If, like me, much of your past listening experience has been gleaned through exposure to high-quality universal-fit in-ear headphones, then the jump to custom-fit in-ear ‘phones will likely prove a sonic revelation, for several good reasons.
First, there is the matter of noise isolation, which with most custom fit models—the JH16 Pro included—is dramatically superior to the best that universal-fit models can achieve. Interestingly, this difference isn’t something you can tell from a specifications page, since some universal-fit models claim isolation specs roughly as good as (if not better than) the -26 dB isolation figure specified for the JH Audio JH16 Pros. Instead, it’s a difference you can only appreciate through firsthand listening experiences. Under real-world conditions the JH Audios proved substantially quieter than their universal fit counterparts—and by not subtle margins. Frankly, you won’t believe how much residual noise there is, even in seemingly quiet rooms —until you hear a good set of custom-fit in-ear ‘phones such as the JH Audios make most if not all of that noise disappear. By creating extremely quiet backgrounds, the JH16 Pros also provide an environment in which you can hear what their driver’s are doing and fully appreciate the resolution and finesse the driver’s have on offer.
One point I should mention is that while custom-fit in-ear ‘phones offer characteristically better noise-isolation that universal-fit models, there are meaningful differences between the amounts of noise isolation achieved by different brands of custom fit earpieces. Having compared the JH Audios to several other top-tier custom-fit models (see Competitive Analysis, below), their noise isolation is very good, but not the best that can be achieved.
Second, the JH16 Pro’s offer wonderfully neutral and accurate voicing and tonal balance—an area where they are at least the equals of the best in-ear models I’ve heard thus far. There is always a sense of evenhandedness and proportion about the JH16 Pro’s sound, so that no one segment of the audio spectrum is emphasized at the expense of another. Instead, the JH16 Pros are remarkably honest transducers that steadfastly refuse to “punch up” one frequency band or another in ways that might seem exciting at first, but that ultimately don’t sound quite right. Long after the short-term thrill of more “colorful” but less accurate headphones has faded the neutrality of the JH16 Pros remains a gift that keeps on giving, making these headphones a more satisfying choice for long-term listening.
Third, the JH Audios offer excellent overall resolution and detail, so that they invite you to explore the inner “nooks and crannies” of well-made recordings. But unlike many in-ear headphones that offer detail at the expense of a somewhat glassy, bright or overly forward sound, the JH16 Pros are instead revealing in a delightfully natural and unforced way. Details just “happen” with these headphones; they never take dominance over the fundamentals of the sound. Frankly, I can think of only a handful of full-size ‘phones that offer as much (or in a few cases more) resolution than the JH16 Pros, but most of them are large, open-back designs that offer little if any isolation from background noise. In contrast, the JH16 Pros serve up a consistently detailed sound even when used in relatively “hostile,” noisy environments.
One beautiful jazz track that shows off many of the JH16 Pro’s strengths is “Le Temps Passe” from Michel Jonasz’ Le Fabuleuse Histoire De Mister Swing [EMI]. This is a well recorded track that gives both instruments and the singer’s voice a rich, intimate quality that the JH Audio’s seem uniquely well-qualified to reproduce. Listen to the sparse percussion with which the track opens and note the dry, taut “skin sounds” of the drums, and the way the JH16 Pros capture the rich, reverberant sound of their notes interacting with the acoustics of the recording space. Then, pay close attention to the synth voices that enter, some of which produce positively subterranean bass. The low-end power of the JH16 Pros is much in evidence on those synth notes, but so, too, is their tautness and control. Low frequency notes are potent and deeply extended, but never loose, overblown, or out of control.