While we’re always open to the idea that relatively new earphone vendors can make a splash with great-sounding products, we’ve heard a lot of mediocrity from new vendors, and such companies are more frequently the subject of reader complaints that the earphones they’ve received have differed from unit to unit, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Today, we’re looking at $100 in-canal offerings from two such relatively new earphone vendors – iSkin and Jays – and would have looked at a third from similarly new v-moda, except that our only review sample arrived defective and was never replaced.
As it turns out, iSkin’s been selling Cerulean-branded earphones for around a year now: its Cerulean XLRs (iLounge rating: B+) offered colorful, inexpensive alternatives to Apple’s earlier iPod pack-ins. And Jays is a new arm of Jens of Sweden, which has been selling media players and earphones for some time. Both companies have the necessary customer support and experience to take care of you if something goes wrong – a reasonable expectation when you’re spending $100 on a pair of earphones. Our separate review of iSkin’s new Cerulean X1s (iLounge rating: B+) is here.
In all honesty, we weren’t expecting to be impressed by JAYS’ d-JAYS ($99), but we were: these are earphones that we’d consider sonically distinctive alternatives to the ER-6is. To start with the obvious, the d-JAYS Earphones are single-driver, micro armature designs that are unique in shape and feel: white or black in color, with sleek polished plastic outside halves and color-matched matte inside halves. They come with four total sets of different-sized silicone flanges, plus replacement filters, and a two-piece, gold-tipped cable. The cable splits at a short length so that d-JAYS can be used comfortably with or without a wired remote control, such as Apple’s iPod Radio Remote.
Moreso than the Cerulean X1, the d-JAYS design’s thin plastic bodies are ready to insert snugly into your ear canals, and in our experience provided somewhat superior isolation from outside sound; the triple-flanged ER-6i was a bit better yet. Comfort-wise, we found the lightweight d-JAYS to be somewhat more prone to accidental tugging out than the ER-6i, mostly because of the inward-pointing position of its ear cabling, but when sitting, we didn’t find it to be at all fatiguing or problematic.
Where d-JAYS really stood out was in the sound department. While we generally have a preference for neutral earphones, which are designed to let users self-equalize their music by taste or genre rather than forcing a certain signature sound across multiple types of music, we found JAYS’ balance – judiciously enhanced bass and treble relative to the ER-6i and Cerulean X1 – to be very pleasing from song to song, regardless of genre. Vocal tracks, dance, rap, and even gentle piano tracks leapt to life relative to the ER-6is, with some of the added punchiness and warmth we liked in Shure’s E500s. That said, d-JAYS don’t add much to the mids – $100 price range typical flatness persists there – and the detail isn’t as mindblowing as what you’d get by spending more money. To rival or exceed the ER-6i on sound for the dollar is no small feat, though, and d-JAYS fall firmly into that category.
If the d-JAYS offered the triple flanges and stability of the ER-6is, they’d be flat A earphones: we really liked their looks, feel, and sound for the $99 price, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to people who want more lively, exciting renditions of music than the neutral Etymotics can offer. The only major issues from our perspective are fit-related: tweaks to the locations of their cabling and more ear inserts – possibly foams – could make these impressive, highly recommendable little earbuds even better.
Company and Price
Company: Jays AB
Compatible: All iPods