JH Audio needs no introduction to most personal audio fans. They have been turning out exceptional custom and universal in ear monitors for audio professional and enthusiasts use for many years. Jerry Harvey is recognized as one of the founding fathers of the In-Ear Monitor category. I have been enjoying my previous generation JH Audio JH16 Freq Phase custom in ear monitors for some time. I purchased them right after JH Audio introduced the Freq Phase technology to their line. Freq Phase is a patented process to ensure proper phase alignment across the signal bandwidth not unlike how a speaker would have a slight physical tilt to account for the different wavelength between high and low frequency soundwaves. The resulting sonic presentation is much closer to the way we perceive sounds in nature. The JH16’s Freq Phase have been my primary “on the go” in ears. I appreciated the solid low end of their quad low balanced armature drivers. It kept the outside world at bay when I was on the proverbial planes, trains and automobiles. My one wish for them was a bit clearer upper register.
As I perused the aisle’s at CanJam at RMAF 2016 I wandered over to the JH Audio booth to see what new innovations the team had brought to show the Head-Fi community. Andy Regan, the President of JH Audio, showed me their new three driver JH3X Pro, a bargain at $599 as well as the refreshed JH13v2, starting at $1175, that was recently reviewed by Frank here at Headphone.guru. Then Andy showed me the refresh of the JH16’s. the new JH16v2’s! “We added a few things” he said. “Like what?” I asked. For starters, they had answered my one desire for my JH16’s. They added an additional pair of high frequency balanced armature drivers making the new v2’s into a quad low, dual mid and quad high ten driver CIEM. They also updated the crossovers to an integrated 3-way variety. And finally, they incorporated the new four pin cable connectors with the 10dB bass adjustment built into the cable as found in their Siren series. You can now tune the bass from a flatter reference setting to a strong bass head flavor.
Sue Regan gave me the mini tour of the new customization options available with the v2’s. New graphics, colors, glitter, abalone, woods…. The choices for designing your own look was greatly expanded. Between the new internals, cable and design choices it was a complete refresh of the classic JH16! I asked Andy if they would like a review. He said they would and the new JH16 v2’s arrived a couple of weeks later. That is a quick turnaround for customs. I saved a couple of weeks because they had recent in ear impressions for me on file.
The new JH16 v2’s arrived in the standard JH Audio “Hockey Puck” style metal carrying case with a wax cleaning tool, a small screw driver and Comply Wraps samples included. The screw driver is used with the bass adjustment pots on the cable to set the bass response to your personal tastes. After some experimentation, I settled on a “12 O’clock” positioning. The beauty is if you want to make an adjustment you can. The 10dB range is significant and you can tailor to sound as desired. The fit of the acrylic shells was excellent. A comfortable and secure fit. They offer -26dB of sound isolation allowing you to close out the world and get deep into your music.
Time for some listening, I plugged the JH16v2’s into the Questyle QP1r digital audio player. The QP1r was my Product of the Year last year and continues to be my reference unit. The title track from Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature (2000 Giant 24/96 FLAC) incorporates elements that can really show off the updates JH Audio has put into the new JH16v2’s. A powerful bass line drives the song while the high-hat cymbals and triangle put the added high frequency drivers to work. The original JH16’s had nice upper frequency response but they always struck me as enclosed. They high’s tended to be range bound and would float nicely until they stopped. The v2’s allowed the sound to continue up and out. No perceived boundary was apparent. This, for me, is the most significant sonic upgrade to the new models. The midrange was full bodied and clear following in the already excellent path of the original model. Bass, as expected, was full and solid without being overpowering or blooming beyond its defined scope. The JH16v2’s sure knew how to make a great first impression!
Next up was ZZ Top’s La Grange from Tres Hombres (1973 London 24/192 AIFF). Jangling guitars and driving bass with crisp snare drum work highlight this rock and boogie classic. Billy Gibbons distinctive guitar work had the precision and twang at full power. The clear click, click, of Frank Beard’s drumstick’s as he worked the rim of the snare drum had the precision and immediacy of attack of a live performance. Dusty Hill’s sold bass line drove the song with full notes driving into the lower 40Hz range. The quad low drivers providing all the power necessary to give full voice to the notes. It is a wonderful experience to enjoy a song I have listened to for over forty years being delivered in high resolution audio from a world class source like the QP1r and into a true high end custom in ear monitor like the JH16v2’s. The ability to take it with me as I travel is something very special!
Moving on to my Apple iPhone 6S+ (No model 7 for me. I WANT that headphone jack!) I queued up Daniel Bedingfield’s James Dean (I Wanna Know) from his Gotta Get Thru This album (2002 Polydor 16/44.1 mp3 iTunes). Sub bass and a club style with synth drums this is a busy and driving track. Given the low-res file and an iPhone as opposed to a quality DAP it was gratifying that the JH16v2’s were about to deliver a satisfying presentation. Clarity was muted from the lower quality delivery but not to a degree that it was unenjoyable. My sense was the v2’s made the best with less. Taking advantage of the bass adjustment I boosted the bass to 3 O’clock and it brought out more energy to the low end helping to compensate for the lower resolution. Plus, sometimes it is fun to let out the inner bass head! I certainly enjoyed having the option at my disposal.
Wrapping up the listening I put on X Ambassadors VHS and Renegades (2015 Interscope Records 16/44.1 mp3 iTunes) Starting out with acoustic guitar, bass and piano the song evolves into a wide soundstage with massed vocals. The V2’s allowed the individual instruments and voices their own space while keeping the cohesion of the song complete. The fingers on guitar strings are distinct and natural. Vocals are clear with a musical timbre and body. Once again it is significant that low res audio can be rendered in as satisfying a delivery as the JH16v2’s are able to muster. Continuing the listening with Nervous from the same album the nylon strings of the acoustic guitar come through as clear and tuneful. Well done JH Audio!
My primary travel custom in ear monitors have been the JH Audio JH16 Freq Phase. I have thousands of listening hours with them all over the world. JH Audio has now addressed my one wish for a more clearly defined high end. The JH16v2’s have officially eclipsed the previous generation. I now have a new “Go to” in ear for this road warrior. Hat’s off again to JH Audio!
Outstanding build quality
Bass adjust expands usability
Excellent external sound isolation
Wide range of customization
No volume or phone controls available on the cable
Proprietary Precision-Balanced Armatures
Powered by soundrIVe technology; Quad Low, Dual Mid and Quad High
Variable bass output, adjustable from cable; user controlled low frequency drivers with the adjustable bass (0- +10dB)
Integrated 3-Way Crossover
Triple Bore with Freqphase Steel Tube Waveguide
Noise Isolation -26dB
Input connector: 1/8” (3.5mm), Gold plated
Frequency Response: 10Hz to 23kHz
Input Sensitivity: 118dB @ 1mW
Impedance: 18 Ohms
Freqphase time|phase Waveguide
1 year Warranty on Parts and Labor
$1,499 and up depending on shell customization
Apple 6s+ iPhone
Questyle QP1r Digital Audio Player
JH Audio JH16 CIEM