When it comes to the custom molded JHAudio JH5Pro, we must wonder, how much sound quality do you gain by spending roughly an extra $200 over the universal models? That has always been the question, and this is where I will attempt to answer it.
Going to a custom has always have the advantages of a perfect fit. On the universals, I find that simple designs like the UE700 and the q-Jays to give a very good fit and easy to take in and out. The Westone 2’s design doesn’t let the nozzle to go in very deep, and getting a good seal requires quite a bit of tweaking. The DBA-02 actually gives the best seal on my ears, as the nozzle is quite long and they go fairly deep into the canal. In terms of noise isolation, the DBA-02 actually provides the most isolation than the rest of the group. This is because the custom molded JH5Pro is made from a hard material, and they don’t have the ability to follow the shape of the canal which never stays 100% constant. In my experience, the ear canal gets looser when it’s a hot day out, and it gets tighter after taking a shower. Nevertheless, the thing that I appreciate the most about the custom is how easy it is to get a good seal every single time, whereas the universals always require little bit of adjustments. Taking in and out the custom JH5Pro is also the most convenient, and speediest.
After listening to the universals, the JH5Pro sounds like a clear upgrade from the first moment that you put it on. The “wow” factor is definitely there as the JH5Pro IEM bests the other universals in this group in most of the technicalities. You have the biggest soundstage, the best micro details, the most separation between the instruments, and the most complete bass reproduction. Upon this great soundstage image, the background is very black and every instrument takes its distinct place, and micro details let you hear the small noises that’s happening in the recording, all these without boosting up the treble level (which will lead to a hot presentation). Still taking place in the huge and black soundstage, the vocalist of the band takes a forward presence and you can hear him being in the spotlight. Clearly, the JH5Pro has the most three dimensional imaging with a more believable depth compared to the rest of the IEMs. Having removable cables allow the JH5Pro to be driven in balanced to the RSA Protector, and on that configuration, the sounstage is even wider, and bass response is fuller and more controlled. Such set up would leave the others even further in the dust.
Like the q-Jays, the JH5Pro is very universal sounding, and works well with a wide range of music. It’s also quite safe from sounding hot on the treble. And the bass response is phenomenal, and by far the lowest hitting bass among this group.
What stands out from the JH5Pro’s frequency balance is the very full range of bass reproduction, where all the other dual drivers fail to present enough of low bass frequencies. The bass articulation is good, although I find that the Pico Slim does improve bass control on the JH5Pro even more. Other than the bass, what also stands out is the upper midrange presence, where most vocal action is happening. Treble presence is just right, not too hot as the DBA-02, but more linear extension than the SuperFi 5 Pro. Second to the q-Jays, the JH5Pro has the most ideal treble quantity in this group. On classical recordings, the JH5Pro can sound a little dark, where the q-Jays is still doing okay. But on mainstream recordings, the treble amount is right.
Although it tends to sound dark for classical recordings, the abundant micro details against the very black background makes detail on the music very clearly heard, so the JH5Pro never sounds veiled. Again the Pico Slim amplifier helps to make up for this, as the treble sounds more open and livelier out of the amp. Or, if I choose to go ampless, the Whiplash TWAg cable brings out the treble a little while smoothing out the upper midrange to treble transition.
Though the JH5Pro is the most technically proficient of the group, its frequency balance is not perfect. There is a slight dip in the upper bass area, and although it’s not a big dip, this result in a less smooth transition from the midrange to the bass areas. The other double drivers on this comparison don’t have this problem (the UE700 does, but less severe than the JH5Pro), but they are not as full down to the low bass notes, so it may be a trade off that JHAudio consciously made in the tuning process. Surprisingly, this midrange dip becomes an annoyance on this otherwise great sounding IEM. At least for now, you’ll have to go up to the triple driver JH10X3 to get a fuller midrange and upper bass, while maintaining the technical proficiency lead.