While we’re certainly not going to claim that every iPod or iPhone user does or should have the same headphone preferences, the one thing we can say with some certainty is that there are certain expectations people have for products at different price points, and that full-sized headphones that take up considerably more space and have a high price tag need to sound a lot better than in-ears before we’d consider buying them. Having impressed us repeatedly with in-ear designs, Sweden’s JAYS previously released an odd pair of headphones in c-JAYS, and has now released a smaller, less deluxe model called v-JAYS (£60/$94). While we’re not thrilled with either version, v-JAYS brings some of c-JAYS’ features into a price point that’s closer to plausible, though its sonic quality is roughly par with Apple’s packed-in iPod and iPhone earbuds.
v-JAYS are similar to c-JAYS in styling, featuring an old-fashioned plastic expandable headband with a light layer of foam on its inside, extending plastic arms, and square, pivoting on-ear speakers that have been covered with a thicker foam. Unlike c-JAYS, which had full, matching plastic caps facing outwards from its speakers on your ears, v-JAYS has stem-like attachments that are a mix of glossy and matte plastic, while retaining c-JAYS’ ability to fold up for easier, though not easy storage. We’d actually call v-JAYS the more stylish of the two designs thanks to these stems.
Pack-ins are one of the price differentiators. Whereas c-JAYS came with a carrying bag, three headphone port adapters and some unusual sets of foam ear pads, v-JAYS comes only with two sets of identical foam ear pads and an included 27.5-inch extension cord that iPod and iPhone users will all but need to use with the integrated 24-inch cord.
Sonic quality is the other differentiator. Both units use 40mm speakers, however, they’re different, and the c-JAYS ones were better, as might be suggested by the price difference. JAYS pitches the v-JAYS as a strong bass performer in a lightweight package, but depending on your ears and the position of the speakers, you might or might not find the bass performance as impressive in v-JAYS as in Apple’s freebie earphones. Some users have trouble getting Apple’s earbuds to fit in their ears, and if you’re in that crowd, you might hear a little more bass than in Apple’s design. However, when Apple’s $29 earbuds fit, they pump out better highs and comparable mids, with very similar lows. Depending on how we moved v-JAYS around on our ears, we sometimes found them a little flat, with less sparkle on the high end than the Apple pack-ins, and a little less depth on the low end; properly positioned, they were a little warmer, but still lacking in treble. They’re roughly comparable in detail, leaving you feeling like you’re missing some of the layers in the deep background of your favorite songs, though Apple’s earbuds focus your ears enough on the highs that distortion isn’t as obvious in the bass as it is in v-JAYS. Music sounds fine, not good, particularly for the price.
As much as we enjoy JAYS’ industrial designs, and have watched with interest as the company played with on-ear products, v-JAYS strikes us as only a decent product—a pair of nice-looking on-ear headphones that we wouldn’t use instead of Apple’s freebies, which even when purchased as replacements cost one-third of this accessory’s price. In-canal earphones we’ve tested from JAYS have delivered greater bang for the buck in packages that are much easier to carry around, and frankly, sonically a lot easier to love. That said, if you’re looking for fine, bass-skewed sound in a design that fits on your ear instead of into it, this isn’t a bad option; it’s just underwhelming given the otherwise impressive earphones that JAYS has developed.
Company and Price
Company: Jays AB
Compatible: All iPods, iPhone 3G