There are earphones, and then there are earphones. These are earphones. Make of that what you will, JAYS produce serious pieces of kit with lots of features. Let’s take a look at the JAYS q-JAYS reference earphones in our full review and see how they fare.
Thanks to JAYS for the sample.
Oh dear god, what is in the box. The thing feels like its got lead weights in it. Okay its Russian doll like with layers of packaging to get into. My god this is the most sold cardboard I’ve ever encountered. It’s so dense and so ridged. The manual. Ooooooooooooh so pretty. So tactile, it feels more like it more belongs to something a peace treaty belongs on rather than earphone instructions. Sumptuously freakish for an earphone manual. Lifting that off and again more stunning design. Jays have clearly put a disturbingly huge amount of effort in here, it’s just a box but it’s so perfect. Opening each little bitty, the tips, the cable, my god the little case. Oh! The buds are metal. The old q’s were plastic so I’d assumed these would be the same. I’m feeling like it all needs to go like in a display cabinet somewhere.
In the ears and I’ve purposely been avoiding my old pair. These sound unsurprisingly lovely. Starting with “Wallflower” I’m highly pleased. The lowers feel rich, there isn’t any upper brittleness that I’m noticing. Switching to something with more upper energy there is a sharpness to things. Though is it me, are these still fuller in the bottom than their predecessors? Hmmmm I can’t tell from memory, they were always one of my favourites so it’s no surprise these are excellent. The question though is just how excellent. At 3700 Swedish Krona which google tells me is £275 they are not cheap, actually they could be the most expensive set of dual BA Universal IEM’s out there. There is no question they are good, god their mids are seriously good, “Like I Can” is stunning. This review is either going to take me no time at all or forever.
FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5 and Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.
Marry Poppins. Practically perfect in every way. There has always been something about the itty bitty q-JAYS that I have loved and found there to be something natural feeling about them. I have never ever been able to quite pin down what acoustically it is they are doing to make feel there is something so natural. Whatever it is, god damn the little buggers still have it. of all the dual BA’s that once were all the rage, back in the days of q-JAYS v1.0 they all share a certain similarity, bass is armature like, tight, controlled, polite and above all, shifts only a smidgen of air compared to dynamics. Now in the age of hybrids where dynamics have moved in for shifting a ton of air and giving raucous bass the q’s are comparatively super reserved. These are BA all the way so don’t expect gobs of bass. These are all about hearing, not feeling, bass notes and they are tight, highly sculpted yet for all their swooping marble like texture. It’s hard, you know it’s hard yet to the gentle sweep of a finger it’s so soft, the curves so gentle, so human, so natural. Like Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne. You know that it’s all fake, an unyielding lump of rock, yet there is something achingly natural and organic to its touch still.
The bass on the q-JAYS is just like that. I know it’s unyielding and controlled but if feels so wondrously natural. It’s pretty tame in quantity, bass heads won’t like it but….. it responds very nicely to a bass boost. It bumps the level to a slightly more crowd pleasing level, well head-fi crowd pleasing level but keeping that peculiar natural sensation. It’s never going to be basshead pleasing, ever, dual BA’s do not move a lot of air but, aggrrrgh I haven’t the words to properly capture what it is they do.
Gloriously something. Not really smooth or liquid nor really cool and dry. Sort of slap in the middle and not really picking side. Probably a little cool, little clean compared to what I unusually go for. But…… there is that strangely natural something they have that I can’t define. These damn sons of bitches have me constantly wanting to burst into song and as much as I might like a slightly tipsy sing along to Whitney’s “One Moment In Time” trust me, my voice really cannot go there. It’s a contestant struggle to keep my mouth shut. I do not know what it is that’s the cause, normally I go for much more creamy vocals and these have always been more dry. Yet damnit there is something that feels so natural. Strings and guitars too, Miss Chapmans “Fast Car” once more has me wanting to bust into song like I’m in some West End musical.
The breadth, the tonality, the most delicate of inflections are all served up gloriously.
They suck. Just kidding, like everything else they are to die for. The treble in the old one was the area where they did lose things a touch. They got a little broken, brittle, gritty, never so far as to make me not still love them but you knew it was there. The new ones however doesn’t seem to have that issue. I should confess I’m not exactly going out of my way to play horrible scratchy treble to find out. I know it’s not really “professional” but suck it, I’m just enjoying so much every track that comes on. “My Dear Country” is just soo freekin’ good, it’s an awesome track and they just sing, F me do they sing!!! Pick a whole bunch of sweary words and arrange them into expressions of positivity.
God damnit I still cannot put my finger on what it is they are doing that makes them feel so “natural” it really is so very, very good. It’s pushing CK10 good, way less in your face but so much refinement. How the UE700 and these have the same drivers, Christ knows. Still I would say if your DAP pairing don’t steer towards bright or brittle, it’ll nudge the q’s that way and they don’t need it. Something maybe slightly smooth would suit better, well suit me better.
Well articulation and separation is great, still feels well integrated but as a little BA they do really well in terms of scale. They really honestly do but they are BA’s and they don’t shift symphonic amounts of air. I’m fine with that but if you want epic vastness they try but fall short of what big dynamics can do. Big for typical dual BA’s but it’s a limitation of the tech.
