By Ken Van Druten

It seemed strange that Bill Evans asked me to review the new JH16 Pro freqphase IEMs because I really have not mixed monitors in many years.  I’ve been a FOH engineer for most of my career, although, I have kept up with the technology advances in in-ear technology (many of these advances attributed to Jerry Harvey) and have purchased in-ears along the way.  My first pair were Westone’s. Basically, they were hearing aides, amplified.  Boy, did they sound horrible. But the novelty of having speakers in your ear canals, and being totally closed off from outside sound influences was amazing.

But I now understand the method to the mad genius behind Bill asking me to review this new generation of IEMs.  FOH engineers have been using waveguide technology for years.  In 1993 L-Acoustics came out with a line array system that revolutionized FOH speaker technology.  At the heart of this technology was a DOSC waveguide, and it drove what was known as Wavefront Sculpture Technology theory.  I know, I know, a lot of fancy words there.  This can be explained basically by taking high frequency, mid frequency, and low frequency drivers and aligning them so that they behave as if the sound was radiating from a single source.  In this way you get a way more coherent wavefront that improves horizontal and vertical coverage dramatically.  Every modern line array that came after V-DOSC uses some kind of waveguide.

Enough with the history lesson.  What makes these IEMs different from the competition?  JH Audio has managed to take a nod from the same waveguide technology, and have aligned HF, MF, and LF frequency drivers in earbuds so that they arrive at the same time in your ear canal.  The result is a superior audio experience in many different ways.  

PREP

If you have ever had custom IEMs made, then you know the drill. Personally, I hate it. Squirting silicone in my ears and completely shutting my ear canals off from the world is extremely uncomfortable for me.  I don’t like listening to the inside of my head.  I have a similar experience in anechoic chambers.  It’s a small price to pay for the result, but getting impressions of my ear canals are about as much fun as pulling my fingernails out with a pair of pliers.  The first time I got impressions made, I had to sit without moving for an excruciating 15 minutes.  It was awful.  Nowadays it just takes a few minutes and the overall experience was actually almost pleasant.

Two weeks later, I ripped open that FedEx package containing my new pair of IEMs like a giddy school boy.  I knew they were gonna be good, but I didn’t know HOW good until I popped them in my ears.

Immediately, I noticed a clarity and performance that I had not experienced from any other product (including previous models of JH Audio buds).   

The most notable was the stereo spectrum improvement.  Every little nuance of recorded material was accurately reproduced in it’s intended position within left and right.  It reminded me of the moment when I heard waveguide technology in FOH speakers for the first time.  A significant improvement over older technology.  I believe this to be all important in critical listening of current music.  There is so many nuances in recorded and live music of today.  Finding room for all of those instruments within the stereo spectrum (depth, left, and right) has proven to be more and more difficult.  Gain, EQ, and placement are the tools of a mixer, and accurate reproduction of these things are what make for great sounding mixes.  The JH16 Pro freqphase reproduce depth, left, and right like no other product I have heard.

INTERVIEW WITH JERRY HARVEY ABOUT FREQPHASE

The multi-drivers in these buds keep on trucking even at extreme volumes, and even more importantly reproduce accurately at low volumes.  I won’t get into the whole discussion of hearing loss in our younger generations here, but let’s just say – It’s nice to have a product that you DON’T have to turn up to ear damaging levels in order to have it sound good. (Ed. Note: Pooch wont. But the Rev. WILL. My left ear rings 24/7. And it is straight up damage from playing and mixing loud shows over several decades. It sucks. Turn it the f%#$ down!)

The JH16 Pro freqphase IEMs are a game changer.  In-ear monitor engineers will revel in the ability to reproduce record quality mixes for their artists.  They will place instruments with pinpoint accuracy, and never run out of headroom.  Artists will be able to turn down because of this accuracy.

For me as a user that mostly listens to recorded music thru my ears, these buds make me want to explore new forms of data compression that don’t destroy the sound quality.  These buds are TOO GOOD for .mp3 files.  They deserve better.  I found myself scouring my music collection for .wav files to listen to with these in-ears.  Guess I am going to have to revisit my collection and resample.  Damn you, JH Audio.

OTHER VOICES

Review on the Inner Fidelity website by Tyll Hertsens