The world of audio, like everything else in the retail business, is heavily affected by the consumer’s perception of a brand. Though Atomic Floyd’s founder, James Strong, has successfully created a new brand with good and positive vibes, it was still relatively unknown to the headphone community.
For reasons that I’m not so sure of, Atomic Floyd’s brand image somehow got associated with the sorts of Monster Beats Headphones and Bose. Having such association may be good branding for the general public, but it definitely doesn’t look very good to the headphone crowd. I actually did a review of the Monster Beats Headphone, and contrary to the general perception from the headphone crowd, the Beats is a good sounding headphone. It is quite far from the bass monster that it is often perceived to be. Hopefully we can true to the objective, and give credit when a credit is due.
Founder James Strong certainly knows how to build a brand image, and from the beginning, the experience with opening the packaging has been very impressive. The packaging certainly looks like a boutique product, especially compared to the highly regarded Westone UM3X with its spartan packaging. The build quality is also very good. The steel housing, the precise machining, the embossed logo and slogans, the red color accents, everything gives an impression of high quality.
The Atomic Floyd TwistJax comes with a steel housing that makes it significantly heavier than the other in-ears in the market. The steel housing does not affect comfort or fit, and personally, the TwistJax feels very comfortable on my ears. The TwistJax actually fits much better than some other IEMs in the market, Ultimate Ears for instance. Often, I pick up IEMs by the cables, and having a heavy steel housing doesn’t inspire confidence when I’m doing that. It’s a slight inconvenience, but it’s nothing more than that. The soft cable is covered with a sort of nylon fabric, and it’s free from any microphonics. The rods that protrude from the driver housing can be rotated for achieving a better fit, or for routing the cables behind the ear. It’s probably more realistic to classify the TwistJax as an earbud than an IEM, though it’s a Sony EX85 and EX90 style earbud with protruding tips that your go into ear canals. Included in the packaging are three tips with different sizes. Overall, I really have no complains against the build quality and the ergonomics of the TwistJax and I find them very comfortable to wear.
At the moment, I still haven’t gotten a confirmation from Atomic Floyd, but I suspect that it utilizes Dynamic drivers instead of Balanced Armatures.
The level of detail and transparency from the TwistJax rivals long term favorite IEMs like the Westone 3, the Sennheiser IE8, and the UE Triple.Fi 10. Yes, it’s very detailed. It also has a very big soundstage, actually bigger than the Westone 3, and just slightly smaller than the monstrous IE8 soundstage. Not only is the soundstage big, but separation is very good as well. The frequency curve is fairly level, but when you hit the upper treble region, you start to feel that too much upper treble is present, contributing to a lot of sibilance in the sound. Compared to the IE8, which also utilizes a dynamic driver, the TwistJax actually sounds cleaner and far more neutral. While the IE8 has an overwhelming and uncontrolled bass, the TwistJax remains very clean in the lower frequency while still providing plenty of bass quantity. Both the lower and upper bass are there when your music calls for it, but it never gets too much in the way.
Overall, the TwistJax is a good product from a fairly young company. K.K.Ko, the Accoustic Engineer, has close to 15 years of headphone engineering experience in Philips and Fujikon (one of the largest headphone OEMs). It has a clean and detailed sound, good bass, good separation, and good soundstage. The midrange on the TwistJax, however, is a bit recessed. I think that it would sound a lot more musical if the midrange is pushed forward a little bit. Pairing with a HeadAmp Pico or the TTVJ Slim may create a nice sinergy to fill the recessed midrange, but I don’t have the amplifiers around to try them out. I also find that the tendency to be sibilant detracting from the overall great sound. It’s still very early on the burn in clock however, and I’ll see if the sibilance can be reduced after more burn in.
The TwistJax does very favorably when compared to more expensive IEMs such as the IE8 or the Westone 3. I clearly prefer the TwistJax to the IE8, as the TwistJax sound cleaner and more detailed overall. Not bad, given that the TwistJax retails for roughly half what the Sennheiser sells for. It carries a pricetag of £95, roughly $150-$160 in the US dollars. I still have to confirm with Atomic Floyd when the TwistJax is going to be available in the US and other countries.