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Dual carbon dynamic driver IEM from Drop.com

Drop + JVC HA-FDX1

Rating:
4.5/5,
  • upload_2019-9-5_11-15-11.jpeg


    SPECS
    • Model type: In-ear monitor
    • Driver type: Dynamic driver
    • Driver unit: 11mm DLC DOME DUAL CARBON driver unit with newly developed diaphragm, air damper, and titanium metal driver case
    • PEN (Polyethylene Naphthalate) center dome with diamond-like carbon coating
    • PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) outer ring with black-carbon coating
    • Impedance: 16 ohms
    • Frequency response: 8Hz-52kHz
    • Output sound pressure level: 103dB @1mW
    • Maximum power input: 200mW (IEC standards)
    • Cable: Detachable MMCX connectors (Y type) OFC
    • 3.5 mm 24 gold-plated stereo mini plug (straight)
    • Groove cable
    • Cable length: 1.2 m (3.9 ft)
    • Weight (not including cable): 0.7 oz (20 g)
    • JVC recommends 48 hours of burn-in time at low volume
    • Rich soundstage straight from a phone/computer, or driven by an amp

Recent Reviews

  1. jwbrent
    JVC/Drop Hit A Home Run!
    Written by jwbrent
    Published Sep 12, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Exceptional build quality given the price, engrossing sound performance, great micro detail retrieval, big soundstage with notably excellent depth, removable nozzle tuning affords greater compatibility with a variety of listeners, nice case
    Cons - Macro dynamics can get a little compressed sounding, straight 3.5mm plug, channel identification is less than optimal
    IMG_0049.jpg

    Introduction


    Let me begin this review by stating I've been a big fan of the premium JVC IEMs beginning with the first wood fiber dynamic driver model released in 2008, the HP-FX500. Over the next 9 years, every time JVC released a new top end "woodie" IEM, I immediately purchased one culminating with the current model, the HA-FW01. In 2018 when the JVC HA-FD01 was released, I was surprised since the driver was made from carbon, the first time to my knowledge this material had ever been used in an IEM.

    I was interested in how the FD01 (~$450 back then) compared to the FW01 which I really liked a lot, and from remarks posted by fellow enthusiasts (a sound that was highly detailed without the bass richness of the FW01), I gathered the tonal signature may not be my cup of tea, so I proceeded to put the FD01 out of my mind.

    So here we are over a year later with a Drop.com exclusive, the HA-FDX1 at $250 (pre-order price). Drop worked with JVC to address some of the community issues with the FD01's tonal signature, most notably, the vivid nature of the upper midrange. Although the FD01 came with 3 detachable nozzles made from stainless steel, titanium, or brass to allow a user to tune the sound to one's preference (an industry first), the community led by @james444 and others developed filter modifications for the nozzles to tame the bright sounding nature of the FD01. Reportedly, these mods did indeed improve the overall sound, so JVC and Drop worked together to incorporate them in the FDX1 drop.

    IMG_0353.jpg

    Impressions

    Before I begin my observations, I'd like to thank Christian from Drop for providing me a loaner sample in which to share my forthright opinion. In every way other than the plain packaging the FDX1 came in, this sample represents what a buyer can expect once they receive their product.

    For my review, I used my Plenue D loaded with CD rips (ALAC) from my music library as well as purchased hi res files to drive the FDX1. I did not use any EQ or other sound processing during my analysis. Finally, per my usual habit, I burned-in the FDX1 for over 100 hours before I began my critical listening.

    Let's begin with the build quality since this is a noteworthy feature of the FDX1. I love nicely built product, and the FDX1 gives the user an impression they're dealing with a luxury item. From the stainless steel casing with its rotatable nozzle that allows one to wear the FDX1 with the cable hanging straight down or over one's ears to the removable nozzle and its locking mechanism, the FDX1 screams high quality. The OFC cable is quite sturdy and gives the impression it will last a very long time, though it is replaceable since it uses MMCX connectors. My only caveats about the cable are the lack of ease in channel identification and the straight 3.5mm plug since I prefer a right angled plug with my IEMs. The included Spiral Dot+ tips come in 5 sizes, so most will be able to to get a good seal with some experimentation. I say most because in my case, I found the medium tips to be too small and the medium large tips to be a bit too big, so I used my trusty final E series medium large tips which fit my ears perfectly. The included nozzles for tuning are all made from stainless steel, and are easily identified by a colored layer of what appears to be foam tape—white, green, and blue. Personally, I ended up liking the green nozzle with its milder filtering compared to the more heavily filtered blue nozzle.

    IMG_0050.jpg

    Let's get to the sound, shall we?

