Q-Jays Inner Earphones in Review – Dual Balanced Armature Precision
Jays – Design and Quality
The Q-Jays represent our 3rd Balanced Armature earphone review. This time, Sweden’s Jays’ top product, the Q-Jay are on the table. They are also the smallest dual armature earphones in the world. And tiny they are – the body could fit two or three times into a Monster Turbine shell!
From their website
Since 2006, JAYS has been pushing the barriers for design and quality, recognizing the need for better quality and better portability. At JAYS – we believe that the phrase – Sound of Science – should not be used lightly. JAYS is a passionate music loving company that puts its soul into all products they develop from their headquarters in Sweden.
JAYS already have a wide portfolio of award winning products and continuously work hard to be number one in making valuable great products. We want to make sure nothing comes between you and the music.
2006: Released d-JAYS
2007: Released j-JAYS, m-JAYS, q-JAYS, Bluestreamer
2008: Released s-JAYS, Bluestreamer 2, Accessories
2009: Released c-JAYS, v-JAYS …
Q-Jays Fit Kit and Package
Jays put together an excellent package that not only looks good, but is chock full of extras. Ear-pieces come in 5 sizes for a total of 7 pairs including a foamie type that secures onto the Q-Jay via a rubber grommet. The ear-pieces are not as supple as the Turbine flanges but are comfortable and look to be nearly indestructible. The foamie pieces come in one size only, but compress to a small size as well as expand outward to fit larger canals. Included is a splitter that allows you to share your music with a friend and Jays have also added an airplane dual mono adapter for those compressed flights.
The Q-Jays also come with a pleather carrying case that, while cute, is a bit too small for anything but the extra ear pieces. Inside is nice and fuzzy! Unfortunately, the packaging itself follows the Zagg Z-buds vein of sharp finger-cutting plastic packaging. Be careful when opening; make sure you have scissors or a handy knife with you to safely open the edges of the box.
Overall, the Q-Jays are presented very well and supplied with enough accessories to make their purchase worthwhile though lose points for a careless packaging design.
Dual Balanced-Armature: Earphone Specs
Type Dual Micro Armatures
Sensitivity 95 dB SPL @ 1 kHz
Impedance 39 Ohm @ 1 kHz
Frequency Response 20 Hz – 20 000 Hz
Isolation JAYS Sound Isolating Sleeves
Size (L)19 x (W)7.5 x (H)7.4 mm
Weight 8 grams (0.28 oz)
Type TPE coated with Kevlar filling
Length 60 cm (23.5 in)
Diameter 2/1.5 mm (0,079/0,059 in)
Plug Straight, Gold-Plated Stereo Plug 3.5 mm (1/8 in)
Extension Cord 90 cm (35.5 in)
What that means is of little importance if you are not really into your audio. If not, then just skip over this bit.
The Q-Jays at 39ohms are nearing middle ground in terms of driving efficiency. They will show up lack in the output of many digital audio players but not shock the system into a bassless submission. The iPod Touch 2g will perform remarkably when driving music for bass quantity and resolution and the iPhone 2G and 3G will perform typically, with bass roll-off present in the lower frequencies but an overall warm presentation. The bass roll-off however, impacts on details, meaning that you may hear a thump instead of a rumble.
As for soundstage, iPod and iPhone users – you are in luck. The iDevice remains to this day on top in terms of left-to-right separation even when under load. Lastly, with a sensitivity of 95db, the Q-Jays can be driven loudly from nearly any portable but are not as efficient as Sleek Customs, the Monster Turbine or Sennheiser’s IE8. The Q-Jays are somewhat of an anomaly. At 95db sensitivity and 39ohm, they should not hiss much, but the opposite is true. While not as sensitive to dirty sources as some inner ear monitors, the Q-Jays will reveal hiss where it exists.
Jays endowed the Q model with a uniquely designed cable. Firstly, it is strong yet supple and not subject to early crystalisation due to contact with body oils. Secondly, it is thick and though the stress reliefs on the jack portion are not melded to the cable, they inspire confidence. The headphone end of the cable is relieved by the tiniest rubber grommet. Though it lacks extra sleeving, it isn’t subject to the twisting or bending inherent in larger designs. Overall, the Q-Jays cable is a well thought out design with points that favour its strength.
