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JVC HP-DX1000 review

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
JVC HP-DX1000




Equipment:

JVC HP-DX1000 Headphone
Assortment of other headphones, from the W2002 to the HE90
Accuphase DP-85 SACD Player (reviewed here alongside a modded Denon 2900)
audio-technica AT-DHA3000 digital headphone amplifier
HeadAmp Gilmore Balanced Reference headphone amplifier
SinglePower SDS-XLR balanced headphone amplifier
Running Springs Audio Haley
PS Audio P300


Background:

I first saw information about a possible high end headphone with wooden cups from JVC sometime last year on various Japanese electronics and headphone-centered websites. Being that the use of wood on headphones is pretty rare, and with the projected price around 100,000 yen (from what I recall, the MSRP of the headphone actually is over 120,000 yen so the projection was slightly off) I was having high hopes of a possible alternative to the audio-technica ATH-W lineup and also to high end headphones in general. JVC was already advertising various unique features of the HP-DX1000 stating that it based the headphone off speaker designs, and contained new designs unseen previously in headphones. All this combined with the looks in the press photos kept me thinking about this headphone and wondering when it would be released.

As I got more information of the launch date and specifications, and with threads starting to appear on Head-Fi expecting the release of a new alternative to wooden headphones, the excitement became elevated. Adding to the excitement, I was in Japan at the time so had easy access to stores and whatever information they had to give me. So by the time the release came, I was practically ready to buy it despite not having heard the headphone prior.

I ended up holding my urge enough to do a few listens on the store demo and waiting about a week trying to decide if I really like the headphone (I am trying to cut back on the collection and reduce it to a more manageable level after all), but in the end with the elusive nature of the headphone, combined with how I found the sound to be unique and worth listening to in detail (added to the fact that I liked it and was a bit enchanted by it), and the easy availability I just had to get it. Also, how no one on Head-Fi had the headphone yet and I could be the first to show it off added to the appeal.

After that, I posted quite a few pictures and posted a few impressions of the sound... but didn't do too much since I was on vacation and was preoccupied with other events, along with the San Jose meet fast approaching and how I wanted to send it there to hopefully obtain more impressions and to allow more people to listen to the headphone (being a pretty exclusive one released only in Japan and at the time yet to be carried by audiocubes), thus I sent it off to NeilPeart within a week of buying the HP-DX1000.

I got the headphone back about two weeks ago thus I am writing a review now.

It is nice to have soupy's review already available, and it is a great read so if you haven't checked it out yet you definitely should do so.
http://www5.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=136102


Physical Aspects:

So anyways, on with what everyone wants to read about, information about the headphone, particularly the sound, which will follow very shortly.


First, I would like to start with the packaging. For the price you pay, which could be anything from slightly over 100,000 yen at some stores in Japan (from what I saw on some price comparison sites) to the MSRP of ~120,000 yen and beyond (audiocubes is listing the headphone for $1299, and is practically the only option to purchase one outside Japan), I would say the packaging is fitting and within what I would expect. There isn't a dedicated cardboard shipping box such as is found with the audio-technica ATH-W2002 and ATH-L3000 but at least where I got it from the box the headphone rests in sits simply in a plastic bag. (which is to be expected. those audio-technica headphones were shipped from the AT warehouse to resellers in lots of one and were thus packaged for shipping separately, while I believe the HP-DX1000 being a non-limited production headphone and having less of an exclusive feel / lower cost deployment is shipped in larger lots within a larger shipping box.) Once you open the box, the headphone is presented handsomely. It will easily fit among a high class showroom as it is. The material used for the packaging could be improved as some may say, but looking at what other headphones come in (the headphones in lower price ranges is what I am thinking about) it isn’t too bad. I would rather get a better headphone than having to pay for a more elaborate container.


The headphone itself is something to behold. The headband assembly to me is slightly lacking and I would have preferred a different approach (I like the self-adjusting mechanisms present on the ATH-W series and also the one on the MDR-R10) but the DX1000's headband is easy to adjust and sits comfortably on the head. Some more padding would have been nice, but it is pretty comfy. Despite the thickness, most of it seems to be a solid core to hold the retracting headband length adjustors, thus the padding itself is pretty thin.


