OVERALL SCORE: 4/5
Balanced/Analytical with accented lows
I got Joemanji from an anonymous donor without asking for anything in return. A review is due my decision only. This will be as honest a review as it can get. I uphold my morale code to be fair and just. All you can read here will be my own opinion, subject to different factors such as gear used, tracks and what my own ears perceive. I also only write reviews after thoroughly listening to it for a week or more rather than just a day; both casually and critically with reference tracks I'm personally familiar with. For listening, I used donut foams. Please be respectful towards the comments section. With all that on the side, let's talk Joemanji.
Price: 20 USD/Php 1000
Frequency range: 20-20000Hz
Cable: 4 core black & copper colorway Silver Plated Copper (SPC)
Driver diameter: 15.4mm
Plug: 2.5mm Gold-plated Balanced
(Hiby Music) Mi 9T Pro (naked)/Mi 9T Pro > Tempotec Sonata HD Pro w/ 2 Vrms active. (Foobar2000) Desktop (naked) > Avani/ Desktop > Shanling Q1 DAC mode. LG V30 (naked). Shanling Q1 (naked)
Isle Unto Thyself - Hawaii: Part II (FLAC 16bit)
Dream Eyes - Mine, Kosuke Quintet (DSD 128)
Evolution Orange - Earth, Wind & Fire (DSD 128)
Giorgo by Moroder - Daft Punk (DSD256)
Making of a Cyborg - Kenji Kawai (FLAC 24bit)
On the Run - Pink Floyd (FLAC 24bit)
Charlie Wasn't Afraid - Day Din (FLAC 16bit)
Uchiage Hanabi - DAOKO x Kenshi Yonezu (FLAC 24bit)
Upstairs - Psapp (FLAC 16bit)
Grand Escape - RADWIMPS ft. Toko Miura (FLAC 24bit)
Superfast Jellyfish - Gorillaz (FLAC 16bit)
Hotel California - The Eagles (WAV 32bit)
Black Rainbows - Hawaii: Part II (FLAC 16bit)
A brief introduction to Just on Earbuds:
More than a month ago, I raised a post inquiring fellow hobbyists to contact me first if they're going to put their previous beloved earbuds for sale. I am content with second-hand items, as long as they are intact and does their job well, even with dings I'd get them in a heartbeat. I even proclaimed myself "basurero ng audio" as I have no qualms getting the scraps of others. During this time, a few reached out to me selling their earbuds as second-hand, and during this time; a fellow audio enthusiast messaged me asking me a simple question "what source do you have?". We exchanged pleasantries back and forth, but it is there and then that I found out he'll be giving me some of his beloved collection for free. Happy but still a little surprised, he left me these: "I'm spreading the love, pass it forward if you have the chance". The parcel arrived, surprised that it contains nine pvc storage boxes, each cradling a pair of buds made by Sir Joe Arranchado of Just on Earbuds. The anonymous donor told me to try Joemanji last. Curious, I did what he asked and was indeed surprised at how capable the Joemanjis are. They are indeed the best one from Just on Earbuds, their bread and butter.
Just on Earbuds started just like any hobby. Joe Arranchado wanted to build his own buds doing mods on his collection back then. He learned modding around early 2018 practicing on Vido drivers and OFC cables. He built his first demo unit in 2019 and yet he doesn't even have any idea on how or what to name it.
There was a regular Walnut and Zishan Enthusiast (WaZe) meet back in Feb 2020. This was the last regular WaZe meetup before the pandemic hit. Edwin was there and listened to his prototype. He copped my build right there and then. "Utang muna kasi wala akong pera" (Let me pay you back next time, I don't have the money right now) Edwin said. A few days later Edwin named the bud #Joemanji. And that was how we got here.
Typical mx500 shell painted in matte black. L & R markings are present at the end of each stem, colored in white. Nothing special, just your average everyday mx500 shells.
