This week we reviewed the JVC XP-EXT1, wireless headphones designed to provide 7.1.4 channel sound. They work together with a separate transmitter base that is equipped with HDMI and optical interfaces and handles Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, as well as standard audio formats. The exclusive EXOFIELD technology is not only able to convert stereo, 5.1 and 7.1 streams to 7.1.4, but can also create an optimized sound field for each listener. Thanks to a calibration microphone integrated into each earpiece, the audio processing is adapted to the listener’s morphology. Sold for €999, are the JVC XP-EXT1 headphones a good alternative to a genuine home theater installation?
JVC XP-EXT1: the brand
The company JVC was launched in 1927. As the Japanese branch of the American phonograph and record company Victor Talking Machine Company, JVC stands for The Japan Victor Company. When JVC started out, it exclusively produced record players and records, just like its parent company. JVC began to design its first radios in 1932 after Victor Talking Machine Company was acquired by RCA and in 1939, the brand released the very first television made entirely in Japan.
Highlights for the company include the acquisition of a majority stake by Panasonic Corporation, which became the majority shareholder of JVC, and the arrival of Kenjiro Takayanagi. A pioneer in television development, the engineer Kenjiro Takayanagi is known as “the father of Japanese television”. In 1959, he introduced the first dual rotary head videocassette recorder. JVC made its mark as a leading-edge brand and became a global trailblazer in the VCR industry.
JVC made audiovisual history once again with the release of the JVC Victor HR-33000 VHS video recorder in 1976. The HR-33000 was the world’s first VHS VCR and was initially restricted to the Japanese market due to its regional limitation. However, the following year it was released in the United States and the UK under the references HR-3300U and HR-3300EK respectively. The JVC HR-3300 featured two large dials to adjust very high frequencies (VHF) and ultra high frequencies (UHF), separate inputs for the antennas for each frequency range, as well as an RCA composite video input and output. This programmable video recorder even allowed the user to automatically record programs aired in a time frame of up to 24 hours.
Although JVC isn’t particularly well known for its hi-fi headphones in the European market, it has enjoyed a good reputation in this domain since the late 1970s in Japan. Japanese JVC headphones are acclaimed for their advanced technologies, their designs that incorporate high-end materials and their excellent value for money. Consequently, the JVC XP-EXT1 headphones of this review benefit from JVC’s many years of experience in designing exceptional hi-fi headphones.
JVC XP-EXT1: packaging & accessories
The JVC XP-EXT1 TV headphones come in a box featuring the EXOFIELD spatialization technology name and the EISA 2020 award for best home theater headphones. The JVC XP-EXT1 is placed inside a second box made entirely of polystyrene to protect it from damage. It comes with a transmitter base, an AC adapter, a 2.5mm mini-jack to 2.5mm mini-jack cable for acoustic calibration, a USB A to USB B cable for charging and a quick start guide.
JVC XP-EXT1: EXOFIELD technology
Packed with acoustic technologies, the JVC XP-EXT1 wireless headphones are designed to deliver 7.1.4 surround sound without the clutter of loudspeakers. To do so, they use an EXT1 digital sound processor with EXOFIELD technology that JVC has been working on since 2017. This system provides sophisticated signal processing for three-dimensional spatialization with movies, TV series and video games. This spatialization can be applied to a maximum of 7.1.4 channels. The JVC XP-EXT1 headphones’ processor is therefore compatible with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X formats, as well as all variations of the proprietary Dolby and DTS formats. The EXOFIELD technology can convert stereo, 5.1 and 7.1 audio streams from TV shows, Blu-ray discs and video games to 7.1.4.
JVC XP-EXT1: customizable listening modes
The user can choose the most suitable sound by selecting one of the four sound modes available: cinema, music, gaming and personalized. The cinema mode accentuates and centers voices more effectively, the music mode broadens the frontal soundstage and the gaming mode reinforces the low frequencies. The personalized mode allows you to manually adjust the EQ curve. It is also possible to adjust both the reproduction of headphones’ sound and the effects to suit the user’s morphology. Everyone perceives sound in a different way, mostly due to the unique shape of our ears, which influences the transmission and perception of different sound waves. Consequently, the JVC XP-EXT1 headphones’ earpieces both incorporate a microphone that measures the transmission of sound waves in the auricle of the ear. Similar to the auto-calibration of certain A/V receivers that analyzes the distribution of sound inside a room to correct the acoustics, EXOFIELD technology creates a specific EQ curve for each user via the mobile app.
