Review by: Paolo Tellano
Source/choice of tips/cables:
Fiio X7ii (Fidelizer mod, AM3)
JVC Spiral Dots
Cable: Imperial Audio ‘Heaven’
Introduction on the maker
Imperial Audio (a.k.a Jerome Estipona) is a local IEM/Bud/Cable DIYer. He makes exceptional looking gear. To add to that, he is very accommodating. Give him a message on his Facebook account for inquiries. As for the sound, we’ll have to check if it matches the gorgeous looks of his creation.
Again, I was not paid by Jerome to do this review. He simply sent me review units and asked if I could review them. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even receive a formal packaging. All I got was a Pelican case with an IEM (the Hydra) and a modded JVC earbud (JVC Excalibur) in it. To add to that, I never really heard the JVC on its stock form. Due to this, I can’t comment on how it sounds with the stock cable compared to using the “Heaven” cable from Imperial Audio.
The cable that the DIYer sent me is his own creation as well. He decided to name it “Heaven” because he believes it literally sounds like it. It’s made of pure silver and it’s supple to the touch. Availing of these after-market cables would cost you ₱13,000 ($245).
These buds’ fit is fantastic. Back when I used earbuds, I needed to utilize donut foams to get a good fit. Which was unfortunate because I like most of my buds naked when I use them. However, I didn’t encounter this problem with the JVC Excalibur. It’s probably the rubber that they used that keeps a good seal. I had no problem whatsoever walking around with them.
As the title would suggest, it is a mid-centric earbud. It has a neutral bass response, both in extension and punch. Also, It extends well in the highs with no apparent sibilance.
The sub bass on the JVC Excalibur has adequate extension. It doesn’t have too much quantity. The mid bass also is consistent in the neutral response. It has an adequate punch, the decay is quick. It has a bit of a speedy bass. I used the following albums to test out the bass of these buds: Eminem’s “Encore” and The Black Eyed Peas’ “The E.N.D.” Specifically, the tracks “Like Toy Soldiers” and “Meet Me Halfway” showed me that the JVC Excalibur has an adequate sub bass extension and a quick decaying mid bass.
This is the highlight of these buds. If you’re going to get these, you better get them for the mids. The mids are clear and transparent without sounding too lean. It has adequate body, but I do think some might find that lacking. In my opinion, it’s just enough weight. Both male and female vocals are presented really well. They are detailed and positioned in the front. However, they aren’t shouty. The mids on these buds are crystal clear and full, to my ears. Separation is great as well. You can pick apart guitars, pianos, and snares in this frequency with ease. You guys know what I usually test mids with, that’s Ed Sheeran. His guitars are wonderfully rendered. Whether the song is aggressive or laid back. My sensitivity area is in the upper midrange. These didn’t pierce my ears in that area.
The Excalibur has a well done treble. It isn’t the highlight but I never really noticed any missing details. It extends well without being too upfront. The Excalibur provides enough treble brilliance for you to have an adequately airy stage and presentation. Cymbal crashes are detailed but not too aggressive.
Soundstage and imaging
These buds are wider than they are deeper. So yes, the guitars of My Chemical Romance’s Mr. Toro and Mr. Iero are separated. You can appreciate the guitars distinctively, even in their seemingly congested tracks such as “Famous Last Words”.
Comparison (Monk Espresso, Ty Hi-Z 150ts, and Penon BS1)
I will briefly compare the JVC Excalibur to the above mentioned buds. First, the JVC Excalibur has more sub bass extension than the monk. However, I feel like the monks have a bigger mid bass. The monks have a slower decay compared to the tight mid bass of the JVC. The mids of the Monks are more full and lush, with a tinge of air (I actually found this really addictive before). But I need to be objective and say the JVC Excalibur takes the mids because of better clarity, detail, transparency, and separation. The Monks’ highs are rolled off in comparison to a more extended treble from the Excalibur.
Comparing it to the Ty Hi-z, the 150ts just has one of the best sub bass I have ever heard in an earbud. It goes really deep. Also, it has an apparently bigger mid bass than that of the JVC Excalibur which is tuned to be more neutral. However, the 150ts mids are clear too but not on the level of the Excalibur. Again, the Excalibur takes the mids in comparison to the 150ts if we are talking about details. Lastly, the 150ts extends way higher than the Excalibur. Some people find it piercing but not in my case. The Excalibur is more controlled but it doesn’t sacrifice treble detail. To put it simply, the 150ts is an immersive experience while the JVC Excalibur has the gorgeous mids.
Lastly, the Penon BS1 Official is a warmer bud than the Excalibur. It extends deeper and has a more hearty mid bass than the Excalibur. The resolution, separation, and overall detail on the mids are tied. They present it both well, with the BS1 just having more body than the Excalibur. The BS1 also has a more forward upper midrange than that of the Excalibur. Both have good extension on the treble with the BS1 having more quantity in this frequency. The BS1 has a wider and deeper stage than the Excalibur but it’s a close call for the imaging department. I’d still give it to the BS1 but the Excalibur isn’t far off.
If these buds sounded like they do on stock cable, then it is one of the best bang for your buck buds out there. The BS1 is still better, but that costs like x10 more than the JVC on stock cable. So yes, these buds sound gorgeous. If you love your mids, these are a no-brainer. I don’t care if you have to recable them. They are punching with something x10 its pricetag. I highly recommend them for a mid-centric enthusiast or if you just like collecting buds.