JBL’s Everest Elite 700 Bluetooth Headphones

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JBL’s new flagship, the Everest Elite700 headphones is the whole package. Yes it’s big, and the sound matches its size. The materials are beyond comfortable. The built-in bluetooth controls are clever and designed for easy access. But what truly blows me away is the noise cancellation paired with the ambient sound control. It’s one of the most useful things a city person could ask for and works to epic proportions.

AMBIENT SOUND

It’s especially true when you live in a city like New York where everything is so noisy, and that’s why I find these so remarkable. I was walking down the street with these on and I couldn’t believe what I *wasn’t* hearing. Fire trucks would whiz past me and I hadn’t even noticed their sirens and honking – until I turned on the ambient noise. I stared at those trucks in disbelief as the horns and sirens screamed into my ears. I mean, just a second ago, the only thing I was hearing was my music and a bit of rumbling from their approaching engines. That’s how good the noise isolation is when it’s turned on; you don’t hear anything. No voices, no hawkers trying to sell you things, no high pitched sirens, no jackhammering of construction – nothing.

You know what? I’m sold.

It’s not to say these headphones are perfect. New York gets pretty windy, and I can hear the hissing sound of the wind as if it were blowing right in my eardrums (like trying to record video with your cell phone on a windy day. You get the same crackling noise as the wind hits your phone’s mic.) But turn ambient sounds off and it’s back to a zen like state. Just the music and you.

BLUETOOTH

A godsend. For one thing, it’ll probably be connected to your phone or laptop so range shouldn’t be an issue. More importantly though, let me tell you how liberating it is to have access to controls like volume and the music player built right into your headset, especially when you’re crushed between passengers on the subway at rush hour like sardines in a can.

First, there are no wires, which means no more headphones getting violently pulled from your ears as they catch on other passengers’ bags as they hurry off. And with the built in volume control, you don’t have to struggle with finding your phone, taking it out, looking at it, pressing buttons, and then putting it back where you found it. All you have to do is reach up to your ears and control everything from there without too much effort.

Loud obnoxious preacher just got in your car? No problem, turn off the ambient noise and you won’t hear a thing he’s saying. You can also say goodbye to high pitched screeches of metal wheels to rails, the mariachis trying to sing louder than the already loud screeching wheels to rails or the loud boombox sounds of subway pole dancers. Finally, I’ve found a way to have some peace of mind.

SOUND

I enjoyed the sound produced by these headphones on the street, but of course I wanted to know how they stood up against other tried and true products. So I set up a totally unscientific listening test and compared the sound quality to my good old Grado SR-60 (low end and affordable “audiophile” gear) and Sony MDR-7506 (the standard in music and film sound production) in an indoor setting, all using wires.

In general, the level of loudness were similar between the Sony and JBL (both closed ear type) while the Grado (open ear type) was louder by two volume levels. But this only holds true indoors with the absence of noise, but the point of it was to listen to the quality of the sound reproduction.

Song 1: Det Finns Inga Ord
Sony – had the deepest bass response (the kind you can feel), but a tinnier high end which wasn’t pleasant.
JBL – not as low in bass as the Sony, but had more than Grado. High end was not as pronounced as Sony.
Grado – stronger midrange and more dynamic range than Sony or JBL, not as loud in the highs.

Song 2: Klaparen
JBL – sounded hollow, good concentration on voice frequencies.
Sony – also hollow, but more highs.
Grado – had stronger upper bass/lower mids. Voice frequencies were “rounder” and not as harsh as other two.
(NOTE: the hollow sound had more to do with the recording than the headphones. In fact, this shows how accurately these headphones can reproduce sound, warts and all.)

Song 3: Skisser for Sommaren
Grado – great soundstage. Bit muddier than other two, but not as “clinical”.
Sony – much more in the highs, tinny. Low bass is felt and pronounced. Mids/voices are not as loud. Maybe too much in the highs, it’s hard on the ears.
JBL – not as sharp in the high end, lower highs are there. Stronger on upper bass, with midrange similar to Sony.

Song 4: Var ar vi nu
Grado – soundstage is wider. Mids are muddier (maybe because of I can hear my refrigerator humming?)
Sony – high end is much stronger than other two. So is the lower bass.
JBL – not as tinny, but has strong highs and strong upper bass.