Yeah look at the damn things. Sooooooooooooooo teeny tiny they just slip right in there. Up or down was fine (I like up) such effortless little beasts.
Compared with v1.0 these weigh a ton. I can’t find the numbers which is odd. Still they maybe heavy next to their siblings but they are so tiny, in your ears they may as well weigh nothing. I’ve never heard of anyone having issues with the old version, I’d be surprised if anyone did with these.
Hmm these have a tiny vent and I think it has diminished their isolation a bit. Hmm for me it’s fine as they still isolate plenty. Though, I’m not a Tube commuter and it would be probably enough but I’m not certain. Easily good enough for most normal environments, super easily enough for you to get yourself run over by not hearing that bus behind you. Eyes people!
Insane. “Metal injection moulded stainless steel” short of taking a hammer to them I’m not sure what you could do to physically damage them. Well apart from immersion in a liquid but that’s kinda a given for everything. Cables nice, super flexible, replicable so if you kill it you just get a new one. I should probably note that while they are really thin, they are supposedly coated Kevlar, JAYS has not been penny pinching when making these. I can see no reason why these wouldn’t last you the next decade and more.
They are just as the look in photos. So long as you like black they are quite beautiful. I’d personally love a grey pair but they are just so “Swedish” minimalist, plain, functionally efficient and just beautifully simple. They are the antithesis of bling.
So I didn’t get the phone versions but I wanted to mention anyway. Since they have detachable cables they come in iOS, Android and Windows Phone cable versions. Now I wouldn’t use these out of a phone but you can and get a mic and buttons too if you want.
Are they easy to drive, well yes they are. You can plug these into your phone and they will sound quite excellent. They are so easy to drive, they really do not need gobs of power at all. Still I would implore that you do anyway. They just come to life, bigger, grander, deeper, more dynamic, more expressive, more wonderfulness when you amp them well. They don’t “need” to be amped but that’s like grandpa buying a Ferarri to drive at 20mph to Tesco. You can do it but it’s just plain wrong. It’s still a Ferrari and I’m sure Grandpa loves driving it at 20 mph, just as you would love the q-JAYS running out of your mobile phone.
It’s still wrong though.
In the box you get 5 pairs and sizes of silicone tips and a pair of Comply’s. You also get a case that is an epic leap from the heap of crap that came with v1.0. JAYS are still running with the ultra-minimalist matte black everything theme. The case is thick matte black plastic. It feels extremely firm and solid. It is then inlayed with some black layer of a firm spongy substance to cushion its itty bitty cargo. You can buy replacements and phone version cables if you want. They also offer two different cases if you fancy one a little different looking. They really do know how to make a damn good looking case.
If there is one fly in the ointment it’s the cost. From the JAYS store online, the no mic cable version is 400 Euro’s. The mic’ed ones are all 470 Euro’s. errr 70 Euro’s for a mic???? Are you serious??? I mean maybe they have to use more Kevlar to reinforce the connections which create weak points but still, 70 Euro’s is 50 quid to swap a no mic’d cable for one with a mic and controls. Sorry JAYS’s I love you and while I don’t want the mic version anyway, come on are you serious???
Anyway…. So at 400 Euro or US$400 which by the time you at tax are basically the same, so it’s about £290. They are not cheap, maybe the most expensive dual BA? I cannot say these are a bargain, they are just not but they are exquisitely beautiful sounding. You want the best, well your wallet is going to suffer for it.
It was never a secret I loved the old ones, sure they were a bit gritty up top and a bass boost didn’t hurt but I loved them still. These have filed that treble grit and lifted the bass just a smidgen. They are without question one of the best IEMs your wallet can get you. Sure there are “better” things out there but at this point we’re well into diminishing returns as it is. I mean, when I got my old q’s I snapped them up in white and baby blue for like £80. The black at the time was going for £120. They were really competitive at that price, clearly beating the DBA-02. These though are on a level up from there in terms of refinement, were talking CK10 levels. (Which was a costly little beast.) Hmm it was also all metal, weren’t they titanium shells or something crazy?
Cost is really where it comes down to, the q”s are masterpieces but they cost masterpiece prices too. (70 Euro for a cable, bad JAYS.) Still when you’re hitting this level you can get away with charging what they are. I really, really like these and want to be able to jump about and say just grab a pair, unconditionally and that price tag means I can’t.
So should you get a pair, if your wallet can take it, yes. I’m not saying these are 3 times as good as the R-50 (which uses the same drivers) but they are better. No “ “ they are just better. Jays have laced the q’s with some magical acoustic crack. I don’t know what they’ve done I cannot put my finger on it but they just feel so natural and alive and beautiful and vibrant. The IEM equivalent of Julie Andrews singing on an Alpine mountain side. Something so invigorating and captivating yet so clean and so simple too. I’m not sure I’d be pleased at handing my wallet to them for the dent it would produce but I’m pretty sure I’d forgive quickly all the same. The fact is they are exquisite little masterpiece’s and I love them to bits.