Pros: Godlike bass. Loud as anything.
Cons: Comfort issues for longer session; Clamp too hard. Highs rolled off. A bit fragile construction.
The legends are for real...
The JVC HA SZ1000/SZ2000 lineup is one to look out for. Interesting as it is, they were first introduced as audiophile class LIVE headphones. They slowly faded away into the bass-head class, and are much respected there.
Personally, I think they’re pretty, pretty damn good. I will go in as much detail as I can here, to help those who would wanna know what to expect.
Why did I buy these when I already have a good headphone wardrobe? Well, 1) I wanted a little more bass – solid bass, and nothing bloated or cheesy. 2) These cans are now a collector’s item. I’m sure they’ve been discontinued, despite the pair I got is oven-fresh, and has 0 traces of being on a shelf for a few months. It’s just good as new, and feels maybe they’re still in production. Anyhow, I wanted to collect these regardless, and believe me you when I tell you this: these are keepers for sure. I may as well get another pair – that’s how much I’m loving them. Though good headphones won’t run out any time soon, these may not always be around, hence all the reason to buy them anyhow.
This product: JVC HA-SZ1000-E
The Jap was nice to send me a sachet of Japanese Green Tea which my bro had ;-)
[DISCLAIMER] I've made an aesthetic Game of Thrones mod to my cans.
My pair cost my $129 (brand new, boxed), all exclusive, shipped directly from Japan. Now that’s good stuff. It’s the best price you can get at this moment.
Contents of the package were:
1) Pair of JVC headphones
2) Instruction Manual/Warranty Card
3) Carry Pouch (like the M50x).
It was set in a nice velvet cloth over plastic.
A brief on the mechanism: for those who don’t already know, these cans have a dual driver configuration. Each ear-cup has a concealed 55mm low freq driver at the back, and a 30mm medium/high freq at the front. The housing and acoustics use what they call the Kelton method.
Lifting the ear-cushion, you’ll find the front driver with two bass ports at a distance from it. Those ports bring in the lower frequencies. It’s quite, quite effective, and works like a crossover; the higher frequencies on the bass driver have been cutoff and no high frequencies from it reach the front.
The pair weighs in at around 460 grams. The outer ring is metal. The cups are some good, solid quality plastic, those the cups are glossy and finger print magnet type.
BUILD & FORM FACTOR:
These cans are clearly over-ear (circumaural). They’re big. Portable? No. I would never suggest that. They’re tight, and heavy, and may be a bit portable in colder countries. In warmer ones, they’ll just be an oven on you head. Plus too much movement will knock them off your head. The cable is attached, and the connector is big and chunky. These are manly, chunky phones that should stay in the man cave. In my photos you'll see the cans with the Logitech G502.
They are chunky. But they do feel good. Everything aside, the moment you pick them up, you'll feel your money. They feel expensive. They clearly look expensive. They look professional. They have that reminiscence of a good, powerful and heavy denon receiver and the typical, soild Japanese feel is there.
Mostly plastic, the thick metal ring at the back of the cup is a nice solid design element as well a hold for the cups. The cups swivel up and down, the first hinge attached moves left and right. A bigger hinge attached moves in the folding or unfolding position. This hinge slide over the metal reinforced headband. A lot of hinges. A lot of movements. But at the hinges, the weakness of these cans shows. These cans are a bit delicate and will require love and care. Is it easy to break them? Yes. Heavy and fragile is a recipe for disaster for the wild bunch. But if taken care of, they won't break too easily. I have more flimsy cans and they've never really broke. It all depends on how you care for them.
They don't swivel, and at no point can you bring the cups close up to each other. The putting away mechanism is like Beats; you fold both cans inside the band one by one and collapse em like that.
[DISCLAIMER]: Before I talk about the sound, I have to tell you. You need an amplifier. Period. No two ways about it. Use a good damn soundcard which has an amp, or a separate dedicated amp. Don’t shame these. Don’t shame yourself. If you ain’t gonna amp these, don’t buy em.
Now this is where my bucks stop. I want my cans to be solid and durable. But more than that, I want them to sound nice. What’s the use of all the bling, tech jargon and mumbo jumbo or that class A luxury if it’s gonna sound like ****, right? Audio enthusiasts should know better.
Highs are great, non-fatiguing. To an extent, these cans are monitor-ish too. They will certainly highlight loose recordings, other noises in the background, like when you know the mic has been turned off and on (in vocals, or when you know the track is using samples). So, recording elements will reveal themselves. The ATH-M50 does have better and clear highs, though sometimes kind of fatiguing. Though I’ve modded my M50s so, I don’t have that problem anymore.
Highs may not be as good as some open cans, like some AKGs or Sennheisers. It is a bit of a compromise. Not much. I just fell right into them, and don’t feel left out. Mids are better than ATH-M50s. Now that’s a feat. When I myself swore by the ATH many times, the JVCs are even better. Mids are more forward.
For the first time, I can actually appreciate the dual driver design. It's perfect. The bass is separate and doesn't even get mix with the smaller driver, hence creating no inter-modulation/frequency distortion. JVCs succeed almost flawlessly in doing that. And that is the true motive behind a multiple driver design.
Bass? Bass you ask. Really? I can’t put this in words. You have definitely got to get a chance to listen to these. 99.999% of the headphones in the world will have inferior bass to these JVCs. The rest .001% is what? Fostex X00. Audeze LCDs. Maybe some Hifiman. And I’m not sure… I’M NOT CERTAIN if they will have better bass. No. Maybe these JVCs are on par. Maybe, just MAYBE, the JVCs are better. Yup. Nothing may come close the solid, punchy, tight bass the JVCs have. Bloated? The JVCs don’t know what that word means. I’ve tried countless cans. And I have not heard such low, sub-bass before. Hell, some of my music, is sounding pretty different now. And that’s all in a good way. This clearly is because of the configuration used. They have subwoofers in them, and you just can’t get that arrangement in cans – almost never. Though there are some options out there now. Those options have not been tried and tested so exhaustively yet, nor are they at this silly price point.
