Review: JVC HA-FW02 – Frankenstein’s best


The FW02 is mildly sensitive, hissing slightly when plugged into the Sony NW-WM1Z, and a bit more from an Astell&Kern AK70 and a bit more than that from an AK100. My ears detect no hiss from an iPhone SE or iPhone 7 or Onkyo DP-S1. Music gets plenty loud from all sources, and pretty early on the volume scale. At the ear the HA-FW02 is similarly sensitive to a Grado GR8e, though spits a completely differently focused sound.

Where the Grado is crisp, with sharp leading edges and contrasty mids, the JVC HA-FW02 is rich with rounder sound pressure from lows to highs and a transition-less bass-to-mids zone. Its coaxes the most texture from percussion instruments, and after that, from low-voiced strings.

The soundstage is taller than usual for a single driver earphone, with a good reach around back, effecting a fairly deep z-axis. Sound goes wide, but its slow high pass filter-esque frequency fall off eschews sharp stereo width for soft lateral fades. Widest and most spatially detailed within the skull, this ball of ball stereo information fades softly above, below, and to the sides. It takes a step forward into the z-axis, showing jolly but ultimately constrained depth. In contrast, the GR8e’s stereo image is drier. It goes wider, but with sharper falls off at the lateral extremes. The FW02 is taller, and it penchant for drawing detail from low-voiced strings draws you right into the action, whereas the GR8e puts you just barely outside of it. If you like walls of sound, you’ll probably be put off by this, and you’ll probably not care that much for the Grado, either. If you like natural fades to all extremes with decent forward layering, this is about as natural, if not as fifth-row detailed, as it gets.

And then there’s sound pressure. The HA-FA02’s only real peak is in the upper vocal range. There’s a few other small spikes, through which percussion grabs a slight edge. But overall, this is the first of JVC’s wood earphones I’ve tried that’s not either a bass monster, or a itchy scratchy treble tweaker. As long as you err on the side of warmth defined by equal sound pressure between mids and lows with early rolls off in the high highs, and a few vocal-based upward spikes, you’ll probably love this earphone.

I say probably because recently there have been a few earphones to follow this general trend. The Flare Audio Flares Pro is one. The difference is that the JVC HA-FW02 is more textured in the strings, with a higher sound stage, and smoother rolls off, and less bass presence. It’s a bit more HD650 while the Flares Pro is a bit more HD600. If you want speedy sounding warmth, go Flares. If you like homier, more laid back warmth, FW02 is your tender. And yet, it’s not at all veiled-sounding. It’s just not bright.

The high roll off affects venue-defining space in live performances, DJ shows, and more technical binaural recordings. Yawning depths close in- but not close at hand. The HA-FW02’s z-axis stretches far enough forward to sketch tight detail into close venues, and put good space between instruments. But you’ll always fell pulled into the music rather than surrounded by it.

Sadly, trance isn’t a great match with the JVC HA-FW02. Bass balls up a bit too much, a bit too forceful. For this reason it lacks good low-kicking stereo imaging. Almost in tandem, upper vocal spikes push high-frequency energy a bit early, confusing the venue.

As with every wood-series JVC earphone I’ve tried, its instrument forte is anything out there that doesn’t need to be plugged in.

End words

An AKT8iE MKII with added string texture and a faster roll off in the highs and a feathered stereo spread is probably a good way to generalize the JVC HA-FW02, which means it’s gold. It’s an earphone made for a specific listener: one who wants warmth without claustrophobic closeness, one who wants to be in the music, but not in the instruments, and who appreciates how that music interacts with its recording/playing venue. It’s not made for bass heads; it’s equally not made for treble heads. Neutral heads may think they’re drawn to it- until they experience its slow low pass high range. It’s too textured to be a comfy-chair or sleepy-time listener. But it is a damn comfy listen, and one you’ll get into more and more every time you plug it in.

Well done.

4.3/5 - (22 votes)

Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

1 Comment

  • Reply September 6, 2017

    Barun C

    Nice review. HA FW02 sounds very much like the HA FX 850s I used to have, they also have a punchy bass mixed with recessed mids and shrieky highs, which get rolled off after 10K or so. So HA FW02 has a typical JVC Wooden IEM house sound.

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