I have been a Quincy Jones fan since being obsessed with the Sanford and Son theme in the 1970s. I was happy to be invited to the launch of his new wireless headphone, the JBL E55BT on Friday evening at the Village Recorder Studio in West LA. I