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Damage Reviews: Panasonic HJE50s

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Because no one asked for it, here's my thoughts/reviews on the Panasonics RP-HJE50s.

If anyone is aware of my listening preferences, or have kept track of my posts here, the Orange Board (aka T-Board), and Minidisc.org's Forum, then you're probably aware that I'm usually the first to come whenever someone bashes the EX-71s. And those usually had good reason, since most of the negative opinions were usually initial quality (where EX71s are at their weakest). Out of curiosity, I picked up a pair of Panasonic RP-HJE50 earbuds at a local Circuit City for $30. I had little to lose, since that Circuit City also had EX81s, which I had my eyes on for a while.

The King is dead.

Or at least, very mortally wounded. The Panasonic RP-HJE50s is presented quite nicely from the start. In its nice clear plastic box, you can see the earbuds and nearly all of included accessories, which are:

Small, medium, large tips (1 set each size)

Extension Cord

Felt Bag with draw string

The entire driver housing is somewhat reminiscent of the the EX51 housing, except it's more squarish in shape rather than bulbish. In your hands, they feel quite solid and sturdy, maybe tad on the heavy side perhaps. Entire buds are white save for a little chrome trim. This includes the flanges as well, and this is one of its downfalls (more on this later). Finally, for remote users like myself, the cord setup is exactly like the EX71s, though the cord length between left and right bud is quite longer than the EX71s.

However, one of the biggest key difference between the EX71s and the HJEs are the diaphgrams used by each phones. Where as the EX71s use a thicker paper like material with a pinhole in the center, the HEJs use a very thin, translucent membrane. One can also assume that the drivers are most likely different between the two. So, given those two key differences, how do each stack up against one another?

Procedurals: MZ-RH10/NH1 -> RP-HEJ50s, accumlated about 20-30 hours of playback.

All things considered...

One could assume that they would sound fairly similar to the EX71s given all of the similarities. In fact, the tips/flanges are interchangable between the two, each has three holes on the outside of the buds, each has a little chrome accent, etc. And for the most part, they would, right?

Not necessairly. Let's assume for a moment that everything is equal between the two, and there was one thing that separated them, other than the sticker price. That one thing is the vocal representation, and it's very crucial here. The HEJs have a vocal that's much more forward, much more louder, and much better represented overall vs. the EX71s that makes the choice between the two almost a no-brainer. It's almost like listening to a karaoke version of a song vs. the same song with full vocals. Sure, it's nice to sing the song yourself. However, in the end the song sounds better with its original performers. Or it does, in my case. :D

However, not everything is equal, and HEJ does things better than EX71 does in other areas too. Would you like more impactful and visceral bass? You got that with the HEJs. Given a nice bass track, the HEJs' bass has that body shaking bass that is only equalled by the XD-400; a considerable feat considering that the latter is a full sized semi-open headphone with driver that's nearly 5x bigger then the HEJs. Trebles seemingly isn't this sets cup of tea, though all things considered, they are almost equal to EX71s (though it is noticably less sibilant from the get go). Even with some Equalization to boost the trebles, they don't seem quite... all there, I suppose. But in the overall scheme of things, this is something of a small quibble. The final SQ works in favor of the HEJ50s, in that it is well suited for portable listening (that it is bass and vocal friendly) and casual application.

Not to say that the HEJs are perfect. For one, these are much more microphonic than the EX series, almost to the level of Shure E3s (hmmm... things get decidedly interesting now, don't it?). The flanges are much thinner and flimsier than the EX tips. Thankfully, the two are interchangable, so you can use whatever floats your boat. Construction seems a bit shoddy, the left driver's diaphgram was loose when I purchased mine (and considering exchange, but I doubt it).

Back to the point about its microphonics and seal. I noted that these are very microphonic/stetheoscopic. Almost like Shure E3s. In fact, the seal on my left ear is very reminiscient of how Shure's feel in my ear, that there is a much stronger and better seal. But the right driver doesn't exihibit that effect at all. So, it's a question of construction now. And in this case, the Sony wins all over the Panasonics. There's no argument about it here, Sonys are constructed and balanced physically much better than the Panasonics. I'm willing to chalk this up to a statistics on this one however, you'll get a bum unit every now and then.

So, what does one get for $30? Overall, a very good set of entry canal phones. It's certainly better than its competitors in the similar price range, the Maxell's $15 special notwithstanding (wait for that one folks, I'll get around to it). In fact, it's enough to make me swear off the EX71s for a long long time.

Which is no small feat in and of itself.

Addendum:

Insult to Injury

The first set has been exchanged for the second set. The good news is that the diaphgram on the left driver is sealed properly, and the worries of a small piece of paper residing in my ear canals is now gone. Unfortunately, the crappy QA team at Panasonic China strikes again! The right driver housing this time falls apart as so much as I look at it cockney-eyed. Not quite, but when I exchanged the tips several times, the housing separated by itself. Looks like I may need to apply some very small and controlled dabs of super glue. If you're harsh on your headphones, I will not recommend these at all, at least not until some of the kinks have been worked out.

No amount of SQ can make up for crappy construction and quality.

Further Insult to Injury

For a set of remote cans, they don't work as well with a set of remotes. The left driver is subject to the pull on the remote more so than EX71s ever were. This creates the imbalance on the seal on each ear. In turn, this creates an imbalanced sound which drives me up the wall.

Considering that I use the remote quite a bit with my gear, I don't know if this will bug me enough to consider a return, but all remote users, be aware that this issue exists.

