a-Jays THREE earphones in review – got bass on my mind

“Back when Cube was rollin’ with Lorenzo” – stolen from Dr. Dre’s What’s the Difference, is innocuous; it betrays nothing of Dre’s ego. But American rap’s pride is why after years, I keep coming back to it. And though this is a headphone review, I think that a bit of good ol’ fashioned American pride applies tastily. In 2010, the Swedish headphone guru, Jays, redesigned itself, shirking cuteness in favour of big business, of pride. One look at the newly minted a-Jays will prove to you just how much business they mean too: flat cables, matte colours, three bold designs, and good prices is enough to make any Monster shake – at least a little bit.

Specifications
Type 8.6 mm TCD Speaker
Sensitivity 97dB @ 1kHz
Impedance 16 Ohm @ 1kHz
Frequency Response 20 Hz – 22 000 Hz
Earphones
Color Rubber Coated Black
Isolation JAYS Sound Isolating Sleeves
Size (L)18.3 x (W)11.8 x (H)13.8 mm
Weight 14 grams (0.49 oz)
Cord
Type TPE coated flat tangle free cable
Length 115 cm (45 in)
Size Width 5mm / Thickness 1.2mm
Plug Straight, Gold-Plated Stereo Plug 3.5mm (1/8 in)

Fit and Package
One thing Jays have never skimped on is accessories, and they certainly haven’t skimped with the a-Jays. Actually, the a-Jays, replete with the usual suspects: airline adapter, signal splitter, loads of ear pieces, and a carrying case, is on the one hand, perfectly Jays business as usual. But then, the black package itself, unlike the finger cutting plastic of yesteryear, is as unique as the new carrying case itself. Stacked at a store and this badboy screams “buy me!”

That is all fine and dandy, but how does it all work? Mostly well. The sturdy plastic package is great for storing the plethora of parts safely. I won’t be throwing mine out, that’s for sure. The new carrying case, on the other hand, is sort of a tough pill to swallow. It opens and closes with a swivel and a snap and seems quite clever – that is, until you use it too often. Eventually, the latch will wear thin and the case will flop open. And as a fully plastic bit, it may crack if prodded too much. Best to keep this carrying case in a safe and tidy place.

The a-Jays look hot and sound good. They also fit pretty well, but they have their own issues. Firstly, the clever-looking flat cable may cause some ears fit troubles. The earphone housing itself is pretty typical and fits into most ears without trouble, but it reaches shallowly into the ear. If the flat cables rub your ear in a strange way, getting a proper fit may be hard. You can wear them pretty comfortably with the cable drooping over the ear which of course, will help eliminate microphonic noises.

Cable and Build Quality
Of course, the cable has its advantages: it doesn’t tangle easily and it looks bloody awesome. If you can wrangle a good fit from its Saskachewan flatness, it is also comfortable. If not, it will ride out at odd angles. The earphones themselves are as light as the breeze. They ARE plastic, but seem to have very little flex. Still, I’d keep them safely in the case if I were you. If you were me, I’d just say, ‘keep up the good work.’

The real issue with flat cables, however, is that they put more stress on the outer portion of the reliefs and earphone housing. I’d not be surprised if like the Monster Beats Tour, the a-Jays accrue a reputation among resellers for traveling the globe and back on guarantee service.

Of course, at the a-Jays price point, there is less to fuss about and thanks to a 2-year guarantee, your 39.99$-59.99$ is well protected.

But we ain’t done yet: there isn’t a neck cinch to dissipate microphonic touch noise. That means you will hear your shoes grinding the pavement, your shirt brushing the cable, and the constant flapping of rubber on cloth. It isn’t as bad as some earphones, but the noise does have me wishing Jays included a neck cinch. The cable is terminated in a straight plug with a soft rubber bumper that reaches quite far up to lend support. For a straight cable, it is a pretty good design, but again, straight cables CAN stress the headphone terminal of your iDevice more than similar L-plugs.

not impressed by the a-Jays stress reliefs

Sound
For the most part, Jays could be described as a company without a stalwart house sound. The detailed q-Jays is as different from the powerful s-Jays as night is from day. In the middle the d-Jays bridges the gap. The a-Jays, however, is a blessed and irreverent finger to the man, if there be a man: bass, throbbing and powerful, and a decent handle on the highs.