    IMG_0054.jpg Biosphere / Microgravity / Baby Interphase (16/44.1)

    This atmospheric song in the electronic genre has a bass line that, to my ears, is highly addictive. I wanted to hear how the FDX1 handled this emphasized bass, and it did so with aplomb. The sub bass below 50Hz is powerful with wonderful rumble, yet still detailed, and I didn't find the sub bass intrude upon the mid bass performance; both frequency spectrums came across with an absence of any muddiness. This nature continued through to the lower midrange with no bleed. The trebles were sparkly and ethereal, and contributed to a big soundstage, both width, and especially depth wise.

    IMG_0059.jpg Beth Orton / Daybreaker / Thinking About Tomorrow (16/44.1)

    Beth Orton is one of my favorite female artists, and the slight huskiness to her voice can present a challenge to any transducer with an elevated upper midrange, coming across as edgy sounding. When I first tried the white nozzle without any filtering, her voice had a piercing quality which made listening to this song difficult to bear. I then tried the blue nozzle and this characteristic was damped down quite a bit, but with a loss of air to the upper frequencies. The green nozzle gave me exactly what I was looking for: her voice was reproduced with a beauty that still portrayed her unique vocal style, but without the bite of the white nozzle. Again, the portrayal of space depth wise is among the best I've heard from any IEM under $500 I've listened to.

    IMG_0055.jpg Miles Davis / Kind of Blue / So What (24/192)

    It's amazing to me that an album recorded 60 years ago can sound so lifelike, but this album does just that. I wanted to step up the resolution of the music in order to hear if the FDX1 can resolve the spatial information that hi res has to offer. It can. Each member of this sextet occupies their own three dimensional space with Miles' trumpet play taking center stage. The micro detail retrieval of the FDX1 is outstanding, and I feel pulled into the music as if I were present at the recording site.

    IMG_0056.jpg Madonna / Ray of Light / Drowned World - Substitute For Love (16/44.1)

    Madonna went electronic with this album, and her voice in the opening track is reproduced with a level of purity and expressiveness that punctuates the ability of the FDX1 to resolve tiny details that contribute to a more engrossing listening experience. The bass is deeply reproduced without the overhang lesser IEMs can suffer from. At the 3:40 minute mark, the sound gets loud and dense and there is some congestion which does get a little hot sounding, and through my listening sessions with a variety of music, this trait did show itself at times. Big, atmospheric sound.

    IMG_0058.jpg Bob Seger / Night Moves / The Fire Down Below (16/44.1)

    Can the FDX1 boogie? Yes it can! From the beginning of the song onward, I couldn't help but bop my head up and down while my legs and feet were moving along to the beat. This is always a good sign for me that my music system is doing something fundamentally right. As with the Madonna album, though, when the music goes through very dynamic swings, the congestion I mentioned earlier does occur, a sort of flattening to the sound. My Plenue D had enough power to drive the FDX1 to high levels, but my feeling is the macro dynamics may be the weak area to this otherwise involving IEM. Or it could be the Plenue D, I’ll have to do some more experimenting.

    Conclusion

    I'm mainly a headphone guy these days, but I've owned a number of IEMs under $1,000, most notably the A&K AKR02 (a custom version of the final FI-BA-SS), the Sennheiser IE 800 (given to my son), the final B1 (my current reference), and of course, the JVC HA-FW01 (given to my son). By far, my favorite until my dog decided to take ownership by chewing it up is the AKR02 with the B1 coming in second. The HA-FDX1 now belongs on this favored list for its lively and engaging holographic sound, and in my view, anyone who appreciates finely made product, who is seeking an IEM that can be driven by just about any phone or DAP, and who likes great deals should stop the search and purchase what may be one of the best Drop deals ever. There's nothing to lose other than any preconception of how good a $250 IEM can sound. It's that good.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. RikudouGoku
      @baskingshark I will wait until the updated tanchjim oxygen to decide what I want, maybe I be in time for 11/11
      RikudouGoku, Sep 16, 2019 at 3:39 AM
    3. baskingshark
      @RikudouGoku what's different on the updated tanchjim oxygen other than the nozzle? From the HA FDX1 thread, the users there seem to like the FDX1 more than the tanchjim oxygen.
      baskingshark, Sep 16, 2019 at 3:50 AM
    4. RikudouGoku
      @baskingshark Well I like the overall style of the oxygen more than the FDX1 ( except for the short nozzle, so If they can fix that and get a better fit then the new oxygen might be more to my liking)
      RikudouGoku, Sep 16, 2019 at 4:10 AM
      baskingshark likes this.

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