Jays is back with what can be described as its greatest achievement yet. The new 2nd generation q-Jays are the world’s smallest reference-class in-ear headphones to feature exchangeable cables and have one of the most awe-inspiring build qualities. But that’s not all they boast. They also pack dual balanced armature drivers that consist of a standalone woofer driver and a midrange/tweeter driver said to produce well balanced, neutral sound with pristine clarity and detail reproduction – as well as a controlled deep bass response. But before you read any further, prepare your wallet for some serious fat burning. Our full review is waiting for you after the break!
The q-Jays come in this all-black, sleeved hard box that slides open to reveal a very impressive user guide complete with detailed overview on the q-Jays, including a step-by-step view into the creative process of what it took to make and design the q-Jays. This has got to be the most detailed, informative and thoughtful booklet ever to be included with a pair of headphones. Huge props to Jays for the great amount of attention to detail that went into creating such a worthwhile user experience.
Underneath the booklet you’ll find individually packaged pieces that will ultimately make up the q-Jays. In the bottom box you’ll get a wide range of replaceable silicone ear tip sizes ranging from super small to large, as well as our favorite - T-100 foam tips from Comply. Only one set of foam tips in a medium size are included, sadly. It would have been nice if Jays included a few more foam tip options at this price. It’s critical that you choose the right tip size that fits your ears so that you can achieve the best seal for background noise isolation as well as increase the detail you hear in the audio produced by the q-Jays.
For maximum noise isolation, we recommend first trying out the included Comply foam tips as they are the most comfortable to wear, even for extending periods of time and will expand to custom fit your unique ear canal shape while blocking out as much external noise as possible. In fact, these memory foam tips will isolate you from the outside world just as much as the best pair of Bose headphones with active noise-cancellation.
Enclosed in the second box are the specially designed detachable (or as Jays calls it “exchangeable” audio cable featuring Jays’ gold-plated, threaded SSMCX connectors that plug and screw into the q-Jays. The size of these threaded connectors Jays has engineered is absolutely remarkable.
It's worth noting that although these connectors are microscopic in size, the connection between the cable connector and the housing is as solid and secure as it can get. Now this cable doesn’t feature any button controls or a headset microphone, but Jays does sell other cable modules with in-line remotes that are compatible with either iOS, Android or Windows devices. You could also get the q-Jays with a remote and headset cable of your choice for $470. And if you ever need a replacement part for your q-Jays, you can purchase a detachable audio cable and more silicone or foam ear tips separately from the Jays website. By having the ability to change the entire cable, you of course end up with a longer-lasting and user-repairable in-ear headphones. A replacement audio-only cable will run you $40.
Finally, there’s a nondescript black round hard case with a lid that unscrews to reveal the q-Jays embedded within a foam insert like some kind of alien-grade instruments, stripped from their cable and tips. The protective case is really well made and very compact, so you’ll easily be able to fit this into your pocket and forget about it.The funny thing is, there’s actually no room left for the cable to fit inside the protective hard case.
That said, you could just take out that foam pad and throw in your q-Jays with the cable connected and you’ll be good to go. The entire interior of the case is actually lined with a rubber material to protect your investment from some knocks and bumps. Speaking of protecting your investment, the q-Jays do come with a standard two-year warranty. But as durable as they may be, they’re not intended to be used in sweaty situations so if you’re planning on finding a pair of in-ears to use during exercise, you might as well look at sporty alternatives.
When you take the q-Jays out of their foam tray you really start to understand why they’re so expensive. It’s incredible how small and solidly made each of these micro-sized in-ears are that it literally feels like you’re holding a piece of highly advanced tech from the future. I have never tested anything that comes close to being as impressive as the 2nd generation q-Jays. They really are out of this world in terms of design and build quality. Even though the q-Jays fits on your finger tip with room to spare, the sound these tiny in-ear monitors produce is even bigger than you could ever imagine.
Jays may have kept the name the same and even the size is relatively similar and that of a jelly bean, but make no mistake about it, the new q-Jays 2 are nothing like their plastic "predecessors" whatsoever. The new ones are alien in comparison and superior in every way possible. Designing, engineering and manufacturing something like this is no easy feat. That's also why you'll be paying whopping $400 for these bad, little boys. And if you want a model that supports smartphone calling and music playback control, that'll be an additional $70 just for the headset cable with in-line 3-button control.
