When you’re watching a concert with some of your favorite artists, chances are they’re probably rocking a pair of JH Audio customs. Their client list is huge and includes the Katy Perry, Foo Fighters, Nicki Minaj, Aerosmith, Alicia Keys, One Republic, Halsey, and of course, Guns N’ Roses, just to name a few.
The Lola is the first hybrid IEM from JH Audio. However, instead of using the dynamic drivers for the low-end, they’re used for the midrange. What makes this design even more interesting is the patented design. The two 4.9mm dynamic drivers are facing each other in a 3D printed Dual Opposing Mid Enclosure (D.O.M.E.) and the amount of air between the drivers are tuned for a specific sound. Effectively, this creates a 9.8mm midrange driver. Dual low and quad high (same ones used in the Layla) balanced armatures are used for a total of 8 drivers per channel.
Of course the venerable Freqphase waveguide technology is also incorporated to ensure no phase cancellations at the crossover points. With D.O.M.E. it puts the diaphragms within 1/100th of a millisecond with the low and high BAs which ensures a flat phase response. This is the first time at JH Audio a high pass filter is used for the midband so on your bass adjuster, 12 o’clock is 0dB and 1 o’clock is +3dB. Going below 12 o’clock will remove bass under 200 Hz. In summary, the low BAs take care of the 10 Hz to 200 Hz range, the mids cover the 200 Hz to 3 kHz range, and the highs take care of the rest. Jerry goes into more detail in his video.
So how does all this sound?
I’m a proud owner of a custom pair of JH Audio Angies myself. I was also able to get a hold of a JH Audio 16V2 for comparison. The DAPs used were the Astell & Kern AK380 and Sony’s flagship NW-WM1Z. I felt the quantity of bass was sufficient at 1 o’clock so kept it at this setting for the entire review. The Lola has enough bass for the entire world.
Eric Clapton – Layla (24/48)
- The Lola has a very rich and lush sound. It sounds more natural than both the 16V2 and the Angie.
- The 16V2 sounds much more neutral than the other two.
- The Lola has a sense of depth and body the other two can’t compete with.
Beatles – Come Together (24/44)
- There’s a better sense of openness with the Angie vs the rest of the cast.
- I have to admit, the drums on the 16V2 sounds quite nice for this track. Lots of weight and goes really deep, but remains flatter than the Lola and Angie.
- The Lola has the sweetest midrange which provides a very organic sound.
Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal (24/48)
- That intro heart beat thump is insane on the Lola. The rest don’t compare.
- Angie is more insightful, but can’t match the tone or timbre of the Lola. Angie sounds almost too clean.
- 16V2 is smooth, good sub bass, but not as focused as Angie or Lola.
- Angie is thinner but much more spacious. Definitely the most detailed IEM of the bunch.
- Overall the 16V2 sounds a bit veiled in comparison to the other two.
- Angie sounds a little narrow, 16V2 sounds a bit fat and fuzzy, but the Lola sounds just right.
B-52 – She Brakes for Rainbows (16/44)
- Both the 16V2 and Lola have decent sub-bass. Angie is a little lacking here.
- Female vocals sound absolutely wonderful on the Lola.
- The Angie has more insight into the mix while the Lola isn’t as quick but sounds very coherent and analog.
Buena Vista Social Club – Candela (24/96)
- Lola has much better tone and timber over Angie and 16V2. Instruments and vocals all sound much more realistic.
- Lola sounds more like the actual performance. 16V2 has more sparkle but a bit flatter. Angie has more dimension but lacks the organics to be convincing.
- The Angie has more resolution than both the Lola and 16V2.
- Transient response is quicker with the 16V2 and Angie versus the Lola.
Patricia Barber – A Taste of Honey (16/44)
- Angie is better at resolving the micro-dynamics of this recording and is just overall more dynamic.
- 16V2 has great treble texture but remains flat.
- Lola doesn’t have as much guitar shine or texture but sounds organic and seductive.
- Lola has much more depth and a natural roundness than the other two.
Steely Dan – Gaucho (24/96)
- Lola has better layering and coherence. Silky smooth.
- Vocals sound ten times better on the Lola than the 16V2 and Angie. Realistic body and tone.
- Female vocals transition very naturally towards the end of this track on the Lola but it’s a bit more abrupt with the 16V2 and Angie.
