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JVC HA-FX101 Review

JVC HA-FX101
Added Feb 2013

Details: Bass-heavy budget earphone from JVC’s Xtreme Xplosives line
MSRP: $19.95 (manufacturer’s page) / $29.95 for HA-FR201 with mic & 1-button remote (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $14 from amazon.com for FX101; $26 for HA-FR201
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 101 dB | Freq: 5-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (1/5) - Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes)
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The design of the FX101 resembles the older FX1X and features plastic housings with rubber bumpers, paper nozzle filters, and a thin, plasticky cable. The cord lacks a sliding cinch but carries minimal noise and terminates with a well-relieved I-plug
Isolation (3/5) – Good for an angled-nozzle design
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Low in the soft and flexible cable
Comfort (4/5) – The fit is generally similar to JVC’s higher-end FX500 model but the rubber-sheathed housings may be a little large for over-the-ear wear for those with smaller ears. Cord-down wear is very comfortable with the angled-nozzle form factor and the shells are smaller compared to the older FX1X

Sound (6.2/10) – JVC’s follow-up to the popular FX1X model, the FX101 has no trouble delivering on promises of copious bass despite its smaller 8.5mm drivers. Its low end is not as loose as that of the older FX1X model and yet the FX101 sacrifices nothing in the way of impact or bass depth. Its bass puts it among the hardest-hitting in-ears on the market, though as usual the low end grunt comes at a price. The bass is on the boomy side compared to sets such as the Philips SHE3580 and can be very intrusive. Happily, the FX101 probably won’t be purchased by those looking for anything less than a bass monster.

The real strength of the FX101 is in retaining good overall sound characteristics despite its massive low end and miniscule price tag. The clarity is quite good for something so bassy – it lags behind the JVC FX40, Brainwavz Beta, and Soundmagic E10 but easily beats the MEElectronics M9 and most other entry-level sets. The sound tends to be a little warm and dark. The signature is v-shaped, with strong bass emphasis and a milder treble boost. Bass bleed helps the FX101 sound a bit less recessed in the midrange compared to the Brainwavz Beta and JVC HA-FX40. As with the FX40, the colored signature of the FX101 works especially well with electronic music and can be hit or miss with recorded instruments.

Treble is somewhat harsh and not very refined compared to higher-end sets. It can accentuate sibilance and doesn’t extend all the way up, resulting in a darker sound compared to sets such as the Soundmagic E10 and Brainwavz Beta. The presentation is above average in its price class – not as wide as that of the Brainwavz Beta but better compared to the MEElectronics M9. The darker tone of the FX101 also prevents it from sounding as open and airy as the Soundmagic E10, which also boasts a better sense of space. Still, the FX101 has nothing to be ashamed of for the price and has another piece of mass appeal up its sleeve – efficiency. The FX101 plays louder than just about anything I put it up against and will crank out the bass even at low listening volumes.

THL Recommended Badge 2014Value (9.5/10) – Comfortable, well-built, and not at all microphonic, the JVC HA-FX101 is a bargain that should cause the bass-obsessed to salivate profusely. The bass-heavy sound means that these are far from the most neutral or natural-sounding earphones, but they deliver on the fun factor without sounding offensive – a definite win for their intended audience.

Pros: Well-built; comfortable; minimal cable noise; tons of bass
Cons: Treble can be harsh; tons of bass

About ljokerl

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

17 comments

  1. When you review these, do you judge the sound quality based on the stock tips? Shouldn’t you specify the tips you used? Is the comfort based on the tips also? thanks.

    • That’s what the “preferred eartips” section at the top of each review is for. If I can find some tips that significantly improve (for me) on the originals in sound or comfort, I will list those and base the score on them. This is more practical for higher-end sets of course as not may people will want to spend $10 on tips for a $14 earphone.

  2. any comparison of the fx101 to fx3x?

    • Haven’t tried the FX3X. I do have the FR301 (which I think is related) and I don’t think it’s a significant upgrade for being 2.5x the price.

      • If I can get the fr301 for $29 do you think they would be worth getting over the fx101? I’m impressed by their FR, it looks very similar to xiaomi piston 2: http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/JVCHAFR301.pdf

        • Unfortunately it differs from the Piston2 in two key areas, which makes it sound significantly less “Hi-Fi” and more “FX101″. One, the bass hump is centered in the mid-bass region and quite audible, so it sounds bassier and more bloated. And two, there is more emphasis in that sensitive 4-6k range, which makes it sounds harsher and more “v-shaped”. This is very similar to how the FX101 is tuned so if you don’t need the mic I’d just save some cash and get the 101.

  3. Hello Joker!
    I think you do a great job with these earbuds reviews and I have to say that I’m really impressed on the number of earphones you’ve put your hands on :).
    I have a question for you regarding this review. At the moment I’m searching for a good pair of In-ears and I stumbled across these JVC Xplosives, but I don’t know which model is better FX1X or the FX101. Some say that FX101 is an improvement from the older FX1X on the mids and treble, while others say that FX1X is better cause of the 10mm drivers. I hope you could give me some information in this direction because I really want to get the best bang/buck pair around 20$. I’m also considering Philips SHE3590 which are even cheaper.
    PS: Atm I’m using the new sports model from Sony – MDR-AS400 which I’m not totaly proud of because it lacks the bass… Also if you’ve got some information on these, I would be grateful.

