Tuesday, March 17, 2009
JAYS s-JAYS in-ear headphone review
You may never have heard of JAYS. They are a Swedish headphone manufacturer who have lofty ambitions to conquer the headphone market through churning out models with good technology and design for the fashion conscious. Check out the q-JAYS, which is one of the tiniest and most desirable looking dual balanced armature in-ear monitors in the world. But with most consumers not willing to spend more than £100 on headphones (or indeed at all) recession or not, the s-JAYS at half the price is a much more tempting proposition.
At £60 retail (£43 on Amazon UK), JAYS have the mid-range market well covered with the new s-JAYS. These, according to JAYS, is their first in-ear headphone to use the SIREN armature technology - whatever that means. Featuring a new tubeless round design, they are said to be capable of delivering plentiful of bass and open soundstage, something balanced armature technology isn't exactly known for. A normal armature transducer is typically shaped as a longish rectangular box, where as the SIREN armature here is shaped more like a dynamic transducer. This explains the apparent large body size of the headphones.
Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Sensitivity: 113 dB SPL/mW (1mW)
Nominal impedance: 69 ohms) @ 1 kHz
Transducer: SIREN armature
Headphone weight: 10 grams
Included in the sales package are plentiful of accessories, something JAYS should be commended here. Six pairs of ear tips of varying sizes are included (five pairs of silicon sleeves, one pair of foam sleeves). You also get a small zipped faux leather carrying case, extension cable, four pairs of earwax filter, stereo splitter and an airplane headphone adapter. The filters are required to prevent dirts, ear waxes and spiders from entering the s-JAYS nozzles. To be honest I do believe that they should bundle an ear wax cleaning tool instead or provide a permanent protective mesh as these filters are expensive to replace! Having said that I do not suffer from excess earwax issues and reckon a single pair to be able to last me more than a couple of months.
For an in-ear headphone with a single armature in each earpiece, the s-JAYS are pretty huge, no doubt due to the dynamic driver-like design of the SIREN armature drivers. The caterpillar or bee-like design is an acquired taste, but I generally like them even if they are a bit too large. They look nicer in person than in promo pictures. Despite the size I didn't had any issues getting a fit. They slot into my shallow ear canals rather nicely. The fit is overall better than Denon's C551. They do not sit in as deeply as the Klipsch Custom 2 or my Sennheiser CX 95 though.
Both the symmetrical main cord and extension cord terminates at a straight gold plated 3.5mm plug. Having experienced Sennheiser's extraordinary new cord, I find the cord here to be nothing special. JAYS doesn't think so and they do make pains to highlight the quality of the cord (including a sticker on it). They do seem tough and capable of withstanding abuse, plus they do not get tangled easily. However they are rather stiff. On the upside microphonics is minimal. The Y-splitter also look rather fragile in comparison, but it is no better than the one on the Denon C551. Like the Denon and Klipsch headphones, there is a Y-adjuster which is useful for tightening and preventing microphonics.
The s-JAYS driver housings are made entirely of plastic and are very light to hold. The lightness does make it feel cheaper in comparison to the aluminium housed Denon C551 and CX 95. Still they are comfortable to wear for hours at a time. The biggest design flaw of the headphones is the decision to print the 'L' and 'R' labels in the same colour as the body! The letters may be raised, but they are still troublesome to locate. When will manufacturers learn we want colour coded headphones?!? I found that the default single flange silicon tips to fit perfectly in my ears. They do not leak sound - not surprising considering the lack of air vents. The isolation is also on par with my CX 95. The silicon tips themselves are soft and a bit thicker than the default one provided by Sennheiser, Sony et. al.
Enough chattering. Question remains, how good does this SIREN armature powered s-JAYS sound? Well I had a chance to listen to it during the whole long weekend away at the Lake District and here are my thoughts. JAYS has made it clear that the SIREN armature transducer here produces more bass than equivalent single balanced armature drivers. They do sound plenty, at least more than the last single balanced armature IEM I had which was the Klipsch Custom 1. They do not extend as low as the Sennheiser IE 8, but the mid-bass hump is definitely there. The bass impact is certainly one of the better ones I have heard outside that of the IE 8 or CX 95.
Unfortunately the mids do get overwhelmed by the bass. It isn't like the IE 8 where even with strongest bass setting, the mids remained forward, clear and precise. Here the mids are recessed, shoved to the back so to speak. The highs on the other hand are only slightly recessed and fortunately they do not suffer from sibilance, or at least my ears did not detect any. Sadly I have to agree with many others that complex music do not work well with the s-JAYS. The sound quality easily gets muddy and veiled. My month old relationship with the IE 8 does not help either, but please please remember that the IE 8 is triple or quadruple of the cost of the s-JAYS. Compared to the CX 95, the s-JAYS are a bit more detailed, but lack the warmth and fun of the similarly priced Sennheiser.
The soundstage is sufficient. They still provide a more headstage kind of sound, in that the music revolves inside your head, rather than around. However as far as imaging goes, the s-JAYS performs well here in comparison to other armature based in-ear headphones. If you require something with a larger soundstage, then get an IE 7, IE 8 or full size cans. Ultimately the general rule is armature technology has so far been unable to provide a more encompassing soundstage compared to dynamic technology, so keep that in mind the next time you go headphone shopping.
All in all I quite enjoyed the s-JAYS. It won't replaced my IE 8, but it makes for a reasonable backup headphone. For those who can't see the point of spending more than £100 on headphones, these are also good enough to be used as your everyday pair. At £60, I do think the s-JAYS are a bit overpriced, but they can be had for £43 from Amazon UK or even cheaper elsewhere (I've heard that Costco had them for £35 once - you may want to check there). At that price I would recommend them - but do check out their competitors as well.
+ crisp sound
+ good amount of bass for armature
+ bundled accessories aplenty
+ good sound quality for price
- nice looking packaging hampered by the requirement to package products in blister plastic packs
- recessed mids
- filters, I hate them