PerformanceThe model we are testing today is the only eight driver design on the market. The eight drivers are hooked up to a three way crossover which means that there are four drivers to handle the bass, two for the mids and two for the highs. The JH|16Pros were tested on the the following rigs: Head-Direct HM-801 with GAME card and via line-out to a Ray Samuels Tomahawk IEM amplifier, iPhone 4 (headphone out), Cowon D2 (headphone out).
Even though this set of in-ears has loads of drivers it is still a very efficient design which means it can be powered by just about any DAP on the market today. Considering the price and performance level of these in-ears you need a high quality DAP to take full advantage of them. While they sound good on the iPhone 4 and the Cowon DAP, using them with the RSA Tomahawk fed by the HifiMAN's line-out really showed their true potential. They will undoubtedly sound better on an even more elaborate rig.
As you might expect with a four woofer design the bass is prominent and remarkably powerful. Amount wise these in-ears have a little more bass than the Westone 3s with foam tips on, but unlike the Westone 3s there is no fall off in the lower registers. The bass extension on the 16s is just incredible, the bass is elevated to a point where some might find it a bit too much. To my ears the bass is spot on, even though it is emphasized it is very linear which gives it a very focused and realistic sound. The linearity of the bass and speed gives these JH AUDIO constructions a very unique sound.
The amount of bass is perhaps a little over the top sometimes, but it depends greatly on what type of music you are listening to and how well it is mastered. On well mastered pieces the amount is just right, on more modern and loud masterings that are severely compressed it does have a tendency to be a bit over the top. Even though they have plenty of bass they sound quite analytical with a good amount of low end grunt. This I attribute to the fact that the bass does not bleed into the midrange. The midrange of the JH|16Pros is remarkably realistic or neutral if you will. Overall I would define the sound of the JH|16Pros as neutral with elevated bass due to the lack of coloration of the midrange. As opposed to the Westone 3s where the bass bleeds into the midrange, this gives them a warmer tonality overall.
The midrange has some of the characteristics of the bass. Definition wise the midrange is just mindblowing. The speed and weight of the midrange reminds me of the HE-5LEs which we recently reviewed. Because of the speed and weight percussive instrument qualities are right on the money. I would not go as far as describing the 16s as mid focused because of their frequency response, but the midrange is there and it is not lacking in any way.
Treble performance is likewise staggering. Both extension and amount is spot on, there is enough shimmer for it to sound engaging and energetic when need, but it is never tiring or annoying. They have a touch more treble than the Westone 3s, but without any hint of sibilance in the upper midrange which is amazing. Usually to get the treble energy needed, the upper midrange is a bit tipped so that Ss sound piercing or sibilant if you will. The JH|16Pros have no issues with keeping the midrange completely balanced and neutral sounding.
Like most in-ears these ones have a very intimate sound stage. The JH|16Pros are a bit special though, the sound stage seems more coherent and instrument separation is very good which is probably a result of the immense resolving power of the driver setup. Every little coloration of an instrument or voice is so easy to pick up and identify. These in-ears are the most detailed I have ever laid ears to.
Microphonics play a huge part in how usable a set of in-ears is. Unfortunately the cable JH uses is a bit stiffer and thicker than that of recent Westone models so it has a tendency to pick up a bit more unwanted noise. The JH cable is still far better than the majority of cables out there, but it is not the Holy Grail.