Hooked Up – JVC HA-NCX78

Article

posted 3/1/2010 by Dan Keener
other articles by Dan Keener
Platforms: AV
Welcome to Hooked Up, the Gaming Nexus series that puts the spotlight on gaming related products that impact the Video Game experience. This week we take a look at JVC’s HA-NCX78 noise-canceling headphones.


What is it?
The JVC HA-NCX78 is an ear bud style headphone that has noise-canceling capabilities. They are packaged with three silicon rubber ear pieces (small, medium and large), a pair of memory foam ear pieces, a pair of plastic ear loops, airline adapter, ‘AAA’ battery and a vinyl drawstring pouch to keep everything nice and tidy.

Impressions
After unboxing them, the first thing I noticed is that the NCX78 headphones are not out to win any artistic or beauty contests, but they do have a decent enough look to them. The unit sports silver on black design for both the buds and control center that allow them to blend in and not catch the eye of a casual observer. However, these headphones are more about how they handle the sound and less about how cool they look. The in-line control center is actually well-designed and isn’t much larger than the ‘AAA’ battery it houses. One nice addition is a clip on the back side that allows you to attach it to your clothes, which is very helpful to get the cord up and out of the way while working or playing games. It also has the noise-cancelling power switch as well as a “Monitor” button that temporarily mutes the audio coming through the earbuds while it is depressed.



After recently reviewing the JVC FX300 headphones, I had high expectations for the NCX78’s in terms of comfort, but the design of the ear pieces was not at all what I was expecting. While they are ok to wear for long stints, the design (separate ear clip coupled with a large earbud base) did not fit my ear as well as the FX300’s did. I played around with the various sized tips (small, medium, large and memory foam) and found that the standard medium was the right size for my ear canal, but the bud casing was the biggest problem. Because of its size, it covers the entire ear opening and can pres into the edges based on the shape of your ear. In my case, it was constantly touching the bottom portion of my ear (directly below the canal opening) and putting pressure on it. So even though I got used to it over time, my ear was pretty happy when I finally pulled the buds out. This isn’t necessarily a knock on the NVX78’s because you can wear them for hours at a time, but I just felt they could have been designed a tad better to maximize the comfort.

As far as the audio performance, the NCX78’s seemed to really excel at any audio that requires crystal clear sound such as songs that are primarily vocals (‘Dust in the Wind’ by Kansas, ‘Beth’ by Kiss and ‘Southern Cross’ by Crosby, Still and Nash come to mind.) While they couldn’t replicate the low bass that larger headphones can, they did a decent job of producing enough bass to give an audio range that most people will find acceptable. I was happy with the performance with two-channel soundtrack playback for movies, as they did a good job of replicating the sounds of “The Hangover” and “Up”, especially with the noise-cancelling enabled. Most users probably won’t be jamming to Metallica or bass-heavy rap while wearing these, but they will get the job done. Overall, I thought that the NCX78’s did a good job of reproducing any music or movie soundtrack I threw at it. While they were a touch on the “bright” side, I was able to play with my iPod Touch’s pre-loaded equalizers to find a good balance that produced the best sound.


Pros
Cord length is perfect
Sound quality is above average
Monitor button nice feature for those who get interrupted

Cons
Noise-cancelling isn’t as noticeable as it could be
Bass could be deeper
No in-line volume control


Gaming Impact
Probably the most underappreciated aspect of gaming is the audio, as the graphics, gameplay and controls seem to dominate in terms of importance. However, when it comes to portable gaming, the audio can completely set apart a good game from a great game due to limitations in the other areas. The most important things the JVC NCX78s can offer to gamers are the ability to focus on the game at hand (by counter-acting outside noise) and not breaking the gamer’s budget.

The sound quality regardless of game type (casual, puzzler, arcade, Madden, Tiger Woods, etc.) was very good and provided clear and concise audio. I played quite a bit of Ace Combat Xi and Ridge Racer for iPhone OS while on a plane and was able to put both the engine and cabin noise out of my head while the noise-cancelling was enabled. The monitor button was nice, because I didn’t have to pull the buds out of my ear to speak to the stewardess or my flight companions.


The Skinny
JVC has produced a decent option for those that want in-ear noise-cancelling while playing games or listening to music without having to spend big dollars to get it. While the HA-NCX78 lacks some of the punch of their FX300 cousins, they are still a high quality ear bud that delivers decent sound. The biggest disappointment is that the noise-cancelling is not more prevalent, although it does noticeably affect the amount of noise that is heard while using them. The bottom line is that there are not that many earbud style noise-cancelling options on the market that offer the blend of quality, performance and price that the JVC HA-NCX78s do.

Miscellaneous Items of Note
• Cord length is 4.9ft
• Uses a single ‘AAA’ battery (included)
• Comes with four ear tips and storage pouch
 
Testing Methodology

Items utilized in the testing of the JVC HA-NCX78 system included, but not limited to:

2nd Gen iPod Touch, Windows Vista PC, Sony PSP, Nintendo DS Light
 

Where to Find/Buy
The JVC HA-NCX78 headphones can be purchased online at several popular sites, including Amazon, Buy.com and Newegg for less than $50. They are also available at Walmart ($79.88) and Sears ($59.99) at a slightly higher price.


If you have a gaming related product or accessory that you would like to see featured in Hooked Up, please contact the Author regarding inclusion.





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