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JVC HA-FX850 vs Sony MDR-MA900

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 

Construction: The cable on the JVC FX850 is nicely sized, flexible and lacks microphonics. It ends in a normal 3.5mm plug and is also detachable, having MMCX connectors (which Shure also uses). The FX850 has 3 front-vents and 1(?) back-vent. (Though it’s a ring vent, so I can’t see how many holes are actually there) Despite all the vents, isolation is still adequate. Isolating a little less than my Sony xb90ex but still enough to use on my daily bus commute to school at a reasonable volume (though it’s hard to hear the bass). The body of the earphone is like a piece of art, solidly built but because of its pleasing aesthetic wooden design I’d rather not let anything happen to them.

Sound: The FX850 has a large soundstage for an in-ear, bigger than a JVC HA-RX900 (a semi-open/closed headphone with a larger soundstage than most) but a little smaller than the MA900 — it also lacks the ‘sense’ of openness the MA900 has( maybe the isolation is throwing me off, the FX850 feels disconnected with the outside whereas the subtle ambiance helps the MA900 place its sound outside itself). The FX850 has a large amount of bass, though it isn’t as bass-heavy as the xb90ex. It has good low extension but is more subtle <40hz than the xb90ex — though quality, speed and texture it trumps the xb90ex in every way (as it should.) as well as the MA900. The bass emphasis eases into the midrange nicely, warming up vocals a tad too much on some songs, but sounding very life-like on songs that are neutral-to-slightly bright.  The midrange is ever so slightly recessed, and on some tracks, the vocals sound a tad distant and that could just be the recording, which is another thing worth mentioning. The FX850 has a unique way making the difference in albums/songs discernible via how it was recorded/produced, it’s like each album has it’s own unique ‘voice’ or ‘signature’. When it comes to treble, the FX850 outshines all my other headphones — and that is not to say that they’re bright. Compared to the MA900, the FX850′s treble is a bit more pronounced with better extension and has a lot more clarity, though still sounding slightly below neutral. Like the MA900, the FX850 has a warm-ish sound which may be misheard as sounding slightly veiled, but is actually very resolute and natural — the FX850 taking the resolution to the next level (though the bass sometimes doesn’t let you hear all the detail it reproduces, it’s definitely there). I’m unsure about timbre, but when it comes to realism I think the MA900 still has the edge on the FX850, though the MA900 can sometimes sound dull (perhaps lacking timbre?) with some instruments. The FX850 still outdoes the MA900 with precision and is far more revealing, despite having bigger bass and a smaller soundstage.

post #2 of 2

I own both the JVC and the Sony and some observations follow:

 

* FX850

- Superb commuter IEM - definitely developed and tested with subways, traffic, walking commutes

- No micro-phonics when walking (with standard rubber tips - can't comment on the foamy tips)

- Not the most isolating IEM, but for daily commuting a good balance between isolation and venting (realistic soundstage)

- There is a bump up in lower FQs. This can be adjusted with the different tips included. Outside while walking/commuting, this equalization seems spot on. At home in a silent room some low FQs can be a bit too emphasized

- Mids and highs are smooth and seem very "high resolution" 

- Occasional vocals sound a bit off

- Overall fairly neutral, "involving" and "fun" sound signature

- These IEMs have a lot of physical volume and are just a bit heavy and bulky in my ears with medium tips. The shirt clip reduces some of the cable weight. One can also run the cables around the outer ear

- The smallest tips reduce the bass hump and the pressure around the ear canal. But the sound becomes lifeless. Part is the reduction in bass, part is deeper insertion into the ear canal. I prefer a slightly less comfortable, better seal with the medium tips

- Scales up with good amplification

 

* The MA900

- Design provides a hyper-open soundstage. Few headphones are as open 

- Nice FQ balance, especially for complex classical music. Everything sounds correct

- Bass can be surprisingly deep

- More grainy in mid- and high-range, but pleasant and non-fatiguing for long listening sessions

- Very light weight and comfortable

- Does fine with low end amps (but resistors likely prevent it from scaling up and detract a bit from reproduction quality)

 

* Bonus. I listened to the Sony MDR7550 & MDR EX1000, Senn IE800, various Shures, some other BAs 

- I never heard a BA that I liked. I think the crossover slopes & time alignment challenges are the issue. They just don't work for me

- The EX1000's highs were a bit too much for me

- The Sony 7550 was excellent overall and tamed those highs. Limited isolation

- The IE800 was fantastic in the mids and higher ends. Sometimes it worked will down low and sometimes sounded a bit too spectacular. There is some innovative ear canal/vent engineering going on but I am still on the fence there. But the micro-phonics and super short cable were deal-breakers. The Kevlar reenforced cable is a stupid idea from a health & safety perspective

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