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JVC HA-M5X - Another Budget Basshead's Review

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

JVC HA-M5X Review






UPDATE: The previous owner did a mod to this headphone that he forgot to mention about which I ofc didn't know about, scroll down for more details, the review has now been modified a bit to reflect how it sounds without any mods.


Here's another newly released basshead can from JVC I decided to give a try simply because there's not that much info on them and the low price was the deciding factor. Bought them for $45 / 35 EUR shipped (MSRP $49) from US of ourfpshero as they aren't available here in Finland yet. I knew due to the low price I didn't have much expectation about them and the need of EQ I had taken something granted for but I was still in for some suprises despite my already slightly pessimistic view before acquiring them.


This review will be following a bit different structure as after we all are talking about $50 headphones the need of EQing for a basshead headphone budget headphone is hardly any suprise, otherwise this review could be written with one sentence, DON'T BOTHER. Having accepted that I will still write about it as if it was unEQ'd but also take EQing into account as well as comparing them to my highly liked XB500 as they are also in somewhat similar price category, street price wise we're talking about $10 difference ~$40 HA-M5X vs ~$50 XB500 and they have many things in common, both are marketed bass emphasized headphones, designed for portable use (short cord) and easy driven specs and similar price. 


Will use similar structure as my previous review as those who don't like to read bunch of crap can look at the the evaluated figures in different aspects to get a quite good picture of how they stand.





Isolation (Least: -10  -  avg: 0 (in-between typical closed & open)  -  Most: +10)  


HA-M5X: +2

XB500:   +1.5


Comfort (Least: -10  -  avg: 0  -  Most: +10)   


HA-M5X: +6.5

XB500: +9.5


The first thing that comes to my mind is XB500 having sex with Beats by Dr. Dre and the child became the JVC HA-M5X. They seem to be targeting the headphones towards same crowd and also try to appeal to bassheads with their quite unique design which reminds me very much of their "Boombox", enter the JVC BoomBlaster featuring the same design of the exterior of the subwoofer on the boombox as the cups on the HA-M5X headphones. The drivers that would represent the subwoofers which is not that much of a silly comparision actually but more about that later, are 50mm diaphragms with neodymium magnet. Also features a 1.2mm short red colored cord as well as camouflage colored but well padded headband cushion. 


As far as build quality goes the HA-M5X features a high quality plastic design which for being plastic, feels suprisingly sturdy. It also got a rubber stripe protecting the body of the cup which is quite neat little touch. Under this rubber stripe the cup has a metall grille and beneath that grill there is 2 little openings that would be working as bassport most likely but the opening itself is very small and the whole grille isn't opened and it doesn't leak THAT much noise but with some testing I did it would indicate some bass leakage at the back but it's perhaps just a touch less than on XB500.


Ergonomics-wise it's very good, it weighs 280g but feels more like 200~220ish, and doesn't clamp overly intense or anything and the pads are definitely circumaural and isolate very well and have a bit custom shape that is more thick behind your ears against your neck for better fit. Pads seem to get slightly sweaty with prolonged use but I've experienced worse, such as M50.



Sound signature, soundstage and separation


Cold/Warm ratio


HA-M5X:           Coldest |-----------------------------------neutral----------------------------(x)---| Warmest

XB500:             Coldest |-----------------------------------neutral-----------------------(x)--------| Warmest


Laid-back/Forward ratio



HA-M5X:  Most laid-back |-----------------------------------neutral----------------------------(x)---| Most forward

XB500:    Most laid-back |-----------------------------------neutral-----------------(x)--------------| Most forward





HA-M5X:        Smallest |-------------------------------------avg----(x)------------------------------| Largest

XB500:          Smallest |-------------------------------------avg----(x)------------------------------| Largest


Instrument Separation


HA-M5X:              Worst |-------------------------(x)--------avg--------------------------------------| Best

XB500:                Worst |-------------------------------(x)--avg--------------------------------------| Best



Here's where things get really interesting, I had expected unbalanced frequency response but not more unbalanced than XB500 with very thunderous bass response and both mids and highs recessed in comparision without any EQing applied. It's extremely warm and forward sounding headphone, the lows - lower mids range (0 ~ 1kHz) is all very highly emphasized as well as highs being severely veiled/rolled off and mids desperately searching for attention amongst the cloud of bass as well as bright shiney highs being far away. It's actually so badly balanced that especially the upper bass - lower mids range appears to have quite a bump which makes some instruments slightly hard to hear at times. At this point I will have to state a good quality EQ can definitely improve the result A LOT but more on that later. 


