Monday, 31 October 2016

J&L Real J&L-103 Bluetooth Earphone Review by mark2410

J&L Real J&L-103 Bluetooth Earphone Review by mark2410

Thanks to J&L Real for the sample.

First Impressions:  So we have a pretty small box here.  Opening it up all its all rather compact and we have the buds, a soft baggy thing, a little plastic bag with tips and a micro USB cable for charging.  Oh and they have inner ear guide things on.  Hmm yeah they seem to be positioned as though these are to be worn down as in common among normal people.  Yeah we’ll see about that, way hey they can come off nice and easily.  Woo and then they can be worn up rather well, ahh that’s much better. 

So pairing the thing up to a phone, the Lumia 735 because it’s usually the best sounding option.  So things start to play and these sound rather good.  Not as big in the bass as I expected.  Actually these are really rather lovely balanced.  30 min later I’m getting the voice chiming in “battery low”  sigh, well that’s practical I guess,  stupid needing charging things why don’t batteries just last for ever.  Still I’m really pleased with how these sound.  I haven’t had a Bluetooth set in my ears for a while but these I’m really liking.  Really nice low end to them, nice composure and scaling.

Source:  Predominantly a Lumia 735

Lows:  Very nice.  As is so often the case the bass is unsurprisingly somewhat elevated.  There is a rather nice balance though between scale and the quality of the output.  Actually I might just give the edge to the quality.  They are for a rather cheap pair of Bluetooth earphones really quite good.  It can deftly turn its hand from “Love song for a Vampire” to “Professional Widow” in the blink of an eye and do both justice.  There is a bit of a trail away in the far depths but well, that’s to be expected.  Comparing to other things of a similar nature these I think have got the quantity/quality balance just about spot on.  It should be enough to please your typical mainstream listener but be credible enough to satisfy those who like things a little bit better.  It is a fraction on the firmer side, and there is a bit of a dip in the mid/bass cusp so the bass while elevated doesn’t unduly dominate.  It also slightly prefers to hit that play a smooth long note.  The bass here is best suited to a more, poppy, faster paced beat.  Granted that’s what its most likely to encounter in the wild so it’s a good option. 

You know while my brain is finding the bass here to be very much middling.  Not too much in any direction so it’s highly capable of doing more or less anything.  It’s just not capturing the soul, like a Ford Mondeo, its fine, really not bad at everything but it doesn’t take any acoustic aspect and shine.  Highly competent, capable, good quality and well scaled bass.

Mids:  Rather like the bass, these are very much sitting in the idle again.  Able to do anything you ask of it, it’ll do it pretty well too.  You know I’m just still not feeling it, it’s all very good, I really have no complaints at all.  For the 30 quid and being Bluetooth its great value for money that’s for sure but….. it’s all just so in the middle.  John Stevens to Aqua it happily does them both, they both sound good too.  Still I’m just not particularly moved, is it me?  On paper everything is good and I cannot say it does anything wrong.  Pretty good agility, rather good tonality, equally capable at male or female vocals.  Strings are nice too, a little but lacking in definition perhaps, just a smidge.  It’s all rather good.

Quantity wise, they are rather middle of the pack.  The mids are a little behind the bass but about the same as the treble so they have an overall pretty reasonable balance. 

Highs:  Pretty good.  For the money and them being Bluetooth I really again have no faults.  The detail is pretty good, the treble has enough of a bight to let you know what’s going on but doesn’t dominate and may lack as pronounced an edge as some may like.  However for a products of this level it’s exactly the sound you want to go for, enough to let you know whats happening but not so much it makes badly mastered or bit rate stuff unpleasant.  I don’t know if it’s dumb luck or someone has spent a serious amount of time playing with the output of these ta get things so very, very evenly handed.  Seriously at everything they are rather good.  From bass heavy to treble heavy stuff they quite happily got on with it. 