When they tell you these are like a 10” or 12” sub attached to your ear, they’re not kidding. I was able to hear 20Hz to 30Hz without a sweat. Plus, Renholder’s Now I Know (Underworld/The Mechanic OST) has 10Hz-15Hz or so. You don’t exactly hear it. You FEEL it; ear massage at its best.
Some BT tracks have low bass. Hans Zimmer’s music often has low bass. Bass in movies and music, both sounds crazy good. There’s a lot of other music in my folders that I tried, and lot to be impressed off. The xx's Together, Way Out West's Melt (Remix), Royksopp's What Else Is There (Trentemoeller Remix), Zedd's Codec, Tiësto & Bobby Puma's Making Me Dizzy, Jamie xx's Gosh were all clear, and deliver unparalleled bass and sub-bass experience. Haywyre & Zeros's Permutate is an excellent musical benchmark that will examine high notes, strings, hi-hats and cymbals, while throwing real heavy bass on the speakers, with reverb, phasing and choruses. Nice way to check your gear.
People talk about Jay Z's No Church in the Wild, and that sounds good too. The Nordic Sound's 2L Audiophile Reference Recordings album has DSD512 tracks, classical at top notch DSD quality. Violins and Pads sounded excellent, with Church organs going nicely deep and smooth.
In short, I don't know what genre these cans won't go well with. They're good with all genres, and again, the dual driver configuration is to commend for this, since it's easily able to deliver frequencies separately, without mixing anything up.
Of course, nothing’s perfect. For some odd reason I’m, for the first time, okay with the gripes, and even though they exist, I’m indifferent. Still, these cons may apply to some other people out there, so I’m gonna put it out there.
Cable is attached: this is a standard gripe for many, and I’m with them. I can do a cable mod, but the attached cable is so good, I don’t even wanna mess with it. Maybe it makes sense. These cans are for home or studio use, and that simply would suggest not to mod the cable. It’s a good, thick cable, with a very nice, solid connector. The cable is as thick as the ATH-M50, and you’d have to be a wild animal to break, tear or mess anything here. So, it’s not that much of a gripe.
There are comfort issues. This is the one area where some more work could be done. The weight isn’t much, despite half a kilo resting on your head, but the clamp force an adjustment is still something you’d have to work with. I don’t know what pads would fit these, amongst those that I have, am I’m not sure about the JVC XX pads (ones with the M4XX/M5XX) just yet. Maybe I’ll get some later, but there’s a chance they may change the sound for worse, as I’ve seen this happen. For now, I’m good. But, longer sessions may cause discomfort.
Squeaking sounds. Yup. This pair may squeak a lot. My brand new ones do squeak due to certain movements. I’ve heard used pairs in online videos squeaking like grandma’s bed. Though, once they’re on the head, they won’t be moving much. You adjust them, and when you stop, no squeaking. It may be a gripe for some. Nothing you can’t look past though.
Some folks at headfi who’d swear with these cans as much as some other sometimes don’t know what they’re talking about. Almost everyone does agree undeniably that the bass is the best on these cans, and these fall in the Top 10 or even the Top 5 bass cans in world... ever made. I got an M-Audio HDHM50 based on the some guys’ recommendations and I was thoroughly disappointed. Different opinions go around. The same is on many other platforms I’m on. Trouble is, hardly anyone can give you an actual opinion of these cans, how they sound on different genres, what to compare them to and stuff.
Are they worth it? For the sound alone, I’m taken away. I’ve listened to countless tracks. There’s some good electronic music in there, plus OSTs in general, and a lot you can listen to benchmark your cans, or just listen to stuff. The folder is constantly updated.
I… AM… IMPRESSED. They are so clear. Music as artists intended? That’s what Dr. Dre’s Beats suggest. Well, these are the ones for it. Sometimes I think the artists themselves should listen to their music on this.
For someone who listens to electronic music – these are the best cans. It doesn’t even matter at the price point. Anything that’s even better than this is gonna be at the $400+ category.
Once you turn the music on and fall in, all the gripes go away. You just forget them. You just focus on the good, beautiful music and super strong bass that flows into your ears, making you aloof to the world around you. And that is where a pair of good headphones wins; when it just takes you away.
EDIT: After countless pad swaps (even though only few options are there for pads on these), I've chosen the Brainwavz HM5 Hybrid ones.
Which did I check? Sony XB700/XB1000, Brainwavz Angled (Sheepskin and Pleather), Velour Pads etc.
The good: sound has become much more natural and less fatiguing that stock. Driver distance relaxes listening. Any sibliant mids or highs are improved. The sound is better than ATHM50x now, and almost 80% Fostex x00/EMU. yes. I think increasing driver distance is essential here. Comfort issues have improved (but check below). Other than that, most issues have now been resolved.
The bad: volume has come down. Amping requirements increased. Bass punch and vibration is a bit reduced as well. But this, for better, natural sound and less fatigue is not too much of a price. Raise volume to reach similar levels, and bass is not completely lost. Though since these pads are thicker, comfort issues do remain. Clamping force is a bit more now, so longer sessions do have discomfort. Put em down every 30 minutes or so. Comfort isn't the bright side of these regardless.
Despite the above, I approve Brainwavz HM5 pads for these.