It has taken Jays as long as two years to develop the q-Jays from complete scratch in-house, and every finished production unit takes 40 hours to build. Each housing is made from injection molded stainless steel creating a seamless unibody construction that is then meticulously polished and ultimately sandblasted, and finished off with a physical vapor deposition layer that creates a highly durable textured matte finish that's hard to scratch and stays looking new. It really is an incredible finish that both looks and feels fantastic.
There is no branding anywhere on the q-Jays, and as much as I wouldn't mind a tasteful little Jays logo, I think the stealthy and minimalist look of the q-Jays just looks all that more professional and high-end. They’re currently only available in black, which is perfectly fine with me as I really love how stealthy they look on top of already having such a tiny form factor that nearly fades away when you wear them in your ear.
Not only are there no logos plastered on the q-Jays, there aren’t even any traditional left and right markers. The only way you can tell left and right apart if by looking at the angle of each IEM. It’s worth noting that the right threaded SSMCX audio connector is marked with a white line so that you know to plug it into the right side of the q-Jays for proper left and right stereo designation.
The q-Jays feature removable, precision laser-cut aluminum filters designed to protect the sound tunnel from clogging up from dust and ear gunk. The best part about these not being made out of foam or some other kind of porous material is that they can be cleaned and reused forever. It's worth noting that no cleaning tools are included, but you can use a combination of tooth picks and cue tips.
As mentioned earlier, for ergonomic reasons, the body of the q-Jays is somewhat curved in a way so that they can fit into your ear canal without protruding out as much. And the fit I must say is amazingly comfortable. They're so discrete when worn and the tips do a fantastic job keeping them in place. It also helps that they're so small, lightweight and unlike other in-ears, the q-Jays can be worn when you're resting your head on a pillow.
Jays suggested that we "burn-in" the q-Jays for at least 30 hours so that the drivers can reach their full sonic potential. And we did just that. The process involves playing music through the in-ears like you normally would but on at least medium volume. I haven't listened to the q-Jays before running them through the 30 hour or so burn-in period, but after I was finally done fully breaking them in like a pair of fresh kicks, the wait was definitely worth it let me tell you.
The q-Jays produce a spacious soundstage with some of the smoothest, tightest and most rounded bass I have ever heard coming from in-ear headphones. In fact, the q-Jays surpass some very great over-ear headphones priced between $200-300. Vocals sound realistically clear but never sound too bright or harsh, the midrange is amazingly detailed and full of definition and the separation between instruments and vocals is simply brilliant. And overall the sound signature is fantastically balanced and amazingly airy. I could wear the q-Jays all day long without fatigue.
From my experience in using the q-Jays over countless long hours, they do sound just as good connected to an iPhone as they do connected to the latest 5K Retina iMac. And for reference-grade audio gear, that’s an important attribute to have ticked off when purchasing expensive headphones if you’re just going to be using them for casual listening.
Of course being that the q-Jays are using armature drivers, you won’t get that extra thumpy low-end you would otherwise hear in dynamic drivers. A perfect example where certain inexpensive in-ears with dynamic drivers such as the noteworthy Nocs NS500 perform more favorably in terms of producing deeper sounding bass, but aren’t without coloration and do lack the high level of definition that comes with the tighter sounding bass of the q-Jays. There’s really no point in comparing dual armature in-ears against a single dynamic driver in-ears, they simply sound drastically different, however, in no way do the q-Jays make the NS500 sound bad as they are already a terrific pair of in-ear headphones and one of the best at their price. The q-Jays definitely sound a lot more grown-up, mature and thoroughly controlled.
The q-Jays almost (and I do mean the differences are minimal) sound as good as the Audiofly AF180, which are $550 stage-grade IEMs with twice as many armature drivers. And still, the q-Jays are so much more simplistic, better made and still feature a completely detachable cable. They don't force you to wear them by wrapping around your ears like all of these professional stage-inspired IEMs so they're much easier to wear (although you can wear them in this way should you choose), or stick out like a sore thumb.
We cannot find a single thing we dislike or think needs to be improved. The q-Jays are brilliant right the way through and are a must have if you want the smallest, very best reference quality in-ear headphones at under $400. If you’re ready to toss away those bulky headphones in exchange for incredibly portable, brilliantly engineered, stellar sounding reference-grade in-ears, the 2nd generation q-Jays from Jays should be the first in line on your gadget shopping list.