There comes a time in every music lover's life when you have to throw away those Apple earphones, or those little buds that came with that Samsung phone, and enter the world of real headphones. It's a dangerous path that can, if you're not careful, lead to you spending £500 on the custom ACS T2. And the JVC HAFX1X Xtreme Xplosives earphones could prove the perfect gateway drug.
JVC has played a clever game with its latest budget earphones. Using an eye-catching red cable and a chunky bud design, the HAFX1X Xtreme Xplosives look just like the Monster Beats by Dr. Dre iBeats. Except that these cost about a quarter of the price.
It's sure to appeal to many an HMV shelf-browsing youngster, but introduces problems. The earpieces are very large, and although they're not particularly heavy they do rest a little uneasily in your ear canals, demanding careful fitting.
Big, black and inlaid with ridges and an embossed "XX" logo on the back, there is something a little vulgar about the JVC HAFX1X Xtreme Xplosives earphones. There's something unusual too - they appear to use a near-open back design, with a large grill-covered port on the rear designed to let the low-end frequencies percolate to a fearsome, rib-trembling level. JVC calls it the "extreme deep bass port". Impressive-sounding stuff.
This doesn't leave the earphones with woeful noise isolation, though. It's not up there with the best, but can match ultra-budget pairs and is capable of taking on the noise of public transport. They don't leak sound too much, either, the vast majority of it coming out of the front rather than the back.
The overly ornate design of the earbuds, similarly, is largely for show. Made of a single piece of moulded black plastic aside from the back rubberised grill protector, they're more pedestrian than they look. They do use rather large apertures, though, which may be of concern if you have truly tiny ear holes.
At around £17, that the JVC HAFX1X earphones do not have a microphone or remote control comes as no surprise. The cable also has a slightly cheap-feeling plasticky finish that the more rubbery rival Creative EP-630 and Sennheiser CX 300 don't suffer from. However, it doesn’t create too much microphonic "rustling" noise while you're walking around and the relatively low-friction finish means it's not particularly prone to tangles.
We understand what the JVC HAFX1X are trying to do. They want to stand out from vanilla budget pairs in a manner more reminiscent of Beats by Dr. Dre than Skullcandy. Commercially, it's likely to pay off, but we prefer the smaller, more accessible (for those over the age of 21) design of Sennheiser and Sony's budget earphones.
The case is a bit "punch me, I have rock-hard abs"
Inside the near-impenetrable blister-pack packaging, JVC supplies three sets of rubber tips in the standard small, medium and large sizes, and a basic carry case. At the price, you couldn’t ask for much more. The 1.2m cable ends in a simple straight 3.5mm jack.