again, I would say JVC balanced it all throughout to produce a very mellow, music-friendly sound.
REPRODUCTION FROM SOURCES
*Samsung smartphone – Volume needs to be at least half way to produce that decent sound. Not sure about other smartphones but Samsung’s built in player and amp sound strong and powerful enough to play music with enough definition and clarity.
*iPad mini – The sound becomes more “surround”. As an analogy, it’s like watching a movie in a Dolby Surround Sound cinema, even with music. This gives a whole new listening experience as the sound turns darker overall. If you’re looking for more warmth, I believe a mid-range smartphone will do.
*Acer laptop – This gives the best sound overall, at least for me. The soundstage becomes considerably wider; the lows quicker and more visceral even at lower volumes and the mids and highs become considerably more powerful and clear. I believe it’s because of the more powerful built-in amp as compared to a smartphone or a tablet.
*Fiio X1 – Almost sounds like the laptop but not quite, even if you tweak the EQ. I think it would benefit from an additional amp with bass boost like the Kilimanjaro or E11. I haven’t tried that but I think it needs that add-on for a complete mobile listening experience.
*Jazz – This is perfect for jazz. You hear everything, probably even the small nuances that you haven’t heard before, especially for multi-instrumental and complex arrangements from bands like Spyro Gyra (try listening to their song “After Hours” with these and you’ll know what I mean).
*Rock – This is fun for rock. You may not find the “forwardness” you’d normally find in rock-specific headphones like the Marshall Major, but it gives this certain crispness to rock music that eventually you start stomping your feet and banging your head a little bit without you noticing. I believe the secret is in its fullness of sound.
*Pop – I’m surprised how good it sounds for pop, especially with the iPad mini’s “surround” sound reproduction. But I need to warn bass heads. These may lack the “boom boom boom” you’re looking for. As I noted earlier, the bass is quick and visceral but will not give you the usual “boom” sound.
*Acoustic – See my comments in “After 100 hours of burn-in”.
*Everything else in between – This is a good all-rounder. I’m willing to bet, the best at this price point.
I meant no offense to anyone who owns and likes any of these headphones. These are mere personal comparisons and initial impressions since I never had long listening hours for some of these headphones, except for the K511, the Awei and the Samsung in-ears.
*Sennheiser HD-201 – The Sen is a tad brighter, which might be preferred by treble heads but it lacks the fullness I’m referring to earlier. It also lacks the mellowness and crispness of sound for any music as compared to the RX700. But where the JVC outshines it the most is in the bass department, especially when played with a decent player like the X1. The JVC also has better isolation and comfort overall. The JVC for me wins hands down.
*AKG K511 – Out of the box, the AKG wins in the mids department. It is immediately great for acoustic music and rock because of the enhanced bass response. It also wins in clarity, again, out of the box. But after about similar number of hours of burn-in the difference becomes very noticeable. The enhanced bass response of the AKG becomes even more enhanced, giving it that unwanted veil where the bass rules everything else. It creates a sound signature too dark for my tastes that if I can push the other frequencies up physically, I would. The AKG is better for gaming though since it sounds more immersive. Isolation is about the same, pretty decent. Both are very comfortable for long listening sessions. Again, after burn-in, it’s a no contest.
*Marshall Major – The Marshalls are significantly more forward sounding. I’m also impressed how clear-sounding those are given their forwardness. For rock, especially metal and other heavier sub-genres, it’s hard to beat the Marshalls. For prog though, I’d go with the JVC. I listen to more prog than standard metal so if you’re a purist metal fan, go with the Marhalls. For isolation, I have never worn headphones with better passive noise cancellation than the Marshalls. For a piece of on-ears, that is impressive. The Marshall wins in that department. But comfort wise, I’ve never been comfortable wearing on-ears. They become painful for me in the long run. Between the JVC and the Marshall, sound preference is a matter of choice. I’d still go with the JVC’s more balanced and mellow sound.
*AKG Y50 – They are both balanced sounding but the AKG lacks the definition and power the JVC has. It may be with the drivers but I am not sure. And again, I have this bias with over-ears. I love the comfort and sound staging that they can bring.
*Samsung and Awei ES500i in-ears – I think the big difference is the listening experience overall. The in-ears give me a more immersive listening experience but they lack in sound stage and comfort. Again, they’re too different for a fair comparison.
There are the all-stars and superstars, the high-ends, and the stuff of legends like the Sennheiser HD-650, Sony MDR-7506, AKG K550, or the Audio Technica ATH M50x. But also, in the further (or more appropriately, the cheaper) reaches of the headphones galaxy, there are the assassins, the phantoms, the mercenaries. They may be hidden from popularity or has a small but loyal following and yet, in their own special way, in their own right, they are legends. For me, the JVC HA-RX700 is one such legend.
I would recommend it to anyone looking for great value at a very low price point.
I hope this helps. Until the next review audio masters! Happy listening everyone! Cheers!