JVC XP-EXT1: transmitter base
The JVC XP-EXT1 headphones work with a transmitter base equipped with three HDMI inputs that are all UHD 4K and HDR compatible to centralize sources such as a Blu-ray player, a network media player and a games console. The HDMI output is eARC and ARC compatible so that it can retrieve the soundtrack of the program on the TV. This base also features an optical input as well as an RCA input so you can connect any analog stereo audio source (CD player, network audio player, DAC). The audio signal is then transmitted via a dedicated WiFi network operating on a frequency of 5 GHz, ensuring high speed, a range of up to several dozen meters and interference-free transmission.
JVC XP-EXT1: headphone design
The JVC XP-EXT1 headphones are very light (330 grams) and have been made as comfortable as possible by the manufacturer so that they can be worn for several hours. They feature a double headband with a steel upper part. The underside slides along the metal part to adjust the height of the earpieces. These adjustments are extremely precise, allowing the headphones to easily fit all body shapes. Once the right position has been found it doesn’t move, even after repeated use.
The JVC XP-EXT1 headphones have an over-ear, closed-back design. The ear pads are wide, entirely covering the user’s ears. They benefit from 3cm-thick memory foam padding covered with leatherette. Once you are wearing them, the JVC XP-EXT1 headphones are quickly forgotten in favor of the music and movie sound effects. The headband’s very soft padding allows the headphones to rest gently on the top of the user’s head. The ear pads are slightly firmer, but just as comfortable. Moreover, this padding provides excellent passive isolation to block out background noise. During our review of the JVC XP-EXT1, we sometimes left the sound on our television but we couldn’t hear it through the headphones. So when watching programs together with several people, the sound of the TV and chatter from those sitting next to you won’t disrupt the listening experience.
The JVC XP-EXT1 headphones are easy and intuitive to use. Once turned on and placed on the listener’s ears, they automatically turn the transmitter base on, as well as the television if the CEC protocol is enabled. There is a control interface on the right ear piece that lets you select the source, activate the EXOFIELD technology and adjust the volume. Unfortunately, the volume control isn’t particularly intuitive. You have to press and swipe from the + button to the – button to decrease the volume by one degree, or the opposite to increase it. So to significantly decrease or increase the volume, it is necessary to do this several times. It isn’t a very quick or practical way to control the volume. Thankfully, the JVC XP-EXT1 headphones’ volume can also be adjusted in the mobile app or with the television’s remote control if the CEC protocol is activated.
Lastly, the JVC XP-EXT1 headphones’ acoustic design uses two large, 40mm dynamic transducers. These are driven by powerful neodymium magnets, guaranteeing great responsiveness and dynamic reproduction.
JVC XP-EXT1: configuration
For our review of the JVC XP-EXT1, we used the Zappiti One SE 4K HDR network media player to play the DTS and Dolby Atmos soundtracks of Blu-ray Remux files. The player was connected to the transmitter’s HDMI input using a Norstone Jura HDMI cable. The transmitter’s output was connected to a Samsung UHD 4K television using an Audioquest Cinnamon cable. Thanks to HDMI ARC compatibility, we were also able to enjoy the soundtracks of content from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus content we watched on our TV.
Once the base is powered by the mains and the various sources connected, the JVC XP-EXT1 headphones are immediately operational. However, it is possible to optimize the sound by carrying out the acoustic calibration with the microphones inside each ear piece. To use them, you must first install the Exofield Theater mobile app that connects to the base via Bluetooth. The headphones then have to be connected to the base with the included mini-jack cable. The calibration procedure starts and generates several sound waves similar to those produced when calibrating home theater speakers. They aren’t very pleasant to listen to, but fortunately it only lasts a few seconds. Based on these measurements, data is generated and exported from the smartphone to the processor. The created profile can then be activated at any time from the headphones or the transmitter base. So that the whole family can enjoy the JVC XP-EXT1 headphones to the fullest, it is possible to create up to 6 different profiles, 4 of which can be selected directly from the transmitter base.
