. . A Review Of Custom Professional Monitors
Date of Issue: August 2009
This review is intended to describe and analyze the JH Audio 13 Pro custom in-ear phones.
In-ear phones are devices used by engineers, artists, and/or audiophiles to monitor a mix of microphones or sounds from instruments on-stage or in the studio. The in-ear monitors (or IEM’s), are typically custom fitted to the wearer for comfort and increased noise attenuation from stage bleed, external PA system, and/or external transients within a studio. These devices are for professional use and are optimized for live sound mixing, accurate reproduction, and increased attention for artists to L/R channels. (where the channels can be customized for desired information between ears from the engineer to the performer)
JH 13 Pro
Listening to the JH 13 Pro is seemingly like transcending time and space into a realm of sound, where clarity and emotion are reached effortlessly.
Listening to the JH 13 Pro is seemingly like transcending time and space into a realm of sound, where clarity and emotion are reached effortlessly.
The monitor is very well built and bears a small overall footprint and weight. The craftsmanship is excellent with all connections solid, and the materials of high quality.
The JH 13 Pro is crafted in hard acrylic. The shell is somewhat transparent in order for the curing process to be carried out correctly. The curing process involves Stereolithography and is conducted with UV light. The UV light uses a laser to solidify the acrylic liquid resin. The JH 13 Pros’ barrels contain two different airways for the sound to travel.
JH Audio offers a clear cable and a black cable currently. This may change in the future with additional colors available. The cable length is 48”. JH Audio cables contain what is known as "Memory Wire". The memory wire extends from the shell allowing the wearer to place the cable behind his/her ear and over the back. The memory wire itself is a piece of clear plastic about an inch long that resembles a thin straw. This piece fits over the cable as shielding and is adjoined to the two-prong connector. The memory wire can be shaped to any direction the wearer would like the cable to lead from. With the cable behind the ear, the wearer is less likely to experience ear fatigue from the prolonged use of the monitors.
The clear cable that JH Audio uses is very lightweight and flexible. Within the ‘Y-termination’ of the clear cable, there is a black piece. Also, the JH Audio clear cable contains a white connector piece containing the 3.5mm tip.
The black cable is slightly more rigid but just as thin as the clear cable. The black cable is completely black (including ‘Y-termination’, connector, cable) except for the memory wire, which is also clear.
Overall, I prefer slightly the black cable for its aesthetics and more rigid feel.
The JH 13 Pro is equipped with the industry standard two-prong gold connector. The cable is user replaceable. The surface mount is flush to the JH 13 pro shell. In speaking with Jerry Harvey, this design reduces chance of condensation and perspiration from entering via the contact point.
The barrel width on the JH 13 Pro monitor is thicker than any other brand of custom IEM’s that I own. The length of the JH 13 Pro barrel seems shorter than other customs that I own as well. I also own the JH 11 Pro's and the length/width of the barrels is quite similar.
There does appear a barely noticeable margin where the bottom piece of shell is affixed to the faceplate (outer piece facing outward from ear); as such, this contour line is visible but does not stand out. There is also no change in hue from funnel to face plate.
JH Audio uses a special process involving technology from a machine that engraves imagery directly onto the shell. The machine which is used is the Mercury Laser Pro. This engraver sources its image from a computer. From there, JH Audio uses Corel Draw software to manifest the specifics to the laser engraver. Prospective buyers may opt for custom art to be applied at the time of purchase for an additional charge. Many people opt for the JH Audio logo to be added to their monitors, which can be obtained at no charge.
The cabling is also quite flexible which is convenient for prolonged use and storage of the monitors. The memory wire used on the JH 13 Pro is a little over an inch long and is found on both the right and left monitors. In between the ‘Y-termination’ and the shells is another clear plastic tube, which is a little less than a half-inch long. This piece is used to head to help reduce drag from left to right and to help conceal the cables visually as well. When the monitors are not in use, extending this piece up to the shells also keeps them together for easier storage.
The JH 13 Pro’s frequency response is one of the most neutral overall that I have heard while still retaining musicality. It is dead flat throughout most of the marks in the frequency range with exception to a peak in the 45-55 Hz neighborhood. I detect no distortion of marks in the sub band when listening to the JH 13 Pro’s, which considering the hump is amazing. The effect of the peak in the sub band gives the wearer a greater sense of impact and decay to sub marks. There is no distortion of sound or emphasis of bass, despite the hump in the low range. The JH 13 Pro provides clarity, transparency, and refinement that is a full order of magnitude higher than most all IEM's I have owned/used.