Soundstage is suprisingly a whole lot different though, it's actually not that bad at all despite the very forward ("in your face") sound signature. It's that forward so you can picture yourself standing on-stage in middle of the band which is where I thought XB500 already was but now I'm starting to believe XB500 sounds more like sitting in in first row with the lead singer only a few meters away at most but the JVCs seem to take an even further step and sound like you're almost attached to him/her. Despite the extremely forward sound signature the soundstage is kept very reasonable and quite impressive for a bassy $40 headphone. Compared to XB500 it might even have slightly wider soundstage as well as similar depth but it's less "airy" sounding but it's still better than many bassy closed headphones in this matter, probably because of the opening at the back of the cups.


However due to the very warm sound signature the instrument separation is a bit on the weaker side, due to the unbalanced fequency response. EQing will help a lot though. Also another thing I noticed is that it's very wet sounding among the most between the ones I've encountered so far, ie. reverbey, so be cautious with any kind of settings that may cause further reverb, you don't want to add a lot more than what's already naturally present in the headphones.





Bass quantity (Least: -10  -  avg: 0 (in-between typical closed & open)  -  Most: +10)  


HA-M5X: +9.0 ~ 9.5

XB500:   +9.5        



Deep/Upper bass focus (just a rough estimate which is more emphasized compared to each other)


HA-M5X: 45/55 % (deep/upper)

XB500:    46/54 % (deep/upper)       


These are like XB500 VERY THUNDER.... oh did someone say something I couldn't hear you over the THUNDER... *snap out of it* ... phew. Over-the-top earthquake, ear vibrating bass as well as sledgehammering upper bass punch & impact, the JVC HA-M5X has it all! There's also nothing wrong about the extension either, play's "Bass I love you" with barely audible bass notes (I'd take a guess around 15~25Hz) to ear-vibrating sensation, so no need to worry here, the bass emphasize just like XB500 sounds very flat from the deepest notes to the upper bass tones are all let out in a dominating manner.


The bass is neither overly punchy nor slow, it plays the bassnotes that's been served on the plate, it's not skewed to either ends, it's skewed in BOTH ends. The bass is definitely enroaching on the rest of the frequency range due to not properly rolling it off suitably before the lower mids as it seems the elevated frequency response only continues far into the lower mids.


It's difficult to tell whether the HA-M5X is bassier or not than XB500 mainly due to the significantly more recessed highs as well as the lower mids emphasis, on the paper HA-M5X might therefore have more bass quantity but it doesn't always feel like I get hit with more impact or greater deep bass rumble, probably due to the peak in the lower mids which we will be talking more about as we move on to the following section.





Recessed mids ratio


HA-M5X: Most recessed |-----------------------------------neutral(x)--------------------------------| Most forward

XB500:   Most recessed |-----------------------------------neutral(x)--------------------------------| Most forward


Just like XB500 the mids aren't what I'd call recessed, it's just the unbalanced frequency response than makes them far from clear/ideal sounding but they are definitely there but very muddy sounding without any EQing enabled. Especially the lower midrange 500Hz - 1kHz has a quite large emphasis and there seems to be an annoying bump somewhere around 500 ~ 750Hz or so range that makes sound a bit like the a 70's radio, "heavy" but a bit muddy. It's definitely the heaviest kind of tone to the mids I've heard due to the fact of the elevated lower mids and needs to be taken care of on the EQ to sound anywhere great as this is the biggest culprit to muddified overall sound, it both masks deep bass as well as mids to highs. 


The upper mids 2 ~ 4kHz are already quite recessed versus the lower mids 500Hz - 1kHz being quite emphasized creates a rather interesting contrast depending on the pitch of the singer, females often suffer from presenceness while lads with a low pitch almost sounds like roaring. Compared to XB500 the lower mids are more elevated while the upper mids are less elevated.


To make matters worse, the JVCs seem to have slight amount resonace especially in the mids (500Hz - 4kHz). The vocals are very "in-your-face" sounding yet quite muddy as previously suggested, with some EQ it can be made a whole lot better no doubt.






