There is something about Swedish design that resonates with me. I regard myself as a minimalist when it comes to design, preferring the understated rather than the ostentatious. The former is timeless whereas the latter is dictated by the ongoing fashion.
JAYS is a Swedish company that designs affordable headphones and IEMs that range in price from $39 to $299, and has been doing so since 2006, perfecting its lineup over the years. I owned its top end model, the q-JAYS, for several years entranced by the beautiful sound it produced.
One of the newest models in its lineup is the subject of this review, the a-Seven Wireless. It sells for $99, and as you will read, there is great value in this Bluetooth aptX headphone, both in regards to performance and build quality.
I'd like to thank the folks over at JAYS for providing a free sample in exchange for my views. The a-Seven arrived about two weeks ago, and before I did any critical listening, I ran it for about 100 hours beforehand in order to ensure I heard it at its best.
I used my iPhone SE as my source component which worked nicely with the a-Seven. The source material was primarily AAC files purchased through the iTunes Store, but I also listened to CD quality FLAC files in order to gauge whether this inexpensive headphone would resolve the difference. Apple finally added native FLAC support in recent years to its iOS devices, which was, in my view, a godsend since my favorite internet radio station is Radio Paradise, and they stream lossless FLAC if chosen in the settings.
I want to focus on the Bluetooth quality to begin, since no matter how good a headphone sounds, if the wireless experience is hindered by dropouts, especially when out and about, this would be a non-starter for me. I've owned other Bluetooth headphones/IEMs in the past, and I have had poor results with some.
So, at the outset, let me unequivocally state the wireless performance on the a-Seven is exceptional in regards to connectivity. I had absolutely no problems in my house, even when I was not in line of sight with my SE, e.g., in a different room. The performance was equally impressive when I went out for my hikes. I normally put my SE in my jeans' back pocket, and with some of the other wireless models I've owned, this proved to be troublesome. Not so with the a-Seven.
The a-Seven uses the Qualcomm Bluetooth aptX chip for improved audio performance, however, one's source component also requires aptX support, something that eludes iOS devices, at least for now: Apple and Qualcomm have been bitter adversaries in the last few years, each suing the other for billions of dollars. Just recently, they settled their disagreement, and Apple announced they would be using Qualcomm's 5G chips on its future iPhones. I presume they may also use Qualcomm's Bluetooth aptX chips as well.
The issue for now regarding higher audio performance codecs in regards to iOS devices is Apple uses AAC decoding only, making the aptX feature on the a-Seven moot. I imagine JAYS, in order to hit the $99 price point, excluded AAC support since that would involve increased manufacturing costs. Still, it is a disappointment that the a-Seven does not support AAC.
Update: The a-Seven now has AAC compatibility!
I began my critical listening sessions using iTunes files, and the performance was just ok. The high frequencies were splashy and edgy, not to the point of being unlistenable, for sure, but as someone who owns top-of-the-line headphones, it was quite noticeable to me. Other's mileage may vary, especially those who haven't experienced top quality headphones before.
Next, I used Radio Paradise with lossless FLAC as my source material. Yes, the a-Seven resolves the difference between lossy AAC and FLAC. The high frequency performance I initially heard was improved, so much so that I found the sound of the a-Seven quite enjoyable. The bass performance for such a small headphone was quite good, and I didn't feel it intruded upon the lower midrange which sometimes happens when the bass is goosed up a bit.
Finally, I wanted to experience the aptX performance, both with lossy and lossless files. For years, Apple has included aptX support on its Mac lineup, and my MacBook Air (vintage 2012), enabled me to make my comparisons. No question about it, aptX sounded better not only with lossless files, but with lossy files as well. Great news for Android phone users since aptX is standard fare.
JAYS, in my view, has done a great job in bringing this level of wireless and audio performance to a $99 headphone, a model that also comes in four different color options. Added to that, with 25 hours of playtime, 840 hours(!) of standby time, one can go a long while between charges, and if one wants, the included cable allows for wired operation as well. The build quality is quite good for such a modestly priced headphone, with aluminum construction and soft pleather for the headband and pads. All in all, the a-Seven Wireless should be on anyone's list looking for good overall performance at an inexpensive price.