Name: Atomic Floyd AirJax + Remote Sport
Type: In-ear earphones
Price as reviewed: £149
A super stylish set of earphones this way comes from Atomic Floyd, but are these AirJax just another case of all style and no audio substance at a hefty price tag? Read on to find out!
In terms of appearance, Atomic Floyd are currently leading the way with earphones which go out of their way to provide their consumers with a style-conscious audio piece. Despite being available in black, it’s their trademark colours of red and silver which Atomic Floyd are confident in championing, and which dominate our attractive review pair of the latest AirJax earphones.
Even the packaging has a premium feel to it, having to get through an airtight bag before being able to access the flashy box enclosing the headphones and accessories. Included snuggled into a travel case are soft sleeves acting as sheaths allowing the option for added comfort for the earhooks, a hex tool to enable you to change the fit, a 24k gold (!) 3.5mm audio jack and lastly two aeroplane adaptors.
The 1.1m length cord leading to your chosen device is coated in a cool blood-red fabric giving it added durability against the elements or the odd awkward tug it might receive whilst running for the bus. Many earphones lack this added durability in terms of the fabric cord. The fabric coated length of the cord ends where it meets a metal divider which splits into two plastic cords leading to the left and right earphones. I found that due to the different textures and divisions of the audio cords it was easy to differentiate in the dark or when not looking at what part of the earphones you were actually touching. In addition the separation of the fabric and plastic cords means that eight times out of ten your headphones don’t give an appearance more akin to a hobo’s tangled beard.
Located halfway up the left earphone cord is the microphone and volume/play/pause controls. The mic works really well delivering a rich sound and is so responsive and sensitive that it can clearly pick up exterior sound, which can be either good or bad depending on which way you view it. However despite specifically saying that the Atomic Floyd AirJax work with the iPod, iPad and iPhone, the volume and play/pause buttons strangely did not work with a first generation iPod touch, which is worth considering if that’s the player you’re using. They appear to be fine with any other hand-held Apple devices though.
The most striking aspect of these earphones is the unique design of the actual earpiece. The four-way adjustable Titanium2TM ear hook almost resembles an angel’s wing, which can swivel from side to side and up and down by about 30 degrees for precise comfort and added security. The earhooks really do make a difference in helping the earphones stay put too; whether you’re head banging to some Metallica or doing your favourite John Travolta moves to the sounds of the Bee Gees these babies aren’t going anywhere without a fight! (And you wouldn’t want them to at this price which, I’ll come back to later).
I do not know whether it is because over the past few years many of us (myself included) have become used to using the sort of in-ear earphones which penetrate into the actual ear canal, but it often feels like you don’t have anything attached to your ears at all due to their lightweight design. This will make them great as sporting earphones. For most I imagine they will feel strange to wear the first few times, but once you get used to that light feeling they are actually quite comfortable; my ears felt almost naked when compared to other less comfortable and heavier ear/headphones. Personally, it is a welcome return to the more old fashioned style of less intrusive earphones.
Even though I do really like the unique and lightweight design Atomic Floyd have came up with for these earphones I just can’t escape the fear that despite them being made from titanium they feel rather flimsy and easily bendable, especially if you are intending to keep them in your pocket. Additionally, though they are fixed on pretty tightly you do not get any spare ear-cup covers, which due to their unusual design it would be very hard to find replacements for, yet would be provided with earphones a fraction of the price.
Unfortunately, sound performance is where these earphones prove most disappointing. At a penny shy of £150, I just don’t feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. My main issue was finding a good middle frequency range with the AirJax, though in their defence their sound is very clear and crisp which is good for those of you who enjoy picking out individual sounds and instruments from within the layers of songs.
I tested these headphones with a range of different genres. The lush ultra studio produced track ‘Underneath The Stars’ by The Cure comes across really well with the shimmering wind chimes resting really well against the smooth bass at the bottom of the track. I noticed the earphones really coming into their own on this track especially bass wise on deep tom rolls and the droning bass lines. Although not a massive criticism I did just find at some points that the more treble end of guitars and vocals were slightly drowned out by how thick the bass sounded at times.
Secondly I tried the track with Elliott Smith’s piano and vocal led ‘Everything Means Nothing To Me’ to hear how music with a more stripped sound and more lo-fi production would sound. Here the earphones performed really well delivering both a rich piano sound and and clear vocals. However by the end of this track I felt that the earphones didn’t cope too well with the distorted reverberated drum outro.
Lastly I played The Knife’s two tracks ‘Heartbeats’ & ‘Pass This on’ to try some dance/ electronica through them to really push their bass capabilities and to see how good they are at delivering highly processed electronic music. I found what stood out best when listening to ‘Heartbeats’ was how good the headphones were when both beats and synths would pan from the left to right and back again really helping to make you feel engaged in the song due to how well the AirJacks held onto the sound from left to right. I think this genre is probably where the AirJax find their niche; nothing felt too out of balance, with all aspects of the songs sounding good and keeping the dynamic thick lead synth riffs sounding at their best.
If using an Apple device we felt that these earphones sound at their best when put through the acoustic, piano, R&B or bass booster EQ settings. However I wouldn’t really recommend pushing the treble end too far or removing too much of the low bass end as they can expectedly sound uncomfortably tinny then.
One secret good point was that, although not being noise cancelling earphones, once you push the volume to about 65%-75% they virtually became noise cancelling, doing well to passively block exterior sound despite not going very deep into the ear.
Sadly the main criticism of these headphones is summed up within the battle of sound quality vs price. Style over substance rarely works out well and price over quality is an even bitterer pill to swallow. Their sound quality is merely good, but not great, and in the region of £150 it’s a difficult trade off for fashion over function. My main issue is that I honestly feel like you could get an equally good pair sound-wise for around a quarter of the price, even if they didn’t look quite so striking. But at least then you wouldn’t be constantly worried about losing or damaging them. Simply put, their angelic angel wing design belies the fact that in the sound department they’re not as heavenly as they look.