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.
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.
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.