“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” -Arthur C. Clarke
Maybe that quote is a little too much, but the JH Audio JH-16 Pro custom in-ear monitors are very darn close to magic. If you want to know the background of JH Audio, please check out my review of the JH-5M custom in-ear monitor. Essentially, the JH-16 Pro is the JH-5M on crack. Imagine the pure awesomeness of those two drivers pouring delicious music right into your ear canals while muffling everything else surrounding you, times four. That’s right, instead of two drivers per speaker, there’s eight!! That’s simply INSANE!
What your $1,149 gets you
Seriously though, the precision and knowledge that go into producing quite possibly the world’s best headphones comes from a man with experience dating back to the days of Van Halen’s popularity. Jerry Harvey invented the traditional custom in-ear monitors (Marty Garcia of Futuresonics actually was the first to design earbuds with custom ear molds) and his JH-16 creation is the culmination of decades of work. Housing two tweeters, two mid-range monitors, and FOUR low-range monitors, the JH-16 creates true audio bliss.
The JH-16 Pro
Keep in mind that that houses 8 separate speakers all inside your ears
The side facing the inside of your ears
I’m not saying that the JH-16 Pro are perfect for everything. It’s true that there is slight emphasis on the sub-bass range (around 70 Hz) which makes the JH-16 less than perfect for mastering and the price tag is the same as five new iPhones, but when you’re looking for the best, that doesn’t matter. The JH-16 Pro aren’t the white iPod earbuds that seemingly everyone is wearing nowadays. They are a status symbol by themselves. At a crisp $1,149, they aren’t for high schoolers either.
All of JH Audio’s products require custom ear molding by a trained audiologist. So add on another $50-100 to the tab. Also, shipping isn’t free, so that’s another few bucks on top. Oh, and you’re probably going to want to rip all of your music from CD into lossless files. You might want a new cable made out of precious metals. Then you might want to run the sound through an amplifier and digital/analogue converter. Still, if you want to hear perfect sound, that won’t matter. JH Audio also offers occasional discounts such as free molding and $100 off to those who are attending CanJam, the international headphone festival hosted in Chicago this year. And you don’t really need a new cable or amplifier… your iPod is good enough for almost everyone.
Once they receive your impressions, a custom shell is made out of acrylic with whichever color you choose. You can get custom artwork applied to the faceplate for $50. It’s worth it too, as these will probably be the last set of headphones you ever buy.
So now that you know how they’re made and how much you’re going to have to save in order to buy them, you’re probably wondering why you should spend so much money on something that could get destroyed in the washing machine. The reason is because these things will inexplicably blow your mind. Between the amazingly crisp treble and the instant thumping bass, the entire sound spectrum from 20,000 Hz down to 20 Hz is reproduced with such clarity and mind numbing excellence that you will want to listen to all of your music all over again. And it doesn’t matter what genre you’re listening to. Besides a very small list of songs where the bass just sounds a little too strong, everything is better than you remembered it. Everything sounds live. If you close your eyes, you can see Jimmy Page standing right in front of you with John Bonham behind, Robert Plant in front, and John Paul Jones to the right playing your personal rendition of “Stairway to Heaven.” To a lot of people, that’s worth WAY more than the $1,149 price tag. Who wouldn’t want daily concerts featuring every single one of their favorite artists? It would be pretty difficult to get 50 Cent opening for Miles Davis anyway, even if you could resurrect the dead.
As a warning however, make sure you don’t play anything under 128 kbps as you will probably want to jump off a bridge. The JH-16 Pro are so good that you can hear how terrible some music sounds. Stick with Apple Lossless, FLAC, CDs, or higher quality audio. A good portion of Pop music, even on CD, is mastered so poorly that you can hear many odd quirks so watch out for that as well.
So, now that you’ve heard about what it can do– you must want a set. What do you have to do to get a set of your own? Well, you can head over to JH Audio’s website or you could go to one of their licensed audiologists who will throw in a set of impressions for free. Mine were molded by Beth Orliss of Hearing Dynamics. For a complete listing, check their preferred audiologists page. Doing this will likely save you the hassle of sending your new earbuds back to get tweaked for a more comfortable fit.
If you think these are crazy, JH Audio just announced another set of JH-16 Pros coupled with a brand new digital crossover system which is supposedly 50% better than what’s currently available. It’s priced at $1748 and is called the JH-3A system.