JH16 Pro FreqPhase – The SubFrequency Demigod
As if the original JH16 custom monitor wasn’t grandiose enough, Jerry Harvey upgraded its potential with a phase coherence boost, resulting in one of the most sadistically bassy, fun and musical headphones that human ears can be blessed with. The new upgrade allows for each general area of the audio frequency response ( lows, mids and highs ) to lessen the likelihood of bleeding into each other, a fact that is proven to be true when bass boost or equalization is applied to the source while using the JH16’s. Simply put, the bass, mids and treble are entities in and of themselves and will not intertwine with each other. The technology of the “Freqphase” allows bass, midrange and treble to reach the ear at as close to the same time as possible, near total alignment of the frequency response itself in each of the three major categories of listening. The tone of this headphone is near perfect to me, as I would rate it the most fun, lively and musical tone available without ever feeling overly colored or too neutral.
The low end of the JH16 is excessively robust and weighted. This is one of two true bass head experiences available inside this report. If bass is your thing, look no further in the portable world. One problem I’ve encountered that really grinds my gears with regard to the bass experience on the JH16 would be texture…there simply isn’t much there and I find it incredibly annoying to have such clarity and quantity combined with lackluster substance. Thankfully, the bass experience isn’t overly punchy and it retains just the right amount of interesting slam appeal to it to be considered engaging in the utmost sense of the word. I wish the overall clarity and texture of the low end were more like an upgrade Audeze LCD3 or XC, something more pure and pristine instead of solid and firm. I fully understand that some people prefer the more resolute and reserved JH13 low end, one that offers less quantity and a more clean approach, but I also am a bass head in my own right and really am dissatisfied with myself that so few other Summit headphones are capable of achieving bass quantity like this without complete loss of control. Most Summit headphones offer a more reference or balanced attempt to the sound signature, but not the JH16. This is for those who want to rock out, not those who want a clinical or reference experience.
Due to the Phase tech upgrade, the midrange flows freely away from the low end and treble. Combined with the naturally forward sound signature in the vocal experience, the JH16 midrange is nothing short of amazing to me. Not the slightest bit or haze or nasalness, harshness or warping…which are common place in a few popular Summit level headphones like the AKG K812, Sennheiser HD800 and even the Audeze LCD3. Boiled down, the upper midrange peaks are simply sparkled and well controlled at all times. With that in mind, I’d be completely satisfied with all of that alone, yet the JH16 FreqPhase took it a step beyond and offered a very nice solidity factor to the entire frequency range. The HD800 sounds thin by comparison and the JH16 actually is nearer the level of the Stax 007 in terms of that high definition, physical body and solid weight to the sound signature.
Shockingly enough, we haven’t even gotten to the treble yet…which is the JH16’s most well defining feature. The upper end of this headphone sounds like the HD800 should when it plays a properly recorded track under fantastic source and amplification. Like looking at a lake glistening in the moonlight in the twilight hours of the night, the JH16 treble is nothing short of beauteous with a stunning sparkling brightness to it, one that is never harsh and rarely sibilant. The light and gorgeous treble only accentuates the spacious feel of the stereo imaging this custom offers, which is top tier in the world of customs. Sound staging is excellent and of the largest calibur I’ve ever heard in a custom monitor, retaining exellent depth, width and separation qualities. Height is a downfall as a stereo imaging quality, but not worthy of griping about further.
The Most Interesting Comparisons
JH16 vs HD800
Of course, the HD800 is significantly more spacious and vast sounding, however I find the JH16 to mercilessly destroy the HD800 in the musicality department more often than not. Under proper rig pairing, the HD800 is stellar. However, without it the HD800 is lackluster and boring, severely lacking a low end and beautiful treble response that is omnipresent with the JH16 at all times. The HD800 is much thinner sounding with regard to the sonic signature and the weight the spectrum carries, the JH16 is more thick and solid. Despite that, the HD800 is still more clear everywhere accept the treble, which I feel the JH16 to rival and exceed by a small degree when both are at their best. The JH16 isn’t nearly as realistic or deep, but for a custom monitor there really aren’t many others that can even compare, let alone surpass. The JH16 is wildly fun and addictive, far from the reference of clinical appeal the HD800 with tonality.
JH16 vs Stax 007
I found is shocking that the notorious electrostatic solid-body sound signature approach wasn’t really incredibly superior to the JH16. Solidity is a hard thing to come by outside of the electrostatic headphone world, not even the best Planar’s offer yummy, vibrantly realistic physical weight and definition. The headphones offer a similar shape to their presentations: wider than tall, mildly deep and spacious, powerful low end, beautiful treble and a gently forward midrange. If there were a natural progression from the JH16 in a full size headphone, I think the Stax 007 would be it. No doubt, the 007’s are vastly superior in most ways but even then the JH16 still bests them in tone and overall perfect coloration to the setup. The 007 is noticeably darker and more vivid, the JH16 background is a fair bit brighter and more present.
JH16 vs AKG K812
These two headphones share some similar qualities between them. As much as I enjoy the JH16, I do find the low end very similar in texture and thickness ( lack of clarity ) to the K812’s own low end. With that comes a sense of muddiness that I am not fond of in the slightest, no question the JH16 is capable of much more bass quantity. The midrange of the K812 sounds noticeably more forward, but also more thin and hazed, especially so on the upper midrange areas that sound absolutely nasal by comparison to the JH16. It was no surprise to me that the treble response on the JH16 offers a one-punch knock out on the K812, besting it significantly in every way, shape and form. Quality, texture, quantity and style are leagues ahead on the JH16 as the K812’s treble lags behind without the slightest chance of catching up.
Rig Recommendations: Avoid neutral sounding sources and amplifiers, as they will completely ruin the stunningly colored treble of the JH16. Amplification is not at all needed if you are running off a USB Dac or a portable source, better to stick with the highest quality source you can find and skip amplification entirely. The JH16 certainly benefits a bit from a balanced cable and rig, but it really isn’t needed in this case since the JH16 offers so much bass quantity to begin with. Players like the Astell and Kern AK120, the Fiio X5 and the iBasso DX90 are all this headphone needs to sound grand. I’ve found the headphone to be the most sensitive to background fuzz while pairing with a desktop rig ( check with the manufacturer to make sure your amp or Dac is safe to use with a custom monitor ). Seek a forward midrange amplification with a reputation for having great treble response. Forward midrange is also vital in your rig, so make sure to opt for sources and amplifiers that are notorious for outputting a forward midrange.
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