‘Jerry Harvey Audio JH13 Pro’ Review: A Classic Flagship CIEM gets an Upgrade
Mon Jun. 8, 2015
Clear Tune Monitors CT-6E Elite ($1000)
The CT-6E and JH13 are both 6-driver acrylic IEMs Made in USA. The two have bass that’s relatively on-par. The CT-6E has better quality (speed and detail) mid-bass that sacrifices some firepower in comparison to the JH13, but then again most do. Conversely the JH13 does better in sub-bass, especially sub-bass slam, although extension is rather close. Timbre of the bass is very good on both.
The mids on both sets are also relatively similar, although if you read my review on the CT-6E, by this point you wouldn’t be surprised that the JH13 has much, much more even mids. Overall, the energy is similar, but even with a huge dip to hold it back, the CT-6E nudges ahead- if only barely. Both IEMs have mids that are not very airy, and while the JH13 has much better timbre and tone in the midrange, the situation is reversed for clarity and detail, for which the CT-6E come out in front, although by a smaller margin. All in all, these are the two lowest scoring sets of mids in this shootout.
The treble of the two couldn’t be more different. Like, seriously. The CT-6E’s treble is stunningly good, with clarity, smoothness, and sparkle that’s so much better than the JH13 that I had to censor this sentence to remove the adjectives I really wanted to use. The CT-6E treble also sounds much more natural overall. The two are just about on-par, though, where it comes to speed (good) and extension (not good).
While the CT-6E owns the JH13 in the treble, the Empire Strikes Back where it comes to spatial performance. While the CT-6E has a bigger soundstage, it suffers tremendously on a lack of consistency and natural diffusion of the sound. The JH13 does much better in this regard. Both have good airiness in the spatial presentation and have relatively similar imaging of depth and breadth, but the JH13 forms a strikingly better center image that’s much more coherent and precise.
In terms of general qualities, the differences are probably not surprising. I wrote that the CT-6E had wicked good PRaT (or something to that effect, depending on what I pulled out of my bottomless pit of adjectives). The JH13 on the other hand has PRaT that’s a solid single, but I wouldn’t try to go for that second base if I were you. Ironically, even though the JH13 is not really all that balanced, the CT-6E is worse. The same goes for musical resonance, although the gap is tinier here. I’ve saved the biggest canyon between the two for last, however. Compared to the JH13, the CT-6E has notes that are significantly less distinct and well-articulated.
Lear Audio LCM BD4.2 ($1290)
The bass compares mostly as expected, given that the Lear LCM BD4.2 posts not one but two dynamic drivers. In the default position (which was my favourite, and I’m guessing Lear’s too) the BD4.2 just edges the JH13 in terms of authoritativeness, but does much better in decay and sub-bass- two traditional areas of strengths for dynamic bass drivers. The two reproduce bass timbre with equal aplomb, although the BD4.2 has marginally better bass detail. One clear area where dynamic drivers tend to fall behind, however, is speed, and the JH13 takes due advantage, showing up to the fight with bass that’s clearly quicker and faster. Overall, I actually had the JH13 slightly ahead on mid-bass, but behind on sub-bass. Not a bad showing at all.
On the other hand, the mids on the Lear simply smoke the JH13. The JH13 is bettered in every single department, with the biggest gaps in performance coming in clarity and detail. Even though the JH13 has relatively even mids, the BD4.2 does even better, coming in as one of the top performers in this regard. In fact, in this head-to-head, mids on the BD4.2 really come across as beautifully even and clear throughout. Nice. On another area of strength for the JH13- mids timbre- the BD4.2 also manages to poke its nose slightly in front, although this was very much a photo-finish. Summing up, in two areas where the JH13 is not strong- mids energy and airiness- the BD4.2 performs better, but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think you would label the BD4.2’s midrange as overly energetic or airy either.
The treble is a similar story. Save for speed, where the JH13 actually does quite well and the BD4.2 shoots a bogey, the BD4.2 is a much stronger performer overall. Smoothness and clarity are top notch on the BD4.2 treble- night and day from the JH13, really. Sparkle is also much better on the BD4.2. These traits combine for a treble on the BD4.2 that’s much more fun and exciting, yet unlike the JH13, never bursts the dam of sibilance. There were two areas where I felt neither IEM separated itself, though- treble extension and naturalness.