As quite typical in low to high end earphones, the Q-Jays jack is gold plated. Unfortunately, it will not fit into the headphone jack of the first generation iPhone – you will need to buy an adapter. The Y-split section is tiny and not relieved but holds the cable sturdily in place. Above it is a small cincher that even after much use, stays in place and remains easy to manipulate.
The material is more prone to touch-noise than both the Phonak earphones and models from Sleek. However, the Q-Jay is not an excessively noisy earphone. When worn over the ear and in conjunction with the Y-split cincher, noise is mostly attenuated.
Jays made a decision to shorten the cable to 60 centimeters. This allows lapel-style players to be connected to a shirt or chest-strap without cable slack. Unfortunately, it means that one of the two extension cables must be used if you carry your iPhone in your pocket or purse. The two extension cables on the other hand, are long – too long. At 90 cm each, they make wielding your iPhone a messy affair. There is a minimum of 20cm of extra cable at your hip or dangling near your purse – a fact that can be annoying. Fortunately, each extension cable is as strong as the main Jays cable and well relieved. They will not break, though you may be tempted to cut them short!
Q-Jays Housing Quality
The Q-Jays are plastic. The butt is rubber and houses the cable grommet which acts as anchor and stress relief. Usually, non-impact plastic harkens a ‘cheap’ evaluation in my opinion. However, in the Q-Jays’ case, the incredibly tiny housing size works miracles. The unit is very strong, unsusceptible to bending and the seams between plastic and rubber parts are perfect.
The Jays’ sound-tube is small enough to fit Shure, Westone, Etymotic or Sleek SA6 ear pieces (with a bit of pushing). Concurrently, larger pieces such as Sony’s hybrid fit. Rejoice! If you have a favourite tip or ear piece, there is a good chance that it will fit the Q-Jays.
Sound Quality: The Right Fit means the Right Sound
With seven sizes of silicon and one foamie piece to choose from, you should have no problem finding a piece that is both comfortable blocks outside noise sufficiently. Both are important in order to realise the sound quality of Jays dual balanced-armature design.
The foamie piece will attenuate much more background noise than will the flanges and when properly compressed before insertion into the ear, will fit further into the ear canal. A good fit allows bass response and stage imaging to come to life.
The Q-Jays are the ONLY inner earphone that I can comfortably fit in my ear when sleeping on my side. Both when looped over the ear and when inserted from the side, the driver unit lies at comfortable angles and its miniscule size does not pressure the ear. Kudos!
For my listening tests, I spent most of my time with these staples of my collection:
Armin van Buuren – Imagine – Trance - Trance is the standard by which I measure sound. It has speed, rhythm, space, vocal, timing and clear highs.
Paul Oakenfold – Bunkka – Trance
DJ Tiësto – In Search of Sunrise 7: Asia – Trance
Ice Cube – Raw Footage – Rap - For slower bass and vocals, I turn to American rap to test the intimacy of studio vocal and bass response.
MC Solaar – Chapitre 7 – Rap with PRAT – MC Solaar’s music is a perfect meld of speed, intense lyrics and good melodies. This is another test I use for vocal quality.
Kent – Rock/Alternative - The melodic rock of Kent is rife with whiny vocals and guitars – how well rock plays on the edge of emo is an easy guess with Kent.
Ultima Thule – Rock/Punk - For a bit of oldschool punkish, nationalistic rock, Ultima Thule are best. The edge to the music tests a headphone’s sibilance threshold.
Madeleine Peyroux – Careless Love -Vocal - The grace in Madeleine’s voice carries deep emotion that quickly showcases a headphone’s vocal strengths or weaknesses.
Aphex Twin – I care Because You Do – Ambient, Space – Without Richard D. James, most of my studies would be impossible. His electronic music composition works like classical music for a studied, tight production.
Q-Jays Bass: Tight and Punchy
The Q-jays utilise balanced armature type transducers – this sort of driver tends to react quickly to variations in music and sounds incredibly accurate. Part of the reason for this is that the drivers do not move as much air so bass is less tactile and apt to ‘bleed’ into other parts of the music.
Saying that, the Q-Jays are not a bass-heavy earphone despite housing a dedicated woofer. Bass is punchy, well-resolved, lending great attack and decay to music. However, if your collection of records utilises sub-bass for effect such as the intro for Markus Schulz’ ‘Management’, the rumbling effect will be quiet.
