Triple JH Comparison: JH5, JH10X3, JH16

The Audio Set Up

I listened to the customs on numerous set-ups. The Ipod is the basic gear for portable audio, and for that purpose I’ve used the customs straight from the Ipod’s headphone out. Additionally, I also tried them using portable amps, which includes the Fiio E7, the RSA Protector, and the Ibasso D10. The customs are relatively easy to drive, and they sound fine straight out of an Ipod headphone out. The portable amps most importantly improve the bass control on the IEMs as well a cleaner instrument separation. The D10 adds a little boost in the upper midrange, an effect which I also enjoyed. The Fiio E7 can also be used with the Bass Boost to add low end body. This is primarily useful for making the JH5 behave closer like its big brothers.

The RSA Protector in balanced configuration is exceptional as it really widens the soundstage of the customs, and improves bass presence as well as control. The Protector and JH16 custom combination, in balanced, is probably the most phenomenal bass set up I’ve ever heard.

Aside from the stock cable, I’m also using Whiplash Audio’s TWAG cable. I’ve used a lot of aftermarket cables before, and my favorite has always been the APureSound cables. The TWAG is a clear upgrade from my APureSounds, both the one I have for the Etymotic ER4 (which I then reterminated to use with the Protector plug, and the UM Mage), as well as the APureSound Balanced HD800 cable.

Initially I tried to save money by re-using my APS ER4 cable and reterminating it to the Protector connector. But after I’ve gotten a hold of the TWAG cable, I realized that all my cables have to be TWAGs from now on.

Sonically, the TWAGs opens up the sound primarily on the treble and upper midrange region. The treble and the upper midrange is smoother and more clear sounding when compared to the stock cable. The soundstage also becomes more airy, and the stock cable makes things sound congested in comparison to the TWAG cable.

It’s not even funny, these cables are as soft and as flexible as the stock Westone-ES type cable. It makes the stock TF10 cable looks like something from the pre-historic age. It’s amazing, despite having a thicker gauge than the APS ER4 cable, the TWAG is far more flexible and has no microphonics. I think Whiplash should start offering TWAGs for other IEMs as well, such as the ER4.

My DIY Protector cable using APS ER4 cable. The APS is wonderful, but it’s still quite stiff and unflexible, leading to a lot of microphonics.

 

Whiplash Audio TWAG Cable, terminated in Viablue 1/8″ connector. Superb flexibility. I don’t think it can get any better. I’d personally not use the wooden Y-split though.

 

For the sake of writing the review, I needed to listen to the customs using the stock cable. And it was quite a torture, as the more airy sound of the TWAG cables keep on reminding me how bad the stock cables are, all the time during the review process.

The amplifier requirement of these customs are very modest. I truly think that the Ipod Headphone out does a great job of powering them, despite the looser control on the bass region. What matters is the quality of the source. I had a listen through the Dr. DAC2 DX desktop DAC/amplifier unit, and it was a clear upgrade over the Ipod Sound. There is nothing wrong in using the customs in a computer or a desktop set up. After all, a simple one-box set up using the Dr. DAC2 DX plugged in to your laptop would put a lot of desktop set ups to shame. But these customs were built to be used portably, and then the limitations of the Ipod becomes very glaring, once you’re used to listening out of desktop DAC units.

I keep on thinking of the Hifiman HM-801 that I reviewed a while back ago. Unfortunately the loaner HM-801 has been sent back, and I can only wait until Hifiman sends me their new HM-602 player for a review.

The Hifiman HM-801 player. Best sounding portable player today.

 

The Dr. DAC2 DX.

 

These are the list of the equipments I used for this review:

Source:
Ipod Classic 120GB, Dr. DAC2 DX, Onkyo ND-S1 (Transport), MacPro (Transport), Grace m902 DAC, Fiio E7.
Amplifier: Dr. DAC2 DX, Grace m902, RSA Protector, Ibasso D10, Fiio E7.
Headphones: JH5, JH10X3, JH16
Cables: Whiplash TWAG Cables, Stock JH Audio Cables.


