Details: JVC’s carbon nanotube microdriver earphone
MSRP: est $80 (manufacturer’s page); est. $90 for HA-FRD80 with mic/1-button remote (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $64 from amazon.com for FXD80; $104 from ebay.com for FRD80
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 20Ω | Sens: 102 dB | Freq: 8-25k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: generic single-flanges; generic bi-flanges; MEElectronics ‘short’ bi-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear
Accessories (3/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), cable winder, shirt clip, and drawstring carrying pouch
Build Quality (4.5/5) – The housings of the FXD80s are solid-feeing stainless steel, with nozzle-mounted microdrivers and unique-looking but sturdy strain reliefs. Cabling is typical JVC – soft and flexible. Mild driver flex is present.
Isolation (3.5/5) – Very good with the right tips and moderate insertion
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Very low when worn cable-down; nonexistent otherwise
Comfort (4/5) – Quite comfortable except for those with narrow ear canals. The housings are heavier and a bit larger than those of the Yamaha and Monster microdriver sets but not enough so to cause fit issues
Sound (8.7/10) – JVC’s previous microdriver earphone, the FXT90, featured a carbon nanotube driver alongside a second transducer. The new FXD80 uses a single carbon nanotube microdriver. Interestingly, the FXD80 is not as efficient as the dual-driver FXT90, requiring a few extra notches to reach listening volume. The power handling of the FXD80 is rather strange in that it is actually sensitive enough to be used at low volumes, yet happily accepts quite a lot more power before passing comfortable listening thresholds. Due to the slightly recessed mids, being able to bump up the volume without the sound becoming shrill or boomy is very welcome with many tracks.
The bass of the FXD80 is punchy and has good depth. Mid-bass boost is very mild – not as heavy as with the FXT90 and lower-end FX40 model but more substantial than with the VSonic GR07 and HiFiMan earphones. Like the FX40, the FXD80 leans slightly on the thin side in note presentation and as a result its bass reminds me of the Shure SE535 – great in extension but perhaps not as full and rumbly as the response warrants. The slight bass elevation causes the JVCs to sound a little less controlled compared to the GR07. Certain similarly-priced armature sets such as the Fischer SBA-03/MEElectronics A161P and Rockit R-50 also sound quicker and tighter, as expected. The bass of the FXD80 is also not quite as effortless as the dynamic, highly versatile low end of the Monster and Yamaha microdriver earphones but is certainly respectable considering the lower price of the JVCs.
The midrange is clear and detailed but, like the low end lacks a bit of thickness. The mids seem to take a step back compared to the bass and treble. Male vocals especially sound somewhat recessed – the GR07, for example, provides a flatter response with fuller, thicker, more natural male vocals. The RE-ZERO and MEElectronics A161P are more similar to the FXD80 in note presentation but both feature much more forward mids.
The response starts gaining emphasis in the upper midrange and the top end is prominent, yet somehow not fatiguing. The overall tone of the JVCs is a little on the cool side, which is certainly unusual for a mid-level dynamic earphone. Detail and top-end extension are good and the sound is nice and airy on the whole. The treble curve adds some perceived clarity to the sound in a way reminiscent of the lower-end FX40 model and the similarly-priced PureSound ClarityOne. The treble response does tend to exaggerate cymbal ringing a little and can throw timbre off slightly but – happily – doesn’t have the sibilant tendencies of the VSonic GR07. The pricier HiFiMan RE272, on the other hand, does a much better job of controlling sibilance without losing air but will not work for those who crave the extra treble energy.
The presentation of the FXD80 is less straightforward. The earphones sound spacious in a way reminiscent of the $300 Monster Miles Davis Trumpets and yet seem to have an average-sized headstage and layering. The FXD80 doesn’t throw sonic cues as far out of the head as a VSonic GR07 and Rockit R-50 and the presentation seems a little less well-spaced and linear. The HiFiMan RE272 is also more open-sounding and spacious, but the fact that the FXD80 draws comparisons to these far more expensive sets speaks volumes of the overall level of its performance.
Value (9/10) – JVC’s latest microdriver design is solid performer, combining deep bass, a clean midrange, and prominent treble for a crisp and energetic sound. As with the lower-end FX40 model, the FXD80 can’t be recommended without some reservation – the sound signature seems to work best with electronic music and male vocals disappoint compared to the pricier FXT90 model and other competing sets. Still, with its stainless steel shell, above-average isolation, and versatile, no-frills cabling, the FXD80 is one of the better buys in its price range.
Pros: Very solid build, flexible and quiet cabling, highly proficient sound
Cons: Fit may not work for those with narrow ear canals