Sunday, 27 March 2011

a-JAYS two Quick Review

a-JAYS two Quick Review


Thanks to Advanced Headphones www.advancedheadphones.co.uk for the samples (AMP3’s sister site)


Brief: The a-JAYS stuck in the middle.


Price: £29 from AMP3 / Advanced headphones.


Specification: Dynamic 8.6 mm Custom Speaker Sensitivity 96dB @ 1kHz Impedance 16 Ohm @ 1kHz Frequency Response 20 Hz – 20 000 Hz


Accessories: 5 Pairs of tips, Plane adapter and splitter.


Build Quality: Fantastic, amongst the best out there.


Isolation: Fair, nothing great. Just about fine for out and about use or on a bus.


Comfort/Fit: I did worry that cable would cause an issue but both comfort and fit were absolutely fine in my ears.


Aesthetics: These look very, very pretty. If you like black then I could say these amongst the best looking IEM’s you’ll find for the money. It is prominently noted its “Designed in Sweden” after all.


Sound: Thick, warm, rich and gooey. It’s got a thickness that’s so syrupy rich like a tin of Lyles Golden Syrup. It’s beautifully sweet and yet like the Golden Syrup retains a clarity that it shouldn’t have. The clarity is what really saves it from having an oppressively thick and sweet nature that remarkably doesn’t overwhelm. You might think that its soft warmth would suffocate the lighter and more delicate sounds but it doesn’t. Okay so it’s not exactly a paragon of crystal clarity and detail retrieval it costs £29 so just what do you expect? For the money that it costs it’s a very enjoyable sounding IEM, so long as you do want something thick and rich. If you’re looking for a dry light presentation then you sure as hell won’t be finding it here. The a-JAYS two is all about the warmth and richness. If that is what you are looking for then you can certainly do plenty worse than what we have here. It’s a big thick lush sound that I find myself really finding pleasant on the ear. It’s not the most fun I’ve ever had but I never found myself at any point being unhappy with them. It’s a warm, nice, pleasant sounding IEM.


Value: I can’t deny there is a hell of a lot of competition out there around the a-JAYS two price point and it can hold its own with the best of them. It’s not the outright, OMFG the bestest thing evar!!!! What it does it does very competently but it’s not blowing me away. It’s very competent and capable but it’s not going to instantly wow you. It’s relaxed and smooth and that’s a far better long term proposition than something wild and dramatic is. So while arguably you can find things that may do things better Jays is offering a wonderfully rich sound that you could live with long term. That they come with cracking 2 year warranty to means they will live long term too.


Pro’s: Warm, rich, lush sounding lows and mids’ surprising clarity in the highs given its thickness, warranty.


Con’s: Thick to the point not everything really suits it sound, lack of air, can’t really do cool or dry, the a-JAYS three are so close in price.

a-JAYS two Review

a-JAYS two Review


Thanks to Advanced Headphones www.advancedheadphones.co.uk for the samples (AMP3’s sister site)


First Impressions: True to form Jays have stuck these in some lovely looking packaging, if there is one thing they never get wrong it’s making things look pretty. Looking at the flat cable though I’m not entirely sure if I like it, I guess I can see why someone might want it as its vaguely trendy but I’m really not seeing any good reason for a flat cable over a round. That aside it feels nice in the hand.


Sound wise my first thoughts are fairly so so, it’s a dynamic so ill assume they want a burn in.


Source 1G iPod Shuffle with a 75 ohm adapter added

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Lows: In the little blurb about them on Jay’s website they talk about how they are all about the “rich, deep bass response” and that’s pretty spot on. The low end is what these are about and frankly it isn’t half bad. The bass here is very much on the rich side of things, far more about depth and smoothness than it is punch. Actually it’s not really terribly good at punch but that’s fine by me, I really don’t like big impact when it’s accompanied with great abundance to. The quantity is undoubtedly on the larger side of things but it isn’t overwhelming, what’s here is pretty well controlled never rising so much it subsumes all else before it. Lady Ga Ga’s “Speechless” sounds warm, smooth and enveloping as does everything on these. It should sound harder and faster than it does here but I can’t deny it sounds very enjoyable.