Just on Earbud's signature cable were also used for Joemanji. This time, in a black and copper colorway; 4 core Silver Plated Copper (SPC) which was handbraided masterfully. Durable and soft. They don't carry memory nor retain kinks. Plug is gold-plated and in 2.5mm balanced termination, but you can request for a different termination. Just like Onyx, a circular white plastic ring is used as chin slider, it works albeit a little bit loose. An ornament of some sort is fixed at the right cable near the shell termination which serves as an indicator for the right earpiece, a good touch from the creator. Needless to say, they are very well constructed considering the price of $20.
As usual, any mx500 shells gives me heat spot when worn for more than 2 hours. Joemanji is no exception. Though when worn without foams, they're way more comfortable but looses grip. Still, your mileage may vary.
These are earbuds, don't expect too much.
I was in awe when I first listened to this pair. Back then, I only have my trusty Sonata HD Pro, hooked them up with my phone and played YOASOBI's Probably. Within 10 seconds, I removed them and told my girlfriend "listen to these", she took it for a spin and immediately realized what I was talking about. The separation and imaging is outstanding, not to mention; the horizontal panning's immersive. How are they when "out of the box syndrome" no longer apply? In-depth review below:
Weakest part of Joemanji. If not for its lows and partly midrange, they're right up my alley soundwise. Listening to Charlie Wasn't Afraid by Day Din, Joemanji is punchy with sense of air pushing through each synths, but mid bass is loose, woolly. Following the initial thump, lows become hollow with texture being lackluster. It feels as if there's something vid next to bassline transients. Superfast Jellyfish by Gorillaz exhibits excellent punch but still shows the same weakness described above. Rumble is present as well but it feels quite disjointed
from the rest of the music.
Articulate and transparent. Joemanji thrives in presenting natural timbre without being repulsive in my ears. Male and especially female vocals are breathy; a sign of slight elevation towards upper midrange. However, lack of cohesion between mid-bass to lower midrange transition created a "scooped" lower midrange, costing some thinness to the body. When playing Uchiage Hanabi by DAOKO x Kenshi Yonezu, DAOKO's voice sounds slightly cold albeit clean and analytical. Male vocals from Black Rainbows by Hawaii Part II lacks warmth, they sound clinical but void of emotions. Do not expect a musical midrange presentation from Joemanji, rather; expect it to be precise, fast and cold sounding.
The greatest strength of these earbuds are without a doubt detail retrieval and treble presentation. Mine, Kosuke Quintet's Dream Eyes exhibits decent guitar and saxophone bite, a testament to a non rolled-off upper midrange tuning (1k-4khz). Instead, Joemanji ascents from presence region towards mid treble, with a slow roll-off on air region (10k-20khz). Isle Unto Thyself by Hawaii Part II; a busy track filled with percussive instruments and crowded vocals, are properly defined with sparkly, crisp hi-hats & cymbals. This also proved Joemanji's micro-detail retrieval is better than most in its price range, as the melody from piano becomes more than just a background hum. Trebleheads should enjoy this pair, especially if you're the type to nitpick everything down to its last note. Technicalities are good, air region is properly rolled-off, providing dimensionality at the top end. Though, despite the praise; some sibilant prone tracks have clippings here and there which is cumbersome to my ears.
Soundstage is a highly subjective spectrum of audio. Different factors such as how the track was recorded or if it was properly mastered, plays a crucial role in identifying soundstage. Please take everything with a grain of ajinomoto seasoning.
One of the best features of Joemanji. Above average. Wide. Horizontal panning is impeccable and at sometimes surprising. On the Run by Pink Floyd is eerily immersive, with good depth that can sometimes feel "out of your head". Headroom is present as well, making this one of the best in terms of soundstage in my collection. For better results, I'd recommend you listen to them without foams.
Layering and Separation:
Hotel California by The Eagles are clear, instruments are more than well-defined. The impressive thing about Joemanji is for merely $20, it handles busy tracks better than what its price range dictates. Playing Metropolis Part 1 by Dream Theatre, I can safely say that separation between each instruments are done in a clinical manner. A testament to what cranking up the mid treble to a non rolled-off air region can do.
