Tuesday, 9 April 2013

t-JAYS Four Review and JAYS Curves Review

t-JAYS Four Review and JAYS Curves Review

Thanks to JAYS for the sample.

First Impressions:  When it comes to packaging, I’ve seen that of the t-JAYS before and these are just the same.  The packaging is exquisite. I have never seen any packaging rival just how good it feels and how well it is put together.  Well maybe the SE530 metal box I have somewhere but its insides weren’t this good.  Everything here is matte black and so perfectly snug.  As packaging goes this is as good as it gets.  The buds too look just as good.  JAYS really know how to make plastic look fantastic.  A friend present at the unboxing very much agreed.

First listen and it’s apparent these are bassy.  Oh my, are they bassy, and there was me thinking for a second I didn’t have them sealed.  Clearly I do.  Still I am aware of the JAYS Curves programme.  It is one of those DIRAC fancy EQ programmes that have been custom tailored for a specific product to give it a specified output.  So it could be great, the driver in here should be pretty good but I’m not sure I’m loving its bass heaviness.  Fingers crossed the Curves thing will change that.  The spiel says it’s been modelled on the q-JAYS which I have always been a fan of.  Will be interesting to see how it does.

Source:  Predominantly an Ipad 2.

Curves:  So what is this Curves thing you ask?  Well it’s a player that’s got a DIRAC setting for the t-JAYS.  What’s DIRAC then?  Essentially, it’s a super fancy EQ setting.  The idea being you make a driver and it sounds however and since today we have fancy electronics its cheaper and easier to EQ it into behaving how you want it to.  They measure its output in a fancy lab and tweak away until they have a setting that makes it do what is desired.  Supposedly the aim for this combo is to aim for the q-JAYS.

“Compared to the original sound of the t-JAYS Four, Curves give you more of a "high-end" sound with a neutral, transparent and balanced bass and also a lot more details in the midrange and treble. JAYS award winning 250 USD q-JAYS balanced armature earphones was the benchmark when tuning the acoustics.”

Given I have a pair of q-JAYS you can bet I shall be testing that claim.

In use the Curves programme I found to be what I’d expect of iOS.  Very simplified.  So once I eventually got it set to shuffle, I had to ask actually how, it was fine.  It was a touch disappointing that it only works with music stored on the Idevice.  So if you’re a big spotify or Google music user then you just can’t use the Dirac stuff.  It’s a bit of a shame but it’s a limitation of iOS and how locked down it is.  Perhaps an Android version that will work with these services is on its way?

Lows:  It’s been a while since I reviewed the t-JAYS One but they share the same sound signature.  In short there is a metric fcuk ton of bass.  Lots and lots and lots of bass.  Looking at my old review of the t-JAYS one I’m thinking much along the same lines.   There is too much and for £80 you can get better and more sensible amounts.

Firing up the Dirac stuff and it’s startlingly different.   Vastly less bass, so much cleaner and tighter.  Depth is all still there and becomes so much more agile.  Okay it’s not really more agile it’s just that before it was flabbing all over the place –so much you couldn’t notice when it has moved.  It’s really good, fun bouncy and enjoyable.  It’s still rather boosted and way more than the little q-JAYS.  That’s fine though as I almost always used a bass boost with them anyway.  I’m wanting to compare it with the GR07, so I shall.  Swapping over to the GR07 and swapping to the normal music player for objectivity.  The GR07 sound disappointing.  Particularly in the low end, what’s wrong with them!  It seems to my ears as thought the Dirac stuff is as much to correct for the t-JAYS as it is for the Idevice.  The Ipad 2 just is not near doing justice to the GR07.   In short the bass sounds vastly better on the t-JAYS and just ever so much fuller and more rambunctious.  Somewhat over inflated still but no longer oppressively dominant.  It’s very nicely agile despite its weight. 

Mids:  Sans Dirac Stuff its thick and muted.  Tbh I had planned to do this review giving time evenly to with and without but if you have an Idevice you’ll never not use the Dirac stuff.  So from here on assume I’m using the Dirac stuff unless I say otherwise.