A quick compare to the Radiapaq Jazz quickly makes apparent that the a-JAYS two are much fuller and softer in the lows. Part of me wants to say the Jazz is better but I feel a little voice telling me, not better, just differently presented. I guess it matters most what you want from the low end. If it’s a thick, smooth, deep low end these do it very well at this price point. Speed, impact and tight control, not so much but I do kinda like them anyway.

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Mids: Rich and lush sounding. The overall thickness is the a-JAYS two presentation is readily apparent in its vocals and personally I think that suits rather a lot of vocalists out there. Sure there are some who really do much prefer something dryer and cooler but you can’t please everyone all of the time. Jay’s have clearly picked a flavour they wanted these to have and for the money it’s a pretty damn good interpretation of that flavour. The mids are really top notch for the money we’re talking about for these. Sure these are no PL-50’s but these have a big low end that it doesn’t. The mids here, like the bass, wants to be a little on the slow side of things. Its thickness flows like warm syrup and it’s got enough sweet, warm, thickness to make almost anything sound just yummy and gooey. I like it.


Highs: You might think they would be smothered with all that warm sugary goodness but they somehow manage to remain clear and distinct. It’s got a clarity its thickness says it shouldn’t. Don’t expect the treble to ever take centre stage though, it’s not recessed but in presentation it’s never going to be in charge either. It offers a bit more spark than you would expect but it never really comes alive and shimmers like sometimes you might like it to. It reminds me a bit of the ViSang RO3/Brainwavz M2 but in direct comparison I’ve got to give the win to the a-JAYS two. The highs while thick aren’t recessed and cut though the richness far better. They may not be the most detailed in the word but they are good.

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Soundstage: While they sound rich and full they don’t give much in the way of space and air. The sound it’s enveloping like pulling a warm duvet over your head.


Fit: I was a little worried by that cable but I could wear these just fine. Shoved towards ears and that was that. Good stuff.

Comfort: Likewise with the fit it was hesitant with that cable but it never got in the way and the buds sat in my ears just fine. Comfort was absolutely fine.


Cable: I still can’t decide if I like it. I can’t really come up with anything against it but I can’t help but see it as a gimmick because the Beats did it. Gimmick aside it gave me no trouble and it feels pretty sturdy.

Microphonics: Down I got plenty but wearing up I got none. The choice is yours as always.


Amped/Unamped: The usual differences but let’s face it these are never going to see anything beyond an E5 in the wild.

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Isolation: Hmm fair I suppose, really pushing the lower limits of what I’d want for say on a bus or out in town use. Still it’s a dynamic so you aren’t buying it to shut out the world on a flight to New Zealand are you.


Build Quality: Lovely, I don’t want to bash any Far East makers but they don’t always give the impression of faultless build quality. These feel uber professional and swish.


Accessories: This is where Jays seem to want to offer some differentiation between the different a-JAYS models. So what you get here is 5 sets of tips, the airplane adapter and a splitter. Shame there is no case, you have to move up to the three for that.


Value: I see these available for £29 and while I’m sure we could hum and haw about whether these are really the best that one could get for the money but I don’t see anyone really arguing the case they aren’t good. While I don’t feel I can gush at how amazing value these are they are a pretty solid buy and well worth giving a try. Especially if you like the flavour it offers. Oh and they have a 2 year warranty! Its biggest problem is likely to be its sibling the a-JAYS three which are supposed to sound better and come with a case with a price that’s too close.

