JH Audio JH16 Pro First Impressions

JH Audio JH16 Pro First Impressions

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This is a photo of the actual JH16 Pro I'm using. (Photo courtesy of JH Audio)

I received a production sample of the JH Audio JH16 Pro last week. And, yeah, I was excited.

When something's this new (especially at the level of performance of this class of headphones) it's sometimes hard to discern excitement for the newness (and all that's good about that particular newness) from your overall take on the product, relative to what you've had that you're comparing it to--kind of like dating someone new. That said, I'm not yet prepared to conclusively say that I like the JH16 Pro over the JH13 Pro, but I can say that, at this point, I'm enjoying the heck out of it (and, at this point, prefer it).

First of all, here's what I've used it with: I have mostly used it with my computer rig (with Amarra) driving the Lavry DA11, and amping with the Ray Samuels Audio Apache (single-ended), the Ray Samuels Audio Protector (single-ended), the Lavry DA11's headphone output, and the Luxman P-1. I have also used it directly out of an iPhone 3GS headphone output, and the iPhone 3GS/iPod Classic 160 amped with the Protector. My musical tastes vary a great deal (spanning most genres), and I have sampled the JH16 Pro against the JH13 Pro with a wide variety of musical genres.

Here are my early observations:

The JH16 Pro's difference in bass is not only evident at high volumes, as might have been suggested earlier. It has more bass emphasis than the JH13 Pro, period. Listening to music with little to no content below 100Hz results in a virtual toss-up between the JH13 Pro and the JH16 Pro, though still they're not exactly the same (but close enough to, again, be a virtual toss-up).Treble performance, by the way--one of the JH13 Pro's great strengths--is just as good with the JH16 Pro, with all the detail, extension and shimmer of the JH13. Where they are mostly different--and noticeably so--is down below 100 Hz. More specifically, at or around 50 Hz is where most of the difference is, with the JH16 Pro being a few dB higher, or thereabouts. It's more than just the bump (relative to the JH13 Pro), but the bass characteristics are different: The JH16 Pro is simply more physical about it than the JH13 Pro, and I'm stating this as a positive trait--in my experience, it's the epitome of bass impact outside of a loudspeaker. Obviously, four drivers per ear dedicated to the task has much (if not everything) to do with this. The bass extension probably reaches at least as deep as any other headphone that I've heard. I currently have no ability to measure this to confirm my suspicions, but I feel very confident about this, using both music and several testing tracks. I actually can't think of a headphone I've ever heard with bass that sounds like it hits deeper and more impactfully than the JH16 Pro does.Other people will be getting theirs soon (if not already), and you're going to read a lot about this as they form their impressions, too. I guarantee it. The bass detail of the JH13 Pro set new standards for an in-ear monitor. The JH16 Pro elevates this, as there is more emphasis down there, but with absolutely no sense of any comparative loss of control (to these ears). If you tend to like your bass north of neutral--and you want this in a reference-level piece--the JH16 Pro is probably your dream headphone.One thing that's amazing to me is that the JH16 Pro's low bass is far enough above neutral that I'd expect it to have a greater effect on the low-mids, but I find that its effect there is minimal to non-existent. For me, bass goes wrong and overblown when it's loose and uncontrolled and/or when the boost intrudes on the midrange, and, thankfully, neither of those things is happening with the JH16 Pro. Jerry Harvey is, to my mind, the master of the art of in-ear multi-driver crossovers. We've spent many hours conversing since JH Audio started offering IEMs, and I'd guess that a majority of that time has been spent discussing crossover design, both in general and very specifically. Jerry Harvey's knowledge--where engineering crossovers for multi-driver balanced armature pieces is concerned--is likely unparalleled. And, with the JH16 Pro, he has done masterful work on the bass-mid crossover--the JH16's mids are as pure as with the JH13 Pro to me.

Long story short on my first impression of the JH16 Pro is this: If you have (or have heard a good demo of) the JH13 Pro, and tend to prefer more bass impact than the JH13 Pro currently has (to my ears, the JH13 Pro doesn't lack for bass at all), then the JH16 Pro will give it to you with no tradeoffs that I can hear. If you don't have the JH13 Pro, and you're trying to decide between it and the JH16 Pro, I'd say to order the JH16 Pro if you've tended to prefer more bass impact in your headphones, and/or if you can say definitively that you tend to prefer your bass stronger than neutral. Order the JH13 Pro if you have a strong preference for neutrality (though the JH13 Pro is not perfectly neutral, it's certainly closer than the JH16 Pro).

The strange thing is that I've tended toward neutrality more strongly in the last couple of years, but yet right now the JH16 Pro is my preference--the extension, slam and control is otherworldly, even if it is boosted above neutrality. Like I said at the beginning of this post, however, it could be because it's still new and exciting to me, so time will tell, but I prefer the JH16 Pro right now. The JH16 Pro is like the JH13 Pro with an exceptionally well-engineered subwoofer arrangement.

NOTE: If you want to hear low frequency energy (as well as unrestrained dynamic range) in excellent, fun music, pick up XLO/Reference Recordings' Test & Burn-In CD, and play Track 18 ("Polka and Fugue"). Though the whole XLO/Reference Recordings CD is great, I think you can get the exact same single track on HDTracks.com for $2.98 by clicking here (and downloading Track 9). I bring this up because I've never heard "Polka and Fugue" sound better (through headphones) than through the JH16 Pro.

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