Contrary to the slightly hard headband, the earpads are very comfortable. They are very hefty pads, one of the thickest I've seen. The headphone itself isn't too isolating, despite what you may expect from its size and heavy padding, but I find that to be the case for most closed wooden cup headphones. In a regular listening environment it shouldn't be a problem at all, and I wouldn't expect it to be used elsewhere anyways due to the fragile nature of the wooden cups. (wearing them in public probably would result in easy scratching of the cups from accidental contact and other occurrences.) I don’t know what the composition of the pads is, but I would hesitate to say that they are leather. (they probably are though. Not too high of a quality like you see on the R10, L3000, or 010 though)


The wooden cups are nice and have a relatively shiny finish to them. It isn't like the glossy one you would see on something like a W2002 or W11JPN, being more of a matte finish, but it fits the overall look of the headphone. The cable is well built, and is dual entry. Before it splits into leads going to each cup, the cable is round, thick and supple. The plug is well built and has a somewhat retro look to it with its bulk and square features.


When you wear the headphone, the large pads definitely add to the width. I don't know if I want to be caught wearing them, but I doubt you'll care too much when you are listening to its melodious sound. Of the headphones I've encountered, they definitely are one of the bulkiest. I'll have to take a picture of them beside other large headphones I guess to really get a feel of their size.


All this bulk doesn't go to waste and isn't there simply to make the wearer look a bid odd. The headphone's main feature (at least from how I see it) is the Acoustic Lens, along with the Direct Mount. The Acoustic Lens is a series of two discs in front of the driver that direct and modify the sound for a more speaker-like sonic signature with JVC influence. I'm not too familiar with the JVC house sound (from speakers and headphones) but I would imagine the sound of the DX1000 is what I would hear from their other products, especially speakers, since that is what they were aiming for. In addition to this, the Direct Mount puts the driver unit directly onto the wooden cup rather than on a piece attached to the headpiece, to which the wooden cup attaches behind like all other wooden cup headphone designs. JVC claims that this approach, which is like the speaker box approach used in speakers, transfers the vibrations produced by the driver more directly to sound waves and reduces unwanted vibrations and noises.



Sound Qualities:

I’ve posted a few quick impressions before, but they were of a new pair without burn-in. I’ve heard that while NeilPeart was borrowing the headphone, he tried to use it as much as possible to get a feel for this new offering from JVC and give it the attention it deserves so I would assume by now it is ready for a deep review.

I’ve stated that the sound of the HP-DX1000 is pretty unique before, and after burn-in it still seems to have that effect. (as to whether how much of an effect this burn-in has had or if there was any at all, I don’t know since I don’t recall too much from my first impressions due to the lack of listening back then to form a proper background, and the long period since that happened.) Vocals seem to be projected forward; putting them front and center to put them in focus and differentiated from the rest of the instruments from the start. Other instruments are put further away, encapsulating the vocals and forming a background for the vocals to perform upon. The sound is smooth and relaxed. It doesn’t try to capture you right after you put them on, but slowly gets you into the music. It is more of a headphone to use when you are winding down and want something to sooth you, more than a headphone for punchy and lively music to keep you awake while working long hours. It sounds great with such music, but the sonic signature of the headphone adds a laid back atmosphere to it and presents a smoother sound than with say something such as a PS1 or L3000.

The headphone is pretty laid back in its response and is moderately fast. It isn’t in the class of such headphones as the MDR-R10, Qualia 010, and electrostats such as the SR-007 or HE90 but the speed is pretty good and the notes are well defined. The highs are somewhat recessed and the sound lacks slightly in transparency. I wouldn’t say these are factors against the DX1000 though. Actually, I think they fit in quite well with the overall sound and feel of the DX1000 and add to the mellow and relaxed sound it seems to be wanting to convey. The bass is a bit lean, and lacks the punch you find in some other cans. The bass is actually pretty well balanced with the mids and the highs, but my preference is usually for headphones with a nice punchy bass with somewhat more than normal emphasis thus the DX1000 when it comes to the low octaves isn’t really for me. Notes (in this case the bass, but also pertains to other frequencies too) have great attack and distinction and sounds really good, but carries the mellowness I described earlier pertaining to the midrange. I would have the say the sound is somewhat forward, although it isn’t too much. Compared to the W2002 the midrange isn’t as forward, but overall the DX1000’s midrange is more expressed than its bass or high end. Something like a stock HD650 would have a more recessed midrange in comparison, though once the HD650 gets driven by a well-tuned balanced setup such differences become very small.