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  • Ypocaramel

    I started out my audio journey as a treble lover. So much was my audio preference skewed toward the high frequencies that I became a big fan of the Etymotic ER4S, which until today still remains an all-time favorite among treble lovers. Slowly I realized the importance of bass reproduction and what good bass adds to the music.
    ——————————————————-

    When I was first read, I was like – noooooo! It’s not musssssic without bass! Glad you came around =p

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      When I was first reading your comment, I was like "What the?? His comment sounds exactly like what I had written"

      I know. Music is not music without bass, I'm trying to tell that to the treble lovers. ;)

      • Ypocaramel

        Ooops, should have used the quotations marks -_- hahaha

        I come from the opposite direction, I always thought that bass was needed for rock and pop until I realized how poorly that plays with some of the muddier recordings out there in the genre (volume war'ed, even Asian stuff like L'Arc En Ciel). So I'll always need a neutral-bright headphone or EQ somewhere, even if my main system is neutral/neutral-warm.

  • kiddragonsoft

    Why did you go for the 10×3 when the 11s were just a few $$ more?
    Is there a reason for this? Apologies in advance if it’s something obvious, I’m new to all this.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Yep, it is indeed fairly close to the JH11. $56 dollars to be exact. You're right, I could've went for the 11s instead.

  • ensy

    Hi there, first up a very nice and concise review. A good objective look on the JH audio customs :)

    I'm looking to ask what type of music (or particular song) are you referring to when you refer to the layers of bass which you can depict via the JH16s?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Its quite obvious on a lot of music, but particularly I was blown away when I played Beethoven's No.9 and a japanese percussion music audio sampler.

      But it should be noticeable on mainstream stuff like John Mayer, Prodigy, etc.

  • RedSky

    Very nice review. How would you say the Mage stacks up value-wise against the JH5 and JH10X3?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks. The Mage fits quite nicely in between the two. I can’t remember what the retail price is on the Mage ($500-$600?) But at the end it becomes a choice of sound signature. The UMs are laid back, the JHs forward.

  • Rodrigo Pita

    Hi Mike,

    Awesome Review. Great quality photos, text easy to read! I just sold my Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 EB and got the Westone 3! Maybe in the future, I'll buy the JH 16, or…. Maybe until there it will be the JH36's! =)

    Take Care,

    Rodrigo ( Brazil )

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Rodrigo,

      Glad to hear you enjoyed the review. Enjoy the Westone 3s. :)

  • Jlle

    Hi Mike,

    Locking at the photo's 2 things I have noticed about the inerds. The JH5 uses at least 1 knowles driver by the looks of it, so no suprise here. But the 16 appearently have custom made drivers. The second more surprising bit is, I see no acoustics filters in the bore. I always had the idea that this filters where bad for (micro) dynamics, like all resistors are. Just an observation.

    And about the Mage, reading about your review where you compare them against the HD800, the just fall a little short, but very little. Can we conclude then that the JH16 are a leap past the HD800?

    Grtz

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Interesting observation.

      I remembered writing that the Mage, from a proper desktop set up (I believe I was listening from the Beta22 + CEC CD51) had an amazing imaging performance. Other than that, they are still fairly far in terms of sonic quality.

      Likewise the JH16 improves a lot from a proper desktop set up, and I think it should be better than the Mage from the same Beta22 + CEC set up.

      In a way the JH16 is "better" than the HD800 when you consider that it works very well with a wide range of music, and also the earth-shattering bass performance. However, the full size HD800 is still quite ahead in terms of refinement, ambiance, layering, the overall Hi-fi experience.

      I hope that explains it. It's still hard to talk about an IEM and a full size in the same line.

  • stefanusj

    hi mike,

    superb review!!!
    concern abt your comment in JH cases… “pelican style hardcase”, i think otterbox is the first company that makes this kind of cases.

    tx
    stefanusj

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Stefanusj, thanks for the info. Yep, they hardcases are made by Otterbox. I just found out that they make some kickass cases for the Blackberry.

  • Daniel

    Awesome review man! Just wanted to ask, what camera do you use to take these pictures?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks Daniel,
      It's a 5D Mk2 with 100mm Macro lens. :)
      Some compositing was done in Photoshop to get a deeper depth of field.

