Jays, the Swedish purveyor of affordable, stylish and simple headphones, has a wide array of options to choose from. The Jays v-Jays are a supra-aural (on-ear) pair that costs and looks more like a stylish version of what used to come with a portable cassette player. Thankfully, affordable headphone audio has improved drastically since the days of the Walkman on-ear options.
The £40 v-Jays are extremely lightweight and comfortable, and offer solid audio performance for this price range. Some very minor distortion on deep bass tracks occurs at top volumes, but at safe listening levels, the v-Jays offer crisp audio with a surprisingly robust bass response for their size and price.
Sparse, nearly all-black design is the name of the game for Jays, and the v-Jays are a fine example of this no-frills aesthetic. At only 60 grams, the v-Jays are quite light, and they can be adjusted to provide a secure fit without pushing hard on your ears or scalp. The foam covers for the rounded-corner square earpieces are comfortable, and a thin felt band along the underside of the headband keeps the fit secure.
The v-Jays fold down at hinges just above each ear, and both the hinges and the sliding headband move gracefully. It may be affordable and lightweight, but this is a well-built set of headphones. The Jays logo – the only marking on the headphones – appears on each earpiece.
A black cable extends from each ear, until the two join together around mid-torso. The 23.5in cable doesn't extend too much further, and this makes a clutter-free, tangle-free experience more possible, especially if you're using the headphones with a player in a coat pocket or on an armband. If you want a longer cable length, never fear: There's a cable extender that adds another 27.5in of cable length in the box. There's no inline remote or microphone for mobile devices, however.
Other than an extra pair of foam ear cushions, there are no other accessories. A carrying pouch or case would've been nice, especially since the v-Jays fold down to a compact enough size to fit in one easily, but it's tough to get too picky in the case of a sub-£50 pair of headphones.
On tracks with serious sub-bass content, like the Knife's "Silent Shout," the v-Jays begin to distort ever so slightly at top volumes. At roughly 75 to 80 per cent volume on an iPhone 5, there was no distortion, and at 100 per cent – an unsafe listening level – the distortion was only minimal. Since plenty of more expensive headphones have distorted far worse than the v-Jays do on this track, it's hard to consider this a real issue – especially since these affordable headphones deliver a rich bass response when the volume isn't cranked. It's not an intense bass, mind you – but a more refined and articulate low-end.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the response is a little less ideal. The kick drum loop's attack gets a nice crisp edge, but the sub-bass synth hits underneath the loop don't have the depth they would on a more powerful headphone pair that has a bit more deep low-end presence. Things never sound weak or tinny, but the bass thump on this track sounds a bit toned down.
On classical tracks, like John Adams' "The Chairman Dances," the v-Jays sound more solid – the crisp highs help the higher register strings and brass take the spotlight, but the lower register instruments have a nice richness to them, as do the big drum hits at the end of the track. What this tells us is the bass response of the v-Jays, unsurprisingly, focuses more on standard low frequencies and low-mids than it does the sub-bass range. Thus, a classical track can sound like it has a nice low-end presence to it, but the Jay-Z/Kanye track, which relies more on sub-bass hits for its depth, sounds less full-bodied.
If you’re looking for an alternative, the similarly priced RHA SA950i has a very sculpted audio response – less balanced than the v-Jays, but it comes with an inline mic and remote, as well as a fully detachable cable. However, the v-Jays represent a solid, no-frills option for music lovers craving a crisp and clear audio performance without giving up on bass response.
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