JVC Xtreme Xplosives HA-FR301 Review

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JVC HA-FR301 Xtreme Xplosives
Details: Flagship of JVC’s Xtreme Xplosives line of bass-heavy in-ear earphones

MSRP: $39.95 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $40 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 104 dB | Freq: 5-23k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ L-plug with mic & 1-button remote and CTIA/OMTP switch
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: Comply T400, Stock single-flanges; generic bi-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down (preferred) or over-the-ear

Accessories (3/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes) and plastic carrying case
Build Quality (4/5) – The HA-FR301 is built like the other Xtreme Xplosives models and features plastic housings with rubber bumpers, paper nozzle filters, and the usual PVC cable. The cord lacks a sliding cinch and terminates with a well-relieved I-plug. A 1-button remote with mic is positioned at the y-split. On the back of the remote is a switch that toggles between the two common headset wiring configurations – CTIA and OMTP – which differ in where the microphone and ground leads are on the plug. A few other IEMs do this with adapter cables, but a switch is a much neater solution. There aren’t many OMTP phones in the US these days, but this feature does add flexibility for users of some older and/or imported devices
Isolation (3/5) – Good for an earphone of this type
Microphonics (5/5) – Pretty much nonexistent
Comfort (4/5) – The fit is similar to the other XX models – the tubby housings with their rubber bumpers may be a little large for over-the-ear fitment in smaller ears but cord-down wear is very comfortable thanks to the steeply angled nozzles

Sound (6.8/10) – JVC’s Xtreme Xplosives line has always been known for abundant bass, and the HA-FR301 model is no exception – it is the bassiest earphone I’ve heard all year and follows a very pronounced “v-shaped” sound signature with powerful lows and highs.

A prominent mid-bass hump gives the FR301 its enormous impact, which easily beat all of the sets I compared it to, from the VSonic GR02 Bass Edition to the Nuforce NE-700X, in quantity. Extension is great, too, though the sub-bass is not the focus here.

As is usually the case with earphones that have emphasized mid-bass, the low end of the FR301 sounds somewhat boomy. However, the midrange is not thick, which helps the earphones maintain excellent clarity. That’s not to say the mids aren’t noticeably recessed – they are – but thanks to a relatively lean note presentation and plenty of presence in the upper midrange and lower treble, clarity is pretty good, lagging just behind the more balanced VSonic GR02 BE and beating sets such as the Nuforce NE-700X and Fidue A31s. The bass does still bleed up, but not as much as can be expected give the sheer amount present.

The FR301 is a v-shaped earphone, and like many it can sound pretty harsh up top. This is especially noticeable on cymbal hits, which tend to be overly energetic and quite splashy. Sibilance, however, is not bad at all – better than with the VSonic GR02 BE, for instance. The presentation, likewise, can get a touch congested when the heavy bass steps in but is otherwise quite well-rounded. The v-shaped sound sig is an advantage here and keeps the soundstage size above average, whereas bass-heavy earphones with prominent mids and laid-back treble tend to sound more thick and congested.

Select Comparisons

Note: I could have included more head-to-head comparisons but they all came out pretty much the same – compared to the other sub-$50 bass-heavy earphones in my collection, which tend to be either full-bodied and smooth or v-shaped with a low end bias, the FR301 invariably sounds bassier, clearer but more recessed in the midrange, and harsher up top. 

Tekfusion Twinwoofers ($50)

The Twinwoofers are bass-heavy but rather smooth-sounding earphones – a contrast to the significantly v-shaped JVC HA-FR301. In comparison to the Twinwoofers, the low end of the JVCs is more powerful, the mids are much more recessed and not as full-bodied, though also clearer, and the top end is harsher. The warm and smooth Twinwoofers are perhaps more natural tonally, but also quite muddy-sounding in comparison. Overall they are two very different takes on bass-heavy sound; which is better really depends on what the bigger dealbreaker is – lack of clarity or harsh highs.