Soundstage:  Rather well scaled in terms of grandeur.  There is a largeness to their scale but not a huge degree of distance in any direction.  Nicely surrounding though just that lack of distance, ahh well still it’s nice.

Fit:  Well they had those inner ear guide things and I have never liked those, so off they came.  Once they were gone I could wear these up and while they are big, they fit great.  In the ears with some Comply’s on and they worked great.  They are big so if you have small ears you may want to have them sticking out rather than back ward pointing.

Comfort:  Great.  Again they are rather big so if you have small ears maybe less so but worked perfectly well for my ears.  I was happy to wear all day.

Phone Use:  Firing up the phone and all seemed fine.  Wearing up the mic was a little up by my ear and I was told I was a little quiet but otherwise was all good.

Cable:  It’s one of those flat cables that I am never wild about but it all worked fine, ever wearing up and over my ears.  No issues there.

Accessories:  You get a bunch of tips and a few pairs of those inner ear guides.  I get why but seriously just wear the things up over your ears and you really don’t need those things.  Oh and you get their rather plush baggy things for them.  A hard case might be nicer but it’s probably the nicest baggy I’ve come across.

Build Quality:  I did have a little issue with one bud, there was a slight rattle if I shook them.  However when they were magnetically clasped together, no rattle.  Also there was no rattling about acoustically in use so I’m not sure what was the cause.  Otherwise everything else seemed good.

Aesthetics:  While I’m a total sucker for the gun metal of them and as such I’d say they are one of, if not my favourite looking Bluetooth earphones.  They are a bit big compared to normal stuff but then they do need to contain battery, magnets etc etc.  I like their looks.

Isolation:  Pretty good.  They seem to be sealed and as such are one of the better isolating dynamics.  I was perfectly happy using out and about, on a bus too.  As usual maybe not one for Tube commutes or along flights but better than nothing.  Naturally they are easily enough with music playing that you could step out in traffic because you didn’t hear anything, you need to use your eyes to stay safe.

Battery Life:  They quote 6 to 8 hours and that seemed perfectly reasonable.  If anything I’d say towards the upper end of that though it’ll depend how loud you play them back and what Bluetooth version your source supports.

Value:  Great.  While they are fine and middle of the road in most acoustic aspects their value is quite excellent.  A good looking, Bluetooth earphone that can do pretty much everything yet only comes in the 30 quid.  You really can’t fault that.

Conclusion:  So these are pretty good.  Nothing about them is amazing or anywhere do they truly excel, they don’t.  Still to go back to my car analogy, they are like a Ford Mondeo nothing exceptional, nothing ground breaking and for any particular aspect they aren’t really at the top of the pack but they do everything.  They do everything rather well too, nothing exceptional but everything they can do well.  As a generalist, Bluetooth earphone they are going to appeal to the masses and be a pretty universal crowd pleaser.  For their price I’d be surprised if anyone had a listen and was unhappy with them.  No matter what your musical choices they do a pretty good job of it, every time.

So the down side, well mostly for reviewing rather than actually using as that they are so middle of the road crowd pleasing, that there isn’t much for crazy audio people with 50 earphones to get all excited about.  These are your mainstream crowd pleasers.  These are for those who just bought a phone with no headphone jack and doesn’t really know anything about audio.  They want something that’s Bluetooth, not too costly and is good enough.  These are perfect for that user set.  Also since it’s nearing Christmas time, I think they would make a great gift pair of earphones.  Their mainstream sound, good quality and with a crowd pleasing balance is highly likely to be liked by just about everyone.

So would I / should you buy one?  Me, actually with their looks I just might, particularly if I didn’t have so many other things.  You?  Well if you’re reading this there is a good chance you are a crazy audio person and if you are, then maybe not, well not for yourself anyway.  These would be great to get as something for a friend or someone else to give a taster of audio.  These are good, very crowd pleasing generalists that are well suited to gifting.  It won’t break the bank and you can be reasonably certain they will like their acoustic balance.  Oh and of course they look rather nice which is simply the icing on a rather attractive package.

