JBL E55BT review

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THE GOOD: The JBL E55BT is an attractively designed over-ear Bluetooth headphone that’s relatively comfortable, sounds decent and works reliably. It folds up and flat and has decent battery life.

THE BAD: A bit of treble push, no carrying case included.

THE BOTTOM LINE: JBL’s new top-end model in its “value” E-Series Bluetooth headphone line delivers solid sound and a comfortable fit for the price.

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Not everyone wants to spend $300 on a premium Bluetooth headphone, which is where products like JBL’s E55BT come in. An over-ear headphone and top-end model in JBL’s “value” E-Series line of wireless headphones, the E55BT is the successor to the E50BT and retails for $150, ¬£100 and AU$230. It comes in multiple color options.

While the E55BT didn’t blow me away with its sound or build quality, it’s a likable headphone that sounds decent, is attractively designed, fits comfortably and has good battery life: 20 hours at moderate volume levels. It also worked nearly flawlessly, with minimal Bluetooth hiccups and easily paired and repaired with the iPhone 6S and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge I used in my testing.

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Like the on-ear E45BT, the E55BT has integrated music control buttons on the right ear cup (along with a built-in microphone for making calls) and also comes with a detachable fabric cable with a one-button remote for wired listening. No carrying case is included.

Equipped with 50 mm drivers, the E55BT delivers plenty of bass but manages to avoid sounding boomy or muddy. It’s good bass, not great bass. The midrange, where you’ll find vocals, is fairly natural and not overly aggressive (forward sounding). There’s some treble push, which makes the headphone sound fairly detailed but also a little bright.

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It all adds up to a fairly dynamic sound, but falls short of that richer, more refined sound you’ll find with many higher-end Bluetooth headphones. B&O Play’s Beoplay H4, for example, has tighter bass with more visceral punch, and the H4 sounds clearer and better balanced.

The JBL E55BT also doesn’t have extra features such as the active noise cancellation found in JBL’s step-up Everest Elite 700 wireless noise-canceling headphone. (The E55BT shares some of the design traits of the Everest line, which has a swankier fit and finish although it’s still predominantly plastic.) And while this headphone works reasonably well as a headset, don’t expect the same business-class performance you’d get from more expensive dual-microphone headphones such as the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 and the Bose QuietComfort 35.

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There aren’t a ton of competing models in this $150 price range. You have models such as the Audio-Technica ATH-S700BT and Sennheiser HD 4.40, which feature similar build quality. Sony’s popular “Extra Bass” MDR-XB950BT headphone is comparably priced, but it has a little too much extra bass for my tastes.

I do like both the sound and styling of this headphone better than the E50BT. Hopefully, like that model, the E55BT should drift down in price. While it’s not a bad deal at $150, I’d like to see it in the $100-$125 range to call it a really good value.

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(cnet.com, https://goo.gl/qxPP2u)

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