Hitting the D button and vocals appear as if from nowhere.  Like they were hidden underwater and then suddenly reviled.  Again my first instinct is go the GR07 as it’s the benchmark in this price and type.  Comparatively the mids here are somewhat rich and thick.  Still not so that they aren’t rather versatile.  Tori’s Cactus Practice sounds sufficiently light, airy with that albums air of whimsy.  I might like to see a hint more but that’s heading to personal preference.  The detail is quite good to.  Timbrally it still seems a little subdued, not quite muted but that hint of warmth does colour everything a bit. 

Quantity wise these are just about par with the bass.  It isn’t entirely unlike the IE7 in that regard.  The bass is dominant with the mids close but in a clear second place.  In tracks with very prominent vocals these do sound very pleasant on the ear.  Smooth, lush, liquidy goodness.

Highs:  Sans Dirac the highs stick out a bit but are meh and very subdued but with a spike.  With it on things greatly improve again.  They take on a new found energy level and clarity.  They aren’t what I’d call a revealing IEM, its overall characteristic is still warm and smooth.  The treble does seem as its working to have a bit of an edge in there, to make it seem more crisp than it is and it’s just enough to do its job.  Otherwise there is a warmish tone but still a good decay.  Its delicacy in the fine detail is nice also, particularly so for something as warm as this.  Still if you’re a trebly junkie this isn’t the IEM for you.  Think the more traditional British (and I assume European too) Hi Fi sound.  (Archetypally B&W.)  The highs are there to give you information, not to take centre stage and ravage your ears.

Trying out some treble heavy songs they deal with it like I like a good dynamic to.  A hint of splash with just the faintest edge.  Then it enters that shimmery slow decay and if things get busy they smear into a wonderfully shimmery cacophony.  It’s very pleasing and despite pumping out a lot of treble remains gentle on the ear.  That’s the sort of thing I very much like.  If you like you’re treble more bighting and aggressive then it’s not likely to be one for you.  Quantity wise it’s very much in line with the mids. 

Soundstage:  Large and feels as though it’s got a fair amount of air about it.  Instrument placement I felt was a little bit more fuzzy.  It’s not an analytical IEM.  It’s more about a smooth array of sound put before you.

Comfort:  Worn up these worked just fine for me.  Down I found the mic button pulled at my ear which is always annoying.

Fit:  Super easy.  Stock medium tips, shaved in ears and that was it done.

Microphonics:  Worn up I got none.  There was a fair amount worn down but there is a chin slider to assist with that.

Isolation:  It’s a pretty big and open dynamic.  So much so I thought on first use I didn’t have a seal.  They are very open for an IEM so you don’t get a lot of isolation.  In itself that’s not a bad thing it’s a choice.  One that does get you that great big dynamic sound and is arguably rather safer if your note always the best at looking about for traffic.  These I could probably live with for out and about but for a long flight or Tube commute, not a chance.  Still with music going probably enough to get you run over if you aren’t looking.

Cable:  Modular, yey!   I like modular cables.  Other than that it’s a pretty standard JAYS thinish cable.  I’ve never had a problem with its durability in the past so it should be fine.  And you know what; if you do break it (normally at the jack for most people) you can just use a new cable!  Yey for modular cables!

Amped/Unamped:   Well, it did provide a bit of a boost and the most noticeable thing was it really solidified that bass.  Chucking in the little Fireye Mini to the mix (it was on the desk) and the bass really takes on a more rock like nature.  To the point I could see it long term becoming annoying.  It’s a still a pretty abundant low end and that it’s a hint soft and warm rather than cooler and harder is kinder to the ears.  Still I can see that many would prefer the harder punchy bass.  Likewise the mids and highs both really, really clean up.  It’s clear that the Ipads HP out sucks.  It hasn’t the oomph to really do the t-JAYS justice.  Everything is just so very much more vibrant with the little Fireye Mine in the mix.  Of course you lose the button controls and the mic function so….. well the T-JAYS Three and Four are the same bar the mic aren’t they?  These very, very much like an amp.

Build Quality:  Lovely.  Granted the cable is a bit on the thin side but I’ve never seem much complaint about them before so it should stand up well.  The buds themselves look just wondrous.  It’s a lesson in how nice plastic can feel.