The package says ‘balanced sound’ but I’d take that quote with a bag of ice melter. The a-Jays is targeted at people who like to feel the vibrations in their music. At the same time, I wouldn’t call it dark either, though low percussion and heavy bass can get a bit splashy at times. In many ways, its throbbing bass is reminiscent of the excellent-sounding Mingo WM2, if just a bit veiled.

In terms of extension, the a-Jays actually goes pretty low without massive roll off even to 20Hz. At the ear, it performs to about 40Hz with all the stamina of a high school wrestling team. In that range, its focus is clear. It matches bass heavy music pretty well, but there is a thin echo in the upper bass, causing some faster genres to lose control. Despite such a powerful low end, the mid range remains clear, though I wouldn’t put the a-Jays down as a great vocal earphone. Instead, it offers paced midrange that plays a little softly in comparison bass. At the upper end, the a-Jays extend well, putting out a lot of energy at about 10-12KHz and tapering off slowly from there. For all intents and purposes, it is clean and clear, but after a long listening session, sensitive users could find a bit of listening fatigue behind their eardrums.

I tend to think that every earphone gives a certain rendition of a recording; there is no one earphone to rule them all. The a-Jays is great for loud music and even for trance to a certain degree. But it won’t deliver the same sense of speed and transparency that another inexpensive favourite, the Head-Direct RE2, will. In one sense, it does what it came visually and sonically to do: dethrone the Sennheiser CX300. It is similarly powerful sounding, but doesn’t guff the highs in the same way. And, for the fashion conscious, it does the deed. The CX series isn’t really attractive, but of course, Sennheiser haven’t even adorned their HD800 with easy-to-swallow design. For the price, the a-Jays beats its Germany companion in the following metrics: sound, space, speed, and accessories.

On the issue of hiss: yes, the a-Jays has it, but it isn’t bleedingly loud. Plug the a-Jays into your Sony and groove to the music. There is grain, but thank the maker, you won’t notice it with a modern iPhone or iPod touch.

Finally, the a-Jays casts an interesting shadow. Its headstage isn’t the widest, but it is ‘tall’: instruments stand up without stepping on each other’s toes. For close, intimate music, it is quite satisfying.

Out and About
Here’s where I think Jays could have done a little more work. The a-Jays is a fine earphone with good lungs. But it has a few problem that show up especially when you are active. The first is that it tends to fall out of the ear when used actively. It is partially a cable problem, and partially a fit problem. The shallow fit combined with the flat cable creates special issues.

Apart from that, however, the a-Jays is easier to use than many expensive earphones, even in Jays’ lineup. Firstly, it is easier to insert and remove than the tiny q-Jays and d-Jays. And thanks to its cable being one piece, wrapping it up in its case is a breeze. Those who like short cables for shirt-pocket or remote control use, however, will be disappointed.

Finally, the a-Jays does a decent job of isolating music from the background. It, like the CX300, won’t remove babies or engine sound from your economy ticket. It will put a heavy blanket over . I would reckon that you can say goodbye to about 10-13 decibels of environmental detritus.

Concusion
The a-Jays is hella attractive and pretty well-engineered despite some build quality issues. It comes at attractively tiered prices and well-clothed in an abundance of cool accessories. If you like a u-curve in your music, you’ll love the sound of the a-Jays, especially the pounding bass. For the price, the a-Jays is probably the most impressive earphone I’ve used, but I feel that Jays could have engineered stronger stress reliefs into the earphone as flat cables put a LOT more stress on the housing.

If you’ve enjoyed your Sennheiser CX series earphones but want to jump up to something with more style and better highs, the a-Jays is a great choice. If you are looking for replacement to the horrendous iBuds, look no further.


Headphone Summary
Title:a-Jays THREEDeveloper:Jays
Reviewed Ver:a-Jays THREE blackSpeaker Type:Dynamic (moving coil)
Price:
  • a-Jays ONE 39.99$
  • a-Jays TWO 49.99$
  • a-Jays THREE 59.99$
Cable:flat rubber
  • good, meaty bass
  • good extension in both lows and highs
  • excellent packaging and accessories
  • to die for looks
  • non-tangling cable
  • average build quality
  • fit can be a bugger
  • case, while nice, isn’t overly practical

Hot damn! Headphones really are a rockin’ way to enjoy music, right? Feel free to explore TMA’s headphone oubliette

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