Jade Audio is a new brand, but perhaps not so new as you might think. Founded under its parent brand, Fiio, it brings with it a wealth of experience and a new target audience. Jade Audio’s mission is to deliver great-sounding audio products at affordable prices, while also keeping a solid sense of style.
Today, we’re looking at one of its first products, the Jade Audio JH3. The “H” in that name stands for hybrid. Each earbud features a huge dynamic driver for bass and two balanced armatures for the bass and mids. It’s tuned for powerful bass and lots of detail, and is available now for only $39.99.
Fiio also sent along its brand new UTWS5 Bluetooth ear hooks to test. Capable of transforming any pair of IEMs into “true wireless,” it’s a compelling option for fans of high-quality audio that are ready to cut the cord. Coming in at $129 from Audio46, it promises to transform your listening — but does it deliver?
Current Price: $39.99 (Amazon)
Jade Audio JH3 - Unboxing, Key Features, and First Impressions
The Jade Audio JH3 is the second in a pair of new headphones coming out of Jade Audio this year. The other, the JD3, features a single dynamic driver, full metal shells, and retails for only $20. The JH3 is a more complex earphone and features a triple driver design, complete with a big dynamic driver for the bass and two balanced armatures for the mids and treble. It also features a selection of ear tips to modify their bassy sound signature, a good cable, and even a hardback travel case identical to the one that came with the Fiio FD3. The retail price is $59.99 but at the time of this writing only cost $39.99. A very solid deal, indeed.
Inside the box, the JH3 comes packaged inside its case, held securely in a foam block with silicone tips pre-installed. The cable is also included in the box and appears to be a 2-pin variant of the cable included with the Fiio FD3. Given that earphone’s $99 price, these addons feel generous. The tips come in a separate box. There are S/M/L sets of small-bore and large-bore silicone ear tips and another set of foams to round out the package. Jade Audio could have gotten away with a much more sparse package for the affordable cost, so this was refreshing to see.
The earbuds are designed in standard UIEM (universal IEM) fashion. The contoured inner half is made to nestle in your ear for support while the nozzle extends to secure the tip in your ear canal. The nozzles are made of metal with woven grilles for added durability of each. Nothing is worse than cleaning a glued on screen and having it come off, and that shouldn’t even be a problem on these.
The outside of the earbuds feature a wavy “light and shadow” pattern. They’re simple, but I like the mirrored finish on the inner waves. This design isn’t going to win any awards for creativity or complexity, but it’s simple and looks good.
The overall comfort of the JH3s is very good. They’re not the smallest earphones and do stick out a touch if you have medium to small ears, but I was able to wear them for 3-4 hours a time without any discomfort whatsoever. Fiio’s experience has definitely come through in the comfort department.
Let’s take a look at how they sound!
Jade Audio JH3 - Listening Impressions
If you’ve read other earphone reviews I’ve done, it should come as no surprise that I’m a fan of the hybrid design. Dynamic drivers and balanced armatures have different specialties and a well-done multi-driver design like the JH3 offers allows each to focus on what they do best. In this case, the triple driver design nicely segments into bass, mids, and treble.
Bass duties are handled by the massive 13.6mm dynamic driver. For context, the Sony WF1000-XM4, uses a driver less than half that size at only 6mm. Now, size doesn’t necessarily mean a speaker is going to sound good, but it does mean that it’s able to push more air when the design and magnetic flux supports it doing so.
Again, we see Fiio’s design experience showing through here. As we’ve seen in Fiio’s other recent earbuds, the magnetic structure has been designed to increase the magnetic flux, easily pushing the driver into big sound. The bass is big without being overwhelming. Fans of audiophile tunings may find it to be too much, but I didn’t find that it stepped on the other frequencies. Instead, it created an engaging sound. There isn’t much rumble, but there is wide low-end body, so the presentation leans more heavily into mid-bass.
Given the mainstream targeting and accessible pricing, I expected the buds to lean into the bass above all, but there’s a surprising amount of detail in the mids and highs. The balanced armatures, housed at the base of the nozzles, do an excellent job of rising mid- and high-frequency details out of the mix. There is nothing muddy or hazy about these headphones at all, so if you enjoy music with lots of details and texture (like acoustic or electric guitar-driven tracks or electronica), you’ll feel right at home with these. At high volumes, they could sound a mite sharp, but weren't sibilant. Mind excessive volume to prevent fatigue.