The details, speed, tonal range, and imaging are excellent. These attributes all scale up and improve with matching components and dedicated amplification. The JH 13's presentation fully envelops the wearer and the monitors disappear completely. All marks in the frequency range are imaged with a soundstage containing realistic depth,. The sound resonates beautifully in all directions when the recording warrants. The ghost image (music that is played in the middle and in front or above the face) is accurate and varies slightly in orientation, pending the source material. The speed of the JH 13 Pro allows the wearer to hear deeper into recordings and improves the transient response. Due to the JH 13 Pro's speed and resolving transparency, micro details are realized effortlessly.
The soundstage is constructed with great space. The instruments are presented with a realistic sense of depth, thus allowing the JH 13 Pro’s focused imaging to shine with great accuracy. The width of the soundstage is better than any IEM I have ever heard. The soundstage width on the JH 13 Pro is comparable but not better than high-end full sized headphones. Although the JH 13's are not equal to a home speaker setup in terms soundstage width, the resolution and timbre is comparable. The speed and clarity of the JH 13 Pro's can be effectively compared to an electrostatic transducer. There are headphones such as the detailed STAX 4070 or SR-007 that come to mind regarding the clarity and airiness of the JH 13's.
The stereo imaging on the JH 13's really shines with live studio recordings. With higher quality recordings, you can discern details such as when a singer moves his/her head while performing. This can be heard on Alison Krauss & Union Station's ‘Live’ during several passages. I have more easily noticed other micro details on the JH 13's such as singers licking their lips, fingers crossing over strings, or performers taking in a breath. Also, the decay of micro details and transients is nothing short of a strength on the JH 13 Pro's.
The soundstage on the JH 13 Pro can be robust pending the source material. Where imaging can take on an abstract effect with simultaneous elements of percussion and rhythm. This effect can heard on the Tan Dun’s ‘Hero’. This soundtrack provides natural space within the recording along with elements of percussion at the same time. These cues enable the listener in plotting information from reverse to front. This is especially useful in a live recording. here the performers are using dedicated microphones on instruments, and where multiple instruments are involved. The JH 13 Pro excels on revealing spatial cues and arrangements of sound with natural timbre, space, and time. This effect is heard beautifully on Alison Krauss & Union Station’s ‘Live’ album.
The treble on the JH 13 Pro is refined extends nicely. The marks in the high band are natural sounding and some of the best I have heard from a balanced armature. There is no harshness in the highs whatsoever. The JH 13 Pro’s highs are as close to perfect than anything else I have heard on from a custom IEM or dynamic headphone. They extend further than the Grado HP-1000 series but have a similar smoothness and refinement. I think the highs on the JH 13 Pro are better than the Grado HP2 and comparable (somewhat) to the Sony MDR-R10. The areas that are similar between the R10 and JH 13 are realism and accompanying resolution. Like the bass response of the JH 13's, I sense no interference in the highs with any other marks in the frequency range. The marks in the high band seem to extend with realistic decay in all directions, which is remarkable for an IEM. The decay of treble is one best attributes of the JH 13 Pro's. The resolution on the JH 13's help the decay in illustrating sound images accurately from beginning to disappearance. The JH 13 Pro has some of the best decay on a headphone I have ever heard. This strength helps in providing realism and building melodies. When a vocalist is harmonizing with other performers or instruments, the resolution of the JH 13 Pro takes the music to another level. This effect is demonstrated nicely on Andre Reiu’s ‘The Flying Dutchman’.
The midrange is also accurate and refined. The tonal range of the mids consists of everything you would require of a listening experience. I have always emphasized the importance of midrange and felt it pertinent. Great midrange produces a better connection to the music. The JH 13 Pro has some of the finest marks in the midrange of most headphones available in production. The realism of the Mid's creates great mental imagery corresponding to the actual instruments used to my ears. This type of categorizing happens subconsciously and is further an extension of the resolution of the JH 13 Pro. This helps me connect with the recording and enhances the musical experience. I expect much of the refinement in the midrange is suspect for this effect. With the primarily flat frequency response, the imagining of notes in the mid band is easily discernable. The decay of the mids on the JH 13 Pro is near perfect, thus besting all other custom earphones per my assessment.
