The Sound: The JH16Pro
I may have given enough praise for the JH10X3 in the previous page, and indeed the 10X3 has got enough qualities to make it a solid entry into entry level high end. Now, by looking at just the numbers, you know that the 10X3 is not the end of the road. The 16 is (at least, until Jerry released the next evolution of the JH customs).
The JH16, as you may have heard, comes with four drivers allocated for the low frequencies. As you will see later, this is a brilliant design by Jerry. But there is no denying that bass presence increases on the JH16. Noticeably. Yet the 16 is not about recreating a basshead IEM.
To straighten things out, I am not a basshead. I started out my audio journey as a treble lover. So much was my audio preference skewed toward the high frequencies that I became a big fan of the Etymotic ER4S, which until today still remains an all-time favorite among treble lovers. Slowly I realized the importance of bass reproduction and what good bass adds to the music. A discussion of a high end headphone is never complete without talking about the bass areas, simply because bass makes the music alive, even when you’re not listening to hip hop or other bass heavy music. Classical music are a good example. They are not bass heavy music, yet a lot of the instruments in a symphony extends really low, and without good bass reproduction, you’re not hearing all of the music.
Good bass reproduction is probably the most difficult aspect of a headphone design. Often we only see two kinds of headphones: plenty of bass without good control, often labeled as muddy or boomy, or little bass quantity that’s barely satisfying yet labeled as an “audiophile” headphone or a “technical” headphone.
The JH16 breaks through all that myths. Plenty of bass, reproduced all the way to the lowest frequencies, with all the great bass qualities that you can think of: impact, punch, control, texture, and separation. That is why the JH16 is so exciting, even to non-bassheads like me. I really have never heard low bass notes reproduced so authoritatively as what I’m hearing through the JH16.
Hearing bass from the JH16 is a revelation. The first time I listened to a pair of Etymotics’ ER4, my ears were opened, as I never heard music with that level of clarity before. The JH16 is similar in that regard, in that it really opens my ears on how bass should be reproduced in all headphones. Clearly, Jerry wasn’t using 4 bass drivers for no reason. The sixteen has more drivers allocated for the low frequencies than a TF10 has for all the frequency range. That should translate to something you can hear.
Bigger full size like the HD800 and the Beyerdynamic T1 can reproduce bass fairly accurately, and in the HD800’s case, the bass has so much resolution that you can hear it coming in layers. But what’s missing from both full sizes is the quantity and the visceral impact of the JH16’s bass. And despite the quantity of the bass, the JH16 never loses control.
Compared to everything else out there, the bass quantity on the JH16 may sound exaggerated. But good bass is addictive, and after hearing the sixteen’s reproduction of bass, I never complain about the exaggerated bass. It’s really something you have to hear once in your audio journey.
Aside from the major improvements in the bass area, the sixteen does come with two drivers for the top and two for the mid frequencies. And indeed there are improvements on those two areas, compared to the JH10X3. Vocals are fuller sounding on the sixteen while still maintaining the same rich details.
Soundstage is wider on the JH16, though not by much. What’s really noticeable is the increase on the soundstage depth. The JH16’s soundstage is quite deep, and there is more distance on the Z-axis than what’s on the JH10X3. But the extra low bass does interfere a little bit, thus separation on the JH10X3 is a little clearer than what you’re hearing on the 16. Of course the 16 is no slouch in separation, and having a bigger soundstage gives more space for the instruments in the soundstage field than on the JH10X3.
Talking about detail and treble, I’m hearing more low level detail on the JH16, and the treble does sound smoother on the JH16. However, the JH10X3’s treble does stand out more than on the JH16, especially on low volume. So in that sense, the JH10X3 is more neutral sounding, where the JH16 clearly is darker sounding. I tried playing a 1Khz test tone to see if the JH16 is less sensitive than the JH10X3, but they both measure the same on the sound level meter. For actual listening, however, the darker sounding JH16 does need a little boost on the volume before it sounds “right”.
Although I normally opt for headphones that tend to sound neutral to a little bright (like the HD800 and the T1, for instance), yet choosing between the three customs is a no brainer. The JH16 is definitely the one I’ll go for every single time, despite the darker sound. The level of musicality and refinement in the sound is simply unmatched by the lower end models.