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The wooden IEM from JVC, HA-FX850 casual review

FX850-1

Craving for some wooden IEM? Then the Wood series from JVC could be a good pair to consider. Released back in 2014, JVC Wood series line consisted of FX650, FX750, FX850 and FX1100 (or FX1200 for international version).

This is my review of FX850, which I acquire earlier this year. Priced below the flagship FX1100/FX1200, FX850 shares many similarities with the flagship sibling, including the unique 11mm “wood dome unit” dynamic driver and detachable cable.

FX850-2

Packaging, build quality and comfort

FX850 comes with a quite premium feel box, packaged in a pretty presentation, the unboxing experience is very pleasant. Included in the package are a carrying case, 3 pairs of Spiral Dots ear tips (S/M/L), 2 pairs of foam ear tips (S/M), a shirt clip and a plastic cable winder to help roll the cable. The carrying case looks nice, presented the IEM beautifully like a piece of jewellery, with foam cut to fit the FX850 perfectly, however there is no space to store the spare ear tips. While it looked awesome, I don’t think it is pratical to take around and I would recommend purchasing a separate case instead.

The FX850 build quality is very solid. There is no moving part aside of the cable rotation on the MMCX connector. The wood enclosure is a beauty to look at, with a subtle bronze colored metal ring and on the back. The cable is also very nice, it is not thick, nor really thin either, and it won’t easily tangled. Microphonic is kept to minimum and with the included shirt clip, cable management is nothing to be concerned. However, to avoid stressing the cable, I wouldn’t recommend to roll the cable with the included cable winder.

FX850-3

The cable is detachable and terminated in MMCX connectors, which is commonly used connectors in many other IEM. Cable replacement or upgrade can be easily found, although make sure to buy one without memory wire. In the other side of the cable is a straight plug, 3.5mm gold-plated jack. Overall, it is one fine cable indeed, however, I would love to see L-shaped plug like the bigger brother.

FX850 is a rather heavy IEM, weighting at 16g on the body alone. It is surprising when I first pick it up, but more surprising is that it is actually quite comfortable. The FX850 shape feels odd at first, but it is actually very easy to insert to my ear and sit there firmly. Because of the weight, it won’t feel disappear, it also doesn’t feel very secure, but it won’t fall off unless you shake your head wildly.

While some said that FX850 can be wore over-ear, I found that it’s unpleasant due to the long plug on the housing, so I can only wear it straight down. When wore straight down, the housing did stick out from my ear. As it is sticking out, laying in bed with this IEM isn’t a pleasant experience, and obviously I couldn’t sleep with this IEM in my ear.

The Spiral Dots tips is a bit short, but it sits comfortably in my ear, with an exception that after prolonged use, it could iritate my ear slightly. That is really nit-picking though, because I’m talking about 2 or 3 hours of continued use before I feel itchy and need to readjust it, in which case, you might be better to take a short rest from the IEM. The included foam tips can be a more comfortable alternative, but I found it to be inferior in sound quality compared to the Spiral Dots.

In the other hand, I found that Comply tips, the one I tried being the Comfort Plus TSX-400, is a quite good combination, although it still did alter the sound a bit. More on that later. But to me, FX850 with Comply foam tips is a step up in comfort.

Sound quality

FX850 highlight is in its bass performance. The bass hit deep, with a powerful impact and have unique texture thanks to the Spiral Dots tips. The bass performance to my ear is indeed, excellent. The big, 11mm dynamic driver might play a role here and as JVC called it “wood dome unit”, the diaphragm is apparently made from wood.

Midrange is great, slightly recessed but thankfully, the bass didn’t bleed to the midrange. I feel like it could be a little dry at times, but has a decent body and it is quite smooth.

The high on FX850 can be described as energetic, can be a bit bright and is very detailed. It can be a little harsh, especially if you are sensitive to treble. To my ear, the treble performance is very nice, it has good sparkle but not to the point to hurt my ear.

Separation between instrument is great, it also sounds quite open. It could be attributed to the fact that this IEM is vented, and as the result, it won’t isolate that well. A minus point for isolation, but is also a plus in other area, in which the IEM won’t create a pressure in your ear. If you previously wear a completely closed IEM, you might notice that when creating a complete seal, you’ll have this unpleasant pressure inside your ear and after a while, could cause ear fatigue. This is thankfully not the case with FX850.

Changing the eartips to Comply, the bass lost the texture unique to Spiral Dots, and at the same time, I also feel some bass details is lost. It added more body to the midrange and overall smoothing the sound off. It also tame the high by a decent amount, decreasing the brightness of this IEM, which is great if you are looking for that. I didn’t try the included foam tips for extended time, because I think Comply is superior, but the effect to the sound is more or less the same.

FX850 is also the most sensitive IEM I have ever owned, this is an IEM that is easy to drive from any devices and suffice to say, sounds good on any devices. Connected to DX90, I just need to set the volume around 160 on low gain. However, due to the high sensitivity, FX850 did produce a background hiss a bit when connected to noisier source, for instance my MacBook. It’s forgettable when the music start playing, but you might want to invest in some external DAC/Amp to reduce the background hiss.

FX850-4

Conclusion

A big IEM with a big sound might be the best to describe what FX850 is all about. It’s not perfect, but it also perform very well within its price range. The comfort is great despite the huge body, I highlight some issue with comfort but it’s really just nitpicking an overall comfortable IEM. Build is very solid, cable is great, the wood body is a beauty and stored like a luxury item with the included carrying case. I would happily recommend FX850 for those looking for new IEM under $300, you can find it new on Amazon for around $280.

Alternatively, you could also consider getting the FX1100 flagship. I only have a short amount of time with it, but it does sound a bit more refined, with thicker midrange and comes with different cable which terminated in angled jack. I have also spend a little time with the little brother FX750, which to my ear sounds darker but have smaller build and no detachable cable.

Thank you for reading. If you have this IEM, please kindly share your experience in the comment box below and share this post if you liked my review. I have a couple of other headphone review coming in near future as well. 🙂

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