The best of JBL at an affordable price. An instant buy
JBL already has quite the selection of headphones available to consumers and a selection which spans the price spectrum. A selection that has now grown a little more, as at CES 2017 the company announced the next generation of its popular E-series of headphones, the JBL E25BT, E45BT and E55BT. These are headphones that are designed to be more affordable than some of the company’s other headphones, while also appealing to those looking for more of a lifestyle type of headphones. Of the new E-series arrivals, the JBL E55BT headphones are the most premium and pricey, although they are not that pricey in the grand scheme of things - as these are now available to buy and priced at $149.95.
The JBL E55BT headphones are 32 ohm headphones which come equipped with 50 mm drivers and offer a frequency response of 20 Hz – 20 kHz. These are Bluetooth headphones and make use of Bluetooth 4.0 to establish a connection with a source device. Which does mean that they should be able to establish and maintain a connection to a distance of 33 feet (10 m). As these are Bluetooth headphones, they do rely on a battery and JBL states the battery inside will offer up to 20 hours of usage. Although, the headphones do come with a 3.5 mm jack port (cable included) for direct connection when needed.
In the box
Besides the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones, in the box you can also expect to find a 3.5 mm jack cable and a USB to microUSB charging cable. As well as the usual amount of paperwork, including a warranty card, quick start guide, safety information and more.
One point to note about the package contents, is that unlike a number of other Bluetooth headphones products (including options from JBL), the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones do not come with a carry case or pouch.
Hardware & Design
There are two ways of looking at the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones. From one perspective, the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones can be considered to be of a lesser quality than the premium headphones that JBL offers. From this perspective, the slightly lesser quality will be apparent in the build and general design - which is presumably how the company has managed to bring the price of these headphones down. However, that would be the less optimistic approach. The other way in which you can view these headphones, is that JBL has brought to market a fun pair of headphones and at an affordable price - a perspective which is again immediately apparent through the build quality and design.
First off, these headphones are available in a variety of colors, including black, blue, red, green (teal), and white. So straight off the bat, you have the option of choosing the color that best suits your environment, personality, or whatever color-oriented decision-making process applies to you. In addition to the color aspect is the material being used, as these headphones also make use of a fabric-based material, covering the entirety of the neckband. In the first instance, the fabric does seem to add an additional element of comfort, while at the deeper level they also further add to the general design-focus that is in play here - style. Which is the overwhelming point which should be picked up on when it comes to the design, these are headphones that are made to be stylish, while still maintaining a decent and trademark JBL sound quality.
Moving to the ear cups and these seem to be largely made up of a plastic/polycarbonate build with the inner ear cup cushioning consisting of the same fabric material, as well as faux leather encasing the ear cup cushioning. Again, if you are coming from the first perspective (less optimistic), then this will be further evidence of their price-cutting design. While the second perspective (the one you should focus on), the design results in these headphones being extremely lightweight and comfortable - and even after lengthy periods of usage.
As all heads are not quite the same, these headphones are somewhat adjustable, with the maximum you can extend them by being just over 1.25-inches.
As these are Bluetooth headphones, they do come with some on-device controls, and these are largely present on the right ear cup. Here you will find a dedicated Bluetooth pairing button, as well as volume up and down buttons, and a slide power button. One thing to note about these buttons is that they are very tactile and especially the power button, as this more of a sliding switch than a button. To sum up, these are buttons that you can feel, and an on/off button that you know you are pressing - which is a good thing.
The left ear cup largely remains untouched with the exception of the USB charging port.
Overall, how you view the design and build quality of the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones will largely come down to which perspective you come from. While it can be argued that the quality feels less than what you will find on other JBL-branded headphones, that would not a be a fair conclusion to make. JBL has plenty of options available for those who want a more premium product and while these still do come with a price that will be considered premium to some, these are aimed at those looking for a much more friendly and fun pair of headphones which focus on the sound.
Sound Quality & performance
Sound quality is an aspect which is certainly less debatable. In spite of the more affordable price point, these are JBL headphones in every sense of the word and the sound quality on offer is great. These are designed to be fun headphones and that comes through in the output quite nicely. The sound is very bright and colorful and is certainly more than adequate for the type of consumer that these headphones are aimed towards. While bright can sometimes be code for ‘lacking in bass’ that is not quite the case here. Yes, the bass is slightly less powerful than what you might find on other headphones, but it is more than present on the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones and actually fits the headphones very well, resulting in an overall nicely balanced sound. These are not bass-heavy headphones and by the looks of it, are not meant to be. Instead, the sound on offer is just one which is punchy, alive, and present.
