Pros: Luxurious looks, ear pads are comfortable, incredible soundstage and imaging, excellent bass, inviting, ‘lifelike’ sound signature on most songs.
Cons: The headband is uncomfortable, can sound a little ‘distant’ with some recordings, might lack extension in the higher frequencies for some
JVC HA-DX1000 review
Source: Marantz SA7001 SACD player.
Amplifier: Ray Samuels Audio XP-7 with power supply and AD797 opamps.
Headphones for comparison: Sennheiser HD600 and Ultrasone HFI-780 with Beyer DT250 velour pads.
The Allman Brother Band - At Filmore East (SACD).
Beethoven - Complete Symphonies (London Symphony Orchestra, Bernard Haitink) (SACD).
Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited (CD).
Fatboy Slim - You’ve come a long way, baby (CD).
Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard - The Dark Knight OST (CD).
Van Halen - Van Halen (HDCD remaster) (CD).
Eric Clapton - Unplugged (CD).
Joan Baez - Farewell, Angelina (CD).
I picked these albums because they’re among my favorite ones, are pretty common and offer enough variation to fully test the DX1000.
This is my review of the JVC HA-DX1000 headphones. These are the European/German version of the HP-DX1000 and are as it seems, identical to each other (both made in Japan) except for the lettering on the cups. They sell for around 500 euro including shipping and taxes in Europe/Germany (http://www2.computeruniverse.net/info.asp?id=90310428&used=&idused=&sr=jvc%20dx1000&pm=b+NL for example, there are cheaper stores I think), much cheaper than the HP version, which will set you back around 700 euro excluding shipping and taxes (http://www.pricejapan.com/front/e_good_info.php?code=52&category=10).
I’ve been using them for a couple weeks now to let the pads settle in and get adjusted to the sound.
These are from the HP version, but like I said, the HA version is the same.
Unit diameter: Phi 50mm.
Playback frequency zone: 4Hz - 30,000Hz.
Rated impedance: 64 Ohms.
Output overpressure value: 102dB/1mW.
Source: http://www.jvc-victor.co.jp/accessory/headphone/pure/hp-dx1000/spec. http://jdl.jvc-europe.com/product.php?id=HA-DX1000-E&catid=100144&sub=ts#product-tabs
§1.2: Frequency graphs:
§2: Build quality and wearing comfort:
The headphones come in a box made out of cardboard. The headphones inside rest on some nice looking satin like ‘throne’. I wouldn’t recommend storing the headphones in the box though, since the sides of the headband scrape against of the sides of the box, with the possibility of scraping away the paint.
The overall looks of the DX1000 are very luxurious and surprisingly not that heavy in your hand or on your head. Deep wooden cups, thick (fake?) leather pads, a good thick cable and a sturdy finish (at first sight that is) overall make this one gorgeous looking headphone. The cups luckily don’t have that glossy look like the Denon D7000 and the Audio-Technica JPN models, which, looking at the pictures and comparing them to my ‘live’ DX1000, is way too much for my liking. There’re some (expected) slight imperfections on the cups, like some miniscule bumps and some very small manufacturing errors in the wood, but nothing you won’t see right away. The pads are thick and feel very soft and comfortable and won’t burn into your skull, but sit comfortably on your head. They don’t really turn into an oven on hot days and don’t make you sweat like a pig. The headband however is not of the same cushion like quality as the ear pads. It only uses a very narrow and thin layer of padding, making the sides of the headband irritate my skull. I’ll probably need to make a custom sleeve or something with extra padding to make them comfortable again. With the stock headband I can’t really use them for hours at the moment.
The isolation is mixed. They let more noise in than the HFI-780, but not as much as the open HD600. They leak little sound out at normal listening levels. You won’t hear anything when you’re 50-100 centimeters away.
The cable looks like a high quality one. It’s thick, much thicker than the HD600 stock cable for example, and flexible enough for everyday use. It’s not detachable like the HD600 cable, but the DX1000 cable doesn’t look like it’s going to break anytime and you don’t want to replace it soon anyway. They suffer slightly from microphonics, but nothing annoying at normal use.
In the general DX1000 thread (http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f4/jvc-hp-dx1000-owners-unite-219744/) there are some people reporting that the hinge can break off. Not exactly a quality finish by JVC there, so some extra caution is needed when handling these headphones.
§3.1: Overall presentation:
The first thing I noticed was the overall wide and deep presentation of the music. It really tears all the instruments apart from each other and gives them an easy to recognize separate place in the virtual room. This does wonders for picking out the details on the separate instruments and ‘hidden’ things like background voices. The DX1000 doesn’t place you right in middle or just in front of things, but a bit more back. This doesn’t always mean a good thing though, since it can make some intimate recordings not sound intimate anymore. The music becomes too ‘distant’ and there’s a bit too much room between the instruments.
