I love items that are custom-made. I love custom suits. I love custom shirts. I even like the custom skin I made for my iPad. But I never thought I would get a chance to use and review a pair of custom headphones. Well, thanks to JHAudio I’ve had just that opportunity.
For the last week and a half I have been using their JH5 custom in-ear monitors. The monitors were custom-made from molds of my ears. Does it make a difference? Let’s take a look. But first… let’s look at the steps it took to get them made.
The original, and still a solid contender. We’ve all got to start somewhere, and for a lot of up-and-comers, this is the one. You’ll always remember your first.
Proprietary precision-balanced armatures
Single low, single high
Noise Isolation: -26dB
Input Connector: 1/8″ (3.5mm), gold-plated
Frequency Response: 20Hz to 17kHz
Input Sensitivity: 119dB @ 1mW
Impedance: 21 Ohms
2-year Warranty on Parts & Labor
Step One- Getting Ear Molds For A Custom Fit
The first step in making your own JH5s is to get molds created of your ears. To do that you need to find an audiologist.
I did and was able to get an appointment a week later. Having to wait and then schlep to the office was a bit of a pain but the audiologist was so nice, and the process so fast, that it made up for it.
The tools she was going to use to create the molds were a bit overwhelming at first. Yes, I do get a tiny bit of “white-coat” syndrome. (Even though she was not wearing a white coat.)
This scary looking device was used to put a small piece of cotton deep into my ear canal. This prevented the molding material from going in too deeply. A thread attached to the cotton meant that it could easily be removed when the mold was made.
The cotton going in felt like the black device the doctor uses to check your inner ear. I’ve always hated that part of a physical.
With the cotton in place she injected molding material into my ear. And as she did I thought to myself… “this is insane”.
She offered to do one ear at a time so that I would not be entirely shut off from the sounds in the room but I asked her to just get it done.
So there I sat for a few minutes with molding material filling both ears.
In the end it was actually kind of peaceful but also gave me a new-found respect for what individuals with profound hearing loss endure. Before I knew it she was pulling on the strings, putting the molds in a box and sending me on my way.
Step Two- Make Decisions, Ship Off The Molds and Wait… Anxiously
I got home and was ready to take the next step… ordering the JH5s.
The JHAudio earphones are truly custom. That means there are a few decisions to be made prior to ordering.
Obviously the size and fit are determined by the ear molds but you do need to choose what color the shell will be. And there are a lot of colors from which to choose.
Cord color is another choice. Fortunately in this case the choices are limited to clear or black.
The next choice is the cord length. Here you can pick 18″, 48″ or 64″.
For an additional $50 you can choose the “Ambient Vent”. This option reduces the amount of isolation you have to the outside world while the earphones are in. In other words, the vent lets sound through which may be important if you are a performer and want to hear the other instruments around you. Another option is to forgo the vent and simply have one ear in and one ear out to create the same effect. (You’ve seen musicians do this numerous times.)
Finally you can add artwork to the shells for an additional $50.
In my case I simply sent off the ear molds and waited to see what options JHAudio would pick for the review unit.
Fortunately the turnaround time was rather quick. In a little over a week the headphones were back.
Step Three- Prepare To Be Wowed
Small touches can make a big differences and that is certainly the case here. The JHAudio in-ear monitors ship in an Otterbox 1000 waterproof, crushproof, watertight case with my name, the JHAudio name and contact information already on it. The case only costs $11.49 on Otterbox’s site but it is one of those small things that let you know you are dealing with a company that is a class act.
Open the case and the in-ear monitors are in a simple black bag.
There is also a small tool for keeping the openings in the in-ear monitors clean. (There are actually holes in each one with each hole connected to a different speaker.) It is not a subject worth going into in great depth but keeping the monitors clean and wax-free is important.
The cord they sent was the clear version. It is thick but not heavy. More significantly, it is tangle free which is especially important if you choose one of the longer cord options.
The top two inches of the cord have a hard but flexible plastic that fits over the top of your ear to help keep the monitors in place.
The connection between the cord and the monitors is tight but the cord can be removed and replaced if it wears out or you want a different length.
You can also see the blue serial number on the monitor.
Getting the monitors in place the first time took some time and, initially, the sensation of having them in place was a bit odd. By the third time I was putting them in it was simple and I quickly became used to the feeling of being entirely shut off from outside sound when they are in place.
All this is good and well but the real question is… for $400 how good is the sound. This is where the bad news comes in so let me put this as clearly as I possibly can…
DO NOT GET THESE IN-EAR MONITORS…
…UNLESS YOU ARE WILLING TO BE COMPLETELY SPOILED.
They are amazing. Seriously, these headphones are unbelievable. I mean, I have had the chance to use some amazing headphones. Among them are the Etymotic hf2s (MSRP $179) and the Sleek Audio SA6 in-Ear earphones (MSRP $249 for the corded version)( Judie’s review of the Sleek Audio SA6 wireless unit can be found here.) Both are fantastic products. They are truly great earphones.
Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the quality of the experience of listening to the JHAudio unit. In part this may be the result of the custom fit that fills the ear and feeds the sound right into the recesses of your ear canal. Regardless of the reason why, the sound is amazing. As I listened to long-familiar tunes I was hearing nuances in the music that I never knew were there.
In addition, because there is no outside noise coming in that needs to be overcome, I find myself able to play the music at a lower volume than usual. That is a good thing since there is no question that I’ve already done enough damage to my hearing along the way.
There are, however, a few things worth nothing before ordering something like this.
First the JH5s I am using are the “low-end” of JHAudio’s line and still start at $399. That is significantly more than the other high-end earphones I have used. You can get some very good earphones for under $100 and some great ones for under $200. $400 is a lot to drop on headphones if you are not a musician. Still, for that $399 you get a custom unit that sounds incredible.
In addition, the JHAudio in-ear monitors completely isolate you from the outside world unless you get the $50 ambient vents. That means these ARE NOT headphones to use when you are moving around. They aren’t for walking or running since you won’t hear any warnings along the way. No, these are for times when you are staying put and simply enjoying, or creating, music.
Finally, unlike the Etymotic hf2 earphones there is no in-line microphone. Unlike the SleekAudio SA6s there is no wireless option. TheJH5 in-ear monitors are exclusively for listening to music. That’s not a flaw or a criticism but it is something about which to make note.
In all JHAudio JH5s are amazing. They take the listening experience to an entirely new level and I’m thrilled to have a pair. I’m grateful to the company for making me a pair that I get to review for you… and enjoy using for years to come.
The JH5s are available for order directly from JHAudio’s Website. They have a starting MSRP of $399 plus the cost of having the ear molds created.
What I Like-
CUSTOM!! you have a number of nice options from which to choose and the fit is unique to you, the sound is amazing, they are super comfortable once you get used to the feeling of wearing them, you can listen to music at a lower volume than usual
What Needs Improvement-
Getting the ear molds made can be a pain and is a small extra expense, no in line microphone, while using it is smart to be in one place since you are completely isolated, pricey