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Conclusion: If these were a food stuff they would be a tin of Lyles Golden Syrup. They are thick, smooth, warm, gooey, rich, and oh so sugary sweet. It’s clearly not going to be a sound that appeals to all; Etymotic lovers would have a heart attack but say your coming from a warm and thick Sony you’ll love these. For all their thickness they do – like the Golden Syrup – retain a great deal of clarity that seems a little out of place. It’s hardly something that’s unwelcome, in fact it’s that clarity that makes these so worthwhile a listen. Their heaviness doesn’t overwhelm and the clean lush vocals come through with such ease these really are a pleasure to hear. I don’t know if it’s something I’d find oppressive if it’s all I ever got to hear but the time I have spent with them have been very pleasant. I cannot say I loved it; it’s not that sort of a sound. It doesn’t grab your attention and scream “Love me!” It’s like a night in with a tub of ice cream, the lights turned low, the heating turned up and you watching your second or third favourite TV show. It isn’t what you think of as the best way you could ever spend an evening but you’ll enjoy that time greatly anyway. Music on the a-JAYS two is just like that. Not what I immediately think of as being what I’d want to hear but I’ve enjoyed greatly anyway. A little Jack Johnston or Susan Wong and the a-JAYS two, I can think of far, far worse ways to spend an evening.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

t-JAYS one Quick Review

t-JAYS one Quick Review


Thanks to Advanced Headphones www.advancedheadphones.co.uk for the samples (AMP3’s sister site)


Brief: Low end t-JAYS.


Price: A gnats whisker below £60


Specification: 10 mm Dynamic Speaker, 96dB @ 1kHz, 16 Ohm @ 1kHz, 18 Hz – 20kHz


Accessories: 5 pairs of ear tips, a stereo splitter and a flight adapter.


Build Quality: Flawlessly impeccable.


Isolation: Fairly reasonable for a dynamic, enough to shut out most of the world’s irritations but not going to cut it for a flight to New Zealand.


Microphonics: If you wear them down rather a lot but if you wear them up you don’t really get any.


Comfort/Fit: I must admit I had real concerns here given their unusual shape but when I used them I had no trouble. I can’t promise of course that you will have the same experience and there must be some ears that these won’t fit given their weird shape. For me though they were absolutely fine to use for a whole day.


Aesthetics: Ooooooh, drool. Pretty, pretty, pretty and pretty. All in that Swedish, effortless and understated way.


Sound: Jays, as a company I love you. These however, not so much. First off they are tuned for a prodigious bass output and that’s nothing I love, not just prodigious but overwhelming. Yes I know there are many out there will just love that sort of sound and for them these may become contenders, after all someone is buying things like Skullcandy and those Dr. Dre things. Perhaps Jays feel there is a market for that kind of bass driven sound but that actually look tasteful? It’s entirely possible but I am not in that demographic. I would also like to think that something spending an amount that to normal people seems vast. Well £60 more than the free junk that came with your player is a huge difference. Wouldn’t they then want something a bit more balanced? Maybe it’s just me but all that bass was just oppressive. The rest of the frequency range was left behind and just didn’t have the abilities of the best of what else is out there fro the same money.


Value: On sound alone these aren’t the best value out there but i can see to some they may be better. If you want a big bass heavy sound then not much has as much as is here. The build quality too is a real selling point and that big two year warranty is pretty great for a product at this price. For some right there is the only selling point they need. However if it was me I’d still find it impossible hard to buy these and not put down the little extra for their higher model siblings. I haven’t heard them but for such a relatively small increase I can imagine not paying the difference.


Pro’s: Gargantuan, enormous bass, visual elegance, great warranty.


Con’s: Gargantuan, enormous bass, others sound better for the money, too close to its siblings.

t-JAYS one Review

t-JAYS one Review


Thanks to Advanced Headphones www.advancedheadphones.co.uk for the samples (AMP3’s sister site)


First impressions: Jays really do make a lovely box don’t they? They also make a lovely looking IEM here even if it is a bit of a weird shape, I can’t help but think the shape is asking for trouble and a stabbed ear but fingers crossed all will be well. I like that it has a modular cable too, it’s a bit long for a modular but I think all cables should be modular; it’s a pet favourite thing.


A little listen makes me wonder how different these are to the a-Jays two I just tried but hey ho. They are both dynamics so a burn in it to shall get.

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Source 1G iPod Shuffle with a 75 ohm adapter added

Lows: Oh holy Mary mother of Christ! Oh god there is so much bass’ it’s been a hell of a long time since I’ve been subjected to such gargantuan quantities. I’m going to tell you right of the bat that there is too much, too much for me and too much for anyone whose ears aren’t defective. This is right up there with the M11+ in low end behaviour. Spade loads, shed loads, boat loads of bass and yet more bass. Oh god someone make it stop!