 

OVERALL RESULTS

All three headphones have excellent sound quality and clarity. Being open ear headphones, the Grados have a bit muddier high end (depending on how much ambient noise there is where you’re listening), but can reproduce more the feeling of spaciousness – for example, I can actually feel the guy banging on his drums and can point to where the guy is sitting. They also have the smoothest sounding gradients when sound moves continuously up and down.

For better clarity in the high end, clearly it’s Sony and JBL on top. Sony’s high end is a bit too much in my opinion; it’s tight, but clinically so and can sometimes hurt because it’s too sharp. The JBL’s sound is more forgiving – it offers good, tight sound and feels more natural though the low end of the bass isn’t as deep. But this is only the wired test. This all changes when you use a bluetooth connection…

When I switched from wire to bluetooth, I could already hear a slightly stronger bass response (at least to my ears). Since most modern devices come with built in equalizer software, I wondered if it had anything to do with that defaulting to some preset. Then there’s the app.

APP

The free downloadable app on Google Play lets you control everything on the JBL Everest Elite 700 with graphic visuals. You can turn the noise reduction and ambient sounds on or off, select preset equalizer settings or adjust those settings and make your own. As a bonus, you can turn the voice prompts on and off (the feminine voice that talks to you when you turn on the headphones) and change the function of some buttons.

While I was playing around with the equalizer settings, I started to wonder what’d happen to a preset when disconnecting from bluetooth – would the headphone keep the bass preset I’d just set it to or revert back to normal? I’m not sure, but when I disconnected from my phone to jump on my laptop, I realized I hadn’t set the equalizer back to normal. But when I connected back to the phone, the setting was still on bass. So was it on the bass preset all this time or did it revert to normal and revert back to bass when connecting back to the phone?

BLUETOOTH NEGATIVES

Bluetooth isn’t bulletproof. For certain music players for example, when the screen turns off or starts to hibernate, the sound will cut off for a split second too. But when the music starts up again, it’ll suddenly speed up the tempo in an attempt to synchronize with the player. I’ve also noticed crackling noises when the music player app tries to do something in the background like connect to the internet. Some apps seem to be worse than others, so be aware of that when this happens to you.

It also seems that bluetooth won’t connect when the earphone cable is inserted. I took this as the cable taking precedence over bluetooth, which is a good a precaution in case something goes wrong or the battery needs a charge.

MATERIALS

The JBL uses some unique materials that I haven’t felt on any headphones I’ve purchased.
The earpads are beyond comfortable, and I love how they really cushion up around your hears and stay there without letting too much in. And weirdly enough, my ears weren’t sweating as much as other over-ear headphones I’ve used, and in fact, I don’t think I sweat much at all. Maybe they’re a kind of moisture wicking material, though I have my doubts about that. The headband on top uses a smooth plastic/rubber mixture, almost neoprene like, but smoother and thinner. It’s got a slight bounce to it that I’ve never felt on other products. They certainly didn’t skimp on materials.

DESIGN

They look cool, almost like something out of a club poster. It’s all one color mind you, but the use of curves, shapes and materials are well balanced, so somehow it’s enough to turn heads with its subtle elegance rather than the usual noise of “I’m HERE, look at ME!” In addition, JBL manages to hide the fact that it’s actually quite wide (I’m sure the space was necessary to stash all the electronics that went into it.) And you don’t end up looking like an alien either, which is a huge plus.

CONCLUSION

I think JBL’s got a winner in their Everest Elite 700. With great sound, elegant design, comfort, and built in controls for a super high level of convenience, it gives its competitors a run for their money. At the end of the day, you really have to try it out to see how awesome this piece of kit is. So the next time you’re in the market for a pair of out-of-this-world bluetooth headphones, head over to your local electronics store (Best Buy carries this model as of this writing) and see for yourself.

The JBL Everest Elite 700 retails for $299 with more info at:
www.jbl.com

Young

Young is like an onion - a Jack-of-many-trades with a "Let's do it!" attitude. He's lived/worked on several continents, but enjoys his current life in New York working around cameras and folding origami. He likes coffee, though he really should lay off that stuff. --- http://YoungFromNewYork.com

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