CanJam at RMAF - Outstanding Product: The Jerry Harvey Audio JH-3A
JH-3A Portable DSP Headphone Amp
It's well over a year now since I first heard of this products impending release. Myriad troubles and woe with engineers and patent issues have plagued this ambitious project, but it looks like that's all behind us now. The JH-3A ($1748 w/JH16 companion earphone), it appears, will be shipping shortly.
Long ago Jerry Harvey envisioned a headphone amplifier that would employ digital signal processing methods to finely tune the response of his multiple-driver earphones. Jerry speaks often of his belief that driver time-alignment is very important, and the JH-3A's DSP allows him to finely control the exact timing of the signal to the drivers. He's also well aware of the fact that balanced armature drivers and the acoustics of IEMs impose resonant artifacts that are undesirable, but unavoidable using traditional methods. Having a DSP engine allows him to tweak out some of these otherwise unavoidable peaks and dips. In other words, by using digital signal processing techniques, Jerry can surgically tweak the response of his multiple-driver headphones with a precision heretofore unavailable.
The JH-3A has inputs for both analog and digital signals. If an analog signal is used, it is run through an analog to digital converter and turned into a digital signal. The digital audio is fed into a DSP (digital signal processing) chip. The DSP works to create three different output signals for the bass, mid-range, and treble drivers. It adjusts the overall gain and time delay, and adds some frequency shaping peaks and/or dips to make fine tweaks to the JH16 drivers. After the DSP there is a DAC and amp for each driver signal. The JH-3A is not an active cross-over; the output of each channel is full-bandwidth. The cross-over passive components needed to provide the proper band-pass for each driver are located in the ear-pieces.
In addition to Jerry's ability to tweak to his hearts content, another advantage of this system that leaves the cross-over components in the ear-pieces is that by simply changing the cable you can use the JH16 earphones with any other headphone out. That's cool ... sometimes I just want to carry my iPhone. If you want to go the full digital route I'd recommend the Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo, which will extract the audio digitally from your iDevice.
What I heard at the show sounded great. But products at this level of greatness really can't be evaluated in show conditions. I got my ear impressions made, and now I'm tingling all over in anticipation of a review sample and some serious listening time on this long awaited JH Audio flagship.
I've got to say, statement products can be an absolute pain in the butt to produce. Making mad-scientist dreams in to real products available for sale, and finding people willing to buy them, is an activity fraught with peril. But without visionary products we risk a market descent into the least common denominator. Things that are epic or heroic are needed to keep our imaginative juices flowing. Evidence of passion is inspiring. I love that Jerry powered through the obstacles and produced the JH-3A.
Thank you for keeping things marvelously interesting, Jerry.