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JVC HA FX34A Marshmallow

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      04.12.2008 12:27
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      5 Comments

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      A good brand, would have decent sound, if only they stayed in my ears

      It is, apparently, a bad idea to wrap your headphone cord around your iPod or mp3 player. I do it anyway, for lack of any better ideas to keep the cord from becoming a tangled mess in my pocket. As a result, I go through earphones like nobody's business (apparently, wrapping the cord damages it).

      I recently purchased from Tesco a pair of black JVC in ear earphones, as my last pair of Panasonics were by now only broadcasting from one ear (mostly). I paid £12.99 for these. Irritatingly, you can't try out in ear earphones before you buy. This is a shame.

      We all hope our earphones will deliver decent sound - how decent we expect is no doubt related to how much we've paid, and how sensitive we are to stereo fidelity. I have an iPod 30gb Video. I listen to folk, rock and classical by and large, and I'm not a stereo sound aficionado - I want my music to sound true, with depth in the bass and accuracy in the treble. I'm not, however, the type to be endlessly fiddling with graphic equalisers to get a 'perfect' sound. I'm like Peter Cook and art - I don't know much about it, but I know what I like. Because I don't mollycoddle my headphones, I'm not prepared to pay a fortune for them, however, I am willing to buy a few models up from the super cheap sets out there (Tesco had some at £3.99). I mention all this so that it is clear what I'm hearing and what I'm expecting.

      One thing I do need from my in-ear earphones is a good fit. I find the standard iPod shape earphones (the rigid ear buds that come with iPods) to be hideously uncomfortable. However, I like the convenience of buds, as they fit easily in a pocket. I have very small ear canals, and so comfort can be tricky to find.

      We now come to the crux of the matter. The 'Marshmallow' part of the name refers to the memory foam earpieces, which come in two sizes (though I can't tell by looking which is the larger size). You are supposed to smush the earbud between two fingers for a few seconds, and then hold the earpieces into your ears, at which point the memory foam is supposed to expand, providing a snug and comfortable fit. For me, these earphones don't hurt (which is a bonus), but the fit is far from snug, and they have a habit of falling out and coming loose.

      This habit of sitting loosely at best and falling out at worst impacts the sound quality. When I physically hold the earphones in my ears with my fingers the sound is good - most notably the bass. The relative rigidity (compared to other sorts of non-rigid earpieces, like the very soft rubbery type) nuzzles against the bone and reverberates, providing a superior sound for the price. However, at least in my ears, there are definite gaps between the ear piece and my ear canal. This causes serious deterioration in the sound quality. They sound tinny and quiet, forcing me to turn the volume up. I lose quality and clarity in the lower registers (which I can regain, but only by pressing the buds into my ears with my fingers).

      The cord is just about long enough to put my iPod in my coat pocket - it would probably be too short to put in my jeans pocket. As it happens, I have an extension lead which comes in very handy (I got it two sets of headphones ago, and it's never suffered the same issues the cords on my earphones have). The cord isn't impossibly short - it would just be nice if it were a wee bit longer.

      I like JVC as a brand. In my experience, they manufacture quality equipment. However, these earphones just don't suit me. Since the earpieces are too big for my ears, they fall out, and deliver a less than stellar sound experience (doesn't that sound grand). If you have bigger ear canals, these may well be for you. They are relatively inexpensive and, when I press them into my ears, they sound good. They don't hurt, and they look smart. However, for me, they are a disappointment. Maybe someone will get me my perfect earphones for Christmas.

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