The Empire Strikes Back again (maybe I should start calling the JH13 “Darth Vader”) in the spatial arena. Not unlike with the CT-6E, the BD4.2 has a bigger soundstage than the JH13, in all three dimensions to boot. Airiness is also better on the BD4.2, although this is not a slight against the JH13 but more an acknowledgement of just how much the BD4.2 manages to fill the air with sublime, analog cues. Consistency is better on the JH13, though- with the BD4.2 sounding a little diffused in comparison. Where it comes to imaging, the two are basically opposites. The JH13 does extremely well in depth and centre; whereas the BD4.2 creams the crop with the separation of the breadth. Overall, the JH13 comes out ahead in terms of spatial presentation.
Finally, if not for the beautifully distinct notes on the JH13, the BD4.2 would win the comparison in the general qualities. In fact, next to the BD4.2, it almost seems like the JH13 has been going to the gym over the course of this review, building up even more definition in its notes, with the BD4.2’s notes being far less articulated. More happily, the BD4.2 has much better musical resonance, more harmony in the frequency response, and just ever so slightly keener PRaT.
It’s close, but the AAW W500 has the edge in the mid-bass, mostly because of much better authority. Given how much power the JH13 already has, this is mind-blowing. The AAW W500 mid-bass is like a rocket launcher. You know that trail of air you see in the movies as the rocket is launched? That’s the AAW W500’s super-natural decay, and the JH13 has no chance. Besides, the AAW W500 hits like a rocket launcher, too. Moving on, when it comes to sub-bass, the AAW W500 had this fight at ‘hello’, with significantly better slam and extension all around. On the plus-side, the JH13 has better timbre overall in the bass and marginally better speed and detail.
Where it comes to the mids, this is gonna be short and sweet. Apart from detail, where the JH13 is so slightly ahead that I’m tempted to just call it a tie, the AAW W500 comes out ahead in everything else. Switching between the JH13 and AAW W500, the biggest difference in the mids is in the clarity, although the first thing that will probably strike you about the AAW W500 is how beautifully even the mids are. Incidentally, I wrote above that the JH13 had good mid evenness too- well, the AAW W500 is better. The AAW W500 also has a significantly more energetic midrange, and marginally better airiness and timbre. For those keeping count at home, that’s basically everything.
If you’ve read the Lear BD4.2 treble comparison, it’s the same story here. AAW clocks in with slower speed, but with better everything else. Clarity, smoothness, naturalness, sparkle and even extension are all clearly worse on the JH13, and frankly it’s not even close. Actually I’m going to save some ink here because the next paragraph is where the Empire has now Struck Back twice and that may be more interesting.
It’s been a while since I watched the Star Wars trilogy, but I do remember that Darth Vader was seemingly all-mighty before Luke Skywalker came along. Well, that’s also the story of the JH13 spatial presentation meeting the AAW W500’s. How much better is the AAW W500? Let me count the ways. One: bigger soundstage (mainly ‘cos of better width). Two: better diffusion. Three: better airiness. Four: better imaging, especially breadth. So what’s the verdict? I jest, I jest- just felt like throwing in a classic rhetorical question to keep things interesting…
Lastly, the AAW W500’s notes are actually very well articulated in their own right- the JH13 is just more so. Shifting gears, PRaT on both IEMs are good, although the JH13 is faster than rhythmic and the AAW W500 is the opposite. The AAW W500 does perform better in some general areas, though. When it comes to overall balance, the AAW W500 can count itself among the elite, and comparison with the JH13 really shows how much more the latter has to work on. Finally, the AAW W500 also has much better musical resonance (no swamp-like dampening here).
With a nice bass presentation and spatial qualities that are actually pretty good, it’s a bit of a shame that the JH13 is let down by its mid-range and treble. Overall, though, this is still a capable IEM, and after all these years, the JH13 still manages to go toe-to-toe with the other flagships, acquitting itself relatively well in the process.
Pros: Authoritative bass for a Balanced Armateur driver; strong depth imaging; relatively big and airy soundstage; thick, weighty notes
Cons: Treble that’s both a tad dull and piercing; mid-range could do with a bit more air, detail and energy
Overall Score: 78.4 (Very Good)
In case you missed it, check out the IEMs reviewed in other installments of “Fit for a Bat!” Coming next: IEM number five. Stay tuned!