JVC FW10000 – The King Is Dead, Long Live The King!

If you’re looking for a unique IEM that follow suit to the Japanese dynamic flagship reference in the long standing EX1000, sharing its fantastic resolution and superb soundstage while getting rid of the peaks and featuring great craftsmanship I really do think a new legend is born and the category as a new king in the JVC FW10000 : the king is dead, long live the king!

Introduction

JVC has a long standing history, born in 1927 and established in Yokohama, the company that manufactured phonographs and also pressed the first record in Japan, no less. They merged with another well established HiFi brand in 2008, Kenwood under the Victor brand.

2008 is also the year JVC released the first of the wood series IEM with the HP-FX500 with the goal to create the best sounding pair of headphones by incorporating organic materials a practice well known in speakers but with unique challenges to integrate in IEMs.

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JVC Wood Series IEM from 2008 to 2019

Indeed the FW10000, 10 year anniversary model of the Wooden series, features an incredibly thin 50µm birch wood dome carbon diaphragm. This pretty unique technology aims at enhancing the acoustic range while suppressing unwanted vibration through the birch wood’s natural sound propagation speed.

Fit and isolation
The FW10000 has a different fit from the wooden series so far, as it’s supposed to be worn over ears. I have no issue with fit which is actually very good for me but from forum reports and people I had audition the JVC at meetups, not everyone will get a good fit. If you have a chance, check before you buy. Note that the MMCX connector is totally separate from the main unit.

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JVC FW10000 fit (courtesy of JVC website)

I found isolation to be only average despite a good seal with the Spiral Dots+ which by the way were the best universal tips that I tried. Not much need for tip rolling there. Note that isolation improves a lot in that department with custom ear tips obviously. This further improves the bass response, and mids are a tad fuller, while not affecting the treble. Overall I recommend investing in custom eartips, as the FW10000 don’t stick out too much with it.

Build
The FW10000 has a superb built and perfect finish. It’s quite exotically built with japanese maple housing and a wooden stabilizer. It’s also handcrafted with a multi-layered urushi lacquer and natural acoustic absorb materials awa washi and silk no less. It’s fair to say it’s one of the most exotic IEM around.

JVC is clearly proud of the craftsmanship and publishes pictures of the manufacturing on its website :

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Hand manufacturing process for JVC FW10000

The FW10000 also features a stainless steel nozzle including an acoustic chamber deemed to “purify” the sound before exiting the nozzle (schematics below).

A9AF3021-3A45-4B8A-B984-359BBB924342.jpeg
Schema of the FW10000 acoustics chamber

Last but not least, the stock cable is a 4 wire OFC with silk grooves, it’s of high build quality and with low microphonics. It’s also the best fit in terms of synergy of any cables I have tried with the FW10000. I just wished, for the price, that a balanced cable would be included or better yet a 2.5 termination with a pigtail for 3.5.

074B4F70-D9BD-43D3-A9DA-2FCDF57C78E0.jpeg
Structure of the JVC FW10000 stock 4 wire OFC cable with silk grooves

Sound

The FW10000 features a very clean, detailed and articulate signature with strong technical foundations but it manages to avoid a technical presentation thanks to a nice mid bass presence that is a big component of its ability to get you to tap your toe in rhythm (along with a snappy attack and quick decay). It’s really an important aspect of the overall balance and without it, the FW10000 would have been significantly brighter, for it has a strong upper mids and upper treble presence.

The FW10000 features a very wide soundstage, with good height and depth very similar to the EX1000 which is no small feat. I’ll get into more details in the comparison section, but aside from this there are many aspects that are reminiscent of the legendary Sony EX1000 in the FW10000, but improving in several areas as well.

Bass

The FW10000 bass is very well controlled, with a snappy attack and quick decay : a departure from its cousin the FW01 and a big step up in SQ my opinion. This has a big impact on bass detail which is great and also the FW10000 ability to have a much better PRaT. Just a hunch but I think this is a benefit of the carbon coating on the wooden dome as much as the tuning itself. When A/B’ing with the FW01, the younger brother sounds messy with lower definition of textures and a blatant lack of control, in my book the greatest weakness of the FW01.

The FW10000 bass is a key element of its signature, given its upper mids and upper treble focus. It has good sub bass, the FW10000 can rumble when called upon but it’s not in EX1000 territory either and takes a seat back to the mid bass section. Where the FW10000 really shines is its mid bass section : just north of neutral enough to provide both fun and a strong rhythmic foundation. This is strikingly apparent when listening to a track including the double bass, and combined with clean and articulate mids, it’s simply the best portraying of the instrument I have ever heard.

Mids

There is no doubt about JVC’s goal there : the mids were tuned for accuracy, with separation and articulation in mind. Don’t let its wooden frame and driver fool you, the FW10000 has neutral mids and is not colored as is his younger brother the FW01. When you A/B the FW01 and FW10000, it’s clear that the tuning of the later is way more “serious” with the demanding audiophile in mind. The FW01 has plenty of lower mids presence, it’s much thicker and even if it also features significant upper mids boost and shares a tendency to border on harshness.

