Overall, I would say that the a-JAYS Threes offer what my colleague Tom Martin would call a “u”-shaped frequency response curve, meaning that low and high frequency bands sounds more prominent than midrange frequencies do through these ‘phones. The key, here, is that these bands of high- and low-frequency emphasis are relatively smoothly integrated, so that they typically aren’t egregious or overblown in their effects (though some listeners do find the ‘phones overly bright). On the contrary, they tend to make the Threes sound desirably lively and dramatic, but without severe exaggerations.
Through the upper midrange and on up into the treble region, the a-JAYS Threes provide a delicate, open, “silvery” quality that offers excellent treble extension, detail, and focus. While the Threes may not achieve the sheer transparency of more costly flagship in-ear models such as the Monster Turbine Pro Copper Editions, their upper mids and highs are, in a qualitative sense, as good if not better than anything I’ve heard in their price class.
To experience the vividness and clarity of the Three’s upper mids and highs, try a track rich in treble details, such as “Near South End” from Jacob Young’s Sideways [ECM]. Listen, in particular, to the delicate brushwork on cymbals; the transient sounds, fingering noises, and overtones of the guitar; and especially to the fine, low-level mouthpiece noises and reed sounds from woodwind instruments. At every turn, the a-JAYS Threes sound more like, headphone that might cost $159—not a mere $59, which is quite an accomplishment. While upper mids and highs are admittedly somewhat too bright or forward sounding, they for the most part stop well short of becoming painfully harsh or edgy. Instead, listeners will likely be struck by the fact that these affordable little Swedish beauties offer levels of treble clarity and detail that are impressive in light of their price.
The Three’s bass is powerful and well extended, though it, too, sounds somewhat forward in the mix (relative to midrange frequencies, which are pulled back a bit relative to lows and highs). Even so, many would argue that it is far preferable for in-ear ‘phones to offer slightly too much bass, rather than too little—especially given that they may be called upon to perform in environments where there could be lots of low-frequency noise to overcome. More importantly, the Three’s bass is pleasingly clear, articulate, and well defined. To appreciate what I mean by this comment, try Patricia Barber’s cover of “My Girl” as captured on A Distortion of Love [Polygram]. This track captures an acoustic bass that has either been very closely mic’d or perhaps captured via a direct pickup of some kind, so its sound at once exceptionally clear and very powerful. And those two qualities—bass clarity combined with low frequency power and weight—are precisely what the a-JAYS Threes deliver.
• Consider this product if: you want sound quality competitive in many ways with in-ear headphones in the $100-$200 range, but for a fraction of the price. Also consider the a-JAYS Threes if you enjoy products that are cleverly and stylishly packaged, and that come with a genuinely useful set of accessories. Finally, note that the Threes exude an overall vibe that could be called, “Scandinavian Cool”, which many will find very appealing.
• Look further if: you require strictly neutral tonal balance or want to push for even higher levels of sonic refinement. While even higher levels of performance are out there at a price, the a-JAYS Threes are one of the more satisfying solutions we’ve yet heard in the sub-$100 range.
• Ratings (relative to comparably-priced competition):
⇒ Tonal Balance: 8
⇒ Frequency Extremes: 9.5 (bass)/8.5 (treble)
⇒ Clarity: 9.5
⇒ Dynamics: 9.5
⇒ Comfort/Fit: 10
⇒ Sensitivity: 9
⇒ Value: 10
• Summing Up: For the more than reasonable sum of $59.99, the a-JAYS Threes look, feel, and sound like far more expensive in-ear headphones, making them a fine choice for audiophiles on a budget or for music lovers who want a taste of “the good stuff,” but without blowing holes in their wallets. What’s not to like about that?