Shelling out a couple of hundred dollars for a pair of high-end headphones is something of an investment, so if they turn out to be fragile or aren't comfortable, it can be a waste of money. Swedish headphone developer Jays has swapped the bells-and-whistles approach for one of comfort and ruggedness for its latest u-Jays on-ear headphones.We plugged in a pair to see how they performed.

According to Jays, the u-Jays headphones are the result of two years of research and development with an emphasis on comfort and simplicity for long listening sessions, as well as a steel core for endurance, and exchangeable ear cushions and audio/remote cable for easy upgrading and replacement.

Out of the box, the u-Jays headphones have a deceptively disassembled appearance. Available in a selection of matte black, white, silver, and gold color combinations, the headphones come with the viscoelastic earcups detached and instead of an integrated cord the u-Jays use a separate plug-in audio/remote cable. According to the maker, this is to allow the user to repair and upgrade the phones instead of going through an expensive replacement.

The 224-g (7.9-oz) headphones themselves are built around a spring-steel and wire core with integrated screws for durability. This also means that they don't fold up, However, the earpieces do fold 90 degrees to allow the phones to fit into their bespoke carry bag. For wearing comfort, the headband has a silicone-skin pad.

The u-Jays have 40 mm Japanese-silk diaphragm dynamic speakers with a sensitivity of 100 dB SPL @ 1 kHz, 32 Ohm @ 1 kHz of impedance and a frequency response of 10 to 20,000 Hz. They are surrounded by vent holes covered with acoustic tuning filters for better airflow and deeper bass response.

According to Jays, the cups are designed to adapt to the shape of the wearer's ears for a firm fit and less sound leakage. The audio cord is compatible with iOS, Windows, or Android systems and includes a MEMS technology microphone and a three-button remote.

When we unboxed the u-Jays headphones, we found that the construction was as advertised. The stainless steel core had a solid feel to it and held up to rough handling, as did the pivots for the earpieces, which were moved from the cups themselves to the center of the stalk for greater strength.

The earcups were easy to screw on to the speakers, yet remained firmly set, and the mic/audio cord also went in easily – we found its tendency to fly out when caught on something a better option than having the jolt communicated to the headphones. We even loaned the headphones to a teenager for several days and they came back still in decent, operable condition.

The microphone on the Kevlar-reinforced cord was very good. Pick up was clear with no echo or distortion on phone calls. However, the three-button remote was an exercise in frustration. There were no tactile clues as to what was what and the multi-function buttons never made it clear if we were selecting a track or making a phone call.

As to the main feature of sound quality, we found the u-Jays headphones to be very good, but nothing to write home about. The bass range was strong with a drop off in quality only at the very lowest levels. On the other hand, the upper range was passable with a distinct drop off at higher frequencies. The biggest disappointed was in the midrange. It wasn't so much poor as inconsistent. Clarity was very good for the most part with exceptional ability to handle soft music, but a surprising amount of distortion would appear in some pieces in the midrange at moderate volume.

Jays makes comfort a major feature for the u-Jays. We did find the ear cups very comfortable and they did mold nicely. They were easy to wear for several hours without noticeable sweating or discomfort until towards the end, though not superior to other sets on the market. Another point we noticed is that though the cups handled sound leakage well, they weren't very good when it came to blocking out ambient noise, so these are definitely quiet listening phones.

In all, at a list price of US$230, we found the u-Jays headphones to be a bit of a trade off. They're not exactly in the audiophile category, but for someone who wants a pair of decent headphones that are rugged and reasonably comfortable, they are a good option.

Product page: Jays