The FXZ-100 and FXZ-200 are the newest flagships from JVC, and boy are they eccentric. They feature an industry first triple dynamic driver setup that left many in awe at their introduction. The most remarkable feature of their design is the massive subwoofer at the end of each individual design. What they supposedly do is pump out bass, without interfering with the other frequencies via Kelton technology.
The FXZ-100 (and 200) take obvious design cues from the FXT90. One could even argue that it's essentially a FXT90 with a subwoofer strapped on the back. Overall, the FXZ-100 seems like it could withstand years of use, given they aren't kicked around or anything like that.
It took me a while to get a good grasp of the FXZ-100's sound signature.
The first thing I noticed was that this thing has a crap-ton of bass, to a point where it made some songs painful to listen to at moderate volumes. However, something was off and I couldn't really tell what it was. A couple of listening sessions later, it hit me...the mids! They were actually almost as boosted as the bass, and pretty damn clear too. It was a bit distressing to me at first as I've never heard anything like it before, where an iem with more than enough bass to satisfy all but the most extreme bass-head could still have such presence in the mids.
Not everything is peaches and cream, though. With that quantity of bass, some level of bleed does occur quite often. It's not always bad though, as it tends to lend a good deal of heft to vocals. Other times, it just gets in the way. The other issue comes from the mostly awesome midrange. I mentioned earlier that the midrange was nearly as boosted as the bass, and sometimes it really shows in the form of shrill vocals and percussion.
The treble is another story though. It's smooth, extended, and does very well to compliment the bass and mids.
I've compiled a list of songs I want to use to help properly describe the FXZ-100's sound. I'll be using the GR07 and MH1C as my benchmarks.
Note on drivability: There has been plenty of talk on the FXZ thread, stating that these iems need an amp to sound their best. This is patently false. My iPhone 4 drives them with ease, and reaches the "too loud" threshold at only 75% volume. The same goes for my Blackberry tablet and my Sansa Clip+.
Song #1: Danza Kuduro - Don Omar
FXZ-100: I want to say that the bass line is dominant here, but the mids are almost right there with the bass. However, the low end is pretty massive in quantity, almost dominates the soundstage in terms of placement. The upper bass seems to fight with the mids for center stage. However, when you zoom out, the bass makes it pretty easy to get lost in the track and you'll find yourself dancing pretty quickly.
GR07: Half the bass just disappeared, leaving me in a bit of shock for 20 seconds. Afterwards, I start to notice that the vocals are much more intelligible and clear. However, the treble is brighter and has more splash and sizzle. This may be a negative or positive, depending on your point of view. I personally can enjoy both presentations. The bass line moves from center stage and migrates more towards the bottom of the jaw. Not quite as fun as the JVC, but a lot clearer.
MH1C: Surprisingly, the MH1C seems to be bassier than the FXZ-100, and the mids are more laid back. The treble, while slightly more present, seems a little less natural/more metallic. However, it's worth noting that the FXZ-100's vocals sound more nasal when switching back and forth with the MH1C.
Song #2: Gangnam Style - Psy
MH1C: Awesome bass texture, and Psy's voice is very clear here. Instrument separation is remarkable, despite the bass quantity. Interestingly, despite that bass pounding away I can't detect any bleed into the vocals.
FXZ-100: Vocals are, again, much more nasal than on the MH1C. Bass quantity is less than on the MH1C, and as such the texture is less apparent. I'm going to get shot for this, but the MH1C actually sounds more refined on this track, and it's more fun to listen to. On the FXZ-100, you can actually hear where they boosted the upper mids. Unfortunately, PSY's voice simply doesn't agree with it. The effect is actually pretty similar to the original ASG-1, prior to the 2nd revision. Honestly, this effect alone makes the FXZ-100 sound like the cheaper iem.
GR07: Best clarity of the bunch, but the treble is also sharper. You can hear this especially with cymbals. Bass quantity is also the least of the three, but it manages to display more texture as the MH1C.
Song #3: Weightless - City and Color
FXZ-100: Nice! This track was recorded in an empty cathedral, and the FXZ-100 does a great job of conveying the atmosphere of the room. Here the bass stays nicely out of the way, and acts more as a solid foundation on top of which the guitars and drums play nicely. Vocals sound a tad distant, but I suspect that's just the track.
GR07: The GR07 conveys the atmosphere of the track just as well, but it doesn't seem quite as spacious, probably due to the more present vocals. There's better clarity across the board, but the bass line isn't as solid as on the FXZ. Another thing to note again is the more present treble of the GR07. It makes the cymbal strikes more appealing, and the guitars sound better. The trade off, however, is a more present "sss" in the vocals. I hesitate to call it sibilance, because it's not the kind that causes one to rip earphones from the head.
MH1C: I'm pretty shocked by the clarity here, which almost matches the FXZ-100. One major downside here is the upper treble. There is a very metallic "sshhh" sound where the hi-hat strike should be. It's almost exactly what the XBA-3 sounded like on this exact track. There is zero sibilance, however. Since almost all of the MH1C's bass response is concentrated in the sub-bass, the vocal integrity is great, without the side-effects of the FXZ-100's midrange boost.
Song #4: Silent Knight - Versailles Philharmonic Orchestra....(aka Kiteki's speed test)
I first found out about this track through Kiteki's thread on IEM speed, and it's puurrrrfect for seeing just how fast a driver can go. Not to mention it's a pretty awesome song. It really starts going at around 2:45. It's pretty hard to believe that human beings can play instruments this fast!
I'm going to listen at a slightly higher volume in order to capture all the details.
GR07 (Benchmark): 9.3/10. I could hear almost every note without a hint of a struggle, except in the really complex parts. It was really a treat to listen to...I didn't even want to pull it out of my ears. The dynamic that moves like a BA!
MH1C: 6/10. The bass seems very bloated on this track and really slows the presentation down, which is a shame, because the mids and treble can really move.
FXZ-100: 7.0/10. A tiny bit faster than the MH1C, but not nearly as quick as the GR07. A lot of the percussion and guitar notes smear together like an oil painting, instead of the 15 megapixel camera that the GR07 is.
Song #5: Long Distance - from Explorations in Space and Time (Chesky's first Binaural Album)
I couldn't find a sample of the track on Youtube, and I didn't want to get sued for putting one up :) so here's a sampler of the album.
FXZ-100: Pretty good spacing. However, this is the first time I've heard a binaural track sound (kinda) congested. I mentioned earlier how the mid-bass competes for center stage, and this is in full efect whenever a percussion instrument is struck. It makes the scene overly warm, and really subtracts from the binaural experience.
GR07: The binaural effect is much more pronounced in the GR07, with awesome soundstage width and depth. Due to the more open mids, the soundstage is far more defined, and cues seem to travel farther in every direction. The GR07 trounces the FXZ-100 in this track, no two ways to say it.
MH1C: The MH1C is tuned somewhat similarly to the GR07 in that most of its (massive) bass response is concentrated below 100 Hz. This woks to its favor in this track in that there isn't that much bass bleed. So while the soundspace isn't as defined, it sounds about equal with the FXZ-100.
I was pretty impressed with the FXZ-100 after getting used to its signature. However, certain flaws dropped its value in my eyes. Now that I've A/B'ed it against the MH1C, I realize that the FXZ has no place in my collection of iems, especially given its value for money. Its tuning, though special in the midrange, is a let down in the bass area. Most of its reposnse is mid-bass focused, and really gets in the way of a lot of music.
Edited by eke2k6 - 1/18/13 at 8:44pm