- Transient response is quicker with the 16V2 and Angie versus the Lola.
Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love (24/96)
- The cymbals lack a bit of shine on the Lola but have the correct timbre. The timbre on the Angie and 16V2 is a bit more heightened.
- The Lola has so much more depth and body than the other two…it’s crazy.
- Angie is definitely more detailed, spacious, and is quicker with transients.
- Lola has much more crunch and texture on guitars. Guitar and drums have a realistic weight which makes it sound like the real thing and keeps things engaging.
- 16V2 is a bit fuzzy but has great timbre. Layering and delineation is better on the other two.
- I like the sub-bass on the 16V2 more than the Angie.
- Cymbals sounds real (1:40) on the Lola. I can’t tell what’s going on with the 16V2, it loses control. Cymbal decay is much more apparent on the Angie and Lola.
- The Lola is just more involving and has more meat. The channel panning at 2:00-3:00 is more of an experience on the Lola.
- Surprisingly, the Angie sounds pretty flat when compared to the Lola. For this reason alone, I think the Lola is worth the extra money.
- Lola is much more engaging and just sounds more like a rock song. The 16V2 has great snap but loses control in this track. The Angie is a bit too thin and borderline analytical sounding in comparison.
Daft Punk – Contact (24/88)
- Cymbals and drums have more snap shine on Angie vs the Lola.
- Lola doesn’t have as much shine and is more mid and low end focused. It’s very smooth and drums sound much more convincing.
- Angie has better delineation and the 16V2 has better balance. The Lola has more rumble and is overall more engaging and fun.
- Drums sound better on the 16V2 and Lola versus the Angie.
Amber Rubarth – Storms Are on the Ocean (24/192)
- Having heard her live this past weekend, I would have to say the Lola is more in line with the real thing.
- Angie unequivocally has more resolution than the Lola and 16V2. It has a more pristine sound versus Lola’s more “true” sound.
- The 16V2 is more balanced and neutral and has some of the best bass I’ve heard from an IEM. However, it is much flatter sounding compared to the Angie and Lola.
- The Angie is a very insightful IEM with fantastic textures and resolution. It just doesn’t have the proper tone or timbre of real instruments or voices.
- The Lola sounds exactly how Jerry Harvey describes it in his video. Amazing tonal density and dynamics but lacks a bit of treble energy, speed, and resolution.
When it comes to in-ear monitors, everyone has their preferences. Someone who’s a sound engineer may want something more balanced and neutral like the 16V2. Someone on stage, who hears more than just their own contribution to their music, may want something like the Lola or Layla/Roxanne depending on the type of emphasis they’re looking for. As for audiophiles, the jury is out on that one. Those who enjoy a more pseudo-analytical or detailed sound will prefer the Angie and Layla. Those who love a richer and denser sound will prefer the Lola.
Juxtaposing my experience of listening to the Roxanne and Layla, the Lola has a completely different signature from any of the other JH Audio IEMs. Music should sound real and as the artist intended and I believe the Lola accomplishes this. As you know, I’m all about timbre, tone, and tactility and the Lola has all three and is my preferred IEM of the bunch. The only thing I would probably change is the stock cable to perhaps a silver one to provide a bit more shimmer in the highs and more midrange detail. Just my preference, YMMV.
Jerry Harvey set out to create an IEM that sounds tonally rich, natural, and analog sounding. He succeeded with flying colors. The Lola is undoubtedly JH Audio’s most seductive, engaging, and “true to life” sounding IEM yet. In short, it just sounds more like real music. Vocals and instruments have convincing body/weight/timbre, imaging is pinpoint accurate, and recordings have an enormous amount of depth and energy. Piano have proper tonal decay, guitars are well-textured, kick drums are tight and have ample amounts of slam and authority. Given the choice of JH Audio’s entire line of IEMs, I’m willing to bet most music lovers will gravitate towards the Lola for it’s addictive, realistic, and fun qualities.
It’s amazing how a vision could be brought into fruition in a such a tangible and audible way. An enormous amount of effort was taken to make sure the goal of great sound was achieved…and it shows. The JH Audio Lola is a true testament to Jerry Harvey’s mastery of this domain.
A custom JH Audio Lola could be purchased for $1,745 directly and universal fits could be purchased from Moon Audio for $1,599. Special custom artwork is also available and comes with a special carbon fiber box.