  • Marburger

    Hi Mike!

    Did you listen to monster turbine pro/copper? Lets say, are JH five offer much better sound in comparison? I didn’t hear yet expensive 3,4,8 driver IEMs, but other balanced armature drivers like ultimate ears 700 sounds to me thin.
    thanks !

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Sadly I've never heard the turbines till now. But the three JH above has the hardest and deepest bass I've ever found both on IEMs and Headphones. The JH5 is weakest among the three, but it's quite miles ahead from sounding thin.

      I think you should try them out, you won't be disappointed. :)

      If you really want to be sure of the improvements, skip the JH5 and go for the 10X3.

      Cheers.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Marburger,
      I just got the Monster Turbine Pro. Not sure if it's the Gold or the Copper. How do you tell? It's not written on the housing.

      Anyway I'll write up a short comparison of the Monster to the JH5. I actually haven't listened to it yet.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I'm playing around with the Monster Pro Copper at the moment. It's quite a decent product overall. Average listeners might find the heavy midbass and the warm sound signature quite pleasing. But other than that, its technicalities just can't compete with the Balanced Armature drivers.

      I'm not speaking about a sterile type of technicality either. But the JH5 is clearly leaps and bounds ahead, in terms of technicality and frequency balance. And I would even say that the JH5 is still more musical than the Pro Coppers.

      I'm also reviewing the dual BA q-Jays and dba02 at the moment, and I would happily choose the q-Jays over the copper.

      Cheers.

  • Marburger

    I am starting to save my money to JH 11 850$ till now, and they are cheaper then ultimate ears. But still a lot money for student :)

    I have to try monster turbine coppers first,I have ordered them. then it will be still something to dream about like JH 11, 18…

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Saving up is always part of the fun. :)

  • Herdie

    Mike, out of the JHs that you've tried/owned, which one is the closest sounding to ATH-M50? I assume its the 10X3?? Thankss…

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Sorry Herdie, none of the JH can be likened to an ATH-M50. The sound signature is quite different. The M-50 is more relaxed compared to the JH customs. The M50 has more bass than the 10X3, but if compared to any of the JH5, 10X3, and JH16, the M50's bass is far too loose and uncontrolled.

  • Rodrigo Pita

    Hi Mike,

    I have a Westone 3 and a Triple.fi 10 PRO, and I want to get a custom and the maximum I would pay is $850.00 . I think my Westone 3 has some bass reverb that gets in the way hear the details and a too energetic sound. On the other hand I love the sound signature of my Triple.fi, they have a clean sound, a nice soundstage and no fatiguing sound. I like the bass too, they are more controlled than W3's bass. I know you wrote about the Triples, but I still have some doubts. Which custom would you recommend, that has the sound signature more like the Triple.fi, with a good bass but not boomy like my Westones? I got my eye on JH 10X3 and JH 11. Thank You

    Rodrigo

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Rodrigo, gosh that is a difficult question to answer, since you seem to be very happy with the TF10Pro. Getting a custom JH, though in many ways better, won’t give you exactly the same signature as the TF10, and that’s the part that I can’t be sure you’ll be happy with. I personally haven’t tried the JH11, but the JH10X3 is a very nice middle line in the JHCustoms line. I think you can go with either the 10X3 or the JH11 and be happy with either one of them. I personally say, go with the more expensive model. ;)

  • Rodrigo Pita

    Thank You Mike! I'll go with the JH 11! =) I don't need it to be exactly the same signature as the TF10Pro, I just don't want a sound slightly refined and with a reverb bass as I find with my W3, for me it is a tiring IEM. I want a good custom that deliver quality sound, and be pleasant to hear any kind of music like I do with my TF10PRO! =)

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Awesome Rodrigo! While you’re at it, why not go for the JH13? ;)

      • Rodrigo Pita

        Hi Mike,

        I said that I was getting the JH11, you said to go for the 13s.. BUT I got the 16s! =P I went to JH AUDIO at Apopka to get them! =)
        A picture of my custom: http://img41.imageshack.us/img41/1973/img0047mw.j

        • Mike

          Damn, your 16s look very slick man! Once you go with the 16s there is no going back! :D

          I actually have the chance to listen to a 11 a few weeks ago. The owner was not that happy with it, complaining that it had a prevalent midbass and not enough low bass. Surprisingly the IEM fits my ears, and so I was able to try it out. Yes, it was mid-bass centric, and not enough lows. I think the JH10X3 is more neutral and more preferable to my ears.