In quality its really pretty good given how much there is, it’s not too hard nor too soft and is inclined towards a thick, heavy and if I’m honest a somewhat oppressive quality. If you’re an out and out bass junkie you may find happiness here but I don’t. The quantity is vast and even if it has reasonable control for something so big it’s too bloomy and all encompassing.


Given this was all from the relatively neutral / bright 1G iPod Shuffle I thought id test the Sony NWZ-A846 since it was a good 3 inches away. Surprisingly they don’t add any thickness or heaviness to the low end here. I have no clue why but they actually give a fairly decent synergy and the bass becomes somewhat less dominant and oppressive. That said these are still bass monsters and I don’t see any source changing that.

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Mids: Meh. Adequately decent, if rather thick and heavy. I can’t say I’m a wild fan nor think it has any great redeeming qualities. If you really love a warm thick midrange then maybe these would suit you but it just feels like its constantly struggling to stop itself from drowning in all that bass. The mids never stand out with any clarity. It’s like a slowly drowning swimmer; the ocean swells rise and surge over his head as he struggles valiantly to gasp for another breath. He’s slowly loosing and drowning. It’s not his swimming ability that’s at fault it’s that the sea is just so much stronger than he is. That of course doesn’t mean that ever so often he can’t get a sibilant scream out.


It’s a shame as if you find a song with nice clean vocals but little in the way of bass then you can actually hear the vocals. They are a little too thick but pleasant sounding nevertheless.

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Highs: To combat the thickness and gargantuanly heavy bass someone has turned up the treble in a hard and brittle fashion. It’s aggressive and hard, yet has no air or dryness about it. It can be annoyingly sibilant at times too. Honestly I’m really surprised at how badly done it is at this price. Have JAYS deliberately made this worse than its close siblings the t-JAYS two and three? The reviews I have seen of them all are pretty good.


I realise I’m being brutally hard on the t-JAYS one here but like I’ve said a million times before, I’m pretty treble sensitive and if you’re not going to get treble right then dial it down. Nothing kills me more that hard edgy treble in abundance. I want shimmer and delicacy; here it’s sharp, sparkly and no natural decay. I guess it has to be so edgy to cut through that bass.

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Soundstage: They do sound large but too heavy to have any sense of air about them.


Comfort: Surprisingly they were fine, I do stab my ear when pushing them in but once sitting they were absolutely fine.


Fit: Again their shape proved not to be a problem at all, shove in and done.


Microphonics: If worn down there was a little but not much. Up there was as you would expect, none.

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Isolation: Reasonable, enough for normal use and enough to get you run over but not something for on a plane.


Cable: Well its modular which I like and the rest of its nice too. It does look a little thin but it feels nice in the hand. If there is one think JAYS have never had trouble with it’s the quality of their products, it all feels very well put together.


Amped/Unamped: Quite a bit of difference actually, they seemed to be quite changeable depending on the source. Notably they liked the Sony but it’s not mine to keep so I’m not going to pick and choose what DAP is used. Given its price point I didn’t feel it really belongs with the ipod and XM5 and since I haven’t reviewed the HM-601 yet I stayed with the shuffle. That way I feel was more consistent and fair.

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Build Quality: This is something JAYS really do well, the build is just lovely. Its looks lovely and it feels lovely in the hand too, god even the packaging feels so solid and well made. Think apple but better.


Accessories: Hmm, since JAYS are using the accessories as a big differentiator between the models you don’t really get much here. When I say not much I mean you get tips and the extension cable to plug them in.


Value: If I am honest I’ve always liked JAYS and accordingly I naturally want to like their stuff and believe me some of its excellent. I dare you to find a bad review of the tiny little q-JAYS if you can. I love that JAYS doesn’t seem married to any one “house sound” that so many manufacturers are and I love that their products are just so beautiful to behold. But........this one I have to wonder at. I don’t get their let’s make 3 versions of things and lets differentiate them on the accessories they come with. Now that bit I sort of get but then for some god unknown reason someone decided to make the IEM’s all different too! Would someone care to tell me just how that got approved as an idea? Then the insanity continued as they are all price so close together with only £10 between each of them. I cannot for the life of me think of anyone thinking “Na I won’t spend the extra tenner and get the better one.” Maybe that was the intention to get people to jump to the top of the range one? I don’t know but the t-JAYS one at £60 I just can’t recommend unless you want a bass monster. A few years ago they might have been able to command such a price but today you can do better.

