Carbon fiber is well known for showing up in racing cars and sports boats, but headphones? According to JVC, the strong, lightweight material is what makes their HA-S650 headphones particularly special, delivering - so they promise - audio quality that punches above their weight and, more importantly perhaps, price bracket. Are they ear salvation or will we prefer the sound of silence; check out the full SlashGear review after the cut.
JVC use carbon fiber for the HA-S650's housing and diaphragm, which they reckon adds up to lighter headphones, reduced distortion and improved durability. There's no visible weave, however, and that leaves the glossy black material looking a little too much like cheap plastic for our liking. Build quality feels reasonable, and the stainless steel headband flexes broadly without you getting the sense that it's about to snap, but in the hand the HA-S650's lack the reassurance that the packaging would have us believe in.
As for the HA-S650's audio performance, they're surprisingly neutral with little in the way of emphasis on either the high- or low-end frequencies. Whether that's a good thing will depend on how much you like the standard sound from your audio source, and how flexible that source's own EQ settings are. Without a little attention we found bass-heavy music to lack a little punch at the low-end, though that could be tweaked using an equaliser, but there's a lightness to the high-end which comes to the fore with sparser, vocal music.
With a little time investment, then, the HA-S650's can really shine, and while the relatively light weight may not add up to the best hand-feel, it does mean you can wear the headphones for extended periods without discomfort. The ability to rotate the earpieces 90-degrees and make the JVC's flatter for transporting is neat, but we'd have preferred a little more flexibility in tilting the cups to avoid pressure on the tops of our ears. Still, they're nonetheless some of the more comfortable headphones we've tried, primarily because of their 3.63oz (103g) weight. Worth noting is the 3.94ft (1.2m) fixed cord, which is a little on the short side if you want to use them with a regular stereo or PC rather than a PMP or laptop.
If you primarily listen to bass-heavy music then there are probably better headphones out there, but if your tastes are broader then the JVC HA-S650's would make a good choice. The absence of any kind of carrying case or pouch seems unduly mean of JVC, and while the company may boast about carbon fiber's durability we're not entirely confident enough to drop the headphones into our rucksack unprotected. Still, with a street price of around $40 (MRSP $69.95) you're getting plenty of audio quality for your money.