          • Rodrigo Pita

            Thank You Mike!

            I tryed the JH 10×3 and for me is one of the best price/benefit, they had an awesome definition and were very balanced . The most different model related to sound was the JH10, they had a very clean sound, they did not have a full sound as the JH16 but I liked the sound signature! The JH5 was very good too, they did not have the complete sound of the 10×3 or jh16, but I liked too. I think in blind test I would know wich one was the JH5, JH10 and JH16 but I could go wrong between the JH10X3 and JH13. I know that JH13 is more accurate but they remember the 10×3 for my ears.

            • Mike

              Thanks for sharing, Rodrigo.

              The JH10 sounds like something I would be interested to try out. B)

  • Herdie

    Hi Mike, you mentioned that the JH16 signature sound is somewhat "dark". How dark is the sound, is it HD650 (old driver) dark? or say PR18 or PR20revII or maybe UM3X dark/warm? How bout if it is compared to JH13 based on your memory? Does JH13 share the dark sig?

    I'm considering taking a plunge to one of these babies in the long run, that's why i'm trying to understand the sound sig a little better based on your review. Ideally i should try the universal version of the JH13 but unfortunately i live in Jakarta while i assume the prototype is in Surabaya :P

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing…

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Herdie,
      It's hard to make a comparison with the HD650, PR18, or UM3X as the sound signature is rather different. To take the case of the HD650, it's a dark headphone, but quite laidback at the same time. The JH16 is quite dark, but at the same is more forward and aggressive unlike the HD650. I really don't want to compare apples to oranges as it will give people the wrong impression. :)

      Now, compared to the JH13, the JH16 with the additional bass quantity should sound darker, even if the midrange and treble is equal on both headphones.

      What I can tell you, however, is that as great as the JH13/JH16 is, don't expect a "perfect" end of journey IEM. No headphones or IEMs are perfect, and if you're following the discussion on the Equalizer article, then you'll understand why I said that. The perfect IEM/headphone can only be accomplished when you're limiting yourself to one genre and hopefully the recordings on that genre is more or less of similar character and quality. Some headphones, however, are more of an all-rounder than the other, and the JH customs are quite an all rounder IEM in that sense.

  • Boyd

    Hi, Mike
    I know this is quite silly question but I want to know if I get the right sound out of my JH-16
    if not I will send them back for remold. can you compare the treble and mid of RE-Zero and JH-16? my re-zero is more crisp and has more revealing mid.

    • Mike

      Yes, you can get that impression with the RE-Zero and the JH16. I don't think the JH16 is faulty. :)

  • Johan

    Which IEM is suited for house/hip hop production with a forward sound with bass and mid clarity that these genres require?

    • Mike

      Johan, for a production need, I assume you're talking mixing? The JH16Pro has the best bass I've ever encountered, as four drivers per channel are assigned specifically to handle bass. But if you use a bassy IEM, wouldn't that mess up your mix? Please enlighten me here. :)

      • Johan

        Yes you are correct. I'm talking about mixing and producing. I need an IEM that can reproduce the sound coming out from Genelec studio speakers + sub when I'm traveling. There is a difference between clear bass and muddy bass. Bass is not a bad if reproduced correctly. I tried a pair of Monster Turbine Pro Gold (they didn't have any Coppers or MDs in stock). They sounded great but had a muddy unanatylical bass.

        Actually not perfectly flat speakers/headphones can enhance mixing and creativity during music production. I'm talking about subtle peaks in bass/mid bass here. Also the AKG K702 (open) were very clear and appealing but had perfect flat bass – the bass was just "there" with no impact (not good if you need inspiration).

