The segment Billie Jean is in is a tough one in today’s world, as there are many offerings in that price bracket. Unfortunately I am not in possession of many In Ear Monitors that come at that price point or with a similar one. For comparisons I have used the Mojo and stock cables. All mentioned prices are correct at the time of writing this review.
Noble Audio – Sage (2BA, 599$)
The Sage I hold up high for a few things: its balance, imaging and joyful tuning. The Noble and the AK aren’t too far off to my ears. While the Billie Jean is fuller and more organic, the Noble comes with deeper extension but a lighter presentation. The Noble also knows better how to throw a mean punch when needed, the AK to me has a more relaxed approach. Both have a slightly recessed midrange with moderate coloration in the lower mid department. The AK to me is more emotional and correct. Billie Jean also has higher resolution and transparency in its signature. Both have outstanding instrumental placement and imaging capabilities. Treble is where both models might differ the most, the Sage, though also revealing, has a more laid back sound, whereas the Billie Jean is more energetic and full of life.
Jomo Audio – PLB (3BA, ~510$)
Jomo’s Pretty Little Beast has a weightier midrange, with more body and texture. It also has a clean treble, though to me it is richer compared to the Billie Jean. Billie Jean is more energetic in its highs, with a brighter tone. The Astell&Kern also appears cleaner in its signature to me, where the Jomo can become slightly veiled. Both models have about the same extension into bass, but Billie Jean has a weightier and bigger body, bass also is better controlled. PLB sometimes has a bass that can sound empty. Resolution wise Billie Jean takes the crown.
Avara – AV3 (3BA, ~295$)
The Avara is the only custom monitor in this comparisons section, but it fits the price range and a comparison has also been asked for. So here it goes. The Avara to me is lighter overall. The Billie Jean has bigger body in bass and mids. The JH/AK monitor goes deeper into the low-ends and has more energy and punch in its sound. The Avara is a overall more balanced tuned monitor. Billie Jean has a warmer lower midrange with higher resolution and more accurate timbre. The upper midrange of it is also richer and more pleasing to my ears. Treble on the AV3 is lighter and can come across as a little shrill with the wrong songs. The Billie Jean also has a slight tendency to do that, but the Avara is more sensible to sibilance. Treble on the Astell&Kern IEM is more energetic and faster. The created sound stage dimensions on the AK are wider and deeper. Again, it beats the Avara in imaging.
This is the first universal IEM from Jerry Harvey that I can without a doubt say it fits my ears. I have good seal and the comfort is as good as it gets. Personally I like the red design with the carbon face plate. A concern however is the crack in the body. I guess if you’re a cable rolling enthusiast like myself you might want to do that with greater care and attention. The Billie Jean to me definitely improved with a good aftermarket cable.
Sonically the Billie Jean is a delight, great dynamics, well bodied, heaps of resolution and a clean signature overall. Bass is punchy, mids are well formed and rich and treble is energetic and fast. If you’re sensitive to brighter tuned monitors, you might want to give it a careful listen first, but to me, at this point there is hardly anything to complain about. To me there are only two things where the Billie Jean could improve, that’s extension on both ends and a more solid sub-bass foundation. At this price however, it is the best I have heard. I even go that far to say, it punches well above its suggested retail price and fights back models that set you back heavier.
Bravo Astell&Kern and Jerry Harvey, that’s a well done monitor right there. Up to the list of recommended universal IEMs you go!