The Newcomers. New brands, but very solid entries!
From the first time that I discovered the V-Jays, it has been my #1, all rounder, ultra portable headphone. The V-Jays have proved to be a favorite to almost everyone I introduced it to, including one of the vintage orthodynamic proponents in our local forum. The V-Jays perfects the deficiencies of the PX100-II and the PX200-II, while still yet adding more into the sound.
The tonal balance is almost perfect. Plenty of bass, more than the PX200-II, and just slightly less than the PX100-II. Excellent midrange clarity that I don’t find on both the PX200-II and PX100-II, and an even more spot-on midrange presence. And finally the balance is topped off with a brilliant treble quality, just perfect in quantity, without becoming harsh or piercing. Plus, unlike the Portapro LE, the V-Jays’ driver is just as refined as the Sennheisers, and yet improving on the clarity factor. Frequency extension is very good on both ends, and perhaps what’s most refreshing is that the V-Jays is still based on an open design, something that the other top contenders don’t have (the PX200-II and the AIAIAI Tracks). Lastly, I don’t normally judge soundstage performance seriously on these headphones, but the V-Jays has a very noticeable spacious sound that’s quite ahead of the other headphones in this comparison.
The V-Jays continues to score very strongly on the ergonomics factor. It doesn’t quite have the nice pads of the PX200-II, but its foam pads are definitely the most comfortable among all the other foam pads. Design wise, I do prefer the Sennheiser’s single entry cable for convenience of use and for identifying the left side for the headphone. Perhaps the only glaring weakness that I find with the V-Jays design is that they don’t flat as compact as the Sennheisers. Build quality, however is very premium on the V-Jays just as on the Sennheisers. I also feel that the thin cloth that’s glued on the headband would be more robust than the headband pads found on the Sennheisers, and is more preferable than the metal headbands of the Koss, the Fischer, and the AKG.
After months of living with the V-Jays, this headphone remains my #1 recommendation for people looking for ultra portable headphone.
Fischer Audio Oldskool
The Oldskool stood out as having the cheapest build and design among everything else in this bunch, with only the flat cable giving an indication that this headphone is quite a modern product. I don’t understand the whole “oldskool” concept that Fischer tries to implement here, despite me being quite a fan of vintage design. Ultimately I feel that the Portapro design still looks a whole lot cooler than the Fischer Oldskool, and that the Oldskool design is quite an eyesore.
Thankfully, the Oldskool has quite a solid sound quality to bring some solid points to its game. Clearly, the driver technology belongs with the Sennheisers and the Jays, leaving the Koss Portapro all alone. The sound signature, if I can say, is that of a Grado, yet a little better. The Oldskool has a similar treble and upper mid emphasis like the Grados, and yet it’s less piercing than the Grados. They probably have learned from the Grados and turned down the upper frequency peaks a little. The result is a sound that’s very engaging, and yet not too harsh on the ears.
Having a noticeable Grado sound makes the Oldskool quite light on the bass. There is a good amount of upper bass punch, but not so much down the mid and low bass. If the PX100-II has a clear bias toward the low end, the Oldskool has a bias on the upper end. Fischer has done great in tuning the Grado-like signature, and the end result is a very engaging and likeable sound. However, the upper end frequency bias makes it hard for me to make a general recommendation for it, as the average listener would find it to lack bass body. The other day a friend was looking for an ultra portable, and I let him listen to the Oldskool. I do think that the Oldskool sounds great, but he just didn’t get the bass-less sound, and I can understand it, even with him not being a basshead. The Oldskool, though fun sounding, will be quite a polarizing headphone, the way Grado headphones are.
For a brand that has no previous reputation in making headphone, the AIAIAI Tracks headphone does very well as I find it to be one of the better headphones in this comparison. It takes a similar recipe to the V-Jays, with a full bass performance and good midrange and treble presence. Compared to the favorite V-Jays headphone, the Tracks trails very close behind it, but lacks the open and spacious sound of the V-Jays (the Tracks is a closed design). The upper midrange and treble is also not as clear as the V-Jays. The Tracks’ weighter bass also gets in the way of the midrange sometimes, and bass clarity is not as good as the V-Jays.
Though The Tracks sound however, can easily compete and even betters the PX100-II and the PX200-II. In a way the AIAIAI Tracks betters the PX100-II and the PX200-II in the frequency balance as it has a fuller bass than the PX200-II, and yet less dark than the PX100-II. If not for the better resolution and extension of the Sennheisers, I would’ve easily recommended the Tracks as better than the Sennheisers. But even then, most of us aren’t too concerned about technicalities when listening to these ultraportables, and the Tracks is a very fun headphone. It’s hard not to like the sound signature of the Tracks, as I’ve confirmed it by letting my audiophile friends take a listen to it. It’s a brand that nobody has ever heard before, and somehow does surprising well. The only thing that people may find objectionable about the Tracks is bass quantity. The bass is good and punchy, but doesn’t have the bass clarity of the PX100-II.
Still, it’s easy to recommend the Tracks to almost everyone. And if not for the V-Jays, I’ve probably given it the best all-rounder award.