JAYS a-JAYS Five Review
Thanks to JAYS for the sample.
First Impressions: Oh my god, I think there must be an abundance of stylist/engineers over in Sweden. The packaging on these this are what I’ve come to expect from JAYS, by that I mean freaking amazing. Oh god I hate you, it’s all just so perfectly put together!!! Jesus Christ just take a look at the case they come with, oh my god!!!!! JAYS you show up everyone else when it comes to that ever so Swedish stylised yet so elegantly functional look. Not that I actually like the flat cable I see but I can’t deny how good it all looks. Lol just omg that case!!! You people have too many engineers.
So shoving the little beasts in my ears and I am pleasantly surprised. I thought the previous a-JAYS were all big bass, warm and a bit soft. These sound nothing like that. I don’t get how Jays are naming things anymore. These are nothing like what I’ve heard from them recently, way more balanced sounding and clearer, I like.
Source: Nexus 4, Nexus 5 FiiO E7/E9 combo and Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd anv.
Lows: So you know how I mentioned these lack the bass of their namesakes; well they lack their soft and very warm nature. That’s not a bad thing at all. The bass here is actually very nice to behold. It’s still a fraction on the warm and gentle but is so much taughter than its siblings. The tonality is very nice too, with that tiny bit of warmth softening the egdes and no further. Rather like a concrete floor with a nice carpet on it. That layer of smooth, soft and luxuriating outer then just rock solid underneath. It got a reasonable amount of potency too but again it’s not anything more than a hint in that direction. It’s really all quite balanced and very middling in its behaviours. Think balance, every attribute is good but it never pulls anything overly in any one direction. Depth though could be a fraction better but I’m nit picking.
Quantity wise it’s a rather above even which is fantastic to see. So many things aimed at the headset market are flabby bass cannons. While these can go big when called upon to they don’t subject you an avalanche of messy and muddy lows. The quality of these is more prominent than their quantity. Still its rather oversized and in no way could be mistaken for the bass quantity being balanced, its really rather heavy.
Mids: Vocally these like to harken back to their a-JAYS roots and go warm and more thick. Thankfully it’s not overly so and the result is you get a lovely rich sound. The air is a touch sucked out of things in comparison to things like the MA750. If your after open, airy and floating vocals then the Five isn’t maybe the one. I must confess I very much like it though, I do like a bit a girly and a piano strumming away and girly vocals sound rather lovely. I might rather they were a bit more prominent as I find them to be a bit behind the bass and the highs. Its only a slight V shape but its there.
Detail levels are nice, not great but you trade a little detail for that organic tone these have. It’s not far from that Sony esq and very popular in the East sound where warm and organic are the order of the day. Personally I’d rather it were a little more dry and open but they does play nice with devices that use more cold and dry sounding internals.
Highs: Not an area where these shine but you’d probably be surprised if they did. I’m sure you’ve picked up on that these have a fairly warm and “organic” sound to them. Highs therefor a touch muted and softening. This way not appeal to detail junkies but if you’re using not the greatest musical source or the very highest bit rates you’ll find these rather forgiving. Lower bitrate MP3’s in particular really start to break up and get harsh in the highs. These go a long way to make that much less offensive. It still has the energy to make the like of Owl City’s very treble happy tracks sound fast and alive though.
Of course I went straight to the complys so that will have tamed the treble a touch too.
Soundstage: Being a dynamic they have a good fullness to them. Placement isn’t wildly pronounced but they offer a good sense of power and scale. Width and depth are pretty reasonable too.
Fit: Well these clearly would rather be worn down but did also work worn up for me. With the silicon tips though they sat so shallow I didn’t find they kept a seal all the time. With the foam tips that wasn’t an issue.
Comfort: Just fine, no issues.
Cable: Well the cable is super pretty, it really is so nice to the eye and the hand. However it’s a flat cable and worn down I just found they tugged at my ear because flat cables only bend in one direction. I just don’t like flat cables. Quality of it is very nice though.
Build: JAYS really know how to put things together, the packaging, the IEM’s, the case! All of them are things that you can tell have had some thought put into them. Everything is plastic but it’s that rather tactile matte touch plastic. Simply put the build quality is just lovely.
Microphonics: Worn up none. Worn down as they really are intended I got loads and there is no neck cinch to assist. Again, I don’t like flat cables.
