JLAB JBuds J3 Micro Atomic / J3M Review

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Reviewed Dec 2009

Details: Newly released IEM from Jlabs touted as being less mainstream-oriented than the old J2
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: $79.95 for J3; $89.95 for J3M)
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16 Ω | Sens: 88 dB | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 4.3’ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Over-the-ear or straight down

Accessories (3.5/5) – Silicone single-flange tips (4 sizes) and hard clamshell case
Build Quality (3/5) – The housings are metal and quite nice to the touch. They feel like they will last. The cord is especially nice – it seems to be Teflon-coated and is very soft with a bit of memory character. The biggest problem for me is driver flex and pop. They can be very annoying when a good seal is achieved and the driver may not ‘pop’ back to its normal shape for several minutes.
Isolation (3/5) – Above-average isolation; perfectly reasonable for my commute
Microphonics (3.5/5) – Present when worn straight down; very low when worn over-the-ear
Comfort (4/5) – The housings are very small – only slightly bigger than those on the Meelectronics M11s. A good fit and seal are very easy to achieve either cord-up or cord-down. One small annoyance is the Left/Right identification, which takes the form of a small “L” stamped in the strain relief of the left earpiece. It can be located by touch, but I prefer easily visible identifiers

Sound (4.7/10) – The J3s are surprisingly balanced earphones that offer tight, well-controlled bass and impressive treble extension. The treble-focused signature may make them seem treble-biased, but it isn’t quite so. The bass is definitely present but not emphasized like JLabs previous model, the J2. With a proper seal the bass has more impact than tone but stays out of the midrange’s way. Treble is very harsh out of the box but evens out significantly over time. They are still quite cold-sounding and slightly metallic even after significant burn-in, but enjoyable in their own right. Soundstage is a bit smaller than average but the detail put out by the microdriver is very reasonable.

Value (7.5/10) – The J3s offer a revolutionary, rather than evolutionary, step up from the J2, moving away from the crowd-pleasing bass-centric sound of its predecessor and towards a more balanced signature. While not everyone will be pleased with the somewhat cold and analytical presentation, those looking for a way to get more out of their music for less will be impressed. The tiny slim housings and nice cables add to the appeal.

Pros: Good cabling, comfortable, impressive treble quality
Cons: Massive driver flex; ridiculous MSRP, cold signature


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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