Review: JH Audio Layla – Merlot

JH Audio Layla

Comparisons

Ever since Layla was introduced a whole lot of other flagship custom in ear monitors have appeared on the audio horizon. We’ve seen JH also bring his first hybrid, Lola, to the market. I will compare Layla to some of the most prestigious products currently available. All of which are top of the line offerings from their respective manufacturers. We will also see how Lola stacks up against her bigger sister.

All mentioned prices are those of the custom built versions at the time of writing this review. The universal counterparts often are sold for lower prices.

JH Audio – Lola (2DD/6BA – 1750$)

Lola was one of the most intriguing designs I have come across in a long time. Not because of a high driver count, but of the constellation. Lola is an unorthodox hybrid, that uses proprietary dual dynamic drivers for mids. Most manufacturers take dynamic drivers and let them handle bass, JH used a common technique from the pro audio field and has put them into his first own hybrid. Lola features the before mentioned JH Audio house-sound. She also has a warmer tonality that makes her best suited for instrumental music. To me Lola is the queen of mids, she’s a touch more emotional and even fuller. Layla however overcame Lola’s biggest weakness, details and resolution. Layla’s bass is faster and punchier, where Lola has an airier presentation. Both have a wide extension in highs, though Layla seems to have a slightly brighter top end. Lola overall is a notch darker and doesn’t match Layla’s high precision rendering. Layla’s sound stage is a good margin bigger in width and depth, she also has better instrumental separation is more suited for a multitude of genres. Layla has a good portion more clarity in her, reaches deeper down low and has higher imaging abilities. It’s obvious why she’s Jerry’s number one.

JH Audio Layla

JH Audio Layla

Noble AudioKaiser Encore (10BA – 2099$)

The Noble in comparison has a wider sound stage and more air between the instruments. Layla reaches a good portion deeper into sub bass areas. Her foundation is also more solid and gives the picture more body. Plus you get the ability to fine tune your bass response with the dial system, which is very nice. Kaiser’s mids are again thinner and less emotional, but Noble’s are better layered. Upper mids and treble are a whole lot richer on Encore. In terms of resolution I also have to give Noble the upper hand. Many people seem to have problems with Encore’s high notes, some find them too harsh or upfront. Those who might find themselves in this situation could be very happy with the softer and more laid back treble of Layla. Encore also has an overall more fun tuned signature, just like Layla. Kaiser though is considerably brighter in comparison.

Noble Audio – Katana (9BA – 2099$)

Noble’s co-flagship is aiming for a neutral and reference sound. Katana sports extreme accuracy and precision with very high resolution. All of which are a level higher than Layla’s. The JH again has remarkably more body and fuller, more enjoyable mids. Katana has a pretty linear sound and also reaches deep, yet doesn’t have the sub bass rumble of Layla. This exact rumble gives Layla a more dynamic sound. Sound stage wise Katana takes the crown. Katana’s treble is warmer, richer and more revealing than Layla’s, which again goes for a softer and more neutral sound.

JH Audio Layla

JH Audio Layla

AAW – W900 (1DD/8BA – 2099$)

Singapore based Advanced Acoustic Werkes’ flagship has received a lot of praise last year, though personally I wasn’t fully convinced, especially W900’s harsh and aggressive treble has put me off. W900 has a slightly dark sound, a huge sound stage and tickles out a good number of details. Layla to me is more energetic and dynamic. W900 has a more organic and airier bass presentation, while Layla goes deeper, throwing a meaner punch when called for. Her full bodied mids are again out of reach for the competition, making it sound more organic and pleasing to me. Layla’s highs are a lot softer and less fatiguing than the one we can find in the AAW. W900’s sound stage is considerably wider, it sports higher resolution and better layering. But doesn’t stand a chance against Layla’s decisive and fun sound.

