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Drop + JVC HA-FDX1 Dual Carbon IEM...available in the US!

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  1. james444 Contributor
    Green nozzles at home, blue nozzles when I'm out and about.

    The ingenious mounting mechanism makes swapping filters only a matter of seconds.
     
    davidmolliere likes this.
  2. lgcubana
    I would be really interested in your doing a comparison against your Moondrop KXXS; as their sibling (the KPE) is on my "never going to sell" list
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
  3. Mkubota1 Contributor
    I have the P1 on loan from a buddy, and there are a few things about its tonality that bug me a tiny bit: There seems to be something missing in the lower treble area; while at the same time I swear I hear a spike way up like around 15-16KHz- according to my eq and admittedly at the upper reaches of my hearing. Combined with what sounds like a fast driver, the P1 takes on a bit of a plasticky timbre. The JVC of course does not have any of this. The treble is as natural as I've heard out of an IEM. The JVC's tonality can lean towards analytical because of the very slight upper-midrange forwardness and level of detail retrieval. But I have a hard time recalling something considered to be neutral or analytical that has this much bass heft. You will NOT be bored by this! As quick and clean as the bass is on the P1, it is no match for the JVC with its extension and more natural decay.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2019
    lafeuill and lgcubana like this.
  4. lgcubana
    Thanks for the feedback.
    @surfgeorge also pointed me to the FD01 thread. So I'll do some more research on the JVCs
     
  5. XERO1
    IMG_0765.JPG

    - Drop + JVC HA-FDX1 Review -


    First of all, I would like to thank @CEE TEE and @tdogzthmn for letting me have an early listen to the HA-FDX1. The review pair is a loaner and will be sent back after this review is posted.

    I've had my eye on the original HA-FD01 and HA-FD02 since they were originally released in Japan, but I assumed I'd never get to hear them unless I bought them for myself. Soon after they were released, early reports all pretty much said the same thing: while their sound was highly resolving, they had a fatiguing upper-midrange and treble that was problematic for all but the most hardcore treble-heads. So I pretty much wrote them off as something that just wasn't going to be for me SQ-wise. So I was happy to hear the news about some very effective mods that sonicly transformed the HA-FD01 for the better (the mod didn't apply to the HA-FD02 because they don't have removable nozzles). And now finally, I've been able to listen to the best version of the HA-FD01, which is the Drop + JVC HA-FDX1.

    Before the HA-FDX1 arrived, I was sent some info in an email from Drop that contained a lot of interesting details about the HA-FDX1. One detail that stood out to me was:

    - The driver diaphragm is made out of two different materials (a PEN* center dome & PET* outer ring) and then coated with two different coatings (diamond-like carbon on the dome, black carbon on the outer ring).*NERD NOTES: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) and Polyethylene Naphthalate (PEN) are structurally related polyesters. PEN is significantly stiffer and stronger, with a modulus almost twice that of PET.

    This design philosophy makes sense to me. The drivers surround material is made of a softer material so it will have a better ability to flex, while the drivers center dome is made a stiffer material that is more rigid, allowing the driver to remain more pistonic and have otherwise lower distortion than could be achieved by just using a single material. I was intrigued and was really looking forward to hearing the HA-FDX1.

    - Unboxing and Accessories Impressions -

    The packaging is just a basic small brown cardboard box (they had to cut costs somewhere).

    Inside are:
    - The L&R IEM's, each individually wrapped with a pair of eartips attached
    - A high quality translucent cable with MMCX connectors and a 3.5mm plug
    - A plastic card that holds 4 sizes of Spiral Dot+ tips and 2 sets of the removable nozzles
    - A very nice faux leather carrying case that has a magnetic snap

    IMG_0761.JPG

    The bodies of the HA-FDX1 are quite large and relatively heavy for a cable-down type of IEM. But one really unique feature of the HA-FDX1 is that the bodies are divided into two halves, and each half can rotate 360 degrees, allowing easy switching to a cable-up orientation after you have inserted them into your ears, if you prefer to wear them that way. But this feature can also be annoying because the bodies tend to rotate on their own with just normal handling and I often found myself often having to reposition the nozzles so I could insert them properly into my ears. But once they're in your ears, it's no longer an issue. What was an issue for me was that with the combination of their size and weight, a bit of discomfort began to creep up after listening to them for long periods. I've always had fit issues with wide-bore nozzles, and while the HA-FDX1's nozzles aren't as large the ones that give me problems (like most Noble and Jerry Harvey IEMs), they may be an issue for anyone who has had problems with larger IEMs in the past. Plus the cable is also on the heavier side, which doesn't help, especially if you wear them cable-down. The cable is very soft and pliable and appears to be very high-quality but it is also very microphonic because the majority of it is a flat-oval shape, so it has a lot of surface area that will pick up a lot of noise if it's rubbing on your clothes. One other issue I have with the cable is that it's R and L markings are practically invisible, so it's a pain to have squint to see which side is which. But one of the pleasant surprises for me was the Spiral Dot eartips that come with the HA-FDX1. I have a couple sets of the standard Spiral Dot eartips (EP-FX9) and to honest, I've never been a big fan. But the Spiral Dots that come with the HA-FDX1 are a newer version of them called Spiral Dot+ (not to be confused with the newest Spiral Dot++). I did a little digging and I found out that JVC worked with a company called SMP Technologies to develop a new material called "SMP iFit" that has acoustic properties that are "similar to human skin." The Sprial Dot+ eartips are not available for purchase separately (the newest Spiral Dot++ tips are, which use the same SMP iFit material, but they are currently stupid expense). So why am I writing so much about these eartips? Because they are amazing! The material reminds me of soft, warm Gummi bears that you accidentally left in the car, except somehow they aren't sticky. I ended up using the largest size (which I normally never do) because the material was so soft, that once it expanded in my ear, it allowed all of the considerable weight of the IEM to be evenly distributed, turning what would have been an otherwise too heavy (for me) IEM into something that I could wear for hours.

