I was down at Jaben Singapore today and had the opportunity to try out all three JHS. But before I give my first impression and explain my dilemma and ask for honest advice, let me write a bit about myself.
I aint exactly a hardcore audiophile but always had the desire for good sound to be played my in ears when listening off the ipod or iphone. I guess that's also cause I am a musician who like the attention to details. I've had a collection of Shure, UEs, Westone, etc. I kept the Westones cause they sounded the warmest and most pleasant to me (UM2, Westone 3) and suited my needs. Not saying the rest didn't do their job. We all have our likes.
So after much contemplation, I decided to treat myself by upgrading. Initially, I tried the universal fit of the UE11, Westone ES3x (triple driver) as I wanted to go for a custom triple driver IEM. Later the sales guy at Jaben told me about JHs and after a long way (due to lack of funds) decided to give them a try.
So here it goes. I played the JHs off my iphone (volume 75% at max). The music I used was mainly rock to metal (to hear the harshness and cause that's the main genre I play and listen to) and there were the few jazz and blues songs (to get the overall sensual balance). [On a side note: I wonder why people don't use such heavier stuff to review their earphone. Guess each one has a cup of tea.]
JH11s - Weirdly, its was the quad driver that sounded the most pleasant to my ears. It had the overall sense of balance I was looking far. Though it wasn't as well defined in bass and treble (due to less drivers to do the job compared to the JH13 and JH16), I felt it provided me the most comfortable experience among the three. I agree with the other review where the "JH 11 Pro provides a level of clarity and refinement that is on par with most high-end headphones and far beyond many earphones". The details and tone are definitely not missing. The lows are responsive to bass notes and lines in rock songs (we're talking about tracks that you can hardly hear the bass unless you got a good sound system or perfect/relative pitch hearing). The mids are warm and delivers the song across well (from the vocal and overall band perspective). Whereas the highs are good enough to hear a live or recorded drummer crash his cymbals, etc. Its spot on and a worthy investment for anyone. It was better than my UE11 experience (no harm intended for those who owe it!)
JH13s - This was the one that puzzles me a bit. A lot of them were saying that this is more of an analytical IEM at the store and I agree. I could hear the difference really. It was very well defined. It went one up from the JH11s. But I couldn't hear much for the lows. I tried playing some rock songs where the bass lines were more obvious and it didn't ring as clearly compared to the JH11s or JH16s. But it made up with the mid and treble. Where you could hear out the vocals perfectly and the drummers crashes, rides, etc well. It was a few levels up at least. But at the end, I had the least time with it cause I didn't really like the fact I couldn't have as much of an overall band experience
JH16s- Sweet stuff. Now I can see why audiophiles love it. Its clarity really astonishes me big time. Well defined isn't something I can describe it. Over defined is probably a starting :) When playing rock tracks, I could hear every defined so clearly and outrightly. It was like being at the studio where the band recorded their track. I could hear the bass lines (without changing to a song with more obvious bass), recognize what the drummer played (down to hearing every single piece of equipment on his drum kit, even the double kicks). Not to mention the vocals where you can hear the singer until it feels like its someone singing in front of you. This provided the best experience a musician wanted. Be it if you are playing in a live performance to just pure listening at home. However, I had the problem where the treble would tend to be too harsh with certain rock track (where I had to lower the volume). However, this is not something to be ignored or forgotten.
So here is my dilemma. As the JH11s are currently on sale (850 USD), it would seem like now is the time to get it coupled with the fact that I had the most comfortable listening experience. However I am thinking whether I should top up a bit more to get the JH16 where the listening experience is the best (and get it done for probably?) but am worried about the harshness of its treble over certain tracks.
Could some advice me from their experience of choosing between this 3? It be great if an audiophile/musician/ordinary listener would share how he/she found the JHs in any given situation as well?
I would definitely go down a couple more times to try out again. I can't let one experience decide everything. :)
If you are wondering what the rock to metal tracks are. It was a big mix that I think would be too long to mention here. An idea would be alter bridge, creed, skillet, demon hunter, kutless etc. When talking blues, jazz and lighter stuff. It would be things like john mayer (recorded and live), eric clapton, M3, owl city, copeland, etc. There was chinese music, worship albums in it as well.