Pros: Version for each mobile device, inline mic, durable, easy to place in ear, easy to drive, sound quality is great, great musicality, good level of detail, good positioning for an IEM.
Cons: No cable cinch, fit can be sub-optimal, bass can be a bit boomy.
Style: In-Ear Monitors
Tonal Balance: Slightly V-Shaped
Preferred Genres: The energetic and clear presentation from the Five’s has made these suitable for almost everything I’ve listened to.
Amping: Not necessary
Listening Set-Up: iPod Classic
Design and Build Quality
The a-JAYS Five are built in such a way as to eliminate the potential of stress on the headphones in every way that I can think of. The fit can be less than perfect for some and the lack of tips doesn’t help. All in all the a-JAYS Five are solidly designed though despite their minor flaws.
JAYS are known for their sleek looks, which the a-JAYS Five certainly has, but how are they built? The a-JAYS have a very solid feel to them from top to bottom. The housings are two separate pieces, a rubberized matte black back end and a silver metal portion which is in the very front. The split between the front and back portions are covered almost entirely by the ear tip and is placed in such a way as to not be in the danger of pressure when being placed in ear or removed. The bottom half of the housing becomes a soft rubber stress relief for the flat cable, flexing enough as to allow for movement, but stiff enough as to keep pressure from damaging the cable. The housing is designed in such a way as to seem indestructible as well as sleek, well done.
The cable is flat and has shown no signs of wear and tear despite my rough use of them through these cold months. The cable is flexible and soft, but durable offering only slight microphonics when worn down and none when worn over ear. The in-line mic is made of plastic and is the only non-rubberized section of the headphones. It doesn’t feel overly solid, but there is a tighter feel that I’ve seen in other in-line mics. The cable is split in a y shape without a cable cinch and the cable terminates at a 90 degree angle with a TRRS plug.
I must say that the a-JAYS Five not only feel and look well built with no weak point for the cable or housings to break apart. This has been confirmed with me putting them through some rough outdoor uses over the past month. The IEMs still look brand new. Durability should not be of concern here.
The a-JAYS Five are designed to be worn down. This is made clear by the positioning of the in-line mic, the flat cable and the housing shape. Unfortunately when I wear these down I can not get a secure fit. I have worn these down and while I barely get a secure fit, I find that the IEMs are not sensitive to positioning to get a good seal. Microphonics are also bearable when worn down, despite the lack of a cable cinch.
In order to wear these over ear, to achieve a secure fit, I lose the ability to use the in-line microphone for its intended use. I can still use the buttons, but making a call wouldn’t be feasible. The flat cable also poses minor problems, it is not intended to go around the ear. This causes the cable to sometimes fall from around my ear. This is not very often, but it happens enough to bring it up. When worn over-ear I find that the fit is above average in comfort and I find that the housings are very easy to position in my ears. The a-JAYS Five are not picky about positioning though, whether solidly inserted or loosely I find I get a good sound. Once in my ear I find that I can wear the a-JAYS Five for a few hours with no discomfort, I do notice that I am wearing them, but they are not a bother.
The fit is a mixed bag, I’m sure that some will achieve a fit when worn down that is optimal, unfortunately I can not. I think that JAYS could have made the housing a little less bulky and the nozzle a bit longer to make the fit perfect. It’s not too much of a deal for me since I don’t use these to make calls to begin with, but it’s something to consider for those who do. Fortunately you won’t have to fiddle around with getting the perfect nozzle positioning and comfort should be rather decent.
Amping and Burn-In
I’ve noticed no signs of burn-in and since the a-JAYS Five are designed with mobile devices in mind, I’ve not used them with an amp, nor do I feel they would even need one.
The a-JAYS Five are v-shaped IEMs with an energetic sound and solid level of detail that I find suitable for most genres I’ve listened to them with. The mid-bass can be a bit boomy at times, but the pros far outweigh the only con that I have with their sound.
On the whole, the bass of the a-JAYS Five is strong enough to satisfy bassheads while having enough control to satisfy those wanting a more balanced sound. The Five’s are certainly tuned towards bass, but by no means is the quantity out place.
