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JVC HA-FX33 "Marshmallow"

May 28, 2009

Warning:

JVC now sells the HA-FX34-N "Marshmallows" which is NOT the subject of this review.

Introduction

According to the JVC website, it features:

  • Comfortable fit free size soft earpiece
  • Isolation from ambient noise
  • Low sound leakage
  • Powerful neodymium 8.5mm driver unit
  • Frequency Response:8-23,000Hz
  • Sensitivity: 93 dB/1mW
  • Nominal Impedance:14 ohms
  • Maximum Input Capability:200 mW(IEC)
  • Cord length: 3.94ft tangle resist cord
  • Weight: 0.11oz
  • Gold plated plug
  • Spare earpieces included

The HA-FX33 comes in different colors and I got the blue color because black is not available.

The drivers at 8.5mm are somewhat small, but I thought that it's ok for a canal-type phones.

It comes with symmetrical wires (Y-type) which in contrast to my Sony Ericsson headsets, are asymmetrical. While the wire is flexible enough, it is somewhat rubbery that they seem to tangle once in a while.

The length is enough for a short person like me. At 4 ft end-to-end, I can have the player in my pant's left pocket without much excess length dangling around. It could be a problem for tall people though.

The tip is also blue, to match the body. It comes in one size only, same with the extra tips.

Initial impressions

Where's the bass?! After reading various reviews that says these are heavy hitters on the lower octave, I find it hard to believe I'm not hearing any bass at all.

That is when I realized how important is the positioning of the earpiece into the ear. At this early, I was able to tune the sound by altering the position. If I want less bass, I change the position so that more air goes into my ear. If I want more bass, I position it in such a way that it is sealed tightly into my ear.

I was worried at one point where it may dislodge itself if not stuck into my ear deep enough. However, I find it attaches securely enough that I can lightly yank the wire without them falling off.

Oh, did I mention they're comfortable? I can wear them for hours without becoming annoying, or experiencing discomfort.

Efficiency/Sensitivity

Even with "only" 93dB sensitivity, it gets plenty loud with an un-amplified Sansa Fuze. This is great for situations where an additional amp won't be convenient.

Sound quality

My previous IEMs were the Crossroads X3 and X3i, which I previously wrote some impressions. The X3 is light on bass and the KSC-75 offers more. The X3i changed that, it was like having a built-in subwoofer, while still rendering the finer details and nuances of the recording.

I'm not a bass freak, but I do want to hear what's recorded. I want balanced sound, and I'm not a sucker for midrange performance, as I'm more biased towards the tone.

And that's what I'm getting from the HA-FX33. Properly tuned to my ears, it offers bass performance worthy of being credible and fulfilling, the mids offer delicacy and the nuances I didn't expect, and the highs offer that sparkle that's not annoying.

Verdict

Pros

  • Offers above average sound quality without breaking the bank

Cons

  • Very microphonic cable
  • One-sized tips

Equipment used

Sansa Fuze 4GB + Kingston 4GB microSD Class 4

Materials

Jheena Lodwick, Emerald City, MP3 192Kbps, 44,100 Hz
Jeanette Alexander, Open Skies, WMA VRB (280-333Kbps), 44,100 Hz
Blue Man Group, Audio, WMA VBR (290-351Kbps), 44,100 Hz
Yui, Discography, MP3 VBR (25Kbps-320Kbps), 44,100 Hz
Roxette, Room Service, FLAC (937Kbps-1033Kbps), 44,100 Hz

Tweaking the JVC HA-FX33

Update: May 29, 2009

I can't believe how I completely ignored that I have spare Small, Large, and double-flanged tips from my previous X3i (I lost it on a plane in one of my travels, fitted with the medium tip). I used these tips with the loaner Woody One unit, but never got to try them on the FX33, until today...

Since I have using the FX33 in a way where it is not lodged deep into my ears, I tried the small tips from the X3i. Unsurprisingly, it changed the presentation of the FX33- the mids are more forward and the sound opened up a bit. The bass is no longer fat sounding and seems to be more articulated. All these improvements gained without performing a non-reversible "Kramer mod" on the FX33.

When listening to Blue Man Group's The Complex album, I find the bass depth a little lacking with the small tips, so I switched to the medium tips hoping I will get the same midrange performance, with a little more depth. I was not deprived, as the medium tips allowed the FX33 to put out more bass depth without affecting the vocals.

I am pleased with the performance I got with the FX33 using the CrossRoads tips. Now, the tips are no longer just "spares" but they allowed the FX33 to breath a new life.