J&L Real J&L-103 Bluetooth Earphone Quick Review by mark2410

J&L Real J&L-103 Bluetooth Earphone Quick Review by mark2410

Thanks to J&L Real for the sample.

Brief:  A pretty, pretty generalist Bluetooth earphone.

Price:  £30 or US$36

Specifications:  Bluetooth Version: V4.1, Noise Reduction: CVC 6.0, Operation Range: 33 feet, Dimensions: L540*W32*H20mm, Battery Capacity: 80mAh, Playtime:6~8 hrs, Charge time: 1-2 hrs, Standby time: 175 hrs

Accessories:  3 * Ear tips ( S, M, L), 3 * Ear hooks(S,M,L), 1 * USB Cable, 1 * User Manual, 1 * Carry Pouch

Build Quality:  Seem rather good though the right bud on mine had a small rattle when they went magnetically clasped.  Visually they look nice though.

Isolation:  Perry reasonable.  Towards the better for a dynamic so fine for out and about, on a bus, less so for Tube commutes or flights.  Easily sufficient that if you don’t remember to use your eyes near traffic you’ll need a donor card.

Comfort/Fit:  Great.  While they were rather big I could wear them up or down with no issues.  Well once I pulled of the inner ear guide things, I never like those.

Aesthetics:  I love gunmetal earphones and so I think these look rather good.  A little big but attractive.

Sound:  Middle of the road.  As Bluetooth earphones go these are bang in the centre.  A highly generalist crowd pleaser.  Deftly turning their hand to anything acoustically that you can throw at it.  From thumping bass lines to melodic pieces it’s all pretty good.  Nothing does it do exceptionally well, it’s just so even handed and fair to everything.  So while it’s not perfect for any one thing in particular there is nothing it has problems with. It can do everything rather well.  If you’re not going to have a huge earphone collection then this is one you could get away with having just one or if you want it as a gift.  You may not know exactly the tastes of someone else but with these you don’t have to as I’d wager any mainstream user will like them.  They are just so even handed and capable of everything, in equal measure.  The balance too is bang on generalist crowd pleaser.  The bass is a bit elevated and the mids and treble roughly in line with each other.  Their tonality too, bang in the middle.  Neither worm nor cold, not rich nor dry, seriously they really are just in the middle for everything.  Well except maybe their price for Bluetooth and being so generally capable there is little I can fault with these.  They are capable of being able to anything and everything, very much an IEM’ for all seasons.

Value:  Great value for money.  A bang on mainstream crowd pleaser.  Great for if your going to have one Bluetooth pair for general use or you are buying for someone else.  You can pretty much bet that any normal person will like their balance and abilities.

Pro’s:  Highly versatile sound signature.  Great vale.  Looks good.

Con’s:  Generalist signature means they don’t excel any in particular.

Meze 11 Neo Earphone Review by mark2410

Meze 11 Neo Earphone Review by mark2410

Thanks To Meze for the sample.

First Impressions:  Oops, seems I forgot to do think when I first got them and opened.  Oh well.  Anyway…. The box, nothing very much exciting about it.  A nice box, nothing unusual about it.  Inside we got the earphones, a case and a bunch of tips.  Oh and a Comply baggy, is it me or are they using much bigger bags than they used to?  Oh there is also a shirt clip and a little Velcro cable wrap thingy, I like those.  The buds look rather nice though I must say, I love that gunmetal look but mind you the Iridium pair in pics look great too, it can’t be real iridium though right?  Whatever colour you get you always wander if the other would have been nicer but I think we can all agree these look pretty good.

In the ears and having slapped on the Comply’s because, well, lazy.  These are not what I expected.  I had assumed these would come with a sound signature like that of the 99 Classics, all drama and excitement orientated.  These however have so much a more natural balance.  Not that I’m unhappy about that, it’s generally much nicer on the ear which when your reviewing things and listening for hours it’s just more gentle.  I’m just surprised is all, much more relaxed treble presentation.  These are rather nice, they are reminding me of something too but I can’t quite think what.  It’s on the tip of my tongue but, sigh, first world problems and having heard too many earphones I can’t think which one.  Anyway burn in time.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.