The second noticeable thing when listening is the bass presentation. It’s present, but doesn’t overpower the rest of the frequency spectrum and never goes out of control. It remains detailed and lets the rest of sound remain detailed. It might be bit too much for the bass-shy people, but for me, the bass fits very well in its overall presentation. The mid bass bump is a bit lacking though compared to some other headphones: the bass is more flat over all.
The midrange has some strange coloration. Vocals for example have a very slight echo. It becomes really noticeable when they already have an echo in the recording, but otherwise you have to look for it. The other instruments have this as well, but less obvious. This phenomenon didn’t really annoy me. I actually kind of like it. It gives the music that ‘live’ sensation (in combination with the soundstage and imaging), something most other headphones I heard are lacking. I don’t experience it as an echo while listening casually, but more as a realistic touch to the music, which can greatly enhance the experience of the recording.
The highs are a ‘weak’ point of the DX1000. I’ve heard brighter headphones and better highs. However, I think that more brightness would’ve ruined the sound. To me, the DX1000 sound excellent without the extra brightness. It gives them a more relaxed sound that I can listen to for hours.
§3.2: Live music: At Filmore East and Clapton’s Unplugged:
Both Clapton’s and the Allman Brothers Band’s live albums are among my absolute favorite albums, both in musical preference and recording quality because they have little to no flaws. It’s good to hear then that the DX1000 brings out the best of these recordings with the true feeling that you are there.
‘At Filmore East’ can be a bit tricky for some headphones because of the noticeable bass guitar (also see in §4), but the DX1000 keeps it very well under control. The drums have a good deal of impact and sound very ‘live’ and make you start foot tapping right away from the first track. The electric guitars might miss that edge, although the recording itself doesn’t seem to go over the top with them anyway. Actually, I don’t really mind this. It makes the entire album more enjoyable to listen with no hints of fatigue, not even when listening to the over 22 minutes lasting version of ‘Whipping Post’.
Eric Clapton’s MTV Unplugged is a different animal of course with going for acoustic instead of electric and a more relaxed style overall. But again the DX1000 excels. Now I don’t think any audio setup can ruin this superb recording, but the DX1000 manages to make it an even better experience. Every stroke, foot tap, vocal and even noise from the audience sounds a hundred percent right to my ears. And all the little details that makes this album so special like the wooden echo from the foot taps and the finger work example, are noticeable and presented in beautiful balance with the rest of the sound.
§3.3: Classical music: Beethoven symphonies:
This part of the review was the hardest for me to write. I’m not an expert on classical music and the various recordings from different orchestras. I’ll try though with a very familiar composer. What I expect from the DX1000 is that it presents the music like it really comes from an orchestra and not some instruments thrown together. On top of that, the music should hit the right emotions and the headphones should help with that.
The DX1000 presents the sound as expected in a nice balanced package with that good touch of emotion and the soundstage makes everything very believable. The percussions have the right amount of weight behind them and the strings are clear and detailed. The brass instruments like on the 9th, 1st movement sound slightly off though in the more busy parts. There’s a slight artificial coloration there which make them sound unrealistic and restrained, making this a (minor) stain on the otherwise great performance of the DX1000.
The chorus on the 9th’s 4th movement sounds wonderful and the DX1000 does a good thing bringing out the ‘joy’, no matter if it just a single voice or the entire choir.
§3.3: Rock music: Van Halen and Bob Dylan:
With rock music I expect the headphone to be ‘fun’. This means a somewhat closer soundstage, a good mid bass bump for the drums, speed and good highs for electric guitars. As you could read in §3.1, the DX1000 isn’t quite that on all fronts. So how will it hold as a rock phone?
‘Thombstone Blues’ on ‘Highway 69 Revisited’ sounds beautifully at least. All the instruments are clear and recognizable; the drum has a good impact and Bloomfield’s guitar riffs are crisp and clear. But it sounds a bit too balanced to qualify the DX1000 as ‘true’ rock phones. It’s not that they’re a bad match for rock; it’s just that a ‘specialty’ headphone would be better. The slower tracks on the album sound more right for the DX1000. ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ is a hate/love song for me with its piano slamming and Dylan’s voice not quite working alright for the song, but the DX1000 pushes it more to listenable with its balanced presentation.
Van Halen introduced a new kind of rock sound with their debut album and the HDCD remaster preserved this well. The recording is a bit on the soft side on itself, but still more enjoyable than the more aggressive mixed album ‘Balance’. This means however that the headphone itself must add that fun factor. The DX1000 does this to some extent. The drums have a good deal of impact and the bass guitar sounds clean and present. The electric guitar is a bit underwhelming and lacks absolute aggressiveness, but is nonetheless present and detailed. The bass guitar sounds clean and not boomy, but lacks a bit of extra impact compared to ‘true’ rock phones. And that’s pretty much the story with the DX1000 as a rockphone: it all sounds really good and I definitely don’t miss the HFI-780 for rock, but it still looses against real rockphones on rawness in the highs and absolute impact. The DX1000 are good, maybe very good rockphones, but not excellent. This is the case for studio recordings by the way. Like I said earlier, the DX1000 is excellent with live rock music.