The clarity of the DX1000 follows a different school of headphone design than what I see in most other headphones in its price range and class. For example, the ATH-L3000 and ATH-W2002 despite being known for their warmth and wood sound, sound much clearer and has more dynamics and impact than the DX1000. These AT headphones are more for upbeat and lively listening of music when compared to the mellow DX1000. (in terms of speed the DX1000 and W2002 seem similar at first, but the W2002 is a bit faster if I listen closely. Compared to the L3000 the difference is easily apparent and the L3000 is the definite winner here.) I would have expected the audio-technica headphones to be the relaxing ones when considering headphones in general (and they are when compared to Grados and other headphones similar in nature) but when the DX1000 comes into the picture they get ousted. The DX1000 really seems like the choice for mellowness and a super-rich sound. In terms of absolute clarity, the HE90 and Qualia 010 (especially a balanced 010) really are the best from what I’ve heard. The DX1000 cannot touch these at all, but when you look at the DX1000 for a possible headphone purchase, you shouldn’t be looking for clarity such as that offered by the 010, SA5000, and other headphones in their class anyways. The PS1 is somewhat in the same price range as the DX1000 so it deserves a mention too. The speed is definitely superior in the PS1 (as expected from a Grado) and it excels in both clarity and a more neutral sound presentation. Really a different headphone for a different type of listener, one of the greater opposites to the DX1000 that I can think of.

The soundstage of the DX1000 is fairly average considering the range offered by various headphones. If the Grado headphones were at one end, and something like a balanced 010 or HE90 at the other, the DX1000 would probably be somewhere in the middle, situated about the same from each extreme. The soundstage differs for different frequencies, through the effects of the acoustic lens on the sound. Vocals occupy a very small soundstage, almost nonexistent. It might even be more upfront than Grados, pretty much right in the middle of your head. The highs and low end, on the other hand, occupy a fairly decent headstage, encompassing your head in all directions enveloping you in sound. (I realize this may also have to do with my source since I found this to be a trait of the DP-85 in previous comparisons to other sources, but I would assume other setups would be pretty similar to some extent.) The layering is great as can be seen from the descriptions of the various frequencies occupying their own space. Compared to the soundstage offered by audio-technica headphones, the DX1000 (other than the vocals) is much wider. The audio-technica headphones are not that well known for wide soundstages, but they offer great imaging and a soundstage that I would expect from a headphone so I would say that they are a good comparison. The DX1000 soundstage although being wider, isn’t too wide to be deviating from the headphone sound and seems to be at a good balance between the headphone sound, and the speaker sound that JVC tried to recreate within the DX1000.


Amplifier considerations:

In the equipment list, I list two amplifiers, the audio-technica AT-DHA3000 and the HeadAmp Gilmore Balanced Reference. The HP-DX1000 presents a lot of coloration and warmth to the sound that I would think a neutral amplifier is the best pairing for this headphone. The AT-DHA3000 seems to be a bit too colored for the DX1000 and I think there’s some dissonant interactions going on with the DX1000 so the sound isn’t as clean as on the Balanced Reference. While something like the L3000 performs great on the DHA3000, the DX1000 becomes a bit too bloomy and colored for me to really think the sound is good. It seems to be a bit off.

I did most of the review with the Balanced Reference, but with something like a SDS-XLR (well, since the DX1000 is unbalanced and I’m only using half the SDS-XLR, it becomes simply a SDS, although with a better PSU and some parts than your normal SDS due to component differences in the SDS-XLR and SDS) the bass does indeed get a bit tighter and more controlled (along with similar improvements in other areas), but overall the sound signature remains the same and carries the same traits. This is to be expected from switching up to a higher class amplifier anyways. The sound still has the distinctive soundstage / sonic presentation, and the speed doesn’t improve drastically to rival the best out there. Of course the bass becomes more present (there is a slight bass boost in the SDS-XLR) and other traits also improve such as the sound becomes more enjoyable and upbeat with some increase in clarity and transparency, but overall it is still a DX1000 and I did the review based on comparisons to other headphones anyways, and similar improvements are seen on the other headphones when switching amps so impressions have stayed the same.


Conclusion:

So am I glad I bought these? Well, I guess the answer to that would have to be a yes. It is a very enjoyable headphone and it is nice to be able to own it and listen to it firsthand rather than trying to guess the sound from online reviews. It is a lot different from trying to guess the sound of an ATH-W series headphone I would have to say, since in the case of the DX1000 it is a completely new product from a company that pretty much never put out a product like it, compared to audio-technica’s collection of ATH-W series headphones whose sonic share characteristics that allow a user to at least have a foundation to base opinions of new products off of. The excitement of being the first person I know to buy these and listen to them with unbiased views and being able to form my own take on it without any interference was nice too.