    - General Sound Impressions -

    With the standard un-filtered nozzles, the HA-FDX1 is waaaay too bright and harsh sounding to be recommended. Which is quite surprising to me, because if you look at the FR graphs that Jude provided, they really don't measure that far off from the Harman IEM curve. But this really proves that you should never judge an IEM by measurements alone because the HA-FDX1 sounds pretty harsh without the filter mods. My guess is that there is some major uncontrolled driver resonances going on that is causing the driver to produce tons of complex IM (intermodulation) distortion, which is causing all sorts of the problems that you can easily hear. But with either the Green or Blue filtered nozzles, the sound is transformed into something much more enjoyable, not because the filters are drastically altering the FR (which they do a little), but because they are properly damping the acoustic impedance of the driver, which dramatically reduces the driver's audible distortions. The end result is a bold and captivating sound that makes you want to keep listening to just one more song. They have a large and well-defined soundstage with very good image placement. Their bass is fantastic. It goes deep and maintains its power even into subsonic frequencies without any audible stress. But the bass does not overwhelm the mids, which is something that I am sensitive to and is always a dealbreaker for me if it does. The mids are slightly recessed, not in volume level but more in their placement within the soundstage. This sometimes gives vocals a somewhat "mid-hall" perspective to their sound, which is a more accurate presentation of the recording, but it's not as initially attention-grabbing as some of the more up-front sounding IEMs may offer. The upper-mids and treble region are highly resolving and transparent but they are the weakest area of the HA-FDX1's presentation . As I mentioned earlier, the unfiltered driver can sound harsh, and even with the filtered nozzles, the driver still exhibits a propensity to let some occasional distortion to creep in, primarily in the upper vocal range. But this is not a major problem, and only really becomes noticeable when compared to another earphone that has less of it. All DD IEMs suffer from this distortion to some degree. I'm just bring some attention to it because it was occasionally audible but it was by no means an issue for me. The HA-FDX1's sensitivity appears to be moderate. The advantage of this is that hiss will not be an issue with them, but the disadvantage is that to sound their best, they really benefit from a DAP or amp that has some decent power. They scale really, really well. When I went from my iPhone 8's dongle (don't laugh, it's actually pretty good with most sensitive IEMs) to my desktop rig (Schitt Mimby and Lyr 2), they really transformed. Now their full potential was unlocked and they sounded more like a set of high-end over-the-ear headphones, with a huge soundstage and a beautiful tonality. And I imagine the same improvements will hold true when they are used with a high quality DAP.

    - HA-FDX1 vs. KXXS -

    OK, this was pretty interesting. It took me quite a while to really understand the differences I was hearing between the two. And what I finally came to realize was that they are both great IEMs, and each one has it own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Instead of going into all of the tiny details, I think it will make more sense if I use an analogy. The best one I could come up with when comparing and contrasting them was that the HA-FDX1 reminded me more of a delicious, sweet premium dark chocolate and the KXXS was more like an also delicious but less texturally complex Hershey's milk chocolate. While I really couldn't say that one was across-the-board, definitively better than the other, they both have their own unique flavor that is going to be completely subjective to the person's sonic preferences in deciding which one is the best for them. For me, just based on sound quality alone, my choice would be in favor of the HA-FDX1. It just paints a more compelling sonic picture for me when compared to the KXXS.

    - Final Thoughts -

    Once I finally settled on my filter of choice (Green for me), I really liked the way the HA-FDX1 sounded. Is it perfect? Of course not! But it gets so much right that, for me, it crosses that invisible threshold where you can just close your eyes, relax, and enjoy its fantastic presentation of the music. I wasn't bothered by it's small imperfections. All IEMs have them. And whenever I listen to them, I always get too caught up enjoying all the things that they do so well to care!