Likewise, it is very difficult to find anything wrong with the volume on these headphones. They are surprisingly loud and certainly do the included 50 mm drivers justice. In fact, when not wearing the headphones and just having them lying on the table, the volume they output is not that dissimilar to the volume outputted by a smartphone. The quality obviously won't be the same, but in terms of raw volume, that is an example of how loud these headphones go - so volume is not an issue. Although, this could be an aspect which some might view as a negative (first perspective), as these are not the type of headphones you want to be picking up if you don't want people around you hearing what you are listing to - as they will hear.
Overall though, it is just hard to really find any major criticisms with these headphones, as they perform really well and do not lack in any noticeable manner in what they offer. Although, one criticism which could be leveled at the headphones is that they do lack in features overall. As already noted with the volume, these headphones do not offer any means of isolation and do leak sound. Further still, they literally lack any and all features that you can think of. No noise cancellation, isolation, addition features, tweaks, or otherwise. These are just a straight up pair of good sounding headphones.
Connectivity & Battery Life
The JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones are listed to offer up to 20-hours of usage before needing to be recharged again. In testing, that seems like a decent measurement to expect. If anything, it almost seems like the minimum you should expect, as these headphones just keep going. During our time with the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones, we purposely tried to drain down the battery as quickly as possible (maximum volume, connected via Bluetooth, etc), and it proved a harder task than expected. Again, they just kept going. By the third day (of 8-hours a day) of continuous playback, they finally did start to wear out. So for argument's sake, 20 hours is a good baseline measurement to assume. In either case, if battery life is a concern for you, then you are unlikely to be disappointed with these headphones. Likewise, when it came to recharging the headphones again, on paper, they are listed to be able to regain a full charge in just under two hours. Which again, seemed to be right on the money. These headphones do replenish fully in and about two hours. For the 20 hours you are getting in return, the level of downtime with these headphones is pretty good.
On connectivity, it is generally rare that you will encounter a JBL product that has issues in the Bluetooth department, as time and time again, they just seem to work flawlessly in this respect. The JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones are not breaking the mold here, as once again, their general level of connectivity is excellent. During testing, these headphones were able to establish and maintain a connection routinely and effortlessly. Which is something that JBL often does not get enough credit for. While the Bluetooth headphone market has never been richer (with a number of good and super affordable options now available), where affordable options often suffer the most is in the connection department. That is something that just does not happen with JBL audio products. They are extremely good at establishing and maintaining a connection and this should be one of the factors you take into consideration when opting for a JBL-branded Bluetooth product. Speaking of Bluetooth, one aspect worth noting is that the JBL E55BT are able to connect to two Bluetooth-enabled devices at the same time. Which is a handy feature. For instance, while you are playing music on your smartphone, the headphones remain connected to the smartphone. However, if you pause or stop the smartphone playback and then start playing a video on your computer (and presuming you have already paired the headphones with your computer), then the headphones will automatically tune into the computer. Stop the video, hit play on the smartphone, and the headphones automatically switch back again.
Bluetooth aside, these headphones also come equipped with a 3.5 mm jack port, so you can always use the headphones in a more traditional wired fashion. The included 3.5 mm cable comes with an almost identical design to the main headphones (also fabric-wrapped), so they do fit and continue the overall 'style' of the headphones nicely. In addition, the cable also comes with gold-plated connectors, a single button for quick activation/deactivation, as well as a a tangle-free design - so there are no issues or time spent fiddling with the cable when needed - it is just a matter of plug and play.
One criticism which could be made with the connectivity of the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones is that they do not seem to be compatible with any of the JBL apps that are available. JBL has made a big play with its apps and most of its higher-end products are compatible with one of the company’s apps. Which in turn, typically offers some extra and beneficial levels of functionality and/or customization. That is not the case with the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones - which while a little disappointing, is not quite a deal breaker. This just further highlights the point made in the sound quality section - there are no additions on offer with the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones. Again, they are just a straight up pair of good sounding headphones.
If you need a quick answer on whether you should buy the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones, then that answer is yes. For the cost of these headphones, the quality of the sound output, the battery life on offer, and the reliability of the connection, is excellent - which should be the main aspects you focus on when considering a pair of headphones. On none of these points can the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones be heavily criticized on. What JBL has done here is take their signature sound quality and crammed it into a build and design which can be offered at a more affordable price. Of course, if you have the finances to opt for a more premium pair of JBL headphones, then by all means you will be getting an even better product. However, there is not much need to as with the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones, JBL has brought to market a very good product, at a very good price.
Should you buy the JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones?
Yes. They are well worth the asking price.