Thursday, June 05, 2014

JVC In-Ear Sports Headphone Review

JVC Kenwood Malaysia recently passed me two sets of headphones for a quick review and to provide feedback as to how it would suit/perform under exercising or sports condition. As some of you know, I do not typically listen to music when I workout, except if it is in a controlled environment where I would not need to look out for traffic or be in the way of traffic. With the hours I've spent on the bike trainer (read : stationery) and the travelling I've been doing (read : gym or staircase at hotel), plus the endless lapping of the pool (25m pool can be a pain when you want to clock in 2000m of swim).
Music, it is a good distraction for those longer than usual hours on something stationery. 
The JVC HA-EBX5-V
I was given this set primary because it is splash proof. Meaning it can withstand water splashes. In laymen term - sweat. 
In nice Violet color
Unboxing
The unit write up came as per below. Straight forward and it's selling points are the sweat-proof and the color coordination with iPod Nano 6th Generation (6G). We all know how basic those iPod headphones were and having them color coordinated may just add a touch of customisation for those that feel it is important enough to do so.
  • Splash-proof - ideal for exercise and fitness activities
  • Secure-fit in-ear canal headphones with soft rubber ear clip and cushion
  • Colour coordination with iPod nano 6G
  • Powerful 11mm Neodymium driver unit
  • Comfortable fit with 3 sizes of silicone earpieces
  • 1.2m colour cord with gold-plated iPhone-compatible slim plug
The unit came in a nice blister pack that are compact and to the point. The back portion of the packing provide all you need to know info such as the frequency response, length of the cable and the sensitivity of the unit. 
All you want and need to know
The unit is a basic earphone with ear-loops that secure behind your ears. Being the "in-ear" type, this meant it is able to fits in nicely with the appropriate sized plugs to ensure good sealing of the unit against the ear canal. There are obvious reasons for this and this help to block out the ambient noise out there so you get to enjoy your music or podcast (as some actually listen to podcast) while exercising in controlled environment.
Bright Violet
Upon removing of the blister pack and pulling it out, you will see the cable tucked in. Unfortunately, this unit does not come with a pouch to hold/store it. Would be a big win if JVC does it. If not a pouch, a cable organiser would be good too. 
Straight forward
Priced at RM99.90 at retail outlet (electronic and electrical stores) and Radio Shack (Malaysia), it is priced just right among the other competitor that offers the same features of being sweat proof. I bought a pair of Sony sports earphone back in the 2006 period and it cost me RM149.90 back then. At this price, almost 8 years later, I would say this JVC is a bargain.
Gold plated
The Jack is a standard 3.5mm dia attachment made "slim" and instead of having a right-angle aka bended jack, it is a straight out configuration and the theme to suit iDevices continue with it being slimmer than usual. No bulk there and I reckon it will fit in nicely with the iDevices I have.
Great finishing
Despite the pricing, the build quality is solid with the driver unit made of quality plastic with shiny surface. The "medium" fitting ear-bud came fitted and out of the box. One of my experience using earphone with loop is how uncomfy it can become if the unit bites behind your ear. So, I could not resist the urge to bend or pull the unit as far as I could to see how flexible and soft it is. I was not disappointed.
I did tell JVC Kenwood Malaysia I will torture the unit didn't I?
I let it go and it retained it's shape back again. There will be instances where this unit may be placed inside a bag and you may just tugged it a bit harder to get it out. Knowing that the unit is flexible sort of gives you the comfort that you will not damage it sooner than expected.
Back to original shape
A closer look into the driver unit revealed a mesh like cover at the earbud section. Logic tells me that while the unit is splash proof, do not ever immerse this unit in water as that would meant end-of-life (EOL) of this headphone. Splash meant you can get it wet, not get it soaked in water (tested soaked in sweat was ok though)
Soft ear-bud
Here is the other two pair of earbud for bigger ear-holed person and tighter fit need. No pun intended.
I am medium. You?
I will review the unit based on practicality first then reproduction quality. After all, this unit is meant to rough it out with you on the treadmill, a run in a park or on the bike trainer. 
In Use : Fitting
Straight forward and the unit is side specific (photo above). It is hard to get it wrong unless you are not sure L is Left and R is Right. Anyway, the unit only fits in one way/ear, you won't get it wrong.
right side, from front
Left side, from rear
I used this unit for my 2-hours bike (on trainer) under the sun last weekend. All part of the plan to get acclimatised to the Malaysian hot weather. I paired the unit up with the Audioflood iPod Shuffle. Instead of using the waterproof earphone that comes with it, i used it with the JVC unit. I must say the Red-Violet combi works pretty well.
Tadaa!
As you can see, the 1.2m cable is pretty long. I clipped the unit on my cycling shorts and adjusted the unit cable length accordingly. There is the cable restrictor that slide up and down to secure the unit under the chin for less movement. That worked super fine for me too.
With the cable managed well (I was topless, so the cable were exposed to both heat and sweat), the cycling of 2-hours passed pretty fast with my selection of "angry song" from Metallica and slower jazz from Keiko Lee worked really well. Consider that each genre offer me different intensity of workout.
And by that, it meant there were standing attack with head swaying - and the unit stayed snug. I did not adjust it once after I put it on. It was that secured.
Immediately after the bike ride, I went for a run with the unit in my ear and no music. Doing this just for the review to get a feel of the unit while i paced through 5km at sub5:00 pace. The cable were in my running T and the jack was tucked into the garter of my shorts. Again, a bit of cable management by putting in additional length into the shorts and the unit secured under my chin and ears again. Same verdict. Unit stayed snug and secured. No adjustment needed. Sound blocking was alright as I can still hear motorbike or car creeping up from behind while running within my housing blocks.
In Use : Sound Reproduction
I would be lying if I say the unit produces near audiophile sound. Truth is, the unit performed as it should as an earphone. Bear in mind that reproduction of music or sound greatly depends on the player too, in this case the iPod Shuffle. However, listening to mix of genre, I can say the bass and trebles were there. The sealing of the ear-bud in the ear-canal was good, which minimises outside noise creeping in. That does help with the earphone delivering the lower frequencies. Hotel California sounded about the same as me listening in my standard car CD player. The percussion and the guitar strums were heard as it should, where it should. Keiko Lee's strong deep voice in minus-one radiates through. UB40's cymbal and reggae smooth made the Red Red Wine sweeter. I am happy with the unit performing as it should.
Pros
- lightweight and comfortable. I can wear this for hours without the ear feeling restricted
- bright cheerful color, available in pink, blue, silver and violet
- may not sound impressive, but having a 11mm neodymium driver commensurate the pricing
- affordable : RM99.90 is reasonable. Fake headphones of a popular brand cost more than this, and may not perform.
Cons
- Cable a bit too long. 100cm may be more than sufficient
- wish there was a clip to hold the cable mid-way. It can secure better on t-shirts
- a pouch or a cable organiser would be great!

Next : The other earphones with remote, to be reviewed. Splash proof and more executive looking!

Note: This pair of JVC Earphone is courtesy of JVC Kenwood Malaysia as part of product testing. Retailing at RM99.90 at major electrical and electronic stores, and at Radio Shack Malaysia. Opinion set forth in this write up is not influenced by JVC Kenwood and remain as my personal review opinions only. 

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