    For some more info and/or to pre-order (begins on 9-5-2019), click here: https://drop.com/buy/drop-jvc-ha-fdx1-dual-carbon-iem/story#story


    IMG_0763.JPG
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2019
    papa_mia, jafnvaegi, Evoke and 10 others like this.
  6. lgcubana
    I really appreciate your review. Highlighting the positives and the aspects that drew your attention, whether for the better or not.

    But could you elaborate on your comparison to the KXXS ?
    Maybe pick a song and highlight where you found one contender to outshine the other and why.
     
  7. XERO1
    I'll try.

    I don't want to highlight specific songs, because that isn't how I perceived their differences.

    For me, it was more about their overall sonic characteristics, not which one I preferred on any one specific song.

    The FDX1 had an overall more well delineated soundstage and it simply reproduced more of the music's textures. The KXXS fell a little short in comparison.

    But if you heard the KXXS by itself, you would never think anything was missing, but with the FDX1, it was like everything sounded just a little more real and compelling.

    But one thing to always consider is comfort, and for me, the KXXS was the more comfortable of the two, especially if I was going to be moving around a lot while I was wearing them.

    So if you are a Sound-Quality Über Alles kind of person, the FDX1 would be the better choice.

    But if you are going to be out and about a lot with them, and comfort is the priority, then I'd go with the KXXS.

    Not sure if any this helps, but I hope it does.
     
  8. lgcubana
    Thanks

    Your supplement helps to put me back on the fence. A prior reviewer (on mDrop) made a comparison to his Tin 2 Pros,"The overall presentation of the T2p is a bit warmer and smoothed over compared to the JVC. It is also more forgiving on bright recordings"; which concerns me.

    When I got back into IEMs (a few months back), my goal was to find something to plug directly into my Note 4. So that I can keep calm, while navigating the blocked aisles of my local Costco. I've since amassed a small collection; some for on the go and some for around the house. The JVCs would be for around the house. No way, that I'm going to expose something as special as the JVCs, to the mercy of my day to day travels.
     
  9. surfgeorge
    Wow - that's really a very comprehensive review! Thanks @XERO1
    It leaves me with an impression of the FDX1 though that seems to be very different to my experience with the FD series, so I want to share some of those experiences to complement your's.

    I have briefly heard the FD01, but I know the FD02 very well and I've had the Kanas Pro, the predecessor of the KXXS for months, but soon sold them after getting the FD02.
    The Frequency response of the KPE and KXXS is quite similar, with the KPE having slightly more sub bass and slightly less treble >4kHz, and they use the same driver, so I think my experiences should be relevant.

    I really liked the KPE but found the sub bass a bit slow and wooly and the mid bass a bit subdued and slow as well. Also the timbre sounded off with some difficult music (classical).
    It worked well with some, and not so well with other music. What I really liked was the clear, detailed floaty and wide vocals.

    The unmodded FD01/02 has a lot of upper frequency energy, but contrary to your experience I never found it technically harsh, just too much energy. The modded FD02 IMO shares some characteristics with the moondrop Kanas Pro, generally smooth sound, powerful sub bass and clear mids. But the JVC is faster, more textured, sounds very natural with anything I can throw at it, has better presence and slam in upper/mid bass and the smoothest, most liquid treble I have heard. Smooth, extended top-bottom, natural, detailed comes to my mind.

    I wrote a lot about these IEMs in the Moondrop and the FD01 threads, including specific track discussion, so for anyone looking for more details you can find it there.

    Cheers!
     
    jafnvaegi, WHO23, lafeuill and 2 others like this.
  10. Nabillion_786
    In your experience does the fdx1 also have better clarity, vocals and soundstage or is this more less very similar to the kxxs?
     
  11. XERO1
    The KXXS has a more up-front presentation and a slightly smaller, more compact soundstage when compared to the FDX1.
    The FDX1 does have better 'clarity' overall, but its vocals sound a little more set back into the soundstage, so even though it does present more details to the listener, it does it in a way that doesn't jump out at you.
     
    WHO23, Nabillion_786 and CactusPete23 like this.
  12. TooPoorForHiFi
    @CEE TEE

    Question, If I place the Order on the 5th, It would take about a Month for it to ship right?

    Its not available for Drop's Fast Shipping?
     
  13. lgcubana
    Unless this one breaks the mDrop model (pre-production orders, send order to Mft., sample production run, final production run, customs holds the order, International bridge, final distribution), probably closer to +/- 3 months.
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2019
  14. rkw
    When the drop goes live, it will have the estimated ship date and shipping options.
     
  15. Mkubota1 Contributor
    That was me. I can’t stress enough that the T2Pro is way too bright for me without foam (Comply TS) tips. The foamies arguably transform them into a different IEM. So while the FDX1 may be less forgiving than the T2P, it’s not because of brightness. It’s because of better detail and resolution; which is not to be confused with simply being brighter. Also, this doesn’t make the JVC ‘sterile’ or clinical like the UERM or the HD800. In fact it’s almost as good (maybe better in some cases) for EDM than my current EDM fave- the Oriolus Forsteni.
     
    lafeuill and surfgeorge like this.
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