64 AudioA18 Tzar (18BA – 2999$)

Now it comes down to a battle of the two most expensive custom IEMs in my possession, and maybe even the most expensive CIEMs available today. Both models do share some similarities but couldn’t stand further apart from each other in some areas. Their bass response is very similar, with the 64 as well as the JH reaching very low, though Layla goes even deeper. Layla of course gives you the option to tune lows to your liking, whereas A18t lets you alter the entire signature by replacing the supplied APEX module. The Tzar oozes of resolution and transparency, I have not come across a single monitor that could match it, and Layla also has to give first place in that regard to the A18t. 64 Audio is known for their incredibly big sound stages, and it is no surprise that their flagship creates a room that is considerably bigger and taller. Layla is again fuller bodied, with higher levels of enjoyment across wider ranges of genres. In the treble section 64 is more upfront and airier. Their tia driver is something truly outstanding. Both CIEMs sport wonderful details.

JH Audio Layla

JH Audio Layla

Conclusion

This is my second JH Audio review in just a few months, and again I was mighty impressed by the pure emotions I was presented with. Layla transports a very enjoyable listening experience, that has convinced me on the long run. She might not be the most technical monitor in this field, but after all she is not made to be that. Layla, just like all monitors I have heard from Jerry Harvey, is aiming for an organic and unique sound. She is full bodied like great red wine and features bone touching bass, immersive details and a wonderful realistic stage with superb stereo imaging. If I could make one wish it would be to be able to use my aftermarket cables with it. Though I actually wish for the other manufacturers to also adopt the 4-pin connector. Something like the PWaudio 1960s (4-wire), Effect Audio Leonidas or Horus must sound incredible with Layla.

Layla is extremely well built, comes with the most awesome carrying and protection case ever and on top sounds perfect with everything I throw at her. In my books she ticks off a lot of boxes and has certainly made it into my list of favourite monitors. I can’t wait to see what Jerry Harvey is coming up with next.

Chop chop! On the list of recommended custom in ear monitors you go!

Review: JH Audio Layla – Merlot
4.5 (90.21%) 47 vote[s]

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A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

    22 Comments

    • Reply February 27, 2018

      MICHAEL BROWN

      Good review I have both custom Layla and universal Encore. I currently have my Layla matched with the Effect Audio EOS and find it a very good match. Looking forward to your follow up with either Leonidas or The Horus cable.

      • Reply February 27, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Michael,
        thanks a lot for your comment.
        I’d love to try my Layla with Leonidas, but mine is a 2-pin cable that can’t be used with JH Audio IEMs. Been looking for an adapter, but haven’t found a reasonable one yet.

    • Reply February 27, 2018

      Zach

      I know of an adapter with the bassport built in

      • Reply February 27, 2018

        Linus

        Hey Zach,
        thanks for your comment.
        Would you mind pointing me to that adapter? If it’s reasonably priced I’d love a pair.

        Thanks!!

    • Reply February 27, 2018

      Zach

      This is the item page: http://e4ua.jp/?p=2870

      Its in japanese and there is no checkout. You can email him for it here: info@e4ua.jp

      he doesnt write english so you have to translate what he emails you. Dont send him japanese unless you know japanese, just send him emails in english. I have purchased this adapter from him before and it is outstanding. It allows me to use plussounds wireless iem cable with my layla. He makes it in 2 pin and mmcx. Its about 250 usd for the set. Well worth it.

      Just email him what you want.

    • Reply February 27, 2018

      Guillaume Ceccarelli

      Thank you for your detailed review.

      I’m in the market for CIEMs with music production – including mixing and perhaps later mobile mastering as well – in mind, and your review of the Layla, thanks in part to your comparison with flagships from other manufacturers, has been the most useful I’ve come across so far. I’m decidedly thankful that you offered us a review even after ~3 years of the Layla’s existence.

      If I’m interpreting your review correctly, it would seem that Layla comes out on top when it comes to both
      – range of reproduction, since it seems to reproduce deeper bass than its competitors
      – being organic sounding while still successfully aiming for neutrality: maybe coherence would be a good adjective for it?

      Would you agree that this is an accurate understanding of your experience? I’m also asking because it was hard for me to grasp what “fuller bodied” meant to you as a listener and I’m hoping to get a better sense of it.

      • Reply February 28, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Guillaume,
        thank you so much for your nice comment, I’m glad you found the review useful 🙂

        Layla indeed does reach the lowest out of all my monitors, yet when it comes to treble extension I might give the A18t the nod.

