What is the HA-ET40?
One area where the earphone has kept a certain degree of dominance is in the sport and exercise accessory category. From the moment that earphones became commonly available they were enthusiastically seized upon by people that wanted the least amount of mass and equipment with them when running or the like. Recent innovations have included making sport models waterproof which makes them more sweat resistant and technically something you could take swimming although the mind boggles slightly at that one. JVC has been active in this category for some years and the latest model lineup has an entire sport category. The HA-ETR40 is midway up this considerable lineup and has a variety of features to keep a budding athlete happy.
There is a small problem with this though. I am not entirely inactive- I like walking around and the like but I don't do anything that challenges the abilities of a normal earphone, let alone a sport one. As a result, I drafted in the expertise of a friend of mine who actually visits the gym to see what the JVC does when used in more energetic circumstances. I then went about testing the HA-ETR40 in my usual rather sedentary way.
The first of these is that the driver housing is attached to a large curved assembly before moving onto the cable. The function of this is not completely clear. It isn't hollow so doesn't add to the volume of the housing and really just seems to be a piece of styling that prevents the cable having to join the driver housing directly and provide a place where a JVC logo can be placed with a bit of elegance on the side.
The second protuberance (a word I've been longing to use in a review context) is more interesting and more useful. This takes the form of a deformable rubber horn that sits in the inner ear section and keeps the ETR-40 in place when you move about. This is a bit of a mixed bag in results terms. I found it works rather well but I appear to have completely 'normal' ears (perhaps the only aspect of me that is). My fitness correspondent did not feel that they were as effective for her. This being said, the JVC is perfectly capable of staying put in an ear when you move around or shake your head.
Another part of the sport functionality is more interesting. The JVC is designed to allow noise in to ensure that while out jogging in public the risk of you being flattened by a vehicle you never heard is reduced. From an audio perspective, this does put the ETR-40 at something of a disadvantage but it is hard to argue with the logic of doing this for safety reasons.
The overall build and finish of the ETR-40 is perfectly acceptable for the asking price. I don't think that they trouble the SoundMagic E30 or Shure SE112 but these models don't have to make the design and material choices that the JVC does to work in the way JVC wants them too. I imagine that the very nature of items used in exercise means they will have a shorter life than a 'normal' earphone but there are no real signs of cost cutting in the way they are assembled.
How was the HA ETR-40 tested?
The sport testing was carried out on two evenings of gym work by my friend using an iPod Nano and a collection of MP3s assembled over the years- much more the arrangement of a normal member of the human race and not me.
Sound quality in normal use?
There are some less desirable facets though. The ETR-40 has a tendency to harden up at high levels and does so quite quickly and aggressively. This is separate to the performance of the headphone amp as even with the Hugo in use- a product that only generates any level of harshness at earbleeding levels- it still started to sound rather ragged at higher levels. Compared to the staggeringly well sorted Shure SE112, the JVC has a much narrower comfort zone.
HA ETR-40 and exercise
She was also very complimentary about the right angled jack at the end of the cable which manages to avoid snagging on clothes. She was less enthused about the relative lengths of the cables though. If you aren't using a player on an armband, the upper section of the cable is too short for use anywhere else. If you then attach the lower section though, there is a rather problematic additional loop of cable that you have to do something with while exercising.
- Fairly comfortable
- Safe for jogging in public
- Lightweight bass
- Harden up at high volumes
- Some design niggles
JVC HA-ETR40 Earphones Review
If the ETR-40 was a viceless partner for exercise this would be easier to deal with but it has some annoying limitations here too. The main one is that while the sound venting is a good safety feature it would be more helpful if this was properly nullified by the closed bungs and could be eliminated when not required. As it is, the HA-ETR40 might be ideal for those that jog on public roads but for use in other situations, it faces some very stiff competition.
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