Back to the FW10000, lower mids are not lean as there is sufficient presence to grant the FW10000 with body but JVC took a very different route than the FW01 and kept it lean enough to avoid coloring the midrange and keep great separation. I confess I wished JVC had gone for a tad more warmth in the FW10000, but that’s only my preference and I understand why they didn’t.

Now the upper mids, JVC did something really special there, as they pushed the enveloppe just to the edge of what I consider safe and it makes for a special experience as I actually enjoyed coming close to the brink of harshness. I have never enjoyed saxophones and clarinet solo as much as I do with the FW10000, even when it reaches the upper midrange on the brink of being painful. I actually found myself pushing the volume a bit to enjoy this further. Note that depending on your source, the issue can be more or less of a problem : with the WM1Z and ALO CV5 I had some very unpleasant experiences, some albums including well mastered Diana Krall were downright unlistenable. This improved a bit with burn in but didn’t altogether disappear. The issue is less apparent with the Micro BL and almost non existent with Hiby R6 Pro. Your sensitivity might be lesser than mine, but worth mentioning.

Timbre is fairly accurate although a hint of warmth would have made them more natural but that’s only my personal preferences speaking. Let’s just say the mids are fairly neutral with rich textures and a high degree of separation. The snappy attack and fast decay make them very clean as well while not dry either.

A nice balance has been struck here and the overall signature has been well thought out : with less mid bass emphasis and a more present lower treble, the FW10000 mids would have sounded brighter and lacked sufficient body. JVC smartly tuned both bass and treble in a way that made sense with regards to their mids tuning.

This being said, more lower mids would have lessened the separation and perceived resolution although I suspect it could have been a very interesting option to add just a notch of lower mids emphasis which would have been perfection in my book.

Treble

JVC was also smart in the treble section, and that’s where it clearly outshines it’s cousin the Sony EX1000. While the FW10000 and EX1000 have more commonalities than differences, the subtle differences make for a much more enjoyable listen starting with its treble tuning. JVC has again struck a nice balance, choosing to let go of lower treble excitement in favor of providing a lot of air with an upper treble emphasis. A blessing, since it upper mids are walking a fine line it would make the FW10000 very bright and agressive if the lower treble followed suit. Even in the upper treble, JVC was more masterful than Sony retaining top notch extension and resolution while avoiding any painful peak that plague the EX1000.

The FW10000 treble is airy and its snappy attack and fast decay make it as clean and airy as it comes providing a lot of air to the stage and a lof of refinement as well. Like the lower midrange, I wished JVC provided a bit more lower treble still, as the FW10000 lacks a bit of sparkle that it could have provided.

Verdict

With the FW10000, JVC has exquisitely handcrafted a uniquely exotic IEM with wooden casing and a challenging carbon coated wooden dome dynamic driver, bringing the wooden series to new heights. Make no mistake, this is a very different proposition from the previous wooden series flagship the FW01 : it has much better control in the bass department with a shaper attack and short decay as well as top notch textures and definition, more neutral mids with great separation and resolution. Treble is where it remains consistent, while pushing refinement several notches up and punching with the best in class.

I think given its signature and qualities, the FW10000 is best suited for genres like Jazz and Classical but it certainly does well with Blues and most relaxed genres like Folk and Acoustic performances. I didn’t like it much with more dynamic genres like Rock or even metal but I had quite a few people audition them and some liked it a lot so your mileage may vary.

If you’re looking for a unique IEM that follow suit to the Japanese dynamic flagship reference in the long standing EX1000, sharing its fantastic resolution and superb soundstage while getting rid of the peaks and featuring great craftsmanship I really do think a new legend is born and the category as a new king in the FW10000 : the king is dead, long live the king!

This review was initially published on headfi :
https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/review/21624/

Disclaimer
I have purchased and paid the full retail price for the FW10000, this is not a sponsored review.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Simon Inns for lending me his JVC FW01 for the time of this review, which allowed me to compare the latest IEM in the wooden series released before the FW10000.

Listening notes
I have written this review after over 200 hours burn-in and over 60 hours listening to the FW10000. I have listened to the FW10000 on Sony WM1Z, Hiby R6 Pro, iFi iDSD Micro Black Label and ALO CV5. I used mainly the stock Spiral Dots+ bundled with the FW10000, and also Custom Art custom eartips.

Packaging

The JVC FW10000 is delivered in a minimalist fully black card box containing the following :

  • Leather carrying case
  • 4 Core Hi-Grade OFC Silk Groove Cables
  • Set of Spiral Dots + tips (S, M, ML, L)

I found it was a bit understated and underwhelming for a flagship product.

Specifications

  • 11mm Dynamic Driver with carbon coated wood dome
  • Sensitivity : 102 dB / 1 mW
  • Frequency response : 6 Hz to 52,000 Hz
  • Impedance : 16 Ω

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