Saturday, June 25, 2016

JVC HA-S160-AA Compact Headphones Review

I was in a jam before a long flight as my headphones had broken and I needed to pick up something cheap so I could listen to my music (and write a few more reviews). So, at the electronics store near my hotel I grabbed a pair of JVC HA-S160-AA compact headphones out of the bargain bin. For 1,360 Yen (about 13 bucks), how could I go wrong?

For starters, the phones came in one of those plastic capsules that in the United States are nearly impossible to get into without a knife. Apparently there are not the same security concerns in Japan, as it was simply folded together instead of being melted together. So, things got off to a good start!

These are compact headphones that fold flat and take up very little space. To make them this flat, they are on-ear headphones, and as such they do not weigh very much, only 66 grams (a little under 2.5 ounces). I did not have any problems with the stainless headband snagging my hair, and there was not much tension so they are comfortable to wear for extended periods. The cord is long enough for portable device use (1.2 meters, or 4 feet), but would not be good for many other applications. It was surprising to see a doubled cord as most everything I see now has a single cord. It has an 1/8-inch jack (3.5mm), and no ¼-inch adapter is included.

With no burn-in period I put these cans to use immediately for a 3 hour train ride and a 10-hour flight. They were used with both my MacBook Pro and an iPod Nano, and with 32 ohms of resistance they were plenty loud enough to overcome all of the vehicle noise that was encountered (spec is 103dB / 1mW). Frequency response is ambitiously listed as 12Hz to 24kHz, and maybe in a sound chamber somewhere they can provide that much bass, but they were sadly lacking when playing the blues and rock music I usually listen to – more on this in a minute. For hip-hop and rap they would most definitely be terrible.

The only problems I encountered with these phone were that they were just not quite tight enough, even on my enormous head. There was a lot of sound leakage, to the point where I was self-conscious that I might disturb other passengers so I kept the volume to a minimum. I think this leakage also contributed to a reduction is bass sound. Other than that, they have a clean sound, with no equalization issues that made my music sound odd. As Krusty the Klown would say: “They are not just good, they are good enough!”

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