Since my pair of Billie Jean’s is a review sample, it came without any mass-production packaging. It actually only arrived in a small box, where the monitors resided in. Looking at the website of Astell&Kern I see that these should come with three pairs of silicone tips and with a small A&K branded carrying case. You will of course also get a cable, that’s connected to the monitors. This cable to me looks like the standard Plastics One cable that most of the manufacturers supply, though it also is A&K branded, which you can see on the Y-split and the 3.5mm plug.
While digging the web for photos of the packaging I only came across this one by Astell&Kern’s own Alex An. He shared these photos of the blue Billie Jean. I assume the packaging will be identical for the red version:
We can see that Billie Jean comes in a flip-open cardboard box, where the carrying case and the monitors are stored in a cut-out padding.
Build Quality and Ergonomics:
The Billie Jean has a plastic body and a red striking carbon face plate. From the pictures on AK’s website it looks like the blue version has no coloured striking in the face plate. The nozzle of it is a bit longer than usual, but that’s in favor of the newly introduced external sound chamber. They use the industry standard 2-pin (0.78mm) connection, which is very nice for cable-rollistas like myself. The cable is detachable and is marked with a blue dot for left, and a red one indicates the right signal side. In order to have correct phases the dots have to face inwards.
When it comes to ergonomics and comfort, JH universals have never been my friend. That stopped with Billie Jean. It’s the first JH Audio non custom that easily fits my ears and which I can wear for longer periods without discomfort. Lieven has told me that the JH models he tried at Can Jam last month were also much smaller compared to the previous models he tried. The body itself is pretty small, but when you take the nozzle into account the overall size of it is bigger.
What I want to note is that both sides of my sample have already developed a crack in the housing, coincidentally almost on the exact same spot, roughly one centimetre after the 2-pin sockets. I have no idea how those cracks happened, I can only assume that when using an aftermarket cable they didn’t take it well. These cracks however don’t have any effect on the performance of the Billie Jean.
As mentioned before, my sample came without any retail packaging, therefore I only had one set of tips pre-installed on the Billie Jeans. Luckily for me that tip did fit me. A good fit is always crucial when listening to In Ear Monitors. You can ruin so much with tips that don’t seal well, and the Billie Jean is no exception here. I tried it with other ear-tips as well, and not well fitting ones really suck out the body of it. So please, be smart enough to go through a selection of tips before you make any judgement to the sound.
There is good body in the mid-bass, but the Billie Jean doesn’t extend very wide into sub-bass, which makes it appear with a light presentation overall. Low ends have good texture and are decently dynamic. Mid- and upper-bass are more prominently placed in the picture which results in a clear V shaped signature. Bass does have good impact but a rather fast decay.
Lower-mids and mid-mids are slightly recessed, but don’t come across as too distant in my opinion. The weight in them is fairly organic, not too thick not too light. What struck me most about the midrange is the resolution that they sport. There lies great beauty in the upper midrange in my opinion, it’s a bit more forward but also richer, which has a nice sound to them.
The sound stage is very nice, sure it is not the as extreme as some higher tier models, but for this price I doubt anyone can complain about the Billie Jean’s performance. The stage stretches in good dimension in width, depth and height in rather even sizes. Instrumental separation is also one of Billie Jean’s greater abilities. Each instrument is carefully placed in the room with good amounts of air between each. The same goes for imaging, where you can easily spot the position of each musician.
Treble is again more forward and might be too much for some listeners, as it can become slightly hot at times. However, it is clean and fast. Where it could be improved though is air and extension. Still, treble is clean and clear to my ears. It’s fast and energetic with a slightly brighter tuning. It might not be the richest out there, but the upper mids make up for that.
Overall the signature is nicely dynamic and exciting, which might suit a lot of modern genres well. That does not mean that it can’t handle something like Classic Rock, Jazz or even Classical. Au contraire, its performance also makes less bass-heavy music very enjoyable. The Billie Jean on top is also mercyful when it comes to forgiving bad recordings.
More on the Billie Jean on the next page!