Pros: Tank like build, Detachable cables, Fun & detailed sound signature, Good soundstaging, Decent clarity, Extremely well priced- almost a steal.
Cons: Abysmal fit with bundled tips, Zirconium shells can be heavy, Mesh earwax filters fall out, Springy cable, Slighlty recessed mids, Sparse availability
The shells made of cubic zirconia is easily the most distinct aspect of the HJE900. It is almost indestructible and according to the literature, can only be scratched by diamond. The shells feel rock solid, has a cool blingy finish, looks and makes you feel good about your buy. The detachable cables with the non-proprietary connectors are a big bonus too. The solid build quality doesn't stop with the shells. The cable cinch has a brushed aluminum covering and the 3.5 mm jack socket is of the same material too. Ditto for the strain reliefs. Very classy.
The cable is a mixed bag. I'm nitpicking here- the cable is well made, but after being spoiled by the Westone 4's stellar braided cables, I found the cables on the HJE900 to be on the springy and energetic side. This can be a boon as there is not much memory for the cables and it doesn't get tangled easily. The cable cinch lacks sufficient grip to hold the cables for long.
Another drawback is that the mesh earwax filters at the tip of the nozzle have a tendency to fall off easily. However, this can be fixed by stuffing a small ball of foam just to cover the nozzle and gluing the mesh to it (or not).
Overall, there is nothing to fault with the tank like build quality that you get with the HJE900. In fact, it's better than most iems that cost much more than the HJE900.
One Panasonic branded drawstring pouch, One Sony 'Amazing Spiderman' branded zippered pouch, 3 pairs of single flange tips.
None of the bundled tips were able to provide a good fit and seal for me and my brother. With UE single flanges, it is possible to get a reasonably good fit and seal.
Comfort, Isolation & Microphonics
Best worn straight down. I was unable to wear it over the ear like I wear my W4 due to the springy cable and the longish strain reliefs. Speaking of the strain reliefs, I found them a bit too long and this prevented me from inserting the iems deeper. The shells can be heavy for some people. A friend of mine who tried out the HJE900 found it too heavy for her ears and complained that they kept falling out. Neither me nor my brother experienced this issue with UE tips.
We found that using UE single flanges yielded the best results in terms of fit, comfort and isolation. The UE tips are really soft and comfortable- one forgets after sometime that they are present in your ear. Isolation is tip dependent as usual. Fine with UE tips- not as isolating as my W4 with the triple flanges. I'm thinking of trying Shure triple flanges with the Panas- has anybody experimented with this combo?
Microphonics was minimal. Again, not as non microphonic as the W4, but easily the best among everything else I've tried.
Bass: Strong, has decent air, slam and impact. Extension is also good. The speed is also there- drums sound great with metal genres. I think that there is a mild mid bass hump, but I'm not too sure. In a nutshell, the low end sounds quite natural. The quality is hard to fault too.
Mids: A bit recessed, as is usual with iems with v-shaped sound sig. I wasn't too impressed here but that's because I've been spoiled silly by the W4 and the Grado SR60i. For a person who's upgrading to the Panas from lower end iems/earbuds, they are bound to be impressed by the warm, natural and detailed tonality of the mids. Distortion guitars and basses sound great.
Highs: Can be siblant and sharp for folks used to darker sound signatures. The highs are quite sparkling, but they aren't as detailed as that of higher end iems. Still, very entertaining to listen to.
Instrument separation is impressive.
I think 'Fun First, Details next' sums up the sound sig of these Panas. The sig makes it a great choice to listen to rock & metal. However, even though the SQ is very musical and entertaining, that doesn't mean that the details are bad- infact, it's pretty good for its price range.
The Panas are quite sensitive and doesn't require you to pump up the volume to hear things. They don't hiss with my Clip Zip, but when used with my SE X8 cellphone, I can hear the background hiss. The gigo rule applies here- the HJE900 is revealing of the deficiencies in poorly recorded low bit rate tracks.
For $120, I would say that the HJE900 punches far above its weight. On the build quality alone it scores a lot compared to the competition. It's no slouch in the SQ department either. A very entertaining v-shaped sounding iem, it gives most competitors a run for their money. The only flaw I can see is the sparkly treble, but with the foam mod or after burn in, it might settle down. As far as I'm concerned, the HJE900 makes a great backup pair that you can use everyday, anywhere. As my friend vik1980 rightly remarked, they can even take the front line for non audiophiles.
The catch here is the availability. It's not readily available here in India. I was lucky enough to see it being listed at the low promo price online and to buy them. The normal price is twice what I had paid for- at that point however, I would take a long, hard look at the competition before buying. But for $120, it's a steal and one of the best purchases I've made.