Phone Use: They seemed a touch fussy on the Nexus 4, they had to be firmly inserted to work properly. On the Nexus 5 they were just fine and seemed more comfortable. Actually it all worked perfectly on the 5, volume buttons too! I couldn’t say the same for the N4. What was really nice though I only just noticed is that if you hold the play/pause/skip button for a few seconds google now pops up. Yes indeed that means you can leave your phone in your pocket and just ask it the time.
Amped/Unamped: These didn’t seem to particularly love getting more power thrown at them. The bass grew a bit but that’s not a big surprise. They did like the N5 rather more acoustically than they did the warm FiiO combo. Unsurprisingly these like pairing with a colder DAP which would be pretty common in phones which is what they are aimed at.
Isolation: It’s a dynamic, it’s pretty closed so they do isolate reasonably well. As I oft say, it’s fine for normal day to day usage but not I’d think the sort of thing for a daily Tube commute or long flight. Naturally its still quite sufficient to drown out that bus that’s hurtling towards you that if you don’t look where you’re going the first you know of it will be it impacting your skull.
Accessories: I have seen bigger selections but you are not likely to find prettier ones. You get the standard assortment of tips (five pairs in this case) a shirt clip and that case. It may just be plastic but I adore it visually. Matte black plastic so effortlessly clean and elegant visually. Personally I’d loose the cable wrap thing that comes inside but that’s up to you as it’s removable.
Value: Priced at £80, Euro 90, US$100 or SEK795 they have some pretty stiff competition. So are these better sounding than a pair of RE-400’s? No, they are not. These aren’t trying to be the best sounding IEM’s ever though, they are aiming for a warm and rich sound and to pair up with your phone. So much so there are three versions of the thing, one for Android (what I have here) one for Ios and lastly one for Windows phone. Now I have no idea what the differences are between them so don’t ask. If you, like many, have an Android (or I guess Windows too) phone then its nice to actually see volume controls included as so often makers just don’t bother to add the controls. Now I change the volume a lot, you can’t do that with a touch screen in your pocket but now here you get a button. So for me this would make using my phone as a source a possibility. I can’t imagine I’m the only person out there who is thinking that.
Conclusion: When I say JAYS tweeting about how well these went with the Nexus 5 I thought, care to test that? Turns out they do play rather nicely together. I can’t help but think that if google did a “Google store” in the way apple does a store then these would be one of the stocked and “approved” IEM’s sitting on the stand next to the Nexus 5. They visually go well together, both have that same matte plastic, the controls work, yes even the volume and google now. Then acoustically their pair up rather well too. It is rather like they were made for each other and perhaps they were. Isn’t that after all the aim of the Android, Windows and Ios versions of the Five’s?
The down side of all the attributes found in the Five is that it’s not the very best sound you’ll find at this price point. However I fully realise that these are not an IEM destined to be paired with a single function source and by those that care about sound quality with all other considerations thrown out. This is not a purist’s product, it’s not aimed at true audiophiles and so it compromises acoustically. Being somewhat of an audiophile it’s hard to not mark it down for things it doesn’t do I want an IEM to do.
I am not the person that uses their phone to listen to music. My phone has a meh dac and amp, its touchscreen, its battery would melt the way I use things and it’s got hardly any storage. Oh god shock of horrors, I’d have to stream music!!!! Google music only ever uses a max of 320k MP3’s so that’s an absolute ceiling. I personally balk at all these things but I recognise I am not everyone. Many friends do use their phone for music, they do just stream it be it Spotify or Google music. They have no problem with it being touch screen and they have no issue with it slaughtering the battery. Some of them though at my prodding do care a bit about the audio quality, they know that the buds that come a phone aren’t good and you can buy things that improve things lots. It is to these people the a-JAYS Five is aimed. And I think it caters to their needs and wants pretty well.
The sound produced by these is good, they look quite wonderful and they cater to every one of these people that doesn’t use an Iphone. That’s what 85% or so of smartphone sales? Right now if you have a Windows phone or an Android phone you’re really limited in your offerings that come with a volume control, I think that it just happens to look so premium and sound rather good is icing in the cake. Then to slap a cherry on there, there is an app that allows you to user define the button controls and actions. I don’t know of anyone else that has so catered to the Android and Windows markets. I find myself rather thinking if someone just bought and Nexus 5 and they use it for music then these would make a rather nice Christmas present. They are a rather lovely all round package.