Brainwavz S1 ($60)

Brainwavz’ S1 model is similar to the FR301 in the general sense of being v-shaped and bass-heavy, but the greater mid-bass power of the FR301 affects its overall sound quite a bit. The S1 is very capable of producing deep, powerful bass but still falls significantly short of the FR301 in sheer slam. The low end of the S1 is tighter, as expected considering the quantity difference. The mids are a little more detailed and nuanced with less bass to get in the way, and the top end is not as harsh as that of the FR301.

Beats by Dre Tour 2.0 ($150)

The latest version of the Beats by Dre Tour is not exactly a top performer in its price bracket, but the warm and smooth sound holds its own against other basshead earphones. Indeed, the Tour 2.0 was probably the closest to the JVC HA-FR301 in bass quantity out of everything I tried. The FR301 is still a touch more impactful, and overall more v-shaped with significantly brighter treble. It sounds harsher, but also quite a bit clearer than the somewhat muffled Beats.

I found that both sound best with music that relies on bass and is sparsely instrumental, such as Hip-Hop and EDM. This tends to mask the shortcomings with the clarity of the Beats, the harsh treble and recessed mids of the FR301, and the overpowering bass of both. With complex tracks the smoother sound of the Tour 2.0 pulls ahead slightly.

Value (8/10) – The JVC Xtreme Xplosives HA-FR301 is an earphone for bassheads, pure and simple. Its v-shaped sound signature keeps muddiness to a minimum and maintains impressive clarity for such a bassy earphone, though it is not without drawbacks. Still, considering the solid build quality, amazingly quiet cable, and remote with a universal smartphone switch, I expect I’ll be recommending these often to bass lovers all over the world.

Pros: Cable has no microphonics; comfortable fit; extremely heavy bass; dual-mode remote compatible with all smartphones
Cons: Extremely heavy bass; sharp highs


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About Author

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.

13 Comments

  1. Fernando on

    I have bought jvc HA-FX102, do you think are there many differences?. I dont need micro.
    Thanks

    • ljokerl on

      Not familiar with that model.

  2. Acght on

    I have Sony mdr-xb30ex, shall I get this?

    • ljokerl on

      Never tried those, so can’t compare. I have tried other XB-series IEMs from Sony and they tend to be much smoother and warmer than JVC’s XX-series stuff. If you prefer a brighter, more energetic sound, chances are these will do a better job. If you’re worried about the sound being harsh, stick with Sonys.

  3. 5fteleven on

    I have fx1x and believe it’s same as fr301 but w/o a mic. BTW how well do these stack up to TFTA 1V’s basswise.

    • ljokerl on

      The TFTA has similar impact but a somewhat soft/slow bass presentation, which doesn’t do the bass control any favors but does make the bass seem even more powerful. The FR301 has more immediate/punchy type bass, just with a very high level of enhancement.

  4. Arnaud Srvt on

    Got them last week.

    Extreme bass and I had to reduce the high (sharp indeed)

    Being a real techno lover , be careful I couldn’t not agree more with this review.
    Once you find a good fit , the bass are really heavy..
    First time , I’m telling myslef too much bass ahah.

    Anyway thank you , just posted to give a feedback on this very accurate review !

    • ljokerl on

      Agreed, if there was ever an earphone to make you reconsider the concept of “too much bass”, it’s this one. Appreciate the positive feedback!

  5. R on

    I wanted to buy these iems at your recommendation but i boght instead the fx201 model. Can you compare the 301 with 201 in terms of low end? also in terms of overall sound quality. thank you

    • ljokerl on

      Sorry, never tried the FX201.

      • R on

        With 101 then? as far as i’ve heard, 101 and 201 are the same except the microphone, but i’m not sure of that. thank you

        • ljokerl on

          In that case the FR301 is actually very similar – it just has a little more of both bass and clarity, which is very impressive. But in most cases you can substitute one for the other and noone would be the wiser.

          • Acght on

            Thanks for the quick reply and insight.

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