§3.4: Electronica: Fatboy Slim:
‘You’ve come a long way, baby’ contains pretty much all my favorite Fatboy Slim recordings. What I basically expect from the DX1000 is a fast and tight bass and that they make the characteristic cracks in the recordings not too revealing.
The bass is tight and fast alright. It hits with the right rhythm and has little overdone decay. The opening track ‘Right Here, Right Now’ can easily sound boomy and out of balance, but not with the DX1000. The intentional cracks sound a bit weird at first though because of the soundstage and imaging of the DX1000. The cracks seem to be ‘around’ the recording now, instead of ‘inside’ the recording which I get with most other headphones. It’s not a bad thing or sounds completely out of place; it just takes some time to get used to.
The rest of the tracks sound nice too. The bass quantity and quality of the DX1000 seems just perfect for this album (and also for the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy on a side note) and the soundstage and imaging make it fun to identify the different sounds. Only the track “Kalifornia’ sounds a bit on the boomy side, but I think that track is quite boomy on its own already, especially if the other tracks aren’t.
§3.5: Sountracks: The Dark Knight OST:
A headphone with a large soundstage combined with a serious bass presentation should really shine with bombastic soundtracks like The Dark Knight OST. And with no surprises, it does. If you’ve seen the movie and close your eyes while listening to the CD, you really see the Batman appearing on his Batpod roaming through the streets of Gotham. The DX1000 keeps the bombastic signature of the soundtrack, but might lack the absolute thunderous impact that makes your ears bleed. But make no mistake, the deep, ‘feelable’ bass like on the opening track ‘Why so serious?’ or on the faster percussion parts like on ‘I’m not a hero’ is there and present and remains incredibly fast and detailed. A bit too detailed at points, because the DX1000 does reveal the shortcomings of the recording. I knew that there was some clipping and other unwanted noises, but the DX1000 reveals a double amount of imperfections, which can cause problems on the slower tracks like ‘Blood on my hands’. The violins and piano just don’t sound crisp and clear. This might be partly blamed to the so-so highs DX1000, but the problem also existed on the brighter/more extended HFI-780.
§3.6: Folk: Bob Dylan and Joan Beaz:
I picked ‘Highway 69 Revisited’ and ‘Farwell Angelina’ to test both male and female vocal performance of the DX1000 with little to no other instruments (and ‘Highway 69 Revisited’ has some excellent rock tracks too as a bonus).
The ‘distant’ sound of the DX1000 as mentioned earlier in §3.1 is quite noticeable with these recordings. You want intimacy and emotion that goes with it; that private concert feeling. The DX1000 can’t really do that sadly, even if the rest of the relaxed sound signature might be perfect for it. It definitely doesn’t sound bad because of that, but you’ll always expect that little bit more in terms of emotion. It handles Boaz’s voice beautifully without becoming too piercing to my ears. The sibilance is well under control. The guitar sounds amazing but a bit all over the place.
The same thing is going on with Bob Dylan and the DX1000. I think the DX1000 need the magic of a good tube amplifier to make these records shine.
§4: DX1000 vs. the HD600 and HFI-780:
My main headphones for home use before I got the DX1000 were the HD600 and HFI-780. I know these can be bought for less than half the price of the DX1000 (hell, you can get the HD600 + HFI-780 for less than the DX1000), so I’ll also try to compare them with the price/quality relationship in mind.
§4.1: vs. the HD600:
I’ve been using the HD600 as my to-go-to-headphone for more than a year now, but I can say that the DX1000 have replaced them.
The HD600 are more functional looking and feel cheaper. They’re however, more comfortable because of the headband and the velour pads are cooler in use. The HD600 has more clamp than the DX1000, but nothing annoying to me (I have a small head though). I would rate the comfort of the HD600 higher than the DX1000, solely because of the rather poor headband on the DX1000.
The HD600 has a more congested soundstage than the DX1000. Instruments seem to be more cluttered together, like if they are in a small studio instead of a large concert hall compared to the DX1000. The sound presentation is also more forward on the HD600, which makes them more suitable than the DX1000 for the more intimate music like Bob Dylan’s or Joan Beaz’s acoustic songs, but a poorer choice for live music like the Allman Brothers Band’s ‘Live at Filmore East’.
Another thing I always noticed with the HD600 is its lack of extension in the highs combined with a spike somewhere in the midrange. This resulted for example in clearly hearing only the tick of the drumstick when it softly touches the cymbal, producing a rather weird effect in the song. With the DX1000 you do actually hear the cymbal too and the tick is more in balance with the rest of the instruments, so it will not sound ‘spikey’ to your ears.