Brightness ratio


HA-M5X:          Darkest |-----------(x)---------------------neutral----------------------------------| Brightest

XB500:            Darkest |-----------------------(x)---------neutral----------------------------------| Brightest


The JVC HA-M5X must be the darkest sounding headphone I've yet encountered much resembling the KOSS The Spark Plugs IEMs I bought back in the days. Without EQing it's very hard to make anything out of them, it's even hard to describe them so I have to describe how they start sounding with EQing, and they come alive nicely, reasonably soft without much harshness, maybe tiny bit less soft or gentle compared to XB500 but the detail is quite similar. 






The HA-M5X without EQing is like bread without butter, it won't taste good. The biggest fail JVC did with these headphones like Sony also sort of failed with but in a far less extent which still made them fun sounding at least, ie. not rolling-off the greatly emphasized bass response soon enough so it'll start bleed into the lower mids, this is among the most important matter we're discussing if you want a heavily bass emphasized headphone sound anywhere great, to get the roll-off of the bassresponse rolled-off at the right frequency range which JVC doesn't seem to have got. We'll need to remove that ourselves  to remove the muddy mess interfering with mids as well as highs as well as very deep bass. On this headphone you already have to start at 250Hz or so but it'll be far worse at the 500Hz or so range and probably even worse around 600~750Hz or so which my 10-band EQ unfortunately lacks. The first headphone I feel with that I can't quite get the result I'd want if I had the accuracy to tweak it like I'd want it to be like but yea luckily the 500Hz band exists at least as it'll ofc affect nearby frequencies too. The 500Hz band in this case got a large dip but the peak of the dip should be a bit above 500Hz if I had the capability to change that. Then a very large boost has to be added starting from the mids to the outermost part of the highs to get it somewhat nicely balanced and get that last bit of detail in place.


Suprisingly after heavily EQ tweak, this headphone improves shockingly much. But of course it'll largely depend on the quality of the EQ you use, I personally use a very high quality hardware EQ and if I'd decide this headphone isn't anything I have a need for at least it could come handy showing off to some anti-EQ fanatics how much of a difference it'll make. Too bad I would probably have no friends that would care anyway. Oh well. Long story short, don't waste your time with this headphone unless you're prepared for a heavy-duty EQ assignment. 






- Mind-numbing bass quantity for the extreme basshead

- Fairly solid construction

- Good comfort

- Easily driven

- EQ potential


Cons & the average:

- Mild resonance issues mainly in the mids

- Upper bass - lower mids range is overhelming

- Very recessed highs



You're probably now thinking it's been wasting my time, in fact it's the opposite, it's been very interesting and learning experience like many times before, I didn't have great expectations when I was buying them either, I just mainly wanted something to play around with! It puts up a very fair fight vs XB500 once proper EQ settings are applied and it's even a bit hard to tell which I prefer but without them, there's no contest that the XB500 is a lot better headphone for a mere $10 bucks more.


For more info regarding XB500, check out my D1100 vs XB500 review.




IMG_0560.jpg  IMG_0562.jpg IMG_0563.jpg IMG_0564.jpg IMG_0567.jpg  IMG_0569.jpg

Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 6/11/11 at 6:46am
post #2 of 28

nice detailed review. i should send you more headphones!

post #3 of 28
Thread Starter 


Originally Posted by ourfpshero View Post

nice detailed review. i should send you more headphones!

I wouldn't mind testing more headphones, I really enjoy analyzing them. Doesn't matter what headphones I get, I still get the same 7-year-old-like feeling at xmas when it's time to open the presents as when picking up the package. :p

post #4 of 28
Thread Starter 

Bumpage because I put maybe 2hrs into the review and don't feel like it just fading away like that so quickly. :p Not that I expect people to have interest in this headphone though but it has like only one thread b4 this that discusses it a little. I'd actually really like this headphone if there weren't such a huge elevated response around 600 ~ 750Hz or so area as well as the faint resonance in the mids (maybe would have to try open it and dampening it on the inside).

Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 6/6/11 at 8:02am
post #5 of 28

I was kind of interested in purchasing them when they came out. I am glad I read your excellent review - it totally satisfied  my curiosity about them.

post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by os2k View Post

I was kind of interested in purchasing them when they came out. I am glad I read your excellent review - it totally satisfied  my curiosity about them.

