I usually stay away from earbuds over $50. I simply don't have the sensitivity to hear the difference between a $30 pair of buds from a $200 pair. So products which depend solely on their technical merits rarely interest me. I look mostly at design, durability and price. The a-Jays Fours have received a fair amount of coverage around the web for their striking iPhone 4-inspired design, quality sound and relatively normal price point. Unfortunately this post will cover none of those.
I did a fair amount of research (since I had never heard of Jays before) and decided to buy myself a pair. I was struck when I finally got them: Something none of the articles or reviews I had seen mention was the rather unique retail packaging which the headphones come wrapped in.
Presented with an oblong rubber-like shape, wrapped in a paper label, I was initially very impressed. That quickly wore off as I couldn't figure out how to get to the candy center. After some struggling, I realized you're supposed to insert a small pen or point into the hole near the bottom of the package – and to their credit, there's a sticker indicating as much. Pushing the small lever down, the center piece immediately slides out to show an unusually thick, perfect-bound instruction manual which lifts reveal the headphones and ear inserts.
My initial delight began to wore off as I continued to analyze the piece. While I always appreciate a package which makes a product feel special, unique and worth owning, this was coming off as a bit over-designed. It created a process where there didn't need to be one. Granted, it's lightyears better than the thousands of other earbuds which come in blister packs. (Ever have the sharp end of a blister pack slice the cord of a brand new pair of headphones? It's like the end of the world.)
The tactile feel of the material is incredibly satisfying and matches the product perfectly. They come across like one coherent body of work. It wouldn't surprise me if all of these came from one industrial design team. However, for all the details they got right I can't figure out why they picked this oval/oblong shape. Nothing in the product mimics this form and feels out of left field. Something a little more angular could have meshed better with the product within.
The paper wrap is very vanilla and unimpressive. The photo of the headphones on the front is, of course, gorgeous and does a great job of selling its beauty, but the typography, layout and presentation don't live up to the rest of the experience.
As of right now, Jays doesn't have much of a retail penetration in the United States (I got mine as Adorama in New York City, which seemed to be the only story that carried it), so very few people will encounter this package and have to consider it as a selling proposition. Which is a shame because for all my nit-picking, it really is a great looking box. It even has a retractable hang-tag in the back which allows for it to switch between shelf-ready and hanger-ready.
The headphones sound good too.