Earbuds provide rich, comfortable sound on a budget.
Even though I love various types of music, movies, programs, books, etc., I will never claim to be an audiophile. Do not misinterpret my meaning though, because one can be a lover of quality sound, a comfortable fit, but also desire cost savings and thrift.
Do you truly need all of the bells and whistles of the most expensive pair of headphones on the market? Do you need the absolute best drivers/sound/bass, mixers, equalizers, etc? Do you require a certain brand/name to adorn your accessory?
If yes, you may not even consider brands outside of a select few. Honestly, for those highest-end sounds, you may not even consider earbuds at all, let alone a pair under $200. Unfortunately, with a recession, a Covid pandemic in full swing, and a potential add-on MonkeyPox Pandemic, many are struggling to afford the essentials, let alone extras. Luckily, companies like JVC offer quality gear at affordable, entry-level prices.
The JVC Riptidz arrived in a vibrant 3 1/6 inches wide by 6 1/2 inches tall by 1 3/8 inches wide hanging-style retail package. I loved the aqua blue color, the water theme, and the bright white-colored product name along the right side panel. The bold-red JVC name was displayed along the top left of the panel, while the blue Riptidz earbuds were displayed next to the product name.
You will find an oblique image of the charging case, the HA-A9T model number, an Eco-Friendly packaging icon, and four product-defining icons along the bottom of the panel: 30h battery, microphone, water-resistant icon, and touch button integration. JVC did a great job with the color selection and with the overall presentation.
The cover scene reminded me of an underwater or horror movie production poster with the broken white product name, white shadows around the earbuds and case, and the water accent. The theme continued on the left side panel with the product name and “True Wireless” label. The right side panel provided a list of the product accessories: instruction manual, small/medium/large ear tips, charging cable (USB), and charging case. The blue-colored bottom panel listed the model number and SKU barcode.
The white-colored rear panel broke the theme and presented data in a more traditional manner. I would have liked for JVC to continue the color scheme, but it is hard to go wrong with a classic black-on-white pattern. The red-colored company name was present along the top left, while the model number was listed along the top right.
Next, you will find descriptions of the icons listed on the cover (touch control, water resistant IPX5 (Buds Only), remote + microphone, up to 30 (7.5+22.5) hour battery life), and an oblique view of an open navy-colored earbud case. The middle segment provided additional information about the setup/specifications: Bluetooth V5.1, non-waterproof case, Bluetooth symbol, recycle icon, and JVCKENWOOD Corporation information.
To access the Riptidz earbuds, I lifted the top flap, and slid the inner white tray out from within the box. I removed the plastic-wrapped 1.7 ounces, 2 1/2 inches long by 15/16 inches wide by 1 3/4 inches tall JVC earbud case from the box. Next, I removed the folded instruction manual, the JVC Limited Warranty packet, and the 2 1/4 long by 1 inch thick by 1 3/4 inches tall accessory box with 11 inches long USB-A to USB-C cable and accessory ear tip bag (s/m/L).
Before turning to the instruction manual, I lifted the lid of the earbud case, removed the earbuds, removed the white paper blocking the charging posts, and replaced the earbuds into the case. l grabbed a 5V/2.4A USB-A charging block, plugged the earbud case into the adapter, and observed the four front LED lights.
The front panel of the large foldout instruction manual proved to be rather busy. In fact, the panel provided warnings and details in a variety of languages. The most useful segment of the manual was the lower third of the back page with large images of the earbuds and features. The panel walked the user through the case (~3.5 hours) and earbud (~2 hours) charging process, reminded the user to remove the paper blockers, and then provided a visual reference of the pairing process.
I opened the lid, removed the right then left earbud, noted the quick flashing lights on the top back of the earbuds, navigated to Settings on my iPhone 13 Pro Max, to Bluetooth, and then selected JVC HA-A9T from the list. I found the pre-installed earbuds to be properly sized to my ear canals, inserted the right then left earbud, and heard the female voice announce “Power On, Pairing, Pairing Successful, Connected.”
Each 0.1-ounce, 1 1/8 inches tall by 1 1/8 inches long earbud had a black outer segment, JVC name, a blue inner segment/earpiece, an “R” or “L” etched into the rounded segment, and a black silicone ear tip. The earbud color setup matched the included charging case’s black top, and blue front/side/bottom panels. If needed, you can rotate the earbud downward or upward for added comfort.
To test the sound output, I navigated to the audiocheck.net website and selected the Low-Frequency Response and Subwoofer Audio Test (10-200 Hz) to test the bass output. I heard a slight whining noise at 10 Hz that quickly abated but was pleased to hear the rumbling bass at 20Hz. To test the upper frequencies, I used the High-Frequency Response and Hearing Audio Test (22-8 kHz).
If you have read any of my previous headphone reviews, then you likely know that I follow a standard test pattern for my earbuds. With the human range of hearing at about 20Hz-20KHz, these two tests can show the limitations of both the earbuds and your ears. As we age and experience damage to our ears, we lose the ability to hear higher frequencies. I was able to hear the high pitched test tone at 15kHz, which was on par with my ability to hear. My ten and seven year old children were able to hear the tone at 17kHz, which was on par with their hearing ability.
With range testing completed, I navigated to the Left/Right (Stereo) Sound Test and found the earbuds were appropriately programmed. For my final audiocheck.net test, I love to use the “Original Binaural Recording” on the Stereo Perception and Sound Localization Test page. In fact, my kids request that I turn off the lights and let each of them experience the staging features of the binaural knocking.