The accuracy of the bass on the JH 13's has been expertly crafted, in a nutshell. Marks in the low band are even better in resolution than many high-end systems I have experienced. In my findings, the bass on the JH 13 Pro is on par even better with certain phones with known positive attributes of bass.. (i.e. the ATH-L3000, Ultrasone Ed.9, AKG K-1000, Stax Omega, and Grado PS-1). The extreme sub marks extend unbelievably low on the JH 13 Pro. There is also an almost tangible texture to the bass, which coupled with the speed of the imaging on the JH 13 Pro, is usually only heard in a high-end systems. The bass varies from recording to recording. Overall, I find the bass on the JH 13 Pro to be as good as any I have heard from a headphone. With its texture, extension, and decay, the JH 13 Pro’s bass is something to appreciate from any audio enthusiast. There does exist a feeling of the bass impact which is more visceral, which understandably cannot be reproduced on the JH 13 Pro. However, the accuracy and extension of the bass is both snappy and natural on the JH 13 Pro. Many high-end headphones fall short in this area. The sub marks in live recordings are retrieved with immediacy and accuracy on the JH 13 Pro. The JH 13 Pro provides a higher level of realism to reverb, micro details, transients, and vocals. The JH 13 Pro's bass also scales up and gives you the extra distance if present in the source recording.
In short, the JH 13 Pro is capable of producing a lucid yet vividly alive rendering of your best music.
The JH 13 Pro provides a new standard of resolution in the custom market. Listening to the JH 13 Pro straight out of a DAP provides a high level of sound quality for portable use. There exists a realistic palette of space and sound with the JH 13 Pro, which I cannot honestly say that many other headphones are capable of providing out of a portable device or system.
The JH 13 Pro's disappear completely. These monitors provide a plethora of details that come at the wearer with great accuracy and speed. The JH 13 Pro has the ability to recreate music with realistic soundstaging, imaging and decay. There is a sense of realism in the JH 13 Pro’s imaging, and where clarity and resolution are second to none. The JH 13 Pro handles micro detail with the speed and attack necessary to image the effect's appearance, and makes disappear the effect with a natural sense of time. There is also very little to no roll off of the highs. I also detect no smearing of details nor marks anywhere in the imaging. Complex passages become alive with concise pace, rhythm, and timing. The JH 13 Pro can provide accurate sound of varying volume levels that occur simultaneously in a recording.
As always, the better the source and recording quality, the better the JH 13 Pro will sound. The JH 13 Pro is highly recommended for general listening purposes and for mixing purposes. Because of the frequency response, I would also recommend these monitors to performers for on-stage use, practicing alone with an instrument, recording in a studio or live setting, or just monitoring mixes for analysis.
Thoughts about the JH Audio 13 Pro . .
I think it is important to communicate about proper listening levels with the JH 13 Pro. Considering the JH 13 Pro's clarity and frequency response, it is easy to listen at unsafe levels for extended sessions. Being that there is no audible emphasis of highs especially, it should be an action item to listen responsibly and take note of any cues from your ears or brain on fatigue from the sound. One example that comes to mind is on The Beatles' ‘Revolver’ (mono), where on this vinyl there are different volume levels for certain songs and should be accounted for when listening.
It is difficult to find large faults with the JH 13 Pro. Perhaps worthy on mentioning is the sheer size of the soundstage possible of the JH13 Pro VS a full sized headphone or near speaker listening field. Once you have a pair that fits, you should very well enjoy them. Lastly, everyone hears sound differently and therefore preferences come into play.
JH Audio 13 Pro
Scale of marks in Frequency Range . .
High band: 10
Mid band: 10
Low band: 10
Stereo imaging: 10
Transient attack: 10
Ability to scale: 10
Smearing of micro-detail: 10
Speed, rhythm, and timing: 10
* Mean Score: 9.8
Driver specification: Balanced armatures
Description of driver configuration: Six total: dual low, dual mid, dual high
Crossover: Integrated 3-way
Frequency Response: 10Hz to 20kHz
Input Sensitivity: 119dB at 1mw
Impedance: 28 Ohms
MSRP: $1,099 plus tax and shipping
Contents/Accessories: JH 13 Pro, cable, tool, choice of personalized case (choice of large carbon fiber box or small clear Otter box series 1000 with black velvet pouch)
Cost of Impressions: estimated $50
A Few Notes on Components . .