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Conclusion: These look lovely but unfortunately they don’t sound so lovely. While they are reasonable competent they are tuned to be very bass heavy and it’s a little overwhelming. Actually scratch that it’s more than a little overwhelming, it’s oppressive. It’s like I’m slowly being drowned in bass and I don’t really care how good it is, even then it’s only reasonably good. I’m not hearing the bass and being blown away by its clarity or masterful agility. It’s somewhat slow and heavy. I know there are some who would hear it and fall in love with the sound but I didn’t.


I’m sorry JAYS, maybe your other versions of the t-JAYS are better but for their price the t-Jays fall short of the best out there for the same money. Also for £60 which is more than most people pay for earphones why wouldn’t anyone want to spend the 30% more and go for the top range three rather than the one? Still it’s a very pretty option and isn’t terrible sounding. If you don’t treat things very well then the fantastic build quality and generous two year warranty may make them great value for you.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

ECCI PR401 Review

ECCI PR401 Review


Thanks to delonicdevil for sending me the review sample.


First Impressions: It’s a small box, very small. Oh my, it may be one of the cleverest and simplest boxes I’ve ever seen a set of IEM’s come in. Once you open the outer box you find inside a sealed ECCI IEM case. How has no one else ever done this? It’s just so simple and elegant I absolutely love it! Inside you get the usual bits and bobs but outside I also got a set of “fake” hybrids in an envelope. Looking at the PR401’s they look really rather squat so much so that I can’t help but worry the drivers aren’t going to have room to breathe, plus they just look weird. I also can’t say I’m loving the cable. Its flat but mostly what my fingers pick up from it is that it’s thin. I’m not saying it wont be sturdy but it feels very thin and very light.


Sound wise first impressions are pretty damn good. A thick, big sound. Actually it’s reminding me of the Sony house sound. Is it me or is Sony everywhere recently? Anyway I like what I hear but a burn in they go.


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Source 1G iPod Shuffle with a 75 ohm adapter added


Lows: Big, rich and powerful. It seems as though it’s becoming a habit but it feels like I’m always saying just how good the lows are on something new. So the lows on these are fantastic, the quality and depth is immense. Think M3 quality but M2 abundance. Its tonality is somewhere in between the two of those two as well. That hint of warm rich loveliness but not going too soft as big bass is want to do. The quantity is probably a bit much for me day in day out but I’ve got to say it’s not likely to be an unpopular choice. Since this is the first ECCI IEM I’ve heard I can’t compare it to its siblings but whatever they are doing over there, they are really hit the nail on the head with this one.



Its sound so clich├ęd but stuff just keeps getting better and better. The bass here is a stunning example of why Far East manufacturing is kicking the rest of the world’s ass. The quality is outstanding. The speed and punch it can deliver while retaining a richness that is seldom heard makes for a fantastic combo. This here is some of the best bass out there. Okay so it lacks a little timberal accuracy and now and then feels like someone has hit a bass boost button but I don’t care. It’s awesome.



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Mids: Stunning. Granted these shouldn’t be something you choose if you a mid lover as they are little pushed back. Not quite what I’d call recessed but they feel a little distant and I’d rather vocals much more up front. In a band the singer is right up at the front not standing in the back with the drummer are they? That aside the quality cannot be faulted. It is fantastic and timbrally spot on. That more relaxed (quite Sony like) laid back nature still managed to retain the intimate sound and clarity on vocals is most impressive. For something I’d define as being on the richer side of things its distance still lets it cope with dry, breathy vocals. I know that’s a little contradictory but the PR401 manages to ever so carefully tread the line between too much in any direction. Think M3 but more lush. Listening to The Beautiful South’s “A little Piece of Advice” the vocals are just so well composed. Not too intimate but not too distant (okay, so maybe a touch distant) but altogether put together so very, very well.



