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Jays d-JAYS Earphones Review

by J. Henry Gaddabout December 03, 2007
d-JAYS earphones

d-JAYS earphones


  • Product Name: d-JAYS Earphones
  • Manufacturer: Jays
  • Distributor: HeadRoom
  • Review Date: December 03, 2007 14:06
  • MSRP: $ 99
  • Coupler Size: Small
  • Connector Type: 1/8"
  • Ear Coupler Type: IEM
  • Driver Type: Balanced Armature
  • Acoustic Seal: Sealed
  • Manufacturer Warranty: 2 Years


  • Fun and nimble
  • Multi-length cord options
  • Good fit and finish


  • Poor bass response
  • Not reference quality

Gear Corner Review

d-JAYS earphones CUJens Nylander is a bad-ass Swede with a habit of speaking his mind while simultaneously dancing to the beat of his own drummer. If you're not familiar with Jens, he's a fabulously successful fellow who's yet to see his thirtieth birthday. Nylander founded Jens of Sweden (JoS), a company that manufactures mp3 players. In its first year the company rocketed to more than $15 million in revenue. But Nylander refused to play by the rules. Jens refused to pay the Swedish tax on blank media. The Swedish government, in 1999, took the stance that copyright owners should be compensated when content is copied to blank media for personal use, including mp3 players. In a redux of the U.S. Betamax-Disney lawsuit, Jens posited that the charge is unfair. Jens, like most of us, feels the right to "transfer the song to an mp3 player should be included in the purchase of the music." Not surprisingly, this stance cost Jens of Sweden dearly. They were driven to bankruptcy by the ensuing legal problems – a bankruptcy from which they've just emerged.

Jump forward a few years and we find the resilient and ever-creative Mr. Nylander still busy as the Managing Director of JoS, but now he is also the defendant is a smuggling lawsuit. It seems a couple shipments of mp3 players were misidentified as FM receivers resulting in a shortfall of customs duties – an offense that is evidently classified as smuggling in Sweden. Even while all this was happening Jens managed, along with designer Johan Tervald and engineer Martin Alexanderson, to found a new company with the name Jays. Jays makes earphones. Specifically, Jays makes earphones for personal portable electronics.

The Jays line of earphones consists of the j-JAYS, an entry level model at $49.99 MSRP, the d-JAYS in the middle of the line, and the q-JAYS at $179 MSRP. The Jays line-up also offers the BlueStreamer stereo Bluetooth adapter and the m-Jays, which is designed to allow for use of aftermarket headphones with mp3-capable cell phone devices. Packaging is nice but not ostentatious. Fit-and-finish seems top rate.

Headroom kindly sent me the Jays d-JAYS model for review. Priced at a competitive $99.99, Jays claims the d-JAYS use a unique systems that makes it possible to manufacture very small canal phones with exceptional noise-reduction features. According to Nylander, "Jays technology delivers a sound quality that earlier was only available to rock stars that today visit audiologists to get their personal fitted earphones. Now all consumers are offered the same technology, sound quality and optimal fit without having to pay hundreds of dollars." In principle this sounds like a great idea – after all, who doesn't want to party like a rock star? Or at least listen to music like one.

I listened to the d-JAYS using my Apple MA446LL 30G video iPod as a source. I also hooked up the d-JAYS to my desktop computer via Headroom's Total BitHead (review forthcoming). Finally, I listened to the d-JAYS using a Levinson No. 39 CD player via a Headroom Total Airhead headphone amplifier. Over the course of a couple months listening, the personality of these little cans was set in stark relief. If you're hoping for transparency, fidelity, detail and a faithful recreation of a musical recording, keep walking. These aren't for you. On the other hand…

The d-JAYS are ear canal headphones. As such they are small and of simple design. The d-JAYS do offer one very unique feature – a two part headphone cord. The ear-pieces are attached to a 24-inch cord with a straight 3.5mm mini-plug on the end. This in turn plugs into a 36-inch extension with a 3.5mm socket on one end and a 3.5mm mini-plug on the other. At first I was a bit miffed, who wants an unnecessary break in a cable, anyway? After living with the system for a while I've begun to see the genius in this simple layout. And for those who wonder I never heard a compromise in fidelity due to the extra connection.

The 24-inch cord is perfect for putting my iPod into a shirt pocket or into the handkerchief pocket on a sports coat. You don't have to coil up a lot of excess wire and this makes for a clean and easy package with which to live. This is also ideal for those who want to put the iPod or other source into an arm band while running or working out in the gym. Clearly Jens and his team was thinking about how we live with our gear and not sticking to convention!

d-JAYS earphones 3When you need to put the electronics in your pants pocket, or hook up to a piece of gear on the desk, you simply use the extension cord. With both pieces in place the entire system is about the same length as my reference Shure E4C. The extension cord is also available with a right-angle plug as an option. If you have to plug into a tight space or sit in an awkward orientation to the gear, this could be just what the doctor ordered. It's certainly a more elegant solution than a Radio Shack right-angle adapter!