I don’t think I left anything out and I would hope the comparisons to other headphones are enough. In terms of actually reviewing the DX1000 I think everything is well stated, but with regards to comparisons to other headphones I see that I left out the MDR-R10 (but that you can somewhat infer from what I say regarding the Qualia 010 to some extent) which might have been nice, and I only glanced over some aspects of the ones I did include.

I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions or add to the review if necessary.

my HP-DX1000 photo gallery:
http://photo.head-fi.org/showgallery.php?cat=590
post #2 of 32
Outstanding review! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this intriguing new headphone.
post #3 of 32
nice review ayt999. glad to see that I can pretty much agree with the majority of your impressions on the sound signature.
It's definitely not amongst the class of the 007, L3000, or R10, but still impressive in its own unique way.


so, now with two full reviews of this baby, who else is ready to take the plunge and join us?
post #4 of 32
Thread Starter 
thanks for the feedback soupy and insomniac.

I hope I was able to fill in what soupy couldn't with comparisons to other headphones, the PS1 and W2002 in particular due to the proximity of their prices. I just wrote the review today so if I come up with more to add I'll update the review as necessary. I'm trying to get a few reviews out so I'm trying not to spend more time than is needed per review though.
post #5 of 32
Yea this was a very cool review, thanks aty999. You know no matter what, its just hard to get past the letters "JVC"!

Trogdor
post #6 of 32
Thanks for the review, ayt999! I enjoyed it immensley! I am looking forward to your ATH-W series reviews (when you get around to do them )

Just speculation on my part, how would you compare the DX1000's sound with the W11JPN? I spend some time with a pair of JPN yesterday, and my impression of them strikes me to be quite similar to how you describe the DX1000...


Let (the woddie) love be your energy!
Overlunge
post #7 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by overlunge
Just speculation on my part, how would you compare the DX1000's sound with the W11JPN? I spend some time with a pair of JPN yesterday, and my impression of them strikes me to be quite similar to how you describe the DX1000...
somewhat, but not really. the ATH-W11JPN like the W2002 and L3000 (although to a different extent) is much clearer and more focused than the DX1000. the midrange may be similar in how forward they are in each headphone, but the W11JPN seems to have more high end extension and a more pronounced bass. the W11JPN seems to be more involving and presents the sound more upfront, while the DX1000 just plays the sound and you don't really get that sort of feeling. the W11JPN also has more coloration and the woodie flavor than the DX1000 IMO. the soundstage of the W11JPN is smaller, and the sound layering is more traditional and uniform, without the drastic differences seen in the DX1000 with the vocals being much closer than the other sounds.

I guess the W11JPN has more of the sound I would expect a wooden headphone to have from listening to a lot of them. the DX1000 is a departure from the traditional expectations, though a good one in a new but equally interesting direction.
post #8 of 32
a Most excellent and super detailed review....future reviews should be formatted like this!
post #9 of 32
Great review, thanks Alex!

Best!
Nicola
post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by ayt999
I guess the W11JPN has more of the sound I would expect a wooden headphone to have from listening to a lot of them. the DX1000 is a departure from the traditional expectations, though a good one in a new but equally interesting direction.
That would make sense (at least the JPN part. ) Maybe it's the record I played or the amp/tubes I used, the JPN just don't seem to have the treble extension/clarity when compared with the W2002... and that's partly why I made the previous comment.

Thanks for clarifying that.


Overlunge
post #11 of 32
Too much fun reading this. Thanks!

(btw, hope this is the start of a steady stream of reviews from you)
post #12 of 32
Now THAT'S how to review headphones! Thanks for the hard work!
post #13 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by overlunge
Maybe it's the record I played or the amp/tubes I used, the JPN just don't seem to have the treble extension/clarity when compared with the W2002... and that's partly why I made the previous comment.
that is also true. the W2002 extension is better than the previous models from what I recall. (have them all sitting here, but don't want to get them out to do a quick check. I'm lazy.) I guess the W11JPN probably falls somewhere in between the two.
post #14 of 32
Alex, thanks so much for this most excellent review! It gives the reader an extremely clear view of how the DX1000's stack up against some products that are more well-known among Head-fi'ers. As you know, I've been looking forward to your review and you certainly came through big-time! I'd love to hear them myself one day and hope to make it to another So. Cal. meet before too long. It seems like they would be lovely cans for female jazz vocalists with multi-layered "big band" backdrops. Just the kind of stuff I listen to a lot.
post #15 of 32
Great review ayt999!

It's always great to live vicariously through reviews.
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