    Many thanks in advance!

    • I am among those who think the FX101 improves on the FX1X. The FX1X sounded more boomy and muddy to me. Considering the bass quantity, I think the smaller drivers actually benefit the FX101. Generally speaking, there’s no reason to say that an earphone with larger drivers is automatically better. The (absolutely fantastic) Yamaha EPH-100, for example, uses a tiny 6mm driver.

      The SHE3590 is a very good earphone unless you want the heavy bass of the Xplosives, which of course most purchasers of the FX101 do want.

      • Thank for your reply Joker!
        Well, to be honest I don’t really know what kind of sound I’m looking for because I just started the IEM hunt. Until this moment I was satisfied with my regular earphones that came with my smartphone but now all pairs are broken (the wire got screwed @the plug).
        I kinda lean towards bass but I also like to have crisp clear voices and to feel a good treble (ex: some nice drum sounds or bell sounds) since I usually listen to hip-hop, chillstep mixes, drum&bass mixes. I noticed in the last few days that I don’t really like the lack of bass or the emphasizing of treble(scratchy sounds) from my Sony Sport MDR-AS400 and this is why I want to buy another pair for everyday use.
        Unfortunately, in my country I can’t find FX101 (Romania) and I can just order it from another country thus meaning I will have to pay a total of around 25-30$ while the Philips 3590 are only 16$ at the store around the corner :) .
        My question is if it will be worth ordering FX101 or should I just go for the 3590′s ? Considering sound quality, comfort, reliability (durability).

        • In that case I would just go for the 3590. It’s not *lacking* in bass, it just isn’t as bassy as the FX101. Comfort and durability are comparable and shouldn’t factor into your decision. In any case, after owning the 3590 you’ll have a better idea of where your preferences lean.

          • Yes, you we’re right! I went to buy those 3590′s just after see’ing your comment and I can say that I’m really impressed. I even found them on sale :) (14$). The bass is definitely there and the highs seem more clearer than those from the Sony AS400 (less sibilance – I think this is the term). I had some issues finding the best fit with them cause they are very small and I have a pretty large ear canal entrance but I read some reviews about getting the best fit and I finally chose the largest tips and I follow the next technique to introduce them: When introducing the right driver you should pull your ear a bit with your left hand so that the ear canal stretches a bit and , at the same time, with you right hand introduce the driver in the ear. Now I just hope they will last long enough because I forgot to ask for the Warranty certificate at the store -_- (stupid me).

            As for the sound signature, I’m not sure that I have a specific one. Since I bought the 3590′s I started appreciating more my Sony AS400. Although I like the bass and clearness of the 3590′s I still feel something is missing. Maybe it’s the stage sound, maybe is the comfort since I’m not used to IEM’s. I don’t really know but I’m waiting your review to see an expert’s opinion :). What can I say from my point of view is that the bass can get fatiguing at times and I personally don’t like it that much when I’m working out. So, it seems those AS400 aren’t a waste of money afterall (25$ here). I even have a 2 year warranty so I can sweat on them until they die.

            All in all, I’m glad that I found a cheap best bang/buck pair or IEM’s with good sound quality. Who know’s, maybe after I find what is missing for me I will aim for a medium/high end pair (I do like them RHA 750 :) ).

            Thanks a lot Joker for your help and for all the reviews you’re doing! It’s and amazing work and I really appreciate it.

          • Ah, I forgot to add something. Do you think that some Burn-In will have a positive effect on those 3590′s ? If yes, how much do you think will be enough to do the trick.

          • There likely won’t be much difference except for “mental” burn-in (i.e. you getting used to the sound signature) so just don’t worry about it and enjoy the earphones.

            P.S. if you find the bass of the Philips fatiguing, it’s a good thing you got them and not the FX101 – the FX101 has even more bass.

  4. Thanx 4 the reply man,
    can you suggest me something with heavy but CONTROLLED bass, no matter how much darker it may sound. My demand is punchy bass with little or no emphasis on highs and my budget is $50.

  5. hi ijoker
    Great review i must say. I m looking for headphones, but confused whether to go for MH1c or Fx101? I like BASS v.much, but as you mentioned that fx101 is bass heavy but also boomy at the same time, meaning it will not produce punchy and controlled bass. As for as mh1c is concerned, I heard that it sounds clear and bassy, but not enough thumping bass. So whats your suggestion?

    • That’s all true – the MH1C has better quality bass but less quantity. It’s an inverse relationship and you can’t really have it both ways, especially at a low price point, so if you just want something fun with lots of bass, go for the FX101. It’s cheaper anyway and you can upgrade later on if you decide that the bass quality is no longer good enough for you and you’re willing to live with less quantity.

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