Just as the JVC HAFX1X earphones dress to impress a certain audience with their design, their sound wants to make a big impact too. It does this by putting a big emphasis on treble and bass, relegating the mid-range and resulting in what's often called a "v-shaped" or "scooped" sound.
If you're attracted by the eye-catching XX, "Xtreme Xplosives" branding of these earphones, it's likely you'll be quite impressed by the bass response here. It's deep and powerful for a budget IEM, and while also a bit flabby and ill-mannered, it doesn't turn music into too thick a bassy fog.
The powerful low-end gives the JVC HAFX1X earphones that important sense of fun. Compared to the rival Ultimate Ears 200, they're all-out good time earphones.
Performance elsewhere is less impressive. The top-end has almost as emphatic a presence as the bottom, but it tends towards sharpness and harshness more than alternatives like the popular, bassy Sennheiser CX300.
More problematic, though, is the neglected mid-range. It leaves vocals sounding flat and lacking in texture, with only the power of the treble left to paint the personality of singers' voices.
The bass-led sound does a good job of making beat-based music sound exciting, making electronic kick drums pound convincingly. But, given more challenging material, it all starts to sound a little unnatural. A little skewed, a little hollow.
Like someone trying a little too hard at a job interview or a film star with a few too many plastic surgeries under their belt, the JVC HAFX1X focus a little too much on making the right impression, where a slightly more relaxed approach would bring better results. However, these remain decent headphones at the price, and to get the step up to the next level from a respected name in audio, you will generally need to spend a little more.
If you can afford the extra, the SoundMagic E10 and Sennheiser CX 300-II are both significant upgrades, offering much more even sound balance while providing meaty bass response. Really can't afford to leap above £20? The £15 Cresyn 415E offer a much more mature signature, with much tauter - if less voluminous - bass.
Available for under £20, the JVC HAFX1X are an obvious upgrade to freebie earphones, and from a distance they look a lot more expensive than they are too. If you're out for the "Xtreme" bass advertised on their packaging, you're unlikely to be disappointed by the beefy, deep bottom end, but other less try-hard pairs offer more natural, balanced sound.