We then turn to a variety of 8D audio tracks from Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Disturbed “Sound of Silence,” and Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight.” If you have not experienced 8D Audio, the sounds of the singer/group swings back and forth between your ears like a pendulum. It is a neat experience and showcases some of the power of one of our most important special senses.
Pleased with the audiocheck.net tests, I turned to my typical test tracks and used Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora. I started with HD “Train Song” by Holly Cole and enjoyed the bounding bass line and sultry jazz room style song. The bass supported the vocals, and the earbuds provided an above-average staging presence. The HD version of “Bright Lights Bigger City” by CeeLo Green provided a full Poppy Synth feel and showed a well-rounded picture. I liked the bass line, the drum feature, plus the vocals, and was pleased with the overall blend.
Next, I turned to the Ultra HD version of “Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold” from the Hobbit and appreciated the deep, somber humming verse. I was rather impressed with the deep feel and the warmth of the sound and the lack of any muddy feeling or muffling. I listened to the clashing sounds of Dark Knight Rises Joker Theme “Why So Serious,” and enjoyed the rotor wash feel of the bass line (3:20-4:00) and the build-up/crashes throughout the song.
I did experience some of the high-pitched whinings during the Joker Theme but not with the other tests. For my final test, I used the Ultra HD version of Home Free’s “Ring of Fire” to listen to the ending low F# Growl by Tim Faust.
To test the mids and upper sounds, I used several Acapella options from Home Free HD “Sea Shanty Medly”, “Fishin’ in the Dark/Down in the Boonddocks,” Hymn Mashups from Anthem Lights, “It is Well With My Soul,” “Doxology,” and then listened to one of my favorite songs “What a day that will be” by By Gospel Plowboys.”
I listened to “Chain Breaker” by Gaither Vocal Band, Radiohead “The National Anthem,” “Carribean Blue” by Enya, and then turned to my favorite instrumental soundtracks from Robin Hood prince of Thieves, Far and Away, and Braveheart. I was impressed with the mids/uppers, the blend, the spacing, and the tone. I liked that I was able to make out the instruments and the sounds never felt tinny or sharp/harsh.
The bass felt full and controlled, while the upper melodies carried the listener. To pay homage to my instrumental band history, I listened to several marches by John Philip Sousa “The Washington Post,” to Holst “Suite in Eb,” “Lincolnshire Posey” by Percy Grainger, and several excerpts from “Palovetsian Dances.” I found the instrumental sounds relaxing and was rather impressed with the JVC Riptidz.
Throughout the testing process, I had to remind myself that I was using a sub $40 pair of earbuds. I turned to several fun tracks from Bill Withers, The Penguins, The Animals, The Beatles, Ben E. King, Sir Elton John, Queen, and CCR. The sound output felt quite crisp and clean from the lowest volume level on my iPhone through ~75% volume, while the touch button controls were rather intuitive. A single tap along the back of either earbud will play/pause a song, while a double tap of the left earbud will decrease the sound and a triple tap will increase the volume.
A double press of the right earbud will navigate to the next track, while a triple tap will return to the previous track. If you hold either of the earbuds for more than about 3 seconds, the devices will turn off. They did not have active noise cancellation, automatic play/pause as they are inserted/removed from the ears, but they did have SIRI assistance if you held either bud for 2 seconds.
Even though they did not have all of the features of devices like AirPods Pro and some of the more expensive earbuds, I do not feel that you would find better sound/comfort for the price. Truly, the sound and comfort matched many of the $75-100 earbuds that I have previously reviewed. I appreciated the comfortable feel, the smooth sound, and that I experienced no ear canal fatigue.
I listened to “Dungeon Crawler Carl Book 5” on Audible, watched Corporals Corner on YouTube, “The Orville” on Hulu, “Ms. Marvel” on Disney+, “Star Trek Strange New Worlds” on Paramount+ and found no lag between the video and sound output. I was a bit shocked with the Bluetooth range and found I could place my iPhone 13 Pro Max in my living room and move upstairs to my kid’s room, downstairs into the basement, and up to the 30-foot range before cracking/popping (A2DP, AVRCP, HFP protocols).
I enjoyed the included accessory ear tips, and as noted above, found the pre-installed tips to fit my ear canals. My wife tested the earbuds as well and found that the included tips were a bit too big. She exchanged the tips for the smaller size and found that she liked the look/feel of the Riptidz. We both used the devices while running, biking, performing jumping jacks, and burpees, and found that the earbuds remained securely seated within the ear canals.
If you are looking for an inexpensive yet comfortable pair of wireless earbuds, I would consider the JVC Riptidz. I was able to utilize the earbuds for about 2 hours a day over the last week, for a total of about ~13 hours, and never had to charge the earbuds. Interestingly, I believe that I could have used the earbuds for another week before requiring a charge.
The longest listening session was ~3 hours as a passenger on a recent roadtrip. Even though the Riptidz lack some of the more advanced features, I was impressed with the passive noise cancellation, with the fit and sound. The device may be perfect for preteens, teens, college students, adults, and may serve as the perfect pair of hiking or gym earbuds. The touch controls should allow adequate control of your smart device and the pocketable charging case design was yet another bonus.
Overall, I would rate the JVC Riptidz earbuds at 8.8/10 for sound, 8.5/10 for comfort, 9/10 for battery life, 7/10 for accessories, and 9/10 for packaging. If you are looking for a battery-rich, sound-rich, comfortable fitting, sub $40 pair of earphones, the JVC Riptidz will not disappoint.