The Good: Very balanced sound, including a forward and louder vocals and much more visceral bass.

The Bad: Trebles seems slightly off..

The Ugly: Quality Control? What Quality Control!?!

Edited by Damage

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excellent review as usual. pics please damage? side by side with the ex71s perhaps?

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Aye... brilliant and thorough review as usual.  happy.gif

Any objections if I pin this thread?

No objections from me. biggrin.gif

If I ever get around to it, I'll take pics. If I ever get around to it...

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Sorry to hijack this review, but I just scored myself some RP-JE50's (are they the same as the RP-HEJ50's?? if not, just throw this into a thread of its own) from almost-free-bay. I paid $20, shipping included, after a partial refund as I got the wrong color (got blue instead of silver, but actually I like blue better but I thought I should complain and they offered a partial refund as damages so who am I to say no laugh.gif )

Keeping in mind that I do not have any experience with other canalphones or even any other high quality buds/eggo's etc (I use a Senn HD497 indoors and Senn MX350/MX450 outdoors) in SQ this is a huge step up... and I dare say, even from the big Senn HD497's (as these aren't efficiently driven from by my Euro NH900, even with the hack)!

Bass is nice and deep (pretty amazing coming from such small things blink.gif ) and the vocals are very much 'in your ear' (pun intended...sorry sleep.gif ). Compared to the Senn MX series, the highs are less crisp, but whether that is actually the 'fault' of the panas or the senns I do not know. The senns are so crisp (especially with their lack of bass augmenting the effect) that they could hurt my ears. As I read somewhere that the highs are much more damaging when listening at higher levels, my doctor prefers the panas too biggrin.gif No really, I do like the pana's balance as the highs are less present but not muffled, so you can eq them up if needed (I don't as I like it pretty much this way)...

Even more, these are the first 'phones I use without eq'ing mostly. When compared with the Senn MX series, which are not bearable without raising the bass at least 6db (and actually rather 10db) and lowering the highs 3db IMHO, these little plugs provide me with a very flexible balance which is just right as it is, but still allows me to change according to the music and my whim... not out of necessity! I specifically like the fact that it is not just a slight step up in SQ like with the stockbuds->sennMX move ($0->$15) but with even a smaller increase in price ($15->$20) I got such an enormous improvement...

Build quality was something I was afraid of after reading damage's review. But after a week of almost continuous use I haven't found any production faults or damage from the transport from HK->Belgium and as I'm very careful with all my material I'm hoping they will last some time... My main fear is the attachment of the cords to the plugs. The cables go into the plastic, but without any obvious reinforcement and as they are canalphones, they are lodged quite firmly into my ears and a pull on the cord will not pop 'em out, but will produce quite some strain on the attachment...So I fear that this will be the main weakness, as I can not completely avoid an unintended pull on the cords I guess.

The rubber tips also look quite flimsy... but I have got mixed feelings about this. Seemingly I have got very small earholes happy.gif as even the small sized tips provide perfect seal and I can use the other sizes as earbuds laugh.gif so I'm afraid that more sturdy models wouldn't fit my ears at all. But now I am slightly afraid I will end up on the ER asking to remove small pieces of rubber out of my ears unsure.gif so gently removing them is a good idea...

I have been using them with a remote and I must say that I haven't noticed the pull on the left one yet. I do clip my remote up high, so I mostly have more than ample cable left to absorb sudden jerks, so that could be the reason...

The efficiency of the 'phones is remarkable. The senns (HD of course, but even the MX) need a decent volume to function at a decent level, while I have not cranked the vol over 15 with these panas, even on the train or at a busy road... But I guess this is partly because of the closed/in ear type and not limited to these panas...

But it ain't all good... I specifically bought these for outdoor use, as I have got my comfy SennHD497's for home-use... but the wind (and we have a lot of it in B.) whissles in the plugs! dry.gif I never had this with any headphones before, but it's just like listening to music in some decripit mansion... To be honest, this won't be that big a problem, as they simply aren't really suited for a lot of outdoor 'activity' as they are in ear/canalphones. Footsteps, heavy breathing (when biking...), etc. all are very present and can be quite irritating when listening to more quit stuff! So I'll still use the Senn MX450's for more active instances...

Another 'problem' is the high SQ laugh.gif I had to get rid of all my LP2@132kbps discs, as the artifacts clearly became obvious! But as you all will agree... this is only a very minor negative wink.gif

So my roundup:

Pro:

- SQ and balance

- seal (which improves the above, but which can differ from person to person)

- efficiency

Contra:

- whissling in the wind (looks like it will be balaklava time ph34r.gif )

- don't look sturdy at all (but haven't had any probs yet)

- amplification of self-noise (but this would be a con for all canalphones, so not strictly for the RP-JE50's)

Contra(dictory)/Ambiguous:

- SQ -> no more LP2 with these babies

- seal...they shut outside noise out so efficiently, that I left my gf outside for 20min as I couldn't hear the doorbell (and I was just listening to a GYBE! 20min track ohmy.gif )

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I found the SQ decent enough, but they are impossible to keep in. The imbalance on the light cable means that left one is always getting yanked out. Because of that and the bad microphonic's I simply can't use these on the move. I need to be stationary. Even moving around at a desk or in bed the left is always yanked out. I've stopped using them.

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I replaced mine with CX300's which I found much better. I used the tips from the RP-JE50's to get best fit. Microphonic's not as bad as the RP-JE50's but the CX300's are not a phone I'd use when moving around much.

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