Bass does not bleed outside its domain. It is well-controlled. For example, Armin van Buuren’s CD is a slower, experimental trance release. The Q-Jays render it perfectly with an added crispness to the bass. This crispness works well in electronic and trance releases, but in certain vocal selections, can sound musty.
In Madeleine Peyroux’s CD, there is every so slightly a coldness generated by the bass guitars and drums – warmth would accentuate her rich voice.
Moving onto fast rap like MC Solaar, the Q-Jays’ rendering is stellar. His voice and all instruments contain very good images with a flowing, accurate bassline whose crispness holds the production together very well.
The edginess works very well for Rock and for Roll.
The Q-Jays bass is not bloated or even bottom-heavy. It is controlled and well placed, but for certain genre, may err on the side of cold. For rock, trance and electronic, its edge and crispness is perfect.
Q-Jays Mids and Treble
Simply put, the mids and treble from the Q-Jays are great. Extended, articulate and fast, both parts of the spectrum feel ‘right’ in just about any genre.
Particularly with trance where bass and treble peak in fast spikes, high notes can, however, be piercing. While it is a testament to the Q-Jays’ vertical extension, certain music may feel slightly fatiguing. Overall, voices are rich, sound effects up front and music is beautiful. Their size belies a great sound. If I were to compare them to another earphone in our reviews section in terms of mid and treble quality, it would be the Phonak 112 and 121.
Again, similar to the Phonak, Q-Jays create a well-defined 3D stage for music, besting the Turbine and Nuforce for placement of instruments but residing in a smaller space. Vocals, though not overly warm are intimately moving and often eerily float in their own space.
Movies too, are great with the Q-Jays. The combination of swift bass and good 3D stoundstage makes them great for action and sci-fi extravaganzas. The Matrix was great, but Underworld’s freaky sound effects came to life very well on my iPod Touch when paired with the Jays phone.
Even live music is great with the miniscule earphone. Ultima Thule in Dresden is a great exercise of balance between the crowd and the band, their interactions and reactions to one another. Though a complex album, the Q-Jays render it in perfect harmony of space and staging.
Most of my listening was done straight from my iPod Touch or 1G nano. I was not disappointed with any music I listened to, nor did I want for anything. That said, I used the Nuforce Icon Mobile quite often with the Q-Jays and welcomed the greater stage and 3D accuracy of instruments.
Bass too, blossomed with ruddy lines that became even more crisp and attentive to details and weight. Though the overall effect is quite subtle, the Q-Jays do stand to benefit from amping either the headphone out or using a dock and amping the line out of your iPhone or iPod Touch.
Q-Jays on the Go
The Q-Jays cable is both too short and too long. When out and about, I looped the extension cable’s extra slack around my iPod, taking care not to bend the cable out of the headphone jack. I will be blunt: 1,5 metres is annoyingly long and the stock length of 60cm is too short.
I think Jays could have designed two versions of the Jays: one with a long cable and the other short. Or, they could have shortened the extension cable which is 20-30cm too long to be used without annoyance. If you use the Y-split cincher, microphonics are reduced when wearing straight down from the ears and when looped over the ears, are nearly imperceptible. Since the cable is light and free of dangling bits, the Q-Jays will not catch on anything. Other than length problems, these are great on-the-go phones.
Jay’s research is evident in the Q-Jays. Articulate, tiny and beautiful, they are gems that exude confidence in solid construction and attention to detail. While not bass heavyweights, low notes and instruments are well defined with great bass detail and.
Treble and mids are striking, extended and confident. Vocal music sings and highly sung instruments engage beautifully, if sometimes too much so and staging accuracy is great. The 3D composition in music, while not impressively wide, is realistic with great balance and interaction between its respective parts.
If I were to decry any one function, it would be cable length. Jays chose an overly long extension cable that at times, makes using the Jays a science. However, the units are so well constructed and pretty that they make up for a somewhat sloppy cable.
I cannot fail to mention in conclusion that they are the most comfortable earphones I have ever used when sleeping on my side. Better than customs, the UM2, CK10 and a host of other well-constructed earphones. Great work Jays.
Jays Q-jays inner earphone gets grabbed by TouchMyApps. Please take a look at our other Headphone reviews.
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