On the downside if you are looking for the absolute height of detail and want something cold, clinical then this isn’t for you. The mid’s are gently warmed and gently softened too. The rough edges on vocals have been ever so finely sanded down. Personally I don’t see it as a failing but a tonal choice, a beautiful sounding tonal choice. Still if you’re after something dispassionate then these aren’t going to what you’re after.



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Highs: I really am convinced whoever it was tuning these is a big Sony fan. Once more I find myself being reminded on the Sony house sound. The highs are probably where if anywhere these lack a teeny tiny touch. They feel a tiny bit compressed and don’t have the world’s best extension. The clarity they offer for something so warm and rich though is very impressive. The treble has no trouble cutting through to be heard without getting lost. More than anything I think the treble spike that’s in there gives you all the detail you want and never gets hard or abrasive. Even on very heavy treble songs that themselves don’t have the best quality recordings (Relient K, I’m looking at you here) they still sound smooth and refined. That ever so fine edge sanding that I mentioned in the mids is evident here. It works damn well too.



However if you’re a treble junky after a treble heavy sound these these aren’t for you. The treble here maybe good but its far more about giving you the crispness that a song demands but nothing more. Treble heavy songs are beautifully rendered but these really don’t want to do hard and aggressive.



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Soundstage: Weirdly good. It manages to offer a borderline intimate sound signature but still offer remarkable size and distance. The imaging is somewhat fuzzy, sounds can be a little distant and I can’t quite pinpoint where they are coming from. The instrument separation is likewise very good.



Comfort: I can’t deny I was worried about the comfort when I saw the shape of them but it was entirely unfounded. They are very, very comfortable.



Fit: Again their shape had concerned me and their weird squatness but same thing. The fit was easy and effortless for me.



Cable: I still am not sure I like it. I’m not saying it’s not capable of standing up to sustained abuse but it’s very thin and light. Some things you want to feel heavy and sturdy or I do at least.



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Microphonics: As usual I wore them up and I got none. Wearing down you do but you do get a shirt clip and that goes a long way to removing the issue.



Amped/Unamped: Like most things they do like more power and impedance. It’s not killer if you can’t add either but I can and I would always want to.



Isolation: About the new norm for a dynamic, a little better than most perhaps. The sort of thing that is fine for out and about or enough to get you run over if you aren’t used to looking. Something I’d be happy using on a bus but not really for a plane or on the tube.



Value: Outstanding. There really is no other way to look at it; yes they aren’t head and shoulders the absolute best you can get around this price as there are a few others out there. What this offers is the same kind of quality but with a wholly different sound signature.



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Conclusion: These are pretty much bass monsters but still offer superb clarity. That’s not a common combination you’ll find out there and if I’m honest it’s not one for me. The bass on the PR401 is stunning in every way from its massive power and punch to its rich liquidly smoothness. It’s amazing how well it can handle every low end type you throw at it. What’s more is even though it sounds smooth and rich it has astonishingly speed and agility. Comparing the low end to the accomplished Brainwave M2/ViSang R02 it’s shocking. In direct comparison the M2/R02 sounds so thick, heavy and slow. Of course its technical abilities don’t come up to the insanely high standard of the RE-0 but as has been well documented it’s not something everyone likes. The RE-0 is super neutral and many want a far more rich and bassy sound and I think this could be it. This is to the low end what the RE-0 is to treble and that’s no bad thing given many want that kind of bass driven sound. Here you can get big low end many are used to but you also get fantastic clarity. Right now the little shuffle is pounding out “Jai Ho” a song that absolutely demands speed and low end power and the PR401’s utterly nail it. Okay so I recognise Beethoven it isn’t but so is most music out there. Oh and they also deal superbly well with the ever and overly treble happy stuff from Owl City.



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You know I am really surprised I haven’t been hearing and seeing much wore about these than I have, I know they aren’t the easiest things to come by in the wild but people, they really are worth the effort. They are remarkable stuff and may well have become my new default recommendation for fast, bassy music.