The application isn’t needed once this calibration is finished, but it is still handy if you want to check the codec of the movie you’re watching, quickly adjust the volume or select a sound mode. The application also provides many customizable settings, including a 5-band equalizer to highlight or reduce certain frequencies. It is also possible to adjust the center channel and bass levels.
JVC XP-EXT1: listening impressions
The JVC XP-EXT1 headphones were very impressive with the movie Interstellar in DTS HD Master Audio 7.1. EXOFIELD technology brought dimension to the soundstage and made it possible to simulate the atmosphere of a real movie theater, in particular by manipulating the reverberation. The different effects were well spatialized and flowed from every direction. It really felt like they were coming from the different corners of the room and not from the transducers situated only a few centimeters from our ears. Dialogues were well centered, but sometimes seemed muffled when the soundtrack was at its peak. We improved this by slightly increasing the volume of the center channel.
In a completely different genre with Todd Phillips’ Joker, the JVC XP-EXT1 headphones instantly plunged us into the atmosphere of the movie and the escalating madness of the character. This movie doesn’t have the most explosive score, but it is full of many details and background noises that one could really encounter in the same places. The JVC XP-EXT1 headphones managed to accurately position them and made us feel as if we were in the same room as the actor.
To wrap up our review, we decided to test the JVC XP-EXT1 headphones’ ability to reproduce music with Roger Waters’ The Wall concert in Dolby Atmos. We chose the “Music” mode in the headphones’ settings for this listening session. The JVC XP-EXT1 headphones were convincing from the very first tracks. The width of the soundstage created by the Exofield system allowed the instruments to unfold. The sound was detailed and enjoyable, with punchy and well-controlled lows. Atmos effects enhanced the experience by propelling certain guitar sounds and the audience’s applause far beyond the physical limits of the headphones. We felt as if we were next to the stage with Roger Waters playing in front of us.
JVC XP-EXT1: compared to the Sony MDR-HW700DS
Released in 2016 and no longer available for purchase, the Sony MDR-HW700DS headphones remain the only TV headphones to offer a similar solution to the JVC XP-EXT1. Like the latter, they come with a transmitter base with HDMI inputs to centralize sources. The sound is transmitted to the headphones on a dual frequency band: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. In contrast, the Sony headphones are a little larger and may cause your ears to become slightly warm after several extended listening sessions. Moreover, the spatialization only features 9.1 channels compared to 7.1.4 channels for the JVC model, and it doesn’t have a calibration system or a mobile app to customize the listening experience. Therefore, the user can only choose between music, movie and gaming modes to adjust the sound. Despite this, the performance offered by the Sony MDR-HW700DS headphones is very close to that of the JVC headphones. The soundstage isn’t quite as spacious, which gives the impression of being in a smaller listening room, but it has the advantage of providing dialogues that are always precisely centered. The lows are also deeper and more powerful. However, rear and Atmos sound effects are more tangible with the JVC XP-EXT1 headphones.
JVC XP-EXT1: conclusion
It would be an exaggeration to say that the JVC XP-EXT1 headphones provide the same experience as a real 7.1.4 home theater system. To tell the truth, only the Smyth Realiser A16 system sold for over €4000 is able to achieve this feat. Despite this, the JVC XP-EXT1 headphones are a great alternative that provide a more immersive experience than regular stereo headphones. They provide a wide soundstage that unfolds almost 360° around the spectator in which the effects are accurately positioned. This makes it ideal for enjoying powerful surround sound without disturbing others during late night movie sessions.
What we liked
- The spacious soundstage
- The powerful lows
- The easy setup
- The effective Exofield technology
What we would have liked
- For the volume controls to have been more intuitive
- A more original design