The soundstage is also surprisingly large with these earphones, even when driven with a simple dongle DAC — no added power required. As an in-ear monitor, they’re not going to be as wide as your average gaming headset, but I was able to have an equally good time closing my eyes and slipping into my favorite song as leveling up an alt on WoW. Imaging — or where sounds seem to be coming from — is just as good if not a bit better since it’s not limited by the IEM design. Competitive gaming will be no problem with these earphones, especially with the help of a software solution like Dolby Atmos for added atmosphere.
Overall resolution is good but not class-leading. Texture in the low-mids and bass feels slightly muted. Note decay also occurs a bit more quickly than you’ll find on the FD3 or FA1 from Fiio. Still, unless you’re critically listening, you’re far more likely to pick up on the excellent tuning and will find a lot to enjoy here.
At $59.99, these are a solid buy. At $39.99, they’re even better. Jade Audio has done an excellent job tuning these headphones and their shortcomings feel very minor compared to what they get right. Kudos to Jade Audio for a job well done.
Fiio UTWS5 - Overview and Listening Impressions
The other product we’re looking at today is the Fiio UTWS5 Bluetooth ear hooks. Each hook is a Bluetooth receiver with its own built-in high-quality DAC and amplifier. These hooks take the place of the cable, each connecting to a bud with its own independent combo. Using a memory wire, they hook around the hear and are transform your wired earbuds into true wireless.
There’s a bit more bulk here than a dedicated pair of TWS earphones, but the added size has major benefits. First and foremost, it’s a device that’s transformative. If you’ve made the jump to true wireless, going back to a pair of wired headphones is more than a little irritating. At the same time, the best-sounding, highest-resolution earphones today are all wired. The UTWS5 lets your enjoy those high-quality earphones without the need for a wire tethering you to your phone.
Fiio hasn’t skimped on the internals either. Each receiver features an AK4332 DAC and up to 53mW of power into 16 ohms (or 33mW into 32 ohms, which is the other most common resistance in earphones). This is enough power to drive even demanding in-ears to their full potential. Each earpiece acts independently, so you don’t have to worry about cross-talk or other channel noise interrupting your listening.
The hooks also feature capacitive touch controls. Like most true wireless buds, skipping tracks, adjusting volume, and answering calls is all done through a combination of taps and holds. The touch interface is located on the wider section of the hook, making it easier to touch. The combinations are intuitive (tap left to decrease volume, tap right to increase, for example) and the unit is well-designed to prevent accidental presses.
I admit to being worried about the design of the UTWS5s, but I’m happy to report that they’re comfortable to wear and work well. The hook around the back of the ear is actually quite light and didn’t feel cumbersome to wear at all. They’re a good fit even for working out, assuming the earphone itself fits securely.
The only thing to note here is that Fiio actually sells two versions of the UTWS5, one for MMCX earbuds and the other for 2-pin connections. There are no adapters in the box but they can be purchased separately from third-party vendors for under $30.
I tested them with the JH3 (with an adapter) as well as the much more demanding FD7 and FH9 earbuds. The UTWS5 did an outstanding job of driving each set. It didn’t color the sound in a noticeable way but maintained the unique character of each. I found listening to be detailed and enjoyable, almost as if I were connected over a wire. They accomplished their purpose with aplomb.
They weren’t perfect, however. Audiophiles will certainly miss the presence of LDAC. Currently, the earbuds support aptX, including the latest aptX Adaptive codec, but it’s a notable absence when Fiio’s Bluetooth neckband, the LC-BT2, supports it. I also ran into an intermittent issue where the earbuds would attempt to connect to my phone from inside their case. Reseating them on the charging pins helped, but it left me wondering how often that was occurring through the day while I was at work instead of tending to my phone.
Both the Jade Audio JH3 and Fiio UTWS5 are great products. The JH3 was the biggest surprise and is a truly excellent value for the listeners on a budget. The UTWS5s, while more expensive and lacking LDAC support, are a freeing product that was surprisingly comfortable to wear and sounded great. You can’t go wrong with either.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.