The bass of the HD600 is punchy and fairly detailed. The DX1000 has less obvious punch, but more bass presence overall. The HD600 basically has little noticeable deep bass in comparison, but a bumped mid-bass, while the DX1000’s bass is more balanced. This difference is clearly present in the Dark Knight OST, where the DX1000 delivers a true ‘wow!’ effect in comparison, while the HD600 is just too polite here.
So the DX1000 are better as a whole, but I won’t sell the HD600, because they are ‘better’ (well, more suited is the better explanation) with recordings consisting mostly of vocals and a few acoustic instruments. They create a feeling that you’re at a small private concert, which feels more right to me with these certain recordings. And at 200 euro new, the HD600 still remains a steal anyway.
§4.2: vs. the HFI-780:
The HFI-780 was my fun headphone. Like I said, the HD600 is just too polite for some recordings. This is where the HFI-780 stepped in. The HFI-780 isn’t the most comfortable headphone, falling far behind the DX1000 and the HD600 in that area, but with the Beyer DT250 pads they’re okay. The soundstage is on par with the HD600. The HFI-780 is the least forgiving headphone of the three.
The DX1000 doesn’t have the massive impact of the HFI-780, but the bass on the DX1000 is much, much more detailed en controlled. And of course, the big tradeoff with the massive bass on the HFI-780 is that it can overpower the rest of the sound. This can go horribly wrong on some recordings. The bass guitar on the Allman Brothers Band’s ‘Wipping Post’ for example sounds really boomy with the HFI-780, and is much more in control with the DX1000. However, the HFI-780 rocks with Van Halen because of the bass presentation, where even the DX1000 is a bit polite in comparison. The bass on Van Halen recordings is usually very nicely recorded and mixed, so the bass presentation of the HFI-780 doesn’t hurt the song that much. Instead, you get a real foot tapping experience and then some! The bass presentation of the HFI-780 can also works wonders with the Dark Knight OST. While the DX1000 are definitely more detailed and have an impact good enough to entertain you, the HFI-780 simply tops it on impact. If you’ve ever seen the Dark Knight on IMAX: the HFI-780 is very close to that. It’s up to you if you like that or not.
The highs of the HFI-780 seem to be more extended than the DX1000. This works well with electric guitars, but can become too bright with some recordings. The DX1000 is just more relaxed to my ears, while still being no pushover with electric guitars. Piano on the HFI-780 sounds artificial though, were the DX1000 adds more weight and realism (although I slightly preferred the HD600 over the DX1000).
The DX1000 are the best headphones I’ve heard so far (note: I haven’t heard any of the 1000+ euro headphones). The soundstage and imaging are incredible, the bass is well controlled and the sound is smooth and relaxing enough for me without sounding dull. They might not have the intimacy of the HD600 or the thunderous bass impact of the HFI-780, but the DX1000 is (much) better overall. They lack a bit in the highs (although still doing better than the HD600), but I see this as a good thing, since I find (overly) bright sounding headphones fatiguing. They’re not specialty headphones, but great all-rounders which absolutely excel on live recordings.
With the arrival of the DX1000, the HFI-780 became redundant. While the HFI-780 is certainly a fun headphone and good for its price, the DX1000 is simply better and has fewer flaws, while still being fun enough. The HD600 and DX1000 combo is here to stay. The HD600 gives you that ‘private concert’ feeling, while the DX1000 are more the ‘big concert hall’ kind of headphones, so they complement each other well in the end.
So, if you have 500 euro to spend on all-rounder headphones and you live in Europe, the JVC HA-DX1000 are definitely at least worth considering.
- Luxurious looks.
- Ear pads are comfortable.
- Incredible soundstage and imaging.
- Excellent bass.
- Inviting, ‘lifelike’ sound signature on most recordings.
- The headband is uncomfortable.
- Can sound a little ‘distant’ with some recordings.
- Might lack extension in the higher frequencies for some.
- Poor packaging, at least for storing your headphones.
- Hinge can break off.
§5.3: Further thoughts:
Even though I really like the setup I’m having now, I’m wondering how it can be improved even further. The wallet can never be empty enough I guess. If I wanted to upgrade, it would probably a bigger amp like a 3-board β22. Then I’ll have all the power I would ever need to drive the wonderful DX1000 to the max. Maybe the sound will not be so distant in some recordings, although a tube amp like the Woo WA6SE would probably do a better job to fix that.
Also, I need to try and compare the DX1000 against some truly high-end headphones like the Sennheiser HD800, Grado PS-1000, AKG K1000 and Ultrasone ED8/9 for example, as well against its ‘arch nemesis’, the Denon D7000, to see if the DX1000 can be the true 1000 euro+ giant slayer with a price tag of ‘only’ 500 euro.