Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Microsoft Zune Premium Headphones (Model JDA00001) - Excellent After Burn-In

When I saw a good deal on Microsoft Zune Premium headphones (model JDA00001), I decided to get them. They had universally good reviews anywhere I checked and the deal was just too good to pass. It just so happened that I received the JDA00001 right after I started reviewing the new Pineapple Rumble K Bone Conduction Headphones as well as the water-proof Pineapple Rumble KW model.

I have a lot of headphones at home, most inexpensive and not all are being used. Some of the examples in my "collection" includes headphones such as Sennheiser HD201, Sennheiser HD202, Koss KSC75, Koss SparkPlug, Philips HS500, Creative EP-640, and others. The headphones I use most frequently are Sennheiser HD202 (when using my rowing machine), Koss KSC75 (most favorite overall, used when no noise insulation is needed), and Creative EP-640 (when compactness and noise insulation is needed). The Zune Premium headphone is a competitor to the latter. It provides compact, noise-insulating design.

What Is Microsoft Zune Premium Headphone (Model JDA00001)?

The Microsoft Zune Premium Headphones are an in-ear noise-insulating headphones with soft fabric cable of unique look and feel. The silicone rubber ear buds provide a secure fit and good sound insulation (in addition to the ear buds installed on the headphone, three extra sets of different sizes are included).

The headphones look stylish and solidly built. Also included is an earphone clip for making sure the cable is not too long for your application and a soft (suede-looking and feeling material) with magnetic closure.

Some specs from the manual (for some reason I was unable to find them anywhere online): 20-15,000 Hz frequency response at +/- 6 dB, impedance of 16 Ohms +/- 15% at 1 kHz, sensitivity of 96 dB SPL +/- 3 dB @ 1 mW, 1 kHz, 4.6-feet (1.4 m) cord with a 3.5-mm compact plug for use with portable gear.


Once the headphones arrived, I immediately read the manual, was disappointed at the 15,000-Hz upper range of frequency response at +/- 6 dB, listened to some music and was disappointed at the harsh treble quality. Since I know this is something that improves most with burn-in, I plugged the JDA00001 into my iPod connected to the AC jack with a power adaptor, and played random rock music for 47 hours straight.

In the meantime, I was snickering thinking about how I am going to write a review about "premium" headphone with a "premium" look and feel, but not so premium sound. Tonight, I got back from work and listened to some music. Immediately I realized that I will not be able to say much negative about them. The treble improved and so did the detail level.

The headphones are solidly built, have impeccable fit and finish and look stylish. The outer parts of the headphones are magnetized and flat and thus can be connected together, reducing clutter. The supplied earphone clip is an excellent idea and makes one wonder why nobody has thought about it before (at least among mainstream manufacturers). The pouch is lightweight, looks "premium" and is convenient to use.

The jack is compact, which lets me connect it to my iPod while it is charging, something that is difficult to do with the Koss KSC75's large plastic molding around the plug. The silicone ear buds fit very well, insulate sound superbly and the supplied replacement might come in handy. The lack of ports in headphones further contributes to sound insulation and tighter bass.

Speaking of which, these headphones have plenty of bass, even more so than the Creative EP-640. Yet, it is not overpowering and the rest of the spectrum does not suffer. And the high sensitivity allows you use lower volume on your portable gear and still get loud enough sound.


I have played a variety of music through the Zune Premium, including classical, Euro-dance, pop, rock, electronic music and rap. I also listened to movie soundtracks. I used my iPod, a portable CD player and a laptop as well as my Panasonic SA-XR57 receiver's headphone out (fed from CD as well as DVD-Audio). For comparison purposes, I also alternated between the over-the-ear Koss KSC75 and the in-ear Creative EP-640 headphones.

After a quick check with some rock music, I started listening to Aram Khachaturian's Violin Concerto in D Minor. Surprisingly, the sound was more balanced than my current preferred headphones: the in-ear Creative EP-640 and over-the-ear Koss KSC75. The Zune Premium has more bass and warmer sound than the either. Although the Koss sounded a bit more detailed, especially in upper frequency ranges, after listening to this JDA00001 it definitely lacked bass. And I don't even like music with a lot of bass!

The sound was transparent and detailed with clear instrument separation and only minor congestion in some frequency areas.

It was also apparent that the JDA00001 had higher sensitivity than either and much higher than that of the Pineapple Rumble K Bone Conduction Headphones as well as the water-proof Pineapple Rumble KW. The high sensitivity usually doesn't mean good sound, but this is an exception to the rule. I used my iPod at about 50% of its volume, whereas other headphones required 10-15% more. The Zune Premium sounded good at low volumes and high volumes alike.

I also used my Panasonic SA-XR57 receiver's headphone jack and played a variety of music. Percussion music sounded excellent as did electronic and rap (which I generally don't listen to).

While alternating the headphones between this Zune Premium, the Koss KSC75 and the Creative EP-640, I noticed that I started to prefer the Zune Premium most of the time. And I was going to throw them into a "never to be seen" drawer!

Apparently, the burn-in is a must with these (and many other) headphones. Just play your favorite music at moderate volume for 40-50 hours and then enjoy.

What Is Not "Premium" Then?

I can actually find little to complain. One item is the fact that the "premium", stylish cable creates noise when you move your head, especially if you have facial stubble. Nothing too objectionable.

Pros: Good build quality, looks, features, comfort, bass, detailed and warm sound, price
Cons: Needs burn-in to sound its best (don't judge it before 40 hours of playback)

Bottom Line 

The Microsoft Zune Premium Headphones JDA00001 is an unexpectedly excellent headphone with rich, detailed and warm sound. It doesn't lack bass, provides excellent sound insulation and comfort and looks "premium". It has high sensitivity, is well built and thoughtfully made. Just make sure you burn it in before use.

And if you need larger, enclosed headphones, check out my Creative Aurvana Live! review.

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