Comparisons are made with my own preference and bias, solely based on experience. My ears are my own. Whether you take this as a compliment, a constructive criticism or dismiss it entirely is up to you.
Vido Red: Winner (Joemanji)
I've always used Vido as reference due to its abundance in the audiophile community. For barely $2, you can get a boomy, punchy set and earbuds that doesn't sound like your typical bootleg $1 earphones. However, joemanji outclasses them in almost everything except punch and bass texture. Vido's weakness on soundstage and separation grounds them from being more than just your everyday beater buds, Joemanji steps on them decisively in this area. The analytical approach joemanji has, frankly outclasses Vido in every way; though I'd still use my Vido when it comes to club remixes, as nothing beats a cheap pair when you need to bang your head to your tunes.
VE Monk Plus: Winner (Joemanji) I
personally think that Monk Plus is a thing of the old past. They have legendary reputation, but they fail to keep up with the competition past 2017. It's not an exception with Joemanji. Monk Plus's neutral dry tonality are un-energetic and boring, whilst Joemanji splashes you with good clappers & cymbal strikes. The treble of our contender needs more extension, with dull sounding guitar bites. Our challenger on the other hand offers what Monk Plus cannot; a better soundstage, livelier percussive instruments albeit cold, not to mention that instrument separation is leagues above Monk Plus. Monk Plus may only have a slight edge in midrange tonality due to Joemanji's clinical vocals but other than that, I don't see Monk Plus winning this one.
Qianyun Qian39: Winner (Qianyun Qian39)
These two are very different sound signature-wise. Whilst Joemanji is analytical and is focused to provide better detail, Qian39 had set their eyes dead on to musicality and warmth. If you've read my previous review regarding this sleep buds, Qian39 got my praise for showcasing perfectly-timed decay, good thumps without sacrificing lower midrange notes. Our challenger loses the battle on lows being that bass is Joemanji's biggest weakness. However, the battle doesn't stop there as Qian39 has one of the best midrange tonality in the entry-level price range, highly smooth and musical as to Joemanji's cold timbre. Our challenger raised the stakes, battling it out with treble as Qian39 needs a bit more treble extension to compete in this area. Joemanji is better in this frequency, with immersive soundstage to boot. Still, Qian39 takes the belt due to it being way more enjoyable and arguably a guilt-free listen.
Monk Slim-Metal: Winner (Monk Slim-Metal by preference)
Who comes out on top when comparing between two $20 earbuds? Personally, I'd choose Monk SM over Joemanji. The truth is, they both have good treble presentation, albeit the SM being brighter compared to the #lokal ones we're pinning against. The Slim-Metal provides good percussive transients, an unnatural metallic timbre and reverbation that adds to SM's character. On the other hand, Joemanji's treble is "surgical", with boosted mid treble and air region, something that can compete with our contender's highs. However, SM provides better bass response, despite being thin; they still have a litle bit more body than Joemanji; which tends to be ill-defined. The Monk Slim-Metal also feels a little bit warmer and vivacious when it comes to midrange, though also cold, they can at least make some tracks sing better than Just on Earbud's Joemanji. Monk SM takes the cake on this one.
The #lokal Philippine earbuds market had been booming recently as more audio enthusiasts recognize the potential of Filipino modders and encourages them to make better and better buds with time. Just on Earbuds are one of the start-ups that I have high hopes for, especially that Joemanji; his first earbuds, caught the attention of some filipino hobbyists when it was first released. Being the first earbuds Sir Joe Arranchado ever created, I do think there's still room for improvement and hopefully we can see a better version in the future. Do I recommend them? Yes, especially when you're the type to be critical at every track you listen to. They're capable, good sounding and robustly built as entry-level earbuds goes. For $20, you can't reall go wrong with this one.
Go get them: Just on Earbuds Facebook Page