Sony NWZ-A846 Review

Sony NWZ-A846 Review


First Impressions: Oh my god where is the rest of it? This thing is tiny and crazy thin, especially compared to my usual ipod and XM5 set up, dear lord the difference is horrifying! Right after that the next thing I notice is proprietary connector on it, okay so you’re not going to lose points for that but it seems like a missed opportunity, is there a reason it couldn’t be mini usb? Still that screen, mightily pretty.


Having a little listen and oh hell it’s making a good first impression. It sounds so huge! Making a note I must try the IE8 with it, if it can make the Super.Fi 4 sound so big I wonder what it will do with the Senn’s.


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Screen: A photo won’t do it justice, the screen is OLED and it looks just beautiful. Album art really pops out and looks just gorgeous with its super crisp and colourful image. If anything it’s a little too lovely a screen as it really annoys me when album art isn’t displayed. For me the screen could really be a third the size as I’d never want to use it to watch video on it. Lovely as it is, it’s only 2.8 inches and for some things size really does count. Oh and it works just fine out in daylight too.


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Battery Life: Sony claim up to 30 hours and that doesn’t seem unrealistic to me, I wasn’t going to sit and time it but it certainly lasted far longer than my ipod does.


UI: It’s simple enough and never gave me any bother. If I’m really honest I can’t say I barely even noticed or thought about the User Interface at all. A couple presses of buttons and it becomes blisteringly obvious how it works. The only thing that did take me a day to notice was that you can power it off if you hold the button that say’s “PWR OFF” and yes I did feel rather stupid for not noticing it before. It really isn’t hard stuff which is just how it ought to be.


Photo Viewing: Erm you can view photo’s on it. Not sure why you would want to but you can.


Video Viewing: Err erm, see photo viewing. If you do want to use it be prepared for format support to be a bit random. Some files I could drag on to the content transfer programme and it would convert. Not the quickest thing ever but quality was great. Some files would do nothing however as it can’t convert everything specifically .mkv files and that’s a bit of a pain.


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Radio: It has one. It works. Actually it works quite well but not sure why anyone would really want to use it.


Sound Quality: I suspect this is the bit most will be interested in reading. I’ve spent rather a lot of time with the little Sony and my feelings have become slightly mixed. Sony makes a big deal of the S Master amp they have inside it and it created a storm of interest when it first came out on the X series. I know some people who just love it and my first impressions were similarly positive. If I had written this review in the first days of hearing it, it would be overwhelmingly positive but right now it’s not going to be.


The problem I have is that in some cases when paired up with some IEM’s the Sony sounds just amazing for something so stupidly tiny. For example it made the Super.Fi 4’s sound fantastic for them, the stock buds likewise sounded great. Next I tried the Sennheiser IE8’s and I was a little disappointed, good and expansive but not all I had hoped for. By this stage I had noticed that the volume really didn’t go too high compared to other things I’m used to. So I decided I would give the Etymotic ER4P’s a go. They were deeply unimpressive. Next I tried the Triple.Fi 10 and I was shocked. They sounded so thick and muddy, the treble was enormously disappointing.


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Then I thought I’d give the UM3x a go, which I’m not a big fan of anyway, and low and behold they sounded absolutely fantastic. The pairing up with the UM3x was just by chance but I’m glad it happened. They both just go so well together and on paper I don’t really see why they should. The UM3x was always something I’d been disappointed in with its great separation but dead and lifeless sound. The Sony just breathes life and perhaps even a soul into it. It became such a different beast, for the better. Such space and size it’s wonderful. I do believe it is the best I have ever heard the UM3x sound. It’s staggering how well they go together.


The volume restriction I must say is something I could see bothering me long term. I don’t think I listen overly loud to music and I have been able to max it and survive. I couldn’t do that with anything else I’ve heard. Granted it was using the ER4P’s and it was listening to some older music (before the Loudness Wars set in) Shakespeare Sister’s Stay if you were interested. I realised I had the volume up at 24 out of 30 and thought lets go for it, while 30 was a bit too loud it wasn’t blisteringly loud. Trying out the HD600 was rather disappointing as you might expect. Dear Sony, it’s a French law so how about you enable the low volume limit only if you set the language to French? I can’t decide just how big of an issue it is having a stupid French law volume restricted one. Is it that has limited what the S Master amp can do? Since it’s a loaner I haven’t investigated removing that restriction to compare.


