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Custom item created by WKHarmon, May 5, 2010
Pros - Neutrality, Soundstage, Resolution
Cons - Price, mostly.
Here's a little review I decided to write up about my current CIEM of choice, the Jerry Harvey Audio JH13Pro. Though most reviews are based on comparisons with other models, I will try to base my review on what I can hear with a choice of music, along with the different gear used. I also refuse to quantify my findings by measly scores. As this is also a review of a custom, I will also explain the process of how I got the CIEMs in the first place.
Please note all listening is done subjectively and IT IS ULTIMATELY UP TO YOU if you plan on actually acquiring a piece of hardcore gear, and if it fits your style of listening.
A little about me:
Ever since starting high school, I've loved music. I began with typical pop, to typical pop-rock, eventually exploring metal. Going through college I eventually started going through more musical styles, from Progressive Rock and Metal to Death Metal, and started venturing into other genres. Also I began my headphone journey, unfortunately with a pair of Beats headphones and even earphones. Eventually sometime in the late 2000s I got a pair of Sennheiser IE8s and they became my constant companions up until 2012, when I began my hifi journey with the AKG K3003.
Today I collect headphones and earphones, eventually going for CIEMs in late 2012 with the FitEar MH335DW. My musical tastes have expanded to Jazz, Classical, Electronic, Hip-Hop, and more.
MacBook Pro 15" Retina (mid 2012)
Wireworld Platinum Starlight 0.3 USB cable
Fostex HP-A3 DAC
Hifiman HM-901 (balanced card)
iriver + Red Wine Audio RWAK120
Tralucent Silver/Gold cables
Go to any CIEM review or news site/forum/whatever and somewhere in there you will read about Jerry Harvey Audio. For those who don't know him, his name has been synonymous with high-end CIEMs for some time, wowing the industry with his work with Ultimate Ears and since then, Jerry Harvey Audio itself. JH Audio specializes in "Custom In-Ear Monitors for Rockstars" as their polo shirts read, and taking a quick look at their client list (http://www.jhaudio.com/about/client-list) its hard not to notice the names.
I never personally thought about customs for some time, thinking it would be difficult to actually get a good pair, considering how much shipping and customs would be, living in the beautiful country that I live in, but after a very good experience with my first CIEMs, I decided to try another CIEM brand, this time in another country. I began to email Ultimate Ears about their UE PRM (whose customization of sound interested me a lot), but after some convincing from a good friend (and fellow audiophile) I went over and emailed Jerry Harvey Audio about getting a JH13Pro. What interested me about this pair was the great feedback it had been getting, especially when it comes to its clarity and balance, especially thanks to the FreqPhase option introduced by Jerry Harvey for the JH16Pro (its big, bassier brother), the JH3A, and the JH13Pro. It was a breeze to work with Corbyn Grieco of JH Audio and after sending my impressions in, even after a few hiccups in the process, we were able to work it out. I was able to visit their offices in Orlando and pick up my JH13s from them directly.
But enough with the introduction, let's get down to business:
Random Access Memories
Daft Punk (2013)
Disco, Pop, Jazz
Easily one of the best albums of all time, Daft Punk's Random Access Memories shines brightly with the JH13Pro. The bass hits hard but the mids and highs shine, from the first to the last track. Listening to "Give Life Back To Music", the instruments are clearly rendered, when the bass drums hit, they punch and give that little oomph that just makes your heart beat just a little bit to feel that bass. When the hi-hats go, they have that little sparkle at the end that makes the cymbals shine. Vocals are rendered beautifully, especially on "Giorgio By Moroder", even just listening to the interview with disco legend Giorgio Moroder, you can get enthralled by the beautiful mids of the JH13Pro. Resolution is so crystal-clear you can even hear the plucking of the bass guitar, especially on a track like "Fragments of Time", even the left-to-right and vice-versa movement of the synthesizer. All in all, this album shows the versatility of these amazing CIEMs.
Lazarus A.D. (2009)
One of the greatest challenges (at least one thing that I feel is a challenge) for earphones and headphones (and even some speakers!) is speed, in terms of if the earphones can catch up to instrument speed, and one of the finest tests is the insanely fast drumming of Lazarus A.D.'s drummer. I find that many earphones have difficulty rendering the speedy drumming of this album, which is why I use this record to test how "fast" the earphone can be. Amazingly enough, the drums (especially on the first track, "Last Breath") are well-rendered and the JH13 can actually catch up to the drums and guitars and even separate them well that they all sound like individual instruments, and even exist in a wide soundstage. When the drums start rolling, you can even feel like they are working in tandem, but are controlled by separate hands, thus giving a sense of intense realism in the psychoacoustic space the JH13Pros give.
Jazz At The Pawnshop
Arne Domnerus, Lars Erstrand, Bengt Hallberg, Egil Johansen, Georg Riedel (1977)
Still one of the most amazing live recorded albums of all time, Jazz At The Pawnshop is well rendered on the JH13s. Even the applause by the audience and their conversations in the background are well-rendered and give this surreal realism, a feeling that you are actually in the space of the Jazz club this record was done in. A wonderful display of musicality and skill, as well as a great way to relax with great gear. I have nothing else to say that's already been said.
I can't really say anything bad about the JH13Pro, especially when they sound as amazing as this. I know it seems like just a lot of praise but its well worth it. Of those friends whose ears magically fit my JH13s, I can say that all of them love the resolution and clarity these CIEMs bring. If you like clarity and resolution, with a touch of warmth, I'd gladly recommend these CIEMs to you. I can't wait for what else JH Audio will come up with, but I expect it to be amazing (I'm looking at you, Roxanne!)
Pros - Wide Range, Neutral, Detailed, Dynamic
Cons - Expensive, time consuming to get
I should probably not write this review at all, because I don't have enough experience with other types to make a good comparative evaluation.
However, I did try several common models with prices ranging through about $400. I thought they all sounded awful.
So, wanting something good, I took a chance on these based on great buzz and little sense.
I love them. They take care of the comfort factor by being custom made. Even being driven by an IPhone they sound so good
that I have no further interest in other IEMs. I'm a Mahler junkie and these can both unravel his complex scores and sound
great in quiet passages. Other things are equally good; they don't seem to favor one genre over another. If you
want all of what's on the driving device these will get it for you.
Pros - Unbelievable overall sound quality, great fit
Cons - expensive
Just a short review - all the praise lavished on these in the JH13 forum (a million posts long) is deserved - I upgraded from the Ety-6i to the Q-Jays to the UE-Triple Fi's to these. I can't comment on value, since I got these used at half off, so they were an incredible deal. But they're just amazing across the board- I never knew that bass response could be this full and rich and accurate. The sound is improved with a good DAC and (low gain) amplifier, but sounds incredible right out of any decent portable source. I take them everywhere with me and listen to them constantly.
Pros - SQ
Cons - Sometimes the fit, accessories
Music I enjoy most at the moment: Fleetwood Mac, Mike Oldfield, David Bowie, Gipsy Kings, Cat Stevens, Tom Waits and America. I will be basing my review on the JH13s on one track of each band/artist.
To be honest, the package was fairly disappointing. Other than an Otterbox, I expected to receive a little more than just a velvet pouch, a cleaning tool and a manual. Delivery, on the other hand, was very fast. It took 2 days to reach England and I didn’t have to pay any surcharge for the import. What surprised me the most was the incredible low weight of the monitors. I had a fairly similar situation with Grado, when I first lifted up one of the lower-end models. In summary, although I was a little saddened at fist, once I held the JH13s in my hands, I was as blissful as ever.
Build Quality, Cable and Fit
The quality of the earpieces themselves came out very well. The simple design of my choice was reproduced 1:1 from my mental picture. I went for a black cable, because of the apparent colour change with the clear cable. I was very surprised with the fit. My impressions were made by an audiologist, who has never even heard of a custom monitor before. She specialised in Hearing Aids, so I just decided to take my chances. At first, I had to get used to the presence of the JH13s in my ear. After wearing them for hours and hours on successive days, I am now happy to report, that I can barely even feel them anymore. Extreme comfort.
Sound in a Nutshell
Due to the JH13s extremely linear frequency response (yes I am aware of the bump at around the 50hz mark), they sound natural. I have never listened to metal before in my life, but yesterday the JH13s scared me. The soundstage, the handling of complex passages and the realness of the songs I listened to were more than enjoyable. What are the JH13s able to achieve? They are lightening fast. They paint consistent mental imagery. They are involving. They deliver micro-detail like you have never heard it before. Most of all however, they sound real, which is in my opinion their best quality.
Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”
The first few seconds made me laugh. There is a very subtle but noticeable swear word right at the beginning. Micro details immediately jumped to my attention, which made everything sound so extremely real. The drum kicks in. Bass on the JH13 is astonishing. The bone conduction allows me to feel the bass, something which I was missing with my previous headphones. The vocals are very smooth& have great separation. The cymbal is beautifully extended, which goes to show how detailed& natural the highs on the JH13s are. I love the weight of the sound, which paints realistic pictures of the band arrangement in my head. All in all, “The Chain” is a great song on the JH13s. There are not too many complex passages in this song, but I feel that it demonstrates and highlights certain qualities of the JH13s very well.
Mike Oldfield’s “Muse”
This track particularly highlights the JH13s ability to handle several acoustic guitars and retain a very strong presence of tones. The picking style does not challenge the mids, every detail is preserved. I enjoy the colour and effortless presentation of the sound. The sound stage is vast; still I am able to accurately determine the location of instruments, which I lost with the IE8s. The only instrument I can handle at the moment is guitar and without a doubt, listening to a track has put me the closest to actually playing it. A great track, if you enjoy laid back& relaxing sound.
David Bowie’s “Starman”
A classic from Bowie and actually my favourite of his work. In my opinion, a great demonstration of his voice, which is emotionally involving and more real than ever if listened to it through the JH13s. Furthermore I loved that the monitors completely disappeared, which made the effects of this song more apparent. The dramatic collapse in soundstage, the unique sound of the guitar and the dynamics were handled extremely well. To sum up, I find that this song is brought up to another level. It is very emotionally involving and complex, but it never brings the JH13s even close to the edge.
Gipsy Kings’ “Bem, Bem, Maria”
The raw speed of the JH13s is brought out. I love this track; it is upbeat and extremely complex. All the details are there, I was very much overwhelmed by analysing certain aspects of this it. The decay is perfect. The attack is fast. Raw speed. I was only able to pick up a slight echo, which is due to the recording. I also find that even though the musicians are quite far away from my head, they reach out and grab my attention with their ability to play guitar. On the JH13s this track is very musical, whilst still retaining every possible disturbance& inaccuracy.
Cat Stevens’ “Father And Son”
This has been a very emotionally involving track for me. The arrangements of the instruments are beautifully held in place. Most of all, however, I find that the JH13s show others how vocals are done. You hear every breath, every movement of the lip. All the details that got lost are retrieved, which allows the listener to connect. The message of this song is sad, and is only underlined by the sheer beauty of the harmony and tones. Overall, I experienced that the JH13s make this song come alive, which again, justifies their high price tag. Now I can save the money I spend on concerts, I found a satisfying alternative.
I will update this review with more songs as time goes by. For now, I think you should get the picture that I am trying to paint. I love the JH13s!
Pros - Great custom IEM's
Cons - Want the JH16's
The JH13's are a beautiful pair of IEM's, sounds great too.
Pros - Intimacy, Impact, Imaging
Cons - Need to be committed to dialing in the fit
The JH13 is not just the best IEM around, it's one of the best headphones around--period. The impact, detail, speed, agility, and body of these phones are simply amazing. The full-sized can I find myself comparing them to is my O2 mk1. That's about the highest praise I can offer a headphone. Jerry Harvey does not screw around. The only cons are that it may take a couple of refits to get them dialed in (but this is worth it) and I sometime wish they had just a touch (and I mean a tiny bit) more bass. But even that criticism seems to be waning as I get more accustomed to the sound signature. (And I am consciously not ascribing this change in opinion to some ridiculous notion of "burn-in.")
And while some may find these very expensive, you get what you pay for. Great sound; great customer service. Well done JHA.
Pros - Neutral, balanced sound; excellent isolation; comfortable fit
Cons - Expensive!
The JH13 Pro was my first purchase of high-end personal audio equipment so it's difficult for me to provide a fair comparison (prior to purchasing them, I was listening to iPhone earbuds), but I can safely say that I couldn't possibly be happier with my purchase.
The process of getting the impressions made was painless (albeit a bit expensive in the San Francisco Bay Area), and about a week after I had the impressions made, my JH13s were waiting in the mailbox. The fit is excellent (as you would hope in a custom IEM), and the sound quality is tremendous.
My only real criticism is with the cable. I suppose I don't really take care of my monitors particularly well, but the cable is coming unraveled at the end with the jack connector, and it really annoys me. Also, I'm not thrilled about the look of the clear plastic molding--I purchased an Aerous VX3 aviation headset in black from Jerry Harvey at the same time and much happier with the look of the opaque headset than I am with the clear ... but that's my own fault.
If you can afford the steep price tag, you can't go wrong with the JH13 Pro (unless you want the extra bass response of the JH16).