Accessories:  Good.  You get 5 pairs of tips and a shirt clip.  You also get a very, very nice case.  It’s not the greatest to use I’ve ever had but it looks quite awesome. 

Value:  So for £80 on their own.  I’d have to say no.  Well maybe if you really like a very thick, weighty sound.  Mind you they do look awesome.  You are getting a mic and controls too so that’s worth something.  Still this is an audiophile site so the priority is music quality.  For £82 the t-JAYS and JAYS Curves combo is considerably better value, enormously so.  Frankly JAYS should put a code for it inside the t-JAYS box and if needs be bump the price up.  Also given its an iOS only just now I’d really like to see this come to Android too but I don’t believe it ever will.  I think it’s tuned to take into account how Idevices sound and compensate for their acoustic failings.  You cannot do that with 300 android devices.  Not that I’m a big Idevice user (because they just don’t sound great in my experience) and for £82 these sound very enjoyable, more so than the GR07’s did which I found most surprising. (The Ipad just couldn’t do the justice at all.) 

Also,  feel I should point out that the t-JAYS Three are the same as Four just without the mic and buttons.  Yet they I see on Amazon for £40, so ahem, bit of a bargain there if you can live without the mic.

q-JAYS:  Supposedly these are aiming with the Dirac stuff for the q-JAYS and I don’t know why they have said that.  They really aren’t very alike at all. 

a-JAYS:  As I had a pair of a-JAYS Two’s sitting here I thought I’d give them a go with the Dirac stuff.  I know they aren’t intended for it but as I thought the a and t JAYS had similar sound signatures, what the hell.  So in short for the £2 if you have a pair of a-JAYS then buy the app.  Best £2 you’ll ever spend audio wise.  Huge improvement.

Conclusion:  Well these have so many variables it’s not funny.  Out of the Ipad 2 no Dirac these were greatly disappointing.  The HP out of it just sucks and comparing over with my Galaxy Nexus showed a pretty clear improvement.  But…….. you don’t get the volume controls there.  You also don’t get the Dirac stuff. So flipping back the Ipad 2 with Dirac then it’s another improvement.  They are so improved its not funny.  Its turns what is a “chavtastic” massively bassy sound into one with real abilities.  One that I could see being more favourably spoken of in headfi.org circles.  Then given the HP out an the Ipad 2 still sucks when I added in the little baby Fireye Mini amp they once again took another jump in quality.  A real jump and they are getting really good now.  Honestly adding in that little amp and the Dirac stuff and you’d never guess acoustically it was the same thing you were hearing.  Never in a million years. 

If you are able the Dirac them then these become a really solid option and if you can amp them, even better.  Most wont amp them though, it’s not their target market user (but they should.)  Then there is the Dirac stuff, you only get its goodness if you use the music on your Idevice.  No Spotify or Google music use for you!  Using them is the only time I’d ever want to use my phone for music anyway. When you do get the Dirac stuff going and especially when you get and amp in the mix for the money they get good.  What I can’t fail to notice is the non mic’ed t-JAYS Three are £40.  Is a heartbeat I’d get them and the Fireye Mini over getting the Four.  Then you lose the mic, which let’s face it is a great big plus if your using it with an Iphone.  But that’s me.

So this is the problem I’ve had here, the t-JAYS Four are made with Idevices in mind, specifically for them.  The Dirac stuff too it seems it aimed as much at compensating for the Idevices shortcomings as it is improving the sound signature of the t-JAYS themselves.  If you use anything else no Dirac stuff.  If you buy a pair of t-JAYS then you really must pay the £2 for the Curves programme, don’t argue just shut up and pay for it.  It will be easily the biggest upgrade you’ll see for £2 ever.  The biggest problem though is the price, specifically the price of the Three as its half.  Eek!  Half the price is a big difference.  Is a mic worth £40 to you?  Still if you have an Iphone as your DAP of choice the t-JAYS offer a compelling option for £82 and until your prepared to get an amp it’s one of the nicer all round set ups.  It’s a beautiful IEM physically, the case is too and acoustically likewise  It will eak out the most from your Iphone it can without adding an external amp.

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