        I'm thinking about ordering IE7, IE8, Turbine Pro Copper, Turbine Pro Miles Davis and Shure SE535 with money back and keep the one that's best suited for mixing/production.

        Ordering a pair of JH13 or JH16 is very risky without having a trial.

        Have you compared the JH13 or JH16 against the IE7/8, Copper/MD, SE535? I believe dynamic IEMs might be my only option here since I demand the bass but I don't want muddy bass. How low does these high end armature JH13/16 or SE535 go?

        • Mike

          Hi Johan, yes I know what you're talking about. With the JHcustoms, even from JH5, there is no such thing as muddy bass. :) Nothing amateurish like that. :) It's quite ahead of even the Turbine Pro Copper. Mainly due to the different driver technology.

          The JH5 has good bass
          The JH10X3 has better bass
          The JH16 with 4 drivers has the best bass.

          I think you should be happy with either of the three :D

  • Johan

    Thanks for the input Mike. I will seek some more info on JH customs. The JH13 from the info I've gathered seem to be the most neutral with bass just right in the series.

  • Johan

    Mike, did you compare the JH16 against the JH13?

    • Mike

      Hi Johan, sorry but I didn't compare it to the JH13. I've listened to the universal fit version of the JH13, and I believe the only difference was the bass section, where the JH13 has less bass than the JH16.

  • Jordan

    Great review!

    • Mike

      Thanks, Jordan.

  • Intermediate

    Um, for curious,

    how about the UEs and the Westones…want to know how would be the different between them and which one should i pick?

    • Anonymous

      Sorry havent had any exp with Westone customs.

  • Carlo

    Hi Mike,

    Do you think the TTVJ slim would match well with the JH customs?
    Well, aside from the Pico Slim, what amp matches well with them?

    Thanks!

    • Anonymous

      Hi Carlo,
      I think it would be a good match, but personally, I think the Pico Slim
      is just too good for the JHs compared to the other amps I tried.

  • zingbo

    I’m getting ready to spend $500+ on my first pair of really good headphones.  Forgive my newbie ignorance…would customs like the  ones reviewed here do a better or worse job of isolating sound (i.e. blocking out the roar of airplane engines) than off the shelf in ear headphones with rubber earbuds that might create more of a “seal” against the sides off the ear canal? 

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Not even close. The customs are far superior.

      • Louis Loh

        Any long-nozzled universal with complys or tri-flanges can isolate better than acrylic customs. I have both DBA-02 MKIIs (with Shures triple flange) and the JH13.

  • Ramesses

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for your excellent review. What a wonderful idea to get JH5s instead of universals for just a bit extra cost and without the need to keep buying expensive Comply foams or other tips.
    I have the JH13s which I got following a visit to JHAudio in Florida. I had an audition of the 13s and the 16s. For me the 13s were clearly my preferred choice as the 16s (with just my iPhone3s at the time) had far too much bass, so much so that to my ears it distorted the music.
    Jaimie Harvey made us welcome and both myself and my partner did the audition. We both preferred the 13s and for exactly the same reasons. We ordered a pair each having our impressions done there and then! We had some slight fitting adjustments done when we collected them a couple of days later. I am really pleased with my purchase so much so my other IEMs are just never used (except at the gym… and I hate them). I have the Se530s, Triple Fi 10s, IE8 and RE-0, none of which come even close to the 13s. I also concur the Pico Slim has great synergy with the JH13s. (I wonder now if I would have liked the 16s better if I had tried them with the Slim). My 13s are the best audio purchase I have ever made, fabulous textured and detailed sound, comfort and isolation is so much better then the universals and you dont have the tips to faff about with. They sound fabulous out of Ipod Touch, iPhone 4s, Nano, MacBook Pro/air and are greater still amped with my slim or CLAS/RX MkII or Pure i20/Slim combos. They are great with all genres of music too and can be used anywhere for Audiophile sound! They are really great. I would encourage anyone to take the plunge on these if they are unsure.
    I hope that helps.
    Jason (Ramesses).

