Years ago I was searching for a cheap headphone that I could use for running. I didn't care much about the sound quality I was mostly looking for something that would hold up to some serious abuse while having some bass for the electronic music I run to. My search led me to the JVC Marshmallow (HA-FX34). I headed to my local Walmart and grabbed a yellow pair for better visibility when running and headed home. I quickly fell in love with them for exercising, outside of the tips. Eventually I bought some Comply T400 tips and this sold all of my comfort problems. They've suited me well for 2 years of cold winter running and hot summer yard work.
Recently I discovered two other versions, well actually 3 but I'll talk about that later, and figured I would try them out to see the differences. I've been spending some time with them and here's my experiences.
JVC HA-FX33 (Same as the HA-FX34, the 34 was made to match the iPod Nano colors is all.)
Driver: 8.5mm Neodymium
Frequency Response: 8-23,000Hz
Cord Length: 3.28ft
These were, I believe, the original ones by JVC, with a very cheap feeling plastic housing that isn't the easiest to put in the ear, but a very nice feeling cable with a cinch. The way the body is shaped it makes sense to wear them over ear, but with my iPod positioning in conjunction with the length of the cord, it was just a tad too short. With the Comply T400 tips the comfort on these is fine with great isolation, perfect for outdoor work. The build quality seems rather cheap, but believe me I've put these through heck and back and they've never failed when others have. I have thrown these, stuffed them in my pocket, and so forth, they are very durable. The cable is thick and feels well made, better than most headphones under $100 even. They look a bit ugly, but are available in a multitude of colors. One thing to note about these being different than the rest is that there's a grey silicon sleeve that is removable around the nozzle. I'm not sure it's purpose (perhaps to keep the sound unaffected through foams) but they're the only version with this. How do they sound though?
These were my first Marshmallow and I'm reviewing the same pair I bought 2 years ago and put through so much abuse. I hated these at first due to poor fit and comfort, thankfully I found some Comply T400 which I absolutely recommend for these. The bass is boomy and strong, slightly bloated but not too bad. The impact isn't huge here, the kick drums sound rounded if that makes sense. These are definitely very warm with the mids straining to make a presence over the bass sometimes. The mids also have a tendency to sound a bit artificial, especially for acoustic instruments. The highs are rolled off, they're able to be heard but they're in the back and I definitely struggle to hear them. There's grain throughout, and minor details will not be heard, these are definitely not for intricate music. The sound stage is nothing impressive here, decent for IEMs, but the positioning is done pretty well with panning, though there's not much depth. They do tighten up a little bit through my iBasso D4, but sound fine out of an iPod.
Overall these aren't bad, I will be trying the Kramer mod with these and adding it to the list. For the price I will gladly take these over almost everything else for exercising, especially as a "throw around pair." I do highly recommend the Comply T400 tips though, which does increase the price a bit.
Driver: 8.5mm Neodymium
Frequency Response: 8-23,000hz
Cord Length: 3.94ft
I saw these with the FX30 and have always wondered what, if any, the differences between these and my beloved FX33 were outside of appearance. The build quality is definitely a step up from the 33/34's. The housing has a more sporty and ergonomic housing than both though it still have a plastic housing. The nozzle is that of the new variety, there's no silicon sleeve anymore, but simply a long plastic nozzle with a silicon tip around the end, I assume to keep the sound from being changed by the foams. These are also the first and only to have a proper stress relief, and a decent one at that. The cables is the same size as the FX30 and FX33/34 leaving the housing and has a cinch. At the y-split the cables are merged into one thicker one, like the FX33/34 and feels durable and sturdy, unlike the FX30. These have the same straight 3.5mm plug, which appears to be decent. These are the sporty looking ones, but how do they sound?
Like the rest of the JVC Marshmallow line these have an emphasis on bass, but unlike the others the bass is moderately toned down in comparison and slightly tightened up. The bass is strong and extends well, it's a bit bloated, but more tame than in the other versions and keeps itself from bleeding too much into the mids. The mids are still a bit dry, but they have more body than in the other two versions. The highs are rolled off still and grainy, but these are a tad brighter than the other two. There's sibilance and grain throughout, but these are much better balanced than the others. The soundstage is the same as the FX33, having space but still being rather narrow. There's a slight improvement when amped, but not much.
These are the best of the three, well worth the $10-$15 if you plan to use them for exercise.
JVC HA-FX30 (These also come with an Mic version)
Driver: 11mm Neodymium
Frequency Response: 8-20,000Hz
Cord Length: 3.94ft
I bought these the same time as the HA-FX35 in order to try them all. These have a bulbous housing with the new nozzle type that the HA-FX35 have. The housing itself extends a little to create a hard plastic stress relief which I have doubts about it helping at all because of the rigid edges and the thin cable. Speaking of the cable, it's terrible, absolutely terrible. The cable from each ear is incredibly thin and I find it getting tangled as soon as I take them out of my ears. There's no cinch here and the y-split is much thinner than the others. Here's the kicker though the cables don't become one bigger cable after the split, they are simply two wires together. The build quality simply feels extra cheap and I wouldn't doubt if the cable gave up on me after a month of use. Isolation is even a step down with the same tips as all 3. I can easily hear myself cough or talk and others around me to a degree with music playing. Build quality and so forth is a huge step down in this version, which is the latest version or at least the one that they're displaying on their site.
The sound doesn't fare too well either, the new driver is simply bloated with bass. The bass extends extends far down, but it's not quality. Impact of the kick drums is severely brought down due to the overly bloated bass and it's a mess, to put it frankly. The mids sound thin and artificial, guitars sound plastic and vocals exhibit sibilance. The highs are rolled off and grainy. There's grain throughout and details are lost due to the muddy bass and the congested sound. The soundstage is very congested and very narrow, at times it feels as if the music is coming from a small hall way. Amping does not help clear anything up here either.
Avoid these ones, they're a huge step down in every aspect. I don't know why JVC made these their number ones, but they're not worth the price at all.
Disregarding the FX30, the JVC Marshmallow line, especially the FX35, are great gym headphones. I couldn't ask for more out of them and at the $10 you can find them for new they are a great value. Will they blow you away with their sound? No and you shouldn't expect them to. They are what they are, durable cheap headphones for people with active lifestyles.
See the rest of the photos here.