The Melos as a dedicated headphone amp almost gave too much more punch to the JH 13 Pro. The soundstage improved but at the expense of refinement, slightly. The speed became liquid smooth and took on a more “tubey” sound. In all, I felt driving the JH 13 Pro’s with the Melos gave almost too much energy. "Amping" the JH 13 Pro with the Melos improved the imaging of the phone but not necessarily the smoothness. Sending the Rotel / iMod > Melos > iQube was much better for the JH 13 Pro. Here there was increased focus of the soundstage and larger individual images. In essence, the sound was bigger and more detailed.
The iQube again was a great amp for JH 13 , where I felt the iMod > V-Cap Dock > iQube was a superlative match for the JH 13 Pro. With this combo you are able to listen off of batteries alone, utilizing the Class “D” design of the iQube. The control over the frequency range and tonal quality was supernaturally brilliant. I greatly enjoyed the Mac Book Pro via optical out > iBasso > iQube; this combo gave noticeable improvement to vocals, separation, and overall size of the soundstage.
When paired with the Mac book Pro and Pico DAC/Amp, the JH 13 Pro opened up nicely. Overall, I felt that the Pico brought the presentation forward and held back the soundstage a bit, narrowing the JH 13 Pro’s imaging. It is no doubt that as an up-sampling DAC, the Pico is great with the Mac Book. However, I preferred other combos a bit more to this rig.
The Marantz and Sansui both sounded exquisite with the JH 13 Pro’s. This was a surprise for me. Although but both amps provided a warmer sound to the JH 13 Pro’s, the control improved and the soundstage widened even further. Perhaps this scaling up is privy to the efficiency of the JH 13 Pro’s, being 28 Ohms.
The sound quality generated with the iPhone 3Gs playing lossless was almost stupefying, it was that good. However, I found great enjoyment listening to the JH 13 Pro’s straight out of the 2G and 1G Touch, along with the iRiver H340. The combo of the H340>D10 was also another winner.
The iBasso was extremely impressive when throwing the JH 13 Pro into the mix. I was pleased to hear the D10’s improvement to the sound of the JH 13 Pro’s when used as a DAC fed upstream from the Mac Book Pro. The iBasso worked great with Pico (amp section) and the iQube. I preferred the sound of the iQube to the Pico by a fair margin when comparing the amp section of the Pico with the JH 13 Pro. The combinations of Rotel/Mac book Pro>iBasso>Melos/iQube>JH13 is highly recommended. If you intend to use your computer as a dedicated source, I would try out the Pico/DAC or the iBasso. Both over a small footprint and perform with IEM’s above their price point, especially with the JH 13 Pro.
JH13 Pro shown with iMod rig
Closing Thoughts . .
If you are in the market for a high-end headphone, stereo system, monitors for mixing, or custom IEM’s, you should consider the JH Audio JH 13 Pro. The accuracy and stereo imaging you get with the JH 13 Pro’s are worth every penny you can find. I know that the JH 13 Pro will make people rethink their collective headphones, if not customs in general - I know I have.
With the JH 13 Pro’s attention to detail, commanding control over the frequency range, and mesmerizing resolution, there exists a fan wherever there are those that appreciate true sound.
People may wonder, how much better could they be than the other customs available currently? I answer by saying personally, a good darn bit better. Of course, the higher up the chain in Hi-Fi one travels, the margin for return diminishes as the price elevates. However, in the areas of improvement, I see the JH 13 Pro overall as a giant alone on a mountain currently. I did listen to my pair for many hours before sitting down and reviewing them as well.
I also thought about crafting a review between Jerry’s designs of the UE 11 Pro and UE 10 Pro to the JH 11 Pro too. The JH 13 Pro’s are different beasts altogether. It is kind of like comparing a Butte Creek - Porter to an Anderson Valley – Summer Solstice. Both are beers, yes. Both are bottled, yup. One is relentlessly different than the other, and in many, many ways. It also seemed proper that the JH 13 Pro's have their own dedicated review. Other notes on the other custom IEM’s can be interpreted by readers thereafter, and in other threads. If I were to draw any likeness to the UE 11/10 or JH 11, it would be this:
The JH 13 Pro takes the neutral sound I yearned for in the UE 10 Pro, the fun factor of the UE 11 Pro (along with the increased sense of soundstage and imaging), and the further refinement of the JH 11 Pro. JH Audio has created something that is truly better, faster, and bigger sounding. This said, I can find great use for each of the custom in-ear phones I own with various genres of music. In this respect, pending preferences, there is difficulty leaning toward one or the other. If I had to go with one custom going forward, it would be the JH 13 Pro.