        I wouldn’t call Layla neutral, as it has an overall darker signature.

        What I mean with fuller bodied is that notes carry bigger weight and sound fuller. If that makes sense… 🙂

        Cheers!

    • Reply April 7, 2018

      Phoorich

      Thanks for the review. Did all of the comparisons are done in their stock cable?

      • Reply April 9, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Phoorich,
        thanks for your comment, appreciated.

        Yes, all were done with stock.

        Hope that helps.
        Cheers

        • Reply April 9, 2018

          Phoorich

          Just decided to get the Layla thanks to this review. I did demo the encore and its indeed has better clarity but somehow I like the Layla more.

          Keep up the good works!

          • Reply April 10, 2018

            Linus

            Glad you found your poison 😉
            Also happy that my review helped you.

            Layla is special, I fully agree.

    • Reply May 10, 2018

      Nathan

      hi Linus, can you compare with JH Angie? or maybe soon in the future you’ll get Angie also. so you can reviewed it here. thanks

      • Reply July 8, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Nathan,
        sorry for the late response. Must have missed your comment here… my bad.

        Unfortunately I have never heard Angie and there are no plans for a review of it I’m afraid. But Berkhan has had the Angie (AK universal) for a while and he loved it, maybe he can chime in on a comparison of the two…
        He has also done this awesome comparison chart, you can find both Layla and Angie in there:
        https://www.head-fi.org/threads/iem-score-chart-constantly-updated.815852/

        Hope that helps.
        Have a great Sunday.

    • Reply October 3, 2018

      Yossi

      Hi,

      Thanks for your clear and detailed review it really helped a lot.

      I will be using the IEM for mixing live shows, so I want the most accurate sound possible. Which one of them should I get?

      Thanks

      • Reply October 3, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Yossi,

        thanks a lot for your comment.

        Which IEMs have you been thinking of?
        For mixing live shows I’d recommend Layla, 64 Audio’s A18t or A12t, Empire Ears has the ESR which is supposed to be super flat. Their Phantom is also used by professionals for mixing as far as I know. Apart from these I’d also recommend Noble’s Katana.

        There’s a good number of models which you can try I guess. 🙂

        Hope that helped.
        Cheers!

    • Reply October 23, 2018

      Yossi

      Thanks for your response. I was thinking btw the Layla and the A18t which one of them should I get for mixing live shows?

      • Reply October 23, 2018

        Linus

        Hi Yossi,

        tough one, depends what you’re after in the end.
        The Layla is the more emotional one, whereas the A18t has higher resolution and micro-detailing and also throws a bigger stage. Both have great imaging, which might be very handy for live mixing.

        The A18t is the more technical advanced in my opinion.

    • Reply October 23, 2018

      Yossi

      Thank you. I very much appreciate your response.

    • Reply November 24, 2018

      J Martinez

      Hello, I currentlt play drums, guitar and sing in a church, and really love music and a great sound with base and clarity where I can feel the stage. I cant decide detween the 64audio a18t, Layla or UE. Which ones would you recomend?

      • Reply November 25, 2018

        Linus

        Hi J,

        thanks for your comment!
        It all depends on what you want.
        The A18t is better on technicalities (resolution, layering, sound stage…) and has a very exciting sound. It also offers you two different sound signatures by switching the modules (you get both M15 and M20).
        Layla has a more enjoyable sound with more body for the long run.
        I can’t say anything about UE, as Lieven has done (and is doing) the reviews for them, but I know he really likes the UE Live.

        Hope that helps.

        • Reply November 25, 2018

          rob

          I have both layla and u18 (both universal) and would recommend u18 for long term/general use. The vented design is easier on the ears, I’d say the layla is three times more fatiguing. I’m just listening to my u18 way more.

          • Reply November 25, 2018

            Linus

            Hi Rob,

            thanks for the insight.
            I didn’t mean that the A18t is producing ear fatigue, but it produces a highly technical and exciting sound which isn’t for everyone.
            Layla is more laid back and fuller, but A18t is more accurate and precise in my opinion.

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