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What I have gathered with my time with the A846 is that it works best when you pair it with something nice and easy to drive and when it is performing at its best it can sound immense. I do mean that in both size and quality. The A846 wants to present you with this huge and expansive sound stage which is bizarrely utterly at odds with its sound signature. Its sound signature is that of the traditional Sony sound. A thick, heavy sound that’s a little midbassy and a crisp edgy high thrown in right up at the top. Its thickness belies the superb clarity that cuts through, it’s so contradictory to have such a thick, warm - bordering on lush too – sound yet offers such clean and clear detail. It’s a bizarre combination and I’ve got to admit it’s a fantastically enjoyable sound when paired well. The trouble is if you pair it badly it’s really not all it should be.


It did pair up particularly well with the bundled buds which somewhat surprised me as Sony IEM’s tend to be warm and thick so it really ought to mean they want a brighter source. How they made it work I couldn’t say but they go well and spank the junk that Apple give with theirs. I’m genuinely convinced Apple have abandoned even the pretence they give a crap about audio quality. Sony clearly are putting in somewhat more effort.


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In The Hand: My first impressions were great and the absurd thinness of the A846 looks amazing. With a little time the ridiculous thinness began to annoy me. The thing is just so incredibly thin it made a it a little awkward to hold. There is just nothing to hold on the sides, it’s practically two dimensional. What also began to annoy me slightly was I’d have much rathered the volume controls were by the play/pause and skip buttons. Some will of course like the arrangement found here but I like to change the volume constantly.


Format Support: Dear Sony, why the hell can’t it deal with lossless formats? (I don’t count .wav) it’s really a waste of the effort you put in. Of course high bit rate stuff that it does support sounds great and it’s not like anyone is readily going to notice the difference anyway. The other thing I really want fixed is the Album Art not always working issue. Some songs it worked, others it didn’t. Get it fixed as otherwise it’s a waste of that beautiful screen.


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Conclusion: I can see a bucket load of reasons to buy one of the A series. The sound on the whole is great. Certainly out of the box, player and earphones will utterly beat the living poo out of Apple’s offerings. The absurdly minimalist size of the player too will really appeal to many, I may be used to carrying around a house brick but most aren’t. The A846 is just so thin it’s a little ridiculous. I don’t know how they manage it, seriously I’ve seen thicker bits of paper. The screen too is just beautiful to look at, so while I don’t really want a screen on a music player I cannot deny it’s one of the best screens I’ve seen on anything. I’m also going to throw in as a positive that you don’t have to use Itunes or any software; you can just drag and drop

The less positive aspects were I found file format support to be a bit random, a couple times it complained things were in unsupported formats. I can’t really forgive Sony for not giving it flac support; go on Sony give me a good reason why not? The other big niggle I had was album art for some stuff just not working. I saw it commented that it only works if the imbedded jpeg is 160 x 160 or less. I really didn’t have the patience to test that as it’s not mine to keep. Sony, you gave it such a lovely screen every time I see the default Walkman “W” symbol it makes me sad inside. Scratch that, every time I see it Angels weep!


So should you buy one? On sound alone, possibly. Certainly it’s better than Apples offerings. While good it’s a bit pairing fussy. The rest of the player I have trouble faulting if it’s what you want. If you want a thin music player with a 2.8 inch screen then it’s a fantastic package. Its only real fault is that Sony has so limited the volume that you can’t just use anything with it. It would be like Ferrari making their next car a 200mhp capable monster and then shoving a 50mph speed limiter on it. You know because if you go to fast while driving on icy roads its dangerous, ignoring the fact you might not actually be driving on an icy road.


Still, if you pair it up well with something like the DBA-02 or UM3x then it’s really pretty good stuff and you know what? I think I’m going to miss it when it goes back.