I think it was extremely kind of the JH Audio to offer a promotion for the month of June to the community of Head-Fi.org, with savings of $100 off the purchase of the JH 13 Pro. These magnificent monitors are a steal at $1,099 and outperform some of the finest headphones I have owned and heard. The JH 13 Pro may level the general consensus and hierarchy of top sounding monitors. The JH 13 Pro should be a candidate, if not sure win, for Stereophile’s component of the year, 2009. It shall be interesting to hear others’ opinions and of rigs built around the JH 13 Pro’s as time progresses.
Jerry Harvey has superseded my expectations to what constitutes amazement in portable sound, and surpassed the industry technology of what is feasible in the custom world. I have had the pleasure of speaking at length with Jerry and his team on numerous occasions. Their commitment to quality, passion for musical enjoyment, and excellent customer service will only further benefit JH Audio’s place in the professional market of custom in-ear phones.
Let us celebrate a new aural tradition . .
VPI Aries 3 W/ JMW10.5i Tone arm
iPod 2G Touch
RWA iMod 5.5G
Rotel 971 Transport
Mac book Pro (Firewire, optical and analog out tested)
Modified Sansui G801
Modified Melos SHA Gold reference (both as Pre-Amp and Headphone out)
Cryo Twisted Pair
Jena Labs Cryo Ultra Wire
Custom V-Cap Super Dock (2 V-Cap OIMP 4.7uF and 2 V-Cap 0.22 TFTF capacitors running bypass)
Orff - Carmina Burana – Telarc
The Beatles – Revolver – New Zealand Parlaphone (Mono) (both as LP and Vinyl Rip>Flac)
The Beatles – With the Beatles – Parlaphone UK PMC 1206 (Mono) (both as LP and Vinyl Rip>Flac)
Chuck Berry – Berry Is On Top/St Louis To Liverpool – MFSL UDCD776 (Mono/Stereo)
Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five – Sony Mastersound 52860
Beck – Sea Change - Geffin
Pink Floyd – Wish You Here – CBS/Sony Japan (2 track Japanese 1’st pressing) 35DP-4
Jimmy Hendrix – Axis (Mono)
Miles Davis - Workin' With The Miles Davis Quintet - DCC CD GZS-1063 (Steve Hoffman)
Beach Boys – Endless Summer – DCC GZS-1076 (Steve Hoffman)
Cream – Fresh Cream - DCC GZS-1022 (Steve Hoffman)
Franks Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr - The Summit - In Concert - DCC ARZ-102-2 (Steve Hoffman)
John Coltrane – Giant Steps – MFSL UDCD605
Metallica – Master Of Puppets DCC GZS-1133 (Steve Hoffman)
The Doors – Waiting For The Sun – DCC GZS-1045 (Steve Hoffman)
Best Or Arhur Lyman Vol.5 – DCC DZS-095 (Steve Hoffman)
Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited - DCC GZS-1021 (Steve Hoffman)
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Green River GZS-1064 (Steve Hoffman)
The Eagles – Hotel California – DCC GZS-1024 (Steve Hoffman)
Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Fitzgerald Sings Cole Porter Songbook – DCC GZS-2-1079 (Steve Hoffman)
Pierre Boulez, Wiener Philharmoniker – Mahler No.6 “Tragic” – Deutche Grammaphon
Alison Krauss & Union Station Live - Rounder / UMGD
Loreena McKennitt – Nights From the Alhambra – Verve/Quinlan Road
The Black Angels – Passover – Light In The Attic
Azam Ali – Portals Of Grace - Narada
O Brother, Where Art Thou? – Lost Highway
Tyler Bates – 300 – Warner Bros
Hanz Zimmer & Lisa Girarrd - Gladiator Soundtrack - Decca
Wohceich Killar – Dracula – Sony
Andre Rieu – Flying Dutchman
Andre Rieu – Masterpieces
Gorden Hempton, The Sound Tracker – Promise – Rainstorm (Binaural)
Solid Brass – Gershwin to Sousa – Joseph Grado (Binaural)
Strauss, Saint-Saëns / Mester, Olivera, Pasadena Symphony – Newport Classic (Binaural)
Shpongle – Tales of the Inexpressible – Twisted
Punch Brothers - Punch – Nonesuch
Astral Projection – Amen – Hallucinogen
Duke Ellington – Ellington at Newport 1956 (complete) - Columbia
Additional Resources . .
JH Audio JH 13 Pro
1321 Apopka Airport Dr, Unit 143