Disclaimer: I do not own this earphone. I want to own this earphone. I’ll do almost anything to own this earphone. It was lent me for a few days for a photo shoot. For that reason, please consider this an immature review. It is JVC’s latest-gen, and 10th anniversary, wood dome series earphone, which begun with the HA-FX500 in 2008. It is glorious. It houses a single dynamic wood dome driver and, at e-Earphone, goes for roughly 1550$ USD. You can find out all about it here: Everything for sound - FW10000.
Before earphones really blew up, I publicly flirted with a number of then-obscure Japanese earphones. FitEar was my biggest break. Final Audio was on its heals. In 2008 I snagged the HP-FX500, JVC’s first wood-dome earphone. I loved it. I hated it. Eventually I broke it. In its wake I was left with an FX500-shaped hole, defined by out-of-head staging and other wordly texture detail. I was also left with a weariness for its piercing highs. More than that, I was left with an ardent dedication to the dynamic driver. I’ve since scoured the market for dynamic driver earphones as impactful and detailed as the FX500. Sadly, not even JVC’s follow ups: the HA-FW02 (which I reviewed here), and the like, did the trick.
Last week, queued for a magazine shoot, a small box arrived in my studio. In it was the HP-FX10000, JVC’s tenth anniversary wood dome earphone. I polished it. I shot it. I packed it back up and called the courier. Then, with no indication from my publisher that I had to immediately return it, I knifed the box, froze the courier, and embarked on one of the most obscene short-term audio adventures of my life.
I love the HP-FW10000 and here is why.
Haptics and Build: ohmage and porridge
Around its middle the FW10000 wears lacquered, stained wood. That wood sits in stainless steel caps at its butt, fulcrum, and sound tube. It wears fine nylon grills, and is ported front and rear. The grills gum up pretty fast, but otherwise, the FW10000 is rock solid. It also bears the marks and fine blemishes of a hand-made product. Inside, the wood dome hangs in a titanium cage, and is pinioned on carbon ligaments. Behind the driver is a good helping of thick, damping material, and the right amount of air. These earphones are heavy, solid, and precious. The MMCX ports are well-anchored in stainless steel. They won’t be going anywhere. They are colour-coded, red for right, blue for left.
The cable is heavy JVC stock. It has a solid core, which, unless properly racked, resists stretching. It resists body oil and sweat, and is only barely susceptible to touch noise. The y-split is a simple, slim affair in sand-blasted aluminium. Its cinch is a bugger. It is too loose, slipping up and down in thrall to gravity’s every whim. The plug is well protected by a thick, supple stress relief, but as you can see the glue that holds its metal sleeve together is weak.
Despite its weight, the FW10000 is comfy, if tricky to insert. It sticks out of the ear and never sits flush. Surprisingly, the cinch stays put when the earphone is inserted. It appears that a gentle y-shape, formed by inserting the earphones into the ears, is enough to keep it in place.
JVC’s finest earphones came in a beat up shipping box, apparently scored, waxed, and bumped, by legions of magazine and web reviewers. This complicated the photographic process. In its box is five sets of spiral dot ear pieces, and a form-fitting display/carrying case. For the price, it isn’t much. The box is cheap and the case is far from practical. Sure, it protects the earphones when on display, but on the road, it is worthless.
As is a JVC wood dome earphone. Nothing about it is kitschy.
Wonderful for Minidisc lovers like me, the FW10000 isn’t super sensitive to hiss. This means I can plug it into some of my favourite pre-MDLP recorders without undue distraction.
While not a physical beauty, the FW10000 is the most beautiful-sounding earphone I’ve heard in years. Its midrange stereo scape is wide, detailed, and, thanks to good space on the z-axis and a small lift on the y, involving. It’s not got the immediate feel you get from a Grado, it’s got the sort of in-the-music feel you get sitting in the sweet spot of a nice 2,1 channel audio system.
Low frequency sound pressure is strong in the mid to upper lows, and just south of neutral at the ear in the sub region. Mainstage‘s intro seconds flutter only barely, but after that, a firm, resolved, textured, and stereo-wide bass takes over. And that bass is superlative. Channel and band transitions both from low to high bass, and then to mids, are fluid.
Whilst describing early impressions at discord, I was asked if I didn’t find the FW10000 bright. No, I don’t. Part of that is that I love bright sounding headphones and earphones. The other part is that is that the FW10000’s brightness is only edge-sharp. It is sibilant free and bright through the upper mids, but neutral if not diffuse, beyond that. In short, it is unique among JVC’s wood dome earphones in that keeps peaky highs from poking through your eyeballs.
It’s control of reverb is perfect. Attack speed is good and decaying edges never splash or hang. Despite this, vocals are anatomically correct, wet, and perfectly positioned. Chimes and bells echo sweetly, never holding on too long, never chopping off too quick. The FW10000’s brightest band is just beyond the typical female vocalist range. Sound stage is both deep and wide, and puts you in the music. At times, percussion can get hot, but it isn’t buttressed by the ridiculous amounts of high-end pressure endemic to many JVC wood dome earphones. Treble heads will love it, but may want more bite. Neutral heads may initially think the FW10000 bright, but given time, I think they’ll find it glorious. What will win them out is a midrange spacious and rich and which pulls all attention into itself.
As long as you don’t need gobs of bass, or heaps of pressure way up top, the FW10000 has loads to offer. It is bright where needed and heavy where it should be. The mids are textured, lush, and spacious. There is nothing scratchy, aggressive, or annoying about it. Again, to JVC’s wood dome range, this is new.
It nails my preferences like no earphone I’ve heard.
The Ocharaku Flat4 Sakura Plus has even more midrange detail, but it gets scratchy, and fast, and sometimes it renders strings too dry and unemotional. The FW10000’s midrange is wider than FitEar’s Parterre, and balances against high bass better the ToGo!334. It’s got some of the warmth of the Flare Audio Flares Gold, but its midrange is wider, and more detailed. In fact, it ties together the basic idiosyncrasies of two of my favourite earphones: Astell & Kern’s AKT8iE MKII and Beyerdynamic’s Xelento. And it does this whilst remaining wider and more detailed than the former, and richer than the latter.
In a word, it is perfect.
I had only a few days with the FW10000, so consider these impressions bitter sweet if not immature. I’m considering selling the farm, including Ocharaku’s Sakura Plus, to get them. This is saying a lot. For the price, the accessories and quality of display are poor. Everything else is gold.