Pros - Tank like build, Detachable cables, Fun & detailed sound signature, Good soundstaging, Decent clarity, Extremely well priced- almost a steal.
Cons - Abysmal fit with bundled tips, Zirconium shells can be heavy, Mesh earwax filters fall out, Springy cable, Slighlty recessed mids, Sparse availability
The shells made of cubic zirconia is easily the most distinct aspect of the HJE900. It is almost indestructible and according to the literature, can only be scratched by diamond. The shells feel rock solid, has a cool blingy finish, looks and makes you feel good about your buy. The detachable cables with the non-proprietary connectors are a big bonus too. The solid build quality doesn't stop with the shells. The cable cinch has a brushed aluminum covering and the 3.5 mm jack socket is of the same material too. Ditto for the strain reliefs. Very classy.
The cable is a mixed bag. I'm nitpicking here- the cable is well made, but after being spoiled by the Westone 4's stellar braided cables, I found the cables on the HJE900 to be on the springy and energetic side. This can be a boon as there is not much memory for the cables and it doesn't get tangled easily. The cable cinch lacks sufficient grip to hold the cables for long.
Another drawback is that the mesh earwax filters at the tip of the nozzle have a tendency to fall off easily. However, this can be fixed by stuffing a small ball of foam just to cover the nozzle and gluing the mesh to it (or not).
Overall, there is nothing to fault with the tank like build quality that you get with the HJE900. In fact, it's better than most iems that cost much more than the HJE900.
One Panasonic branded drawstring pouch, One Sony 'Amazing Spiderman' branded zippered pouch, 3 pairs of single flange tips.
None of the bundled tips were able to provide a good fit and seal for me and my brother. With UE single flanges, it is possible to get a reasonably good fit and seal.
Comfort, Isolation & Microphonics
Best worn straight down. I was unable to wear it over the ear like I wear my W4 due to the springy cable and the longish strain reliefs. Speaking of the strain reliefs, I found them a bit too long and this prevented me from inserting the iems deeper. The shells can be heavy for some people. A friend of mine who tried out the HJE900 found it too heavy for her ears and complained that they kept falling out. Neither me nor my brother experienced this issue with UE tips.
We found that using UE single flanges yielded the best results in terms of fit, comfort and isolation. The UE tips are really soft and comfortable- one forgets after sometime that they are present in your ear. Isolation is tip dependent as usual. Fine with UE tips- not as isolating as my W4 with the triple flanges. I'm thinking of trying Shure triple flanges with the Panas- has anybody experimented with this combo?
Microphonics was minimal. Again, not as non microphonic as the W4, but easily the best among everything else I've tried.
Bass: Strong, has decent air, slam and impact. Extension is also good. The speed is also there- drums sound great with metal genres. I think that there is a mild mid bass hump, but I'm not too sure. In a nutshell, the low end sounds quite natural. The quality is hard to fault too. Mids: A bit recessed, as is usual with iems with v-shaped sound sig. I wasn't too impressed here but that's because I've been spoiled silly by the W4 and the Grado SR60i. For a person who's upgrading to the Panas from lower end iems/earbuds, they are bound to be impressed by the warm, natural and detailed tonality of the mids. Distortion guitars and basses sound great. Highs: Can be siblant and sharp for folks used to darker sound signatures. The highs are quite sparkling, but they aren't as detailed as that of higher end iems. Still, very entertaining to listen to.
Instrument separation is impressive.
I think 'Fun First, Details next' sums up the sound sig of these Panas. The sig makes it a great choice to listen to rock & metal. However, even though the SQ is very musical and entertaining, that doesn't mean that the details are bad- infact, it's pretty good for its price range.
The Panas are quite sensitive and doesn't require you to pump up the volume to hear things. They don't hiss with my Clip Zip, but when used with my SE X8 cellphone, I can hear the background hiss. The gigo rule applies here- the HJE900 is revealing of the deficiencies in poorly recorded low bit rate tracks.
For $120, I would say that the HJE900 punches far above its weight. On the build quality alone it scores a lot compared to the competition. It's no slouch in the SQ department either. A very entertaining v-shaped sounding iem, it gives most competitors a run for their money. The only flaw I can see is the sparkly treble, but with the foam mod or after burn in, it might settle down. As far as I'm concerned, the HJE900 makes a great backup pair that you can use everyday, anywhere. As my friend vik1980 rightly remarked, they can even take the front line for non audiophiles.
The catch here is the availability. It's not readily available here in India. I was lucky enough to see it being listed at the low promo price online and to buy them. The normal price is twice what I had paid for- at that point however, I would take a long, hard look at the competition before buying. But for $120, it's a steal and one of the best purchases I've made.
Cons - Little too much bass & treble, expensive now
I really like these IEMs. The casing is almost indestructible, they have detachable cables, and the sound is great and very clear for dynamic drivers.
The casing is made from Zirconium. They're advertised as being related to diamond, which isn't true and a little too much marketing speak, they are indeed very very hard.
The sound is a little bit V-shaped with too much emphasis on the bass & treble. It can be fixed through the use of an equalizer, but it'd be nice if it were more neutral out of the box. But the clarity is fantastic, the bass extension great, the treble very lively.
The cable is very high quality. My only qualm is that it is a bit on the short side. If I use these with my iPhone in my pocket the cable barely reaches and will tug if I turn my head while wearing them over the ears. It really could be about 6" longer, but you can fix this easily through the use of something like the iLuv EA15, an iPod/iPhone remote that adds 7". Or you can just replace the cables with Sleek Audio SA6 replacement cable, the port is the same.
Durability anecdote: My Corgi likes to eat my IEMs and he got a hold of these once. The earbud came unattached from the cable, he chewed on and he swallowed it. I made him throw up with some hydrogen peroxide per my Vet's advice. 5 minutes later out the missing earbud came, covered in foam but absolutely scratch free. I cleaned it up in some rubbing alcohol, let it dry out and put a new tip on it. Much to my surprise it worked fine! The screen mesh on the nozzle kept all moisture out and the driver was undamaged. Can't say that about any other IEM - surviving 30 minutes inside a dog's stomach.