- Sound quality No comments
- Design and form factor No comments
- Comfort No comments
- Noise isolation No comments
- Durability No comments
First, some background. Jerry Harvey is a veteran magician of custom in-ear monitors. He is the man solely responsible for all of Ultimate Ears's custom line before the company was purchased by Logitech. His UE5c/Pro, UE7pro, UE10pro, and UE11pro models are used by touring bands all over the world. He is a legend of custom in-ear monitor design.
For the record, the UE11 uses four independent balanced armatures with a three-way crossover network per earpiece (2 for bass, 1 for midrange, 1 for treble). The JH13 Pro shatters that previous record with a total of six balanced armatures per earpiece (2 for bass, 2 for midrange, 2 for treble) with a three-way crossover network. And the armatures used in the JH13 Pro aren't run-of-the-mill ones (e.g. Knowles), but ones Jerry Harvey sought out and fabricated himself that are at least twice as fast as any other balanced armature on the market. It also costs $50 less than the UE11 ($1099 vs. $1150).
The JH13 Pro melts into your ear, particularly because it's designed for your ears only. As a custom in-ear monitor, I had to schedule an appointment with a local audiologist to get silicone impressions of my ear canals. The process was painless, relatively cheap ($50, compared to the price of the product), and comfortable invasive (silicone in your ears feels.. interesting). You ship these impressions of your ears to JH Audio along with your order form (or order confirmation if you've ordered online), and then they scan your impressions and custom-craft your own unique earpieces.
This results in an unparalleled combination of passive sound isolation and paradigm comfort. JHAudio advertises -26dB of isolation, and this is about right in the bustling metropolis of Manhattan. The Etymotic ER-4P isolates more to my ears with its triple-flanges (over 30dB, going by ear), but they're not even 20% as comfortable. Nor do they sound 20% as good.
The first track I played through them, "Trains" by Porcupine Tree, quite simply caused me to fall to my knees and welled tears in my eyes. I hadn't heart such an emotive and beautifully effusive headphone for many years. I can't really go into much detail into the sound because I'd try to be finding flaws, and flaws don't really exist in the JH13 Pro. The speed (and pacing/rhythm/attack/decay [PRAT]), bass, midrange, treble, imaging, and soundstage are all perfect. Playing live tracks through them simply puts me "there." I'll be saving thousands of dollars from not having to go to concerts (only being half-serious here), and I'll be saving my ears from hearing damage at the same time.
The JH13 Pro also scales well with my desktop setup, including various discrete DACs and headphone amplifiers. I'm still astonished that it manages to sound better than all but two headphones I've heard (those being the Stax O2 electrostat, and the Sony MDR-R10, the latter of which is out-of-production; neither are as comfortable, portable, source-agnostic, or weightless) simply out of my lowly iPhone 3GS, even when the other headphones are mated to discrete equipment costing thousands.
If you are interested in nothing less than the best, the JH13 Pro is the ticket to the very top: it represents the summit of sound, the culmination of headphone technology as we know it. It is best-in-class, so much so that it creates a class of its own.
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