The latest addition to the company’s popular a-JAYS series, what sets the a-JAYS Five apart from the company’s other line-ups is each of the three models in the a-JAYS Five are tailored to the three major mobile platforms, namely iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Each model comes with a dedicated remote that support various functions on each platform. The first thing you will notice when you open up the packaging is the stylish carrying case, reminiscent of a regular tub of styling wax. Interestingly, the carrying case also doubles up as a cable organizer. Also included in the box are a thick manual, a cable clip and four additional pairs of silicone sleeves of different sizes. Just like their predecessors, the a-JAYS Five features JAYS’ award-winning tangle-free flat cables. The pair of earphones has a form factor that is smaller than JAYS’ other series and its rubberised housing are angled according to the natural shape of our ear canals. Despite not being an audiophile myself, I subjected the pair of earphones to nearly a day of burning in, a process that most audiophiles swear by, before the review process. Next up, I tried out the various silicone sleeves to get the earphones to fit perfectly in my ear canals. Be forewarned though, that the fit of a pair of in-ear earphones is extremely important compared to on-ear headphones as the fit of IEMs greatly affect the sound quality.
Testing the a-JAYS Five with some vocal tracks, I noticed that the mids were decent; the details are there but not prominent. On the other hand, the highs weren’t the a-JAYS Five’s forte as I found them to be somewhat soft. This won’t be a deal breaker for most people but personally, I prefer more treble in my music and I usually tweak my equalisers to raise the highs a tad bit. However, the bass department is where the a-JAYS Five truly shines. It certainly deserves to wear its golden laurel proudly when it comes to the low frequencies as the bass pumped out by the pair of earphones is really nice and punchy. The bass isn’t muddy, unlike some of the earphones that I’ve tried on in the past. I usually listen to music with a lot of bass and this definitely fuels my love for the bassy little beast which is the a-JAYS Five. Coincidentally, we also had a pair of Shure SE215 lying around which is sold at around the same price point as the a-JAYS Five. Retailing at RM388 (RM11 cheaper than the a-JAYS Five), the Shure offers a fuller sound but produces softer sounds and does not pump out as much bass as the former. Moving on, the quality of the microphone, which is located on the back of the remote, is pretty decent. This is attributed to the latest top-of-the-line 360 degree high-performance, low power, top-port silicon microphone used, which JAYS claims to provide perfect speech quality.
A quick test revealed that call quality was alright and parties on both ends of the line were able to hear each other clearly. According to JAYS, the MEMS microphone on the a-JAYS FIVE also features built-in echo cancellation to reduce ambient noise for calls but we did not have the chance to test it out. All three iterations in the a-JAYS Five series for iOS, Android and Windows Phone come with three-button remotes on one side of the cable that support features such as answering calls, playing/pausing music and videos, skipping tracks, changing volume, activating voice control, and more on the mobile operating systems they are tailored to. According to a disclaimer on the box, the remote and mic on the a-JAYS Five only supports phones released in 2012 or later and the functionality of the remotes may vary between models. With that in mind and as I only have Android version of the a-JAYS Five for review, I naturally reached out for the Samsung Galaxy S4 for testing. After plugging the earphone’s jack into the Galaxy S4 and firing up both Samsung’s default music player app and Spotify, the top and bottom buttons work as expected by increasing and decreasing the volume of the music respectively. A single press on the middle button plays and pauses music, as well as answering and ending a phone call while a long press activates the voice command feature on the phone.
Despite having success with nearly all the functions available to the remote, I could not manage to skip tracks by double-pressing or triple-pressing the middle button. Hence, to rectify this little quirk, I installed JAYS’ Headset Control Android app from the Google Play Store. What’s great about the official app from JAYS is that it allows users to customise what each button on the remote does and provides access to various other settings for the remote such as audio feedback, click delays and more detailed functions. After firing up the app, I was finally able to skip to the next track – although I still did not have the same luck with skipping to the previous track. Next up, I plugged the pair of earphones into a LG Nexus 4 and found that the experience with the remote wasn’t as pleasant as the one I had with the Galaxy S4. On 2012’s flagship Google phone, only the middle button works for playing/pausing and skipping to the next track while the top and bottom buttons don’t seem to do anything. Installing the Android app on the device didn’t help either. Feeling a little adventurous, I grabbed my aging 2011 Samsung Galaxy Nexus, an old phone which does not meet the a-JAYS Five’s recommended requirement, to give its remote another try. When connected to my Galaxy Nexus, the middle button works great for all functions bounded to it, including skipping tracks.
But again, another small issue crops up – instead of changing the volume levels, pressing the top button skips to the next track while conversely, the bottom button skips to the previous track. In the end, using the JAYS Headset Control app remedied the problem and I finally managed to use all the functions of the remote on this fairly old device. What’s peculiar about the remote on the Android version of a-JAYS Five is that it actually worked great with the Nokia Lumia 920, 925 and 1020 that I have used for testing. All buttons and remote control features worked as they should right out of the box – there are no issues and I did not even need to install any app from the Windows Store. In hindsight, the varying levels of success I had with the a-JAYS Five’s remote control functions across Android devices is an understandable issue. Smartphones are assembled by different manufacturers in different ways with different hardware, on top of running on distinct customised user interfaces. For that reason alone, it is unfair to put the blame JAYS for not being able to come up with a remote that supports each and every single Android device out there – and there are a lot of them on the market – and have them work the way they are intended to. I reckon this very same problem also affects the other mobile phone accessory manufacturers out there.