The sub-bass reaches low with a fullness that many closed full-sized headphones would be jealous of. While the Five’s reach incredibly low, I find that the sub-bass isn’t as detailed as the Monster DNA Pro I reviewed. Fortunately for the Five’s the Monster DNA Pro not only cost double, but they have much larger drivers. What is impressive is that despite the huge bass, the Five’s exhibit no distortion, nor does the severe low-end interfere with the mids any more than the recording allowed. I also find that the sub-bass is capable of dealing with quick sub-bass fluctuations, most notably those in James Blake’s Limit to Your Love.
The mid-bass isn’t as composed as the sub-bass, I find that in some recordings that the mid-bass exhibits some bloat. I find that this is only on recordings that are more modern, more tuned for bass, but I wager that most of the people looking towards these won’t exclusively listen to 70s hi-fi recordings. There is a slight mid-range recession, very slight, that I feel amplifies this. The mid-bass only slightly pushes into the mid-range, but I’ve found that with v-shaped headphones this tends to be par for the course. The mid-bass is more textured than the sub-bass for what it’s worth and I find that, aside from the mildly boomy nature, that the mid-bass is represented nicely. I do feel that I am coming off a bit harshly on the Five’s though, overall the bass is quality and exceeds expectations for an IEM in this price range. I haven’t heard the Shure SE215, but I sure would love to compare them to the Five’s since they are known for their bass.
As I said in the bass section, the mids are slightly restrained. That’s okay though as when they aren’t under the pressure of the lows and highs they sound quite fine. The mids are actually rather detailed, which is surprising in a $100 IEM that caters towards the smartphone crowd. I find myself experiencing the same level of detail as some high-end orthos. In-fact I feel that, despite a mildly recessed mid-range, that I am missing nothing as far as details are concerned. Now a detailed mid-range would be nothing if it weren’t clean and boy are the Five’s clean. No signs of distortion unless introduced by the recording itself. I am impressed!
Along with detail, I tend to find, the mids can be a bit dry. This is masked by the energy of the lows and highs, but when isolated the mids come off a bit dry. It’s interesting actually as I’m reminded a bit of the mids from the old HiFiMan RE0. I find it intriguing that JAYS went with such a discerning mid-range for a v-shaped IEM, but I find that it works nicely.
Tonation wise I find that the Five’s are a touch bright in the mids compared to warmer IEMs. I am thinking that this may have been to counterbalance the energy and presence of the highs and lows to make the mids stand out a little more. Either way the mids are lovely overall, especially when looked at as a total package.
The highs slightly overcompensate for the mid-range though. This would be fine if the mid-range weren’t slightly bright leaning and it would be fine if the highs had to compensate for a lack of detail in the mid-range. The highs wind up sounding a bit too edgy at times. I find that this isn’t a problem with albums like Dark Side of the Moon, but rather some modern recordings. The highs are well-extended with a great presence and a good level of detail, but they can sound a bit dry and pushy at their worse. Sibilance is kept to a minimum though and I feel that the highs expand upon the sound of the mids, only to a greater prominence.
The Five’s actually have a rather expansive sound, especially for an IEM in the $100 price range. The sound doesn’t fully expand around the soundscape, but it’s damn close and better than many closed headphones that I’ve heard at double and triple the price. Instrument separation is top notch, good luck finding a song that will sound muddy on these, and instrument depth is above average for the price, giving a layered effect adding to the instrument’s sense of space. Positioning is quality here as well, I’m honestly finding little fault with the presentation. The presentation is intimate, yet spaced out.
In a recent review I fell in love with the TDK BA200 IEM. Users likened them to a portable HD650. When I reviewed them they were slightly above $100, they then went up in price to the $150 range and now they are nowhere to be found. The JAYS a-JAYS Five are found for $100 with an inline mic in three variations with no sign of the price going up (all versions are priced exactly the same) and I am as equally in love with them.
The TDK offer a more balanced sound, while the Five’s offer a sound that will suit those who want a bassier IEM with inline controls. Even if the TDK BA200, which I am in love with, were still available for $100 I would have a hard time recommending them unless you never wanted an inline mic. I find that the BA200 offer a more balanced listening experience, but I find the Five’s offer a more fun listening experience without sacrificing quality.
There are some cons, but I feel that they are excusable at this price range. I sure would love to see what JAYS could come up with if they made a higher-end version of these. As for me recommending these? Yeah go get them if you want a versatile IEM with inline controls. I don’t think that you’ll be disappointed.
More photos can be seen here.
Cost at time of review: $100 on Amazon.