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Ramesses,
      Glad you’re enjoying your 13s. The JH5 is a really good upgrade for existing universal-IEM users and I’ve been recommending them to my friends as well.

  • MSquared

    Hi Mike,

    I really enjoyed your review, and as a result am sold on going with JH Audio for my first set of CIEM’s. Currently I’m using the Monster Turbine Coppers, and I thoroughly enjoy those. While everything I’ve read an heard leads me to believe that I won’t be disappointed, I just want to be sure.
    I want to go with the JH10X3, and the area I’m concerned about is the soundstage/imaging/instrumental separation. While I’m sure they’re great for that, I want to be absolutely certain that I’m making a noticeable upgrade on that particular front.

    Thanks in advance.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi MSquared,
      The JH5/10/16 are all killers in soundstage/imaging/separation and are definitely much better than the Coppers. Superb black background, very spacious soundstage that I’ve yet to hear from any universal IEM.

      • MSquared

        All I needed to know. Thank you so much, and keep up the good work.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          You’re welcome and thank you.

  • Alok Juyal

    Really nice review! enjoyed reading. Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      You’re welcome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joon.kim.5815 Joon Kim

    Based on your review, it seems like the JH16 is hands-down the best IEM ever made. I am planning to buy this. However, I need an amp for this IEM. An ultra-portable amp would be awesome. Since I have no money limit, you can recommend me several amps. Thanks!

  • Simon O’Toole

    Hi Mike,
    I was considering getting a pair of JH5’s (am on a tight budget being a student) for listening to music and using as IEM’s while playing with my band. I currently use my dad’s Bose QC3’s. Although the overall sound is good I cant say I’m a fan of the active noise cancelling element of them and find a whining in my ear most of the time with them. How would the JH5 compare with such over-ear headphones? And would they serve the dual-purpose of listening to music and use as onstage monitors??

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Simon, I can’t really compare the QC3s since I have never heard them (is that an IEM?). The JH5 is usually considered as one of the best for the price, and I think they should work great as on stage monitors.

      If you are on a low budget, try the Shure SE215.

  • niice

    Hi Mike, just finished reading your review and need your advice. I owned the Etymotic ER4p and love its sound especially for its details and clarity at the mid-range and treble as the same way you did. But so sad, i just lose it. The question is, in case i can efford it, if JH13 or JH16 is the right choice for my new IEM to upgrade from ER4p? Given that i love the sound of ER4p in the aspect i mentioned above but happy to have more bass presentation without loosing the sparkling, instrument separation, clarity and details of ER4p? Or you have other suggestion? Thank you vm mike. (More info, i have Alessandro MSPro for home listening and i love its sound)

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      The JH13 is closer to neutral, where the JH16 has more bass.

      Both are still very far from an ER4P though…

  • Fabio_Rocks

    Hi Mike! I want to exhume this terrific review to get some tips from you:) I currently own a Westone um3x as my daily iem. They are good sounding but a little boring as you know. I also have some discomfort and fit issue. So I was thinking to get the JH5.
    My questions are: 1) I am really liking the Sennheiser Amperior, they are very realistic sounding with a good sparkly treble, Do you think the Jh5 is comparable in sound signature, is the treble of the Jh5 more hot?
    2) Do you still think the JH5 is a good buy nowadays? Alternatives?
    Thanks !

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      The European Swedish Cosmic Ears and the German Inear!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I still think the JH5 is a good buy even now. And the treble is safe though not as forward as the amperior. I think the 1964 v3 is more similar to the amperior

  • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

    TWAG is just a cable, and can be had in either a 3.5mm connection (like in the picture), or with a RSA Protector balanced connector.

    The Protector balanced connector is a new style connector that is introduced with the launch of the RSA Protector amp, to have a balanced connector in a smaller package than the regular XLR connection. (You can read about it here: http://www.headfonia.com/?p=2683).

    The red thingy? I believe you're asking about the round thingy made out of wood. It's basically the same function on the little plastic thing you find on Westone ES cables, to make sure the cable stay put nicely when installed over the ear. (Someone help me with a name of this "thing").

  • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

    You can send an email to whiplash audio regarding that inquiry. They should be able to help you out.