A pair of good earphones geared towards iPhone use, but hampered by one irritating factor
Jays is a brand that’s new to New Zealand. I’ve introduced the company and reviewed a pair of their t-JAYS Three earphones here but the a-JAYS Four earphones are quite different. These aren’t your standard in-ear ‘phones, as they include an in-line three button remote and microphone, and are aimed to a large degree at iPhone and iPad users.
Features and Construction
These ‘phones are quite conventional in their styling compared to the t-JAYS Three model. The in-ear bits are small and circular, with a silver outer surface. Where they differ markedly is in the cable construction, which is a 5mm wide flat ribbon cable rather than the ubiquitous slim, round cable found in earphones. The advantage of this type of flat cable is that it doesn’t tangle.
The in-line remote will only work with certain Apple products – full remote and mic functionally is supported by iPod nano (4th generation and later), iPod classic 120 GB, 160 GB (2009), iPod touch (2nd generation and later), iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPad. The remote is supported by iPod shuffle (3rd generation and later). Audio is of course supported by all iPod models along with anything sporting a 3.5mm minijack. These ‘phones will also work with Macbook, Macbook Pro and Mac Pro (2009) computers. The remote offers a huge amount of control on iPhone or iPod Touch, allowing users to do the basics such as play/pause/skip or adjusting volume, but they also enable stuff like call answering, voice dialing, voice access to contacts and even voice control of music selection and playback.
Five different in-ear sleeves are supplied but unlike the pricier model, there are no airline adapters and no carry case besides the oversize plastic case the ‘phones come in. The ‘phones are comfortable in use and are very rugged indeed thanks to the flat cable, and they withstood my worst efforts at provoking a failure.
I was worried about the “Deep heavy bass” on the packaging of the t-JAYS Three Earphones. Fortunately they turned out okay. I was even more concerned with the “Voice optimised speakers” message on the a-JAYS Four case. I assume that means optimised for mobile phone calls, but who cares about optimisation for voices? I’ve been listening to callers on the end of shonky telephone speakers for a long, long time and I’ve never had much trouble making out what they were saying, so flag making earphones that make voice calls sound good. I’d rather they had the ability to make Hendrix wail like he should, or to make Aimee Mann sound even sexier.
As it turns out, whatever “voice optimised” means to the Jays engineers, it hasn’t affected the sound quality. Compared to the budget aftermarket benchmark, Sennheiser’s MX460, the a-JAYS Four ‘phones showed a noticeable improvement in detail, bass extension and general openness. This is a good thing considering the price difference. These phones go a long way to revealing what’s on your portable player, in terms of original recording quality and the degree of file compression applied to the music.
Like their t-JAYS Three cousins, the a-JAYS Four make a very good effort at reproducing low bass without getting carried away. Bass notes are big and impressive at all times but despite this bottom end weight, the ‘phones are best described as having a neutral character because the mids and top are so clear and defined. It’s a nice balancing act and it works in the mobile audio arena.
Used as a mobile phone handsfree system, they performed well, with no major complaints regarding call volume and clarity and only one instance where a caller said that I was indistinct through the mic on the a-JAYS Four, but clear through the iPhone’s own mic. Passive noise canceling through isolation is adequate at best compared to dedicated isolating models from suppliers such as Shure or Ultimate Ears.
So they sound good and perform exactly as described when used as a handsfree or a remote. What then could be the spanner in the works?
Well, that flat cable does its job; it’s certainly not going to tangle into a rat’s nest without some committed input from the user. However, the cable is as microphonic as any earphone or headphone cable I’ve ever dealt with. Every time it bumps against anything – desk, chair, chest, arm, you hear a dull thud. This drove me ballistic when I was walking around and at one point, I thought my MacBook Pro was having a fit because I was hearing booming noises in the middle of a quiet movie scene – turns out that it was just the cable bumping against the side of the computer.
Certain overseas reviews haven’t commented on this microphonic effect at all, so perhaps I am more affected by it than some, but I couldn’t use these ‘phones for jogging or even walking, which limits their usefulness. If you don’t notice or aren’t bothered by the noise, and like the idea of the built in mic and remote for your Apple device, then the a-JAYS Four could be a viable option. If that cable would just quieten down, I’d be a fan as well. ASHLEY KRAMER
* Jays earphones can currently be bought at Magnum Mac & Telstra Clear stores