Lows:  Rich, full and hearty.  These have a really sumptuous presentation, it’s really relaxed, easy on the ear and though mellow isn’t sloppy about it.  It is more roundelay shapely than I might entirely want.  I found that with a warm source they did became a little over indulgent and soft.  Though playing them with a more hard pairing they cleaned and hardened right up.  The E7/E9 was nice, it really was but you know it just made for a too politely mellow sound.  Changing to the uDAC 3 into the Solo Ultra and things got much more snappy.   Yey for being easily adjusted.  Don’t get me wrong the richly mellow stuff is nice for a little evening listening but the colder pairing was a much more refreshingly lightened presentation.  Not that it’s very airy or dry, they just get a neutral nudging and made them very much more an attention grabbing, engaging listen.  The bass depth seemed to diminish a touch not that it was crazy deep before but the more firm cooler pairing was nicely clean.  Trust me giving up a dollop of warmth really makes these simply better.  The accuracy of the bass is simply better.  The sweeping lower ranges of Tori’s “Putting The Damage On” is excellent.  Just the perfect sort of song for these, acoustic, well layered and not too cluttered. 

The faster and harder the bass got the more these wanted a cold and power source.  I know I ought to be swapping back to something warmer but I just couldn’t make my hands do it.  I know it would soften and flabby it up and, well, I just couldn’t do it. 

Quantity wise these are a bit on the bassy side, fitting in with that backslash type slope,  mostly bassy, quite middy, reduced treble. 

Mids:  Nice.  Things with acoustic balance tend to have richly captivating vocals and they do.  Still I was so compelled to go with a colder paring and the vocals lost some of their fullness.  The trade off was that they got more agile and this was noticeable most with strings.  Firing up a little Elgar and these shone.  Strings are most pleasing though I’m still waving back and forth about vocals.  I like the richness of them warmed but the colder felt more revealing.  Ahh as ever there is not “better” just different.  Still the midrange either way is highly pleasing to the ear.  Not the most direct or detailed but very pleasing.  I never hit anything that sounded poor.  While I know it’s not nailing things and it’s a little obfucative on the finer detail it’s such a pleasantly coherent and integrated mid range.  Sweeping and melodic, you don’t sit listening out for details, listening to the earphone rather than the music.  With these it’s the music you hear. 

Quantity wise these are a little middy, a little behind the bass and a little ahead of the highs.

Highs:  I think I’ve pretty much said enough for you to know what’s coming.  It is a relatively treble muted, easy on the ear, gently warm and relaxed sound.  Even with a cool source and amp this is no detail examining treble monster.  It’s just so easy on the ear and so easy to just listen to the music not the earphone.  Time and again I found myself having mentally drifted away then having to snap back and remember that I’m supposed to be reviewing them.  Everything just sounded so nice on them.  While I may enjoy listening to Nina Simone she’s really no use whatsoever trying to analyse anything.  This would appear to the overriding theme of the 11 Neo, it’s something you listen to music through, you don’t listen to them.  Trying to force myself to listen out for treble nuances was just such an effort, before I know it I was back just listening away, especially to the vocals.  Good for users, massive pain in the arse for me.

Throwing on Owl City’s “Cave In” and these with a cold set up do a rather good job of rising up to the occasion.  The treble is a touch dampened but the bass really gets its groove on.  See there I’m doing it again, not paying attention to what I should be.  So treble, it nice, bit diffuse, easy on the ear with good enough detail.

Soundstage:  These are at times smallish then with other things really open up.  They do shine at the best when playing stuff of a more intimate nature though.  Fast paced stuff however does seem to really open up them spatially.  It’s a bit weird but hey, it all works rather nicely.

Fit:  Great, no issue wearing up or down, though you should wear them up.  In they went and done.

