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In Review: JH Audio JH11 PRO

Posted on December 25th, 2010

First off, Merry Christmas to everyone! I’m finding myself with a bit of time between (gargantuan) meals and I thought that I’d spend it writing about something that I gave to myself as a bit of an early Christmas present.

My last pair of earphones broke, and I was looking to replace them with something that I could use for daily mp3 player use, and for whenever I play guitar at church. Enter the JH11 PRO in-ear monitors. The folks over at Sennheiser, Shure, Klipsch, Bose, Sony, and almost any other big-name headphone company have nothing on these. Let’s just start off with the coup-de-grace: these babies are custom-built.

Before placing my order for the monitors, I went and visited a local audiologist to have impressions made of my ear. This was a rather intriguing experience as I found myself in a small room on what felt like a dentist’s chair (although it was kept upright). A nice lady, the doctor, inserted what looked like a caulking tube in my ear and let forth a pink, gummy-like substance in my ear. (She inserted cotton first to make sure that this stuff didn’t interfere with the pink stuff God gave me.)

The cool sensation was a little startling, and the substance began to expand to fill in all of the space. Over the next few minutes, I sat there in this little office completely oblivious to any noise that was going on around me; the seal was that good. When the doctor returned and removed the now-solid impressions, she put them into a box which I would then send to JH Audio.

Before I did that, though, I went onto the JH Audio site to choose the design of my in-ears. I could have sent them some artwork that they would then screen onto the exterior of the ear pieces but I thought that was a little weird. I elected to get a translucent black set, just so that people won’t think that they are hearing aids. Also, black goes with everything. After the order was confirmed, I shipped the impressions and the waiting game began.

The impressions arrived on a Friday. I was under the impression that the typical turnaround time was 5 days, so I was preparing for a long wait. (At this point, all of my previous earphones had broken so I was without sweet mobile music.) To my absolute shock and surprise, though, I received a notification the following Monday that they were all done and were shipping it out. Boo-yah!

They arrived later that week and I very quickly tore the packaging open. There were some documents, but the real goods were in a hard Otterbox heavy-duty, waterproof, (and likely nuclear-resistant) case. With my name on it. Inside was a velvet pouch, with the monitors.

I look at them and, at first, I am completely confused. I flip through the documents to figure out which one was left and which was right, and tried to sort out how to put them in my ear. (The trick is to rotate them in.) At last, I get them on and sounds other than my breath and heartbeat fade into oblivion. (Note that these are not the first in-ears that I’ve had, so this sensation was not all that new to me. But it’s still kinda weird.)

I scramble around for my Nexus One and plug the in-ears in. I look for songs that could put the in-ears through the paces: Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Iron & Wine, Sia, Sufjan Stevens, The Postal Service, Louis Armstrong, Sinatra. I heard new parts in songs that I have heard dozens, if not hundreds, of times. And the familiar bits came out with extraordinary quality.

In particular, the mids and the highs came out exceptionally well. This is due to the fact that, inside each piece, I had dedicated drivers for both of those ranges. I was used to having bass-heavy sounds and that probably came at the expense of those mids and highs. The monitors also have TWO low drivers as well, so I was expecting a real oomph when it came to bass.

It didn’t come through. The bass was there but it just lacked any real presence. Imagine Bono dressing down and shopping discretely at H&M; there’d be a star around but nobody would know that he was there. Fellow musicians have told me that the monitors take around 40 hours to warm up and break in, so I decided to be patient and give them a solid chance.

After a few weeks, I was still disappointed with the bass. In fact, I was starting to regret my purchase. Furthermore, I tested them out in other environments (like the gym) and found some other flaws. It comes down to the fact that the seal of the monitors is only good when my mouth is closed and when I’m not moving around too much. So when I am running or singing, the seal is broken and sometimes it’s bad enough that I have to reseat the monitors.

Knowing that I couldn’t return these (as they were custom built for me, after all), I just had to stick with them. I eventually plugged them into my computer, where iTunes had its equalizer set to “Rock.” Everything changed. The bass was thumping, while the mids and highs were still quite clear. I messed around with the EQ some more and found that the monitors were certainly very capable of delivering euphoric sounds. My poor Nexus One just couldn’t take them there.

I eventually replaced the media player on the Nexus One with one that had an equalizer and it has been mostly gravy since then. I got to use them a couple of times on stage and they are very good at isolating ambient noise.

I’m still not sure if they were worth what I paid for them. Yes, they are brilliant in many ways. But I was expecting something a little more. The most salient points are below:


  • Incredibly capable sonic production
  • Great seal in controlled environments
  • Angled plug reduces risk of wire damage
  • Replaceable cord extends lifetime
  • Amazing customer service


  • Inability to really try before buy
  • Loses seal when mouth is open or when moving head about
  • Expensive

Pictures coming soon…

    3 Responses to “In Review: JH Audio JH11 PRO”

    1. John F Says:

      I don’t know why you are having isues with your JH’s losing their seal while you open your mouth, when you had the impressions done by the audiologist did she/he use a mouth block as recomended by JH ausio or most any other custom IEM manufacturer, that’s the way my impressions where done “with a mouth block”, and I can eat drink sing or bop aropund with no seal breakage on my JH 16’s.

    2. John F Says:

      One more thing, to make these IEM’s shine you need a portable amp like the D10 or D6, these are the two models I own, the crappy amps in smartphones will not do these monitors justice.

    3. Justin Says:

      My audiologist did have a mouth block when the impressions were made. Maybe I have a weird ear canal?

      Anyhow, I sent them in for repairs and added a note saying that the seal was breaking; hopefully they can do something.

      As for the amp, I’m not sure if I’m ready to carry around more hardware… 😉

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