The d-JAYS also come with a selection of silicon rubber eartip sleeves from small to large. They are a bit harder than the ultra-soft material offered by Shure, but much softer than the harder versions included by Shure. In a true "Three Bears" vein, they seemed just right to me. The d-JAYS are quite comfortable and the ear buds are tough enough for daily use. The Shure moldings are a bit better in the comfort/seal department, but they only lasted me a couple months of use before needing replacement. One of the three sizes should allow for an excellent fit for most any user.

Since I've already alluded to the fact that these cans aren't "accurate," let me explain that point first. Upon first listen it's almost immediately obvious that the d-JAYS have a personality. They are rolled off on the high end, somewhat thick in the mid-bass and lacking extreme deep-bass almost entirely. This might sound like a death knell, but it's really not as bad as those negative audiophile attributes might imply. When one listens on-the-go it is seldom possible to be completely attentive. This is why so many car audio systems and personal portables (and many would say the whole of the mp3 format itself) are considered enjoyable, even though their absolute performance is a far cry from transparent. Like fast food, portable music and audio is a balance of convenience versus desire. The d-JAYS are designed to maximize that balance.

Listening to Ben Gibbard's performance on NPR's Live Concerts from All Songs Considered, there was a definite reduction in air and space as compared to the Shure E4C. The top registers of Gibbard's acoustic guitar lacked shimmer and metallic overtones and the crowd noise in the background was a single, amorphous blob as opposed to a collective group of individual voices. On the other hand, there was no harshness and the intelligibility was very good. The d-JAYS get the primary colors right even if they lose some of the subtlety. The Shure 'phones let me hear a lot more of what was wrong with the recording without letting me get much more of the goodness. Get over it - you're listening to an mp3 podcast! The performance is fun and exciting!

If the d-JAYS lack deep bass, it's because deep bass is hard to get right on headphones in the first place. Without the tactile feedback of physical sensation, most listeners will never notice. Open E on a bass guitar is typically in the range of 40Hz. That's a very low note for music. Even with great headphones like the Stax SR-007Mk2 electrostatics, in a sedentary and quiet situation, it's pretty tough to consciously pick out deeper tones. Again, the Shures showed their pro pedigree and are a better choice for critical listening. But the d-JAYS didn't flinch in the comparison. Post-grunge giants Nickelback sounded appropriately gritty and tough. While I'd rather be sucked into “How You Remind Me” with a bit more drive and control, I found the d-JAYS/iPod combination more than adequate.

If the d-JAYS are truncated tonally, that's also balanced by their limited ability to provide detail. While this sounds like I'm really trashing these little cans, I'm not. This is a game of balance, much like a bottle of sub $10 wine. It's pretty unlikely you'll find true greatness, but it's not difficult to enjoy a level of competence. The d-JAYS provide more than adequate detail for a mobile listener. What's more, they don't offend nor do they demand total attention. Both are bad news for portable entertainment. The d-JAYS paint the music with a broad brush. They get the essentials right, and that's more than many competing products can claim. Even with music as challenging and sublime as the new Robert Plant and Allison Krauss production Raising Sand, the d-JAYS managed to let the crux of the performance find its way off the compact disc and into my imagination.

Are the d-JAYS worth $100? I guess, for a critic, that's the ultimate question. Is the product as good as its price would suggest? In response I'd say that I wouldn't rush to spend my money on the d-JAYS after having lived with them and listened to them for a good long while. They're competent and musical and cute. They work just fine and are plenty efficient to be driven by even the most marginal of personal portables. They didn't do anything terribly wrong, and if I got them as a gift or purchased them as a rough-and-tumble alternative to a pair of much more refined (and expensive) set of cans I'd be a happy camper. I think there's better sound out there for the money, but there's a lot that worse. The value of the d-JAYS is about the same as their performance; neither stellar nor sub-par. Like the mp3 format itself, the d-JAYS are a modern compromise.

For more information, visit: http://www.headphone.com

The Score Card

At Audioholics Gear Corner we give you a quick but comprehensive look at consumer electronics from several different categories. All products in the Gear Corner have been individually evaluated through hands-on testing by our reviewers in order to give you a quick but detailed overview that we hope will help you in your purchasing decisions.

The Price: Bargain
  About right
Drool Factor: One drop
You'll need a towel
With This Gadget, You Will Be the Envy of: Anyone who sees it
Your IT guy from work
Your buddies
The soccer mom down the street
Is it Easy to Use?: If you have a pulse
It helps to be a bit geeky
Not unless you are a rocket scientist