Comfort:  Great.  I could have maybe done with bigger Comply’s as these are a bit shallow fitting but no issues wearing these for several hours at a time.  Never got bothersome or tiring.

Microphonics:  None.  Like nothing at all wearing them up, even deliberately hitting the cable.  Wearing down there was barely anything too, deliberately trying.  I don’t know why but hey, great stuff.

Aesthetics:  Yeah so these may not be the best looking things in the world but they are right up there with the lookers.  I just wish I had the Iridium ones too in front of me to compare them both next to each other.  These look lovely.

Cable:  Great.  It weirdly gave zero microphonics and its looks nice while feeling rather sturdy.  There isn’t anything not to like about it.  It’s really nice looking too.

Isolation:  Pretty good.  For a dynamic it’s in the okay category so that means fine for out and about possibly on a bus.  Not ideal for a Tube commute or long flight but you know, better than nothing.  As ever it’s easily sufficient to make yourself a hood ornament if you don’t use your eyes when near traffic.

Accessories:  It is a fairly simple bundle, a smallish selection of tips, a shirt clip and the case.  The case tbh is the bit that really matters to me and it’s a rather nice and functional case so I’m fine with the bundle.

Amped/Unamped:  Well these don’t “need” an amping but they do respond well to it.  They also respond well to being paired to a warm or cold set up.  Now for me, my tastes meant I constantly went with the cooler set up and threw power at them.  Though what really was the more important aspect of that set up was the cooler pairing.  For example I like the nudging they got from the little 1G Ipod Shuffle over going with the warm HM-603.  These are warm earphones and I generally like to pair warm with cold, whichever way round they are.  Warm on warm and you get a very rich flavour that while is comforting it was just too warm for me.  Very smooth and relaxing sure but I wanted a little dash of excitement in there.

Value:  So they are €59 or £49.  I’m not even going to try and think how many things there are around that price or trying to judge what is the best value.  There is tons of good stuff and these too are really good.  They are richly engaging and would appear to be very nicely constructed with excellent looks.  So long as you aren’t after buckets of treble these are very sold buy for your money acoustically and one of the better looking I think.

Conclusion:  So I’ve had issues with these.  You see its not that I don’t like them or anything but they are just so nice, so constantly very nice, all I ended up doing was listening to music and not listening to them like I was supposed to be.  This is such a pain when you’re trying to reviewing something as it’s the equivalent of trying to be all productive then you have suddenly find yourself on YouTube and two hours have just vanished.  You didn’t mean to but you’ve taken a handful of time and thrown it out the window.    That is what I kept doing with these.  Time and again I had to snap myself back to what I was supposed to be doing.  They aren’t the most technically amazing things ever but they are just so easy and palatable.  I could completely happily spend the day with these in my ears and then find I’ve getting nothing productive done, I won’t care either.  I might care later but I won’t be unhappy at the time. 

Ahh so if these have a failing it’s that they are too nice.  They are always so pleasant to listen to, everything you play on them all sounds so nice.  It’s so easy on the ear too, never do you get warn out.  Like some comforting warm stew or something.  So effortless, so easy, so snuggly that you can lose yourself in it.  As issues go it’s not exactly a bad one.  Though from my perspective and if you’re wanting to use these as an analytical tool, yeah but no, no they don’t do that.  It isn’t that it’s really a problem per say, it’s an accoustic styling choice, a flavoured one that I found deeply pleasing and relaxing.

So would I / should you buy one?  Me maybe.  This is a musical style I enjoy very much but these are so homely and comforting that I’d lose so much time to them.  Trust me this review has eaten up waaaaaaaaaaay more time than it should have because I’d just get lost listening to the music when I was supposed to be listening to them.  So if you’re a crazy audio person always looking for the next exciting thing, this isn’t it.  This is the one you buy when you want to just get on with the music.  You want to hear your music and not spent time picking the music and the mastering apart, these are for the integrated whole.