27 January 2009

Headphone Reviews I: JVC HA-FX33/34 "Marshmallows"

I've been trying a few different headphones the last while in pursuit of headphone nirvana. As I wrote a few weeks ago, head-fi is where it's at, and nothing does more for DAP sound quality than a great set of 'phones. I've also introduced my devoted readership (yes, both of you) to the basics of earbuds. Here we're starting at the low end.

JVC Marshmallows can be bought at any big box electronics store for about $20, but I paid $6-$8 for my two pairs on ePrey. They are of epic reputation for providing good sound quality at a stupidly low cost. The HA-FX33/34s (I have no idea the difference between to two model numbers) are nicknamed marshmallows because that is just what the foam ear tips look like. They they use soft, memory foam tips very like hardware store earplugs rather than the silicone tips other canalphones use. They seal well and are fairly comfortable, to me. They are totally closed and attenuate outside noise very well.

Marshmallows come in several colors, of which a few are a bit garish.

These buds have 8.5mm active drivers and a 8-23,000Hz frequency response. To my ears, they sound is a bit scooped, meaning the mids are a bit recessed. Many, MANY headphones are scooped, so they probably would not sound artificial to most people. They have plenty of bottom end, in any case, but the bottom is a bit boomy compared to more expensive 'phones. The good isolation and scooped sound makes them great phones for car travel, since the strong top and bottom project well over road noise. And for the price of a drink and sandwich, there is little concern if you should close them in the car door, etc. All in all, by audiophile consensus, they may just be the best bang-4-buck canalphones out there, and a quantum leap beyond bog stock iBuds.

No comments: