Pros: Bass, Isolation, Durability.
Cons: Veiled mids, Harsh treble, poor value.
Foreword: These were my first ‘high-end’ headphones that I owned, and I have bought nothing better since. My only points of comparison are SoundMagic EH-10s, belonging to my brother. However, having lived with nought but these for quite some time, I feel able to cover their strengths and weaknesses.
I purchased these brand-new from Atomic Floyd for full retail price (£99 GBP)
All testing was done on my Cowon Z2.
Review: The Atomic Floyd PowerJax are the entry-level IEM from AF, more famous for pairs like the SuperDarts, which have received a good amount of acclaim for their sound. Regrettably, I cannot comment on them, as I do not own any.
In brief, the PowerJax supply all of the extra features associated with Atomic Floyd, however their sound does not really match the price tag.
What’s in the box?
The ‘Jax come in a very smart box, with a carry pouch and 3 pairs of spare tips- these are a standard S/M/L configuration, but there’s a second pair of medium tips. The spare Ms seem to be much lower quality.
The case is quite awkward to use properly, requiring the cable to be wound quite tightly. I have personally switched to a Sennheiser case that was given to me.
Comfort and Isolation
The ‘Jax initially are reasonably comfortable. However, if you wear them for a few hours, the weight starts to become a real drag. My ear canals tend to be sore by ~3 hours in.
The remote on the cable is also a nuisance, as it hangs at just the right height to slap against your neck. This is a minor gripe, but if you intend to use these for running (which you shouldn’t), it makes microphonics go mad.
In terms of overall microphonics, they’re not great. They are definitely present, and it’s not a good idea to wear these up, as, for some reason, the sound becomes thin and disappointing. Cable thump is noticeable, and if the cable gets knocked, the noise is loud, but not obtrusively so.
The soundstage is broad, but largely unconvincing. Airy atmospherics continue sideways for a long way, but the presentation just feels two-dimensional, and instruments cannot be picked out by presentation. Most of the mix is just central.
This is where the Floyds really come into their own. The bass is punchy, powerful and has a surprising amount of detail. It is controlled, and powerful. We’re not talking Dynamic Driver quantities, as these are BA headphones, but the bass is hugely impressive nonetheless. Kick drums stay in their place, and are not overwhelming, but bass synths sometimes bleed into the midrange. I have no direct comparison for how ‘fast’ the bass is, but it certainly doesn’t noticeably lag behind the rest of the mix.
With an EQ, such as the Mach-3 Bass or X-bass on Jet Effect, the bass becomes nearly overwhelming. It gives me a headache after about 20 minutes, but if you’re an obsessive basshead, these may just be your dream.
Veiled, recessed, and somewhat lacking in clarity, the mids are certainly not stealing the show here. Vocals always feel like they are ‘further back’ in the mix, making lyrics hard to pick out. This is particularly pronounced on tracks like ‘Silhouette (Allen and Envy Mix)’ by Dart Rayne, where a heavy baseline accompanies a soaring treble sweep, and the mids just get completely lost. When voices are alone, they are close and personal, due to the soundstage, but they are not necessarily natural.
A swing and a miss, here.
The treble is reasonably detailed and clear. The highs reach, well, high, and both instruments and synths sound airy when they need to. However, there is a definite impression that they are ‘trying too hard,’ and it sometimes gets too much. Sibilance is frequent and noticeable, and snares and cymbals are harsh and aggressive. The sound is certainly fatiguing, and I would strongly recommend reducing the treble if you use an EQ. Sometimes, when a track is particularly cluttered, you can hear the headphones simply ‘give up,’ and layers drop from the mix entirely. Sometimes, even, the headphones add a serious edge of distortion as they fail to play everything correctly. At this price point, any distortion at low volumes is shameful. The only thing in the Floyds’ favour is that this problem is thankfully rare.
While I may be quick to point out the flaws in these headphones, they remain a good choice for some people. If you are looking for excellent isolation, thumping bass extreme durability, then these are the ‘phones for you. However, if you seek something more refined, with better sonic characteristics, you can do a lot better for a lot less.