‘JH Audio JH13 Pro’ Review: A Classic Flagship CIEM gets an Upgrade
Mon Jun. 8, 2015
Disclaimer: My scores are awarded after extensive comparisons with different IEMs. The scores below reflect the results of this exercise, and do not indicate my personal preference for one IEM over another. Depending on your sonic tastes, category scores may also be more relevant than the overall score. For example, a basshead should look primarily to the “Bass” sub-section; a soundstage nut should look at “Spatial”, and so on. Finally, the overall scores are an average of all the sub-section scores combined. Read more about how I did these comparisons, and about my overall scoring methodology.
Give the man some bass! These five words earned a cool $3 billion dollars for Dr Dre, and it seems the guys from JH Audio have their eye on the prize as well. The bass on the JH13 hits with great authority, and was the BA IEM that came closest to matching my Hybrids CIEMs in power. Quite a feat, considering how much more air dynamic drivers can move. In terms of quality, the bass is also nice and tight-rope tight, with nice tonality to boot. Sub-bass was okay- despite all this bass, the JH13 doesn’t set out to be a particularly warm IEM. Speed, detail and decay were also all compliant- no complaints, but nothing to write home about either.
Bass Score: 8.4 (Very Good)
Listening to the mids on the JH13, one gets the distinct impression that these were not voiced to break any records in technical performance. Evenness and timbre on the JH13’s midrange are both pretty good, contributing to an experience that would typically be rather emotional and musical. “Typically” being the key word here. You know how the best Tom Yum soup comes with a fiery, almost angry, kick that’s simply impossible to miss? That’s not what you get here. The mids on the JH13 are more like chicken soup- linear, soothing, but not the most energetic and engaging.
Clarity and detail is also not the best. Despite the good evenness, there’s somewhat of a veil throughout the mids. Weather forecast: a bit cloudy here. The detail (probably the key indicator of technical performance in my book) is also unfortunately lacking compared to the other Top of the Line IEMs in this shootout.
Make no mistake, though, this is still a Top of the Line IEM, and the mids still perform at least above average on all these metrics (this is where it’s important to remind you again that my scores have both an absolute and a relative component). The sole area where the JH13 mids are actually just average on the larger scale of things, and where it makes up the wagging-tail-end (aka last) of the shootout: mids airiness.
Midrange Score: 7.7 (Above Average)
…And then there was the treble. Apart from speed, which is actually quite good, the JH13 struggles with everything else here. Sparkle performance? Middling at best. Naturalness? Not so good. Etc, etc. You get the drift. Interestingly, a few (bad) contradictions reveal themselves in the JH13. It somehow manages to both lack sparkle in the treble, and yet, somehow, don’t ask me how, just somehow, also lack smoothness. So it straddles the unlucky duality of being both a bit dull yet a bit piercing.
BTW, you know how they say language is like clothing, and your mother tongue is like pajamas? No? That’s just me? Well, too bad. It’s after work, I’m in my pajamas, and so are my language skills. Here comes a Singaporean term, PM if you need translations. The treble extension cannot make it. The clarity? Also cannot make it.
To sum up, the treble could be more exciting and clear; comes across as a bit piercing; has tonality that’s a bit off; and has a roll-off that arrives early to the party. Probably not a surprise that the JH13 was the treble bottom-dweller among the 8 CIEMs in this shootout.
Treble Score: 6.8 (Average)
Now that’s more like it! Great imaging, just shy of the top, let down by an average performance in terms of separating instruments on a 2D plane. The JH13 does a marvelous job separating layers of depth and in creating a center image, but when trying to pick out sounds across the breadth of the sonic field… Not as good.
The soundstage is good, but others were better. I liked the airiness of the JH13’s spatial presentation, with subtle spatial ‘air’ sprinkled all over the stage, and it does a good enough job being consistent in the diffusion of the sound, too. The soundstage size is perhaps it’s most interesting trait- I sometimes felt distinctly like the JH13 had created a column of sound- nice depth and height. In terms of width, though, while it still performed above average, it fell short of the others in the shootout. Very intriguing, actually, since most IEMs do best with width and worst with height.
Spatial Score: 8.6 (Very Good)
I really, really enjoyed the full, well-articulated notes of the JH13. They’re almost at the top in this regard. Unfortunately, because there’s a lack of musical resonance, the JH13 comes across as a gorilla walking in a swamp. You’ll still be able to make out the awesomely distinct outlines of every note, but the musical energy seems trapped, almost unable to extend out freely and cleanly.
PRaT is okay, although far from the best. The overall balance also could be better. It feels like the midrange would prosper in the hands of a less measured, more energetic chef. On the other hand the treble needs to be seasoned with a lighter touch, but bring with it a heavier kick. Asking for too much?
General Qualities Score: 7.8 (Above Average)