I'm glad it was useful for at least some1 then. xD


post #7 of 28

I read that on some JVC models little mods can do miracles

Look at any felt over the drivers. Removing a layer of it worked for my ha-rx900



post #8 of 28
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by ginetto61 View Post

I read that on some JVC models little mods can do miracles

Look at any felt over the drivers. Removing a layer of it worked for my ha-rx900




Might have to take a look, on one of the sides the pads come really easily off and underneath are the small screws visible then, just have to find a small enough screwdriver.

Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 6/6/11 at 12:03pm
post #9 of 28
Thread Starter 


Interesting, ourfpshero> I start believing I'm not the first person who opened these!


Ringport design for more "forward" in your face bass



I hope I'm not the only one smelling a rat here, ourfpshero, care to explain perhaps? :p Somehow I doubt that tape is originally included. Might have to remove it and see if that opens it at the back which I suspect which might have interesting effect in terms of bass and soundstage, similarly like XB500 which has nothing covered at the bassports at the back.



Very thin copper...



Backside of the driver housing




EDIT2: Voila! Tape removed, there we have it as suspected, 2 bass ports visible, I bet some1 wanted to do something about the leakage. Covering bassports on Sony XB headphones completely ruins the sound....



Just a pic of the pads, very thin foam.



Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 6/6/11 at 2:50pm
post #10 of 28
Thread Starter 



After taking a listen after having removed the tape to uncover the bassports, I notice a HUGE improvement, the resonance issue has definitely improved up to the point I can't notice it anymore (or barely in the worst case) and also the elevated lower mids seems to have calmed down significantly, making it a lot better balanced and comparing before and after without any EQ enabled is VERY HUGE difference, now it's closer to XB500 in terms of balance but more forward mids, nice! (highs still more recessed though) Improvement to soundstage was noted (more depth mostly) as well as LOT BETTER instrument separation lol. Bass response from my initial impression seems to have stayed quite similar, no notable change in deep/upper bass focus.


Feels like I might have to write the review all over again, haha. Now I might even prefer this HA-M5X over XB500 with the new EQ tweaks enabled due to the more forward/engaging sound as well as a bit "heavier/fullier" or possibly a bit warmer sound from the higher elevated lower-mids.


A before and after EQ setting comparision:


Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 6/6/11 at 3:24pm
post #11 of 28

oops, i forgot all about that!

i was trying to dampen the mid bass hump (that tape does wonders on a jvc rx700) and with all the headphones i have I forgot i even did that wink.gif

post #12 of 28
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by ourfpshero View Post

oops, i forgot all about that!

i was trying to dampen the mid bass hump (that tape does wonders on a jvc rx700) and with all the headphones i have I forgot i even did that wink.gif

Didn't you notice the obvious sound quality degrade though or did you just gave it a quick listen after the mod and never tried it properly? I'd have to modify the whole review quite a lot now. :p I'm unsure whether I'm liking HA-M5X or XB500 more now, both certainly needs EQ tweaks to sound optimal but after that they are quite similar sounding except the noticable difference in forwardness where HA-M5X is easily the most forward headphone I've heard and the rather heavy elevated lower-mids which makes the HA-M5X very powerful/thick/meaty/heavy sounding in the mids which is to my liking, I don't like very laid-back and thin sound with bright highs as well as recessed and distant and weak mids and this is like totally the opposite. Then again it sounds like it's not as "airy"/open sounding like XB500 and the lower mids around 600~750Hz or so are still a bit too elevated and my 10-band EQ doesn't have the required slider around that area.


At least in gaming I still prefer XB500 since that lower-mids color the overall sound a bit too much so it's not the optimal clarity I'm searching for. Quite funny feeling playing UT3 with HA-M5X when the girl announcer voice is heard it sounds like it comes so close that she'd be wispering in my ear... quite forward sound I say lol. It's also apparent it gets a bit of a mess with heavy action going on with the rather poor separation where XB500 isn't the best either but still better than HA-M5X. Positional cues are clear though and soundstage size might even be slightly bigger.


Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 6/7/11 at 9:54am
post #13 of 28

you play ut3!?


i was a heavy duty vctf player/clanner in ut3

post #14 of 28
Thread Starter 

Yea I played in 2 different warfare clans and helped both teams up to the very top of the ladder on clanbase. I reckon I should have at least 4000hrs+ on it now. I still play a few games on public servers every now and then, all modes.

post #15 of 28
Thread Starter 

Updated the review a bit so it would reflect more how it sounds without that tape over the bassports which I didn't knew about at the time I wrote the review. :p

Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 6/11/11 at 4:35am
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