Pros: Very Musical Sounding & enjoyable, Excellent timbre, Guitars sound brilliant, Solid build, comfortable, Good cable & jack design, Value for money.
Cons: Driver flex, shallow fit makes you wonder whether you really got a good seal or not, mediocre isolation (tip dependent), Sparse availability.
The Ultimate Ears 500 left me feeling lukewarm, to be honest. Though I had been initially impressed, as the days passed by, my liking for it faded rapidly with each passing day- something I never experienced with any other iem I owned.This was one IEM which I regretted buying, to be honest. No offense to any owners, but the UE500 didn't cut it for me. Fortunately, I spotted a JVC FXT90 going for sale along with an E7 and I pulled the trigger on them. I always wanted to own an FXT90 after hearing from Shotgunshane that these were the bomb for distortion guitars. Turns out he was absolutely right.
Packaging, Build Quality, Accessories
Bought these used. They were in pristine condition and very well maintained. Comes in a clear plastic box with the printed stuff inside and the iems on display. There's a small case for carrying the iems (which I haven't used) and three pairs of single flange tips. Considering the FXT90-s shallow fit, JVC could have bundled along a pair or two of double flanges or some Complys.
No exotic materials or fancy chrome stuff on board- just a simple, smooth housing made of strong, clear plastic which shows off the twin drivers. The nozzles are angled. The cables are very well relieved and it doesn't twist up into a knot easily nor develop bends. The jack's pretty sturdy too. Nothing much to complain here.
Comfort and Isolation
The angled nozzles, smooth and ergonomic shells ensure a good fit- albeit a shallow one. I get good results from the stock single flanges, but I get the funny feeling that I'm not getting a good seal when I actually do. Weird.. but they are comfortable and isolate reasonably well. In windy situations, however, I could hear the wind noise. Tried them out with UE single flanges and found that the stock ones were better. Didn't experience microphonics with the cables.
There is a huge caveat here- driver flex. The drivers flex loudly when I insert them and get a good seal. It's alarming and annoying. It's the first time I experienced this on an iem. This can be solved to an extent by holding up the tip of your pinnae with one hand, relaxing the jaw and slowly inserting the iem to your ear canal while pushing the eartip to one side of the ear inorder to prevent the seal. After it is inserted, let go of your pinna and it's done with much less or almost nil driver flex. A more expensive way to counter this would be to get foam tips.
Bass: Dynamic, Strong, Excellent decay, great slam and impact, moves quite some air, not as fast as a BA, but thick notes sound very pleasing and satisfying. Absolutely no complaints at all. Drums sound good- though not of GR07 caliber.
Mids: Excels at bringing out the crunch and grit in distortion guitars (maybe due to the mild mid bass hump?)- very, very satisfying to listen to rock and metal on these. Decay times are also excellent- sounding natural and very musical. Solos are awesome with these.
Highs: Has the right amount of sparkle- more detailed than the UE500, not as harsh as the Pana HJE900. Cymbal crashes and high hats sounded good. No complaints here either. A/B-ing with the UE500 revealed that though the UE500 had good sparkle, it didn't have as much clarity and definition as the FXT90.
Soundstaging: Average. Not as wide as the UE500, not very intimate either. There's an airy and open feeling though. I can't find much to complain here either.
No hissing with portable sources or with my E7. Sensitivity was good. Not as sensitive as the W4-s, HJE900; about on par with my Grados and much better than the UE500.
Again, like the HJE900, these puppies punch far above their weight and are great for rock and metal. The FXT90 has a more musical, natural & even sound signature with more powerful bass, thicker notes, decay times and that uncanny ability to make distortion guitars sound great. The Panas have more clarity and speed, but have hotter and more fatiguing highs. Both are great in their own way, but I prefer the FXT90. The only real issue with the FXT90 is the driver flex. This can be avoided, as I had mentioned earlier- but it's a point to note anyway. Still, these things rank right alongside my Grados after the W4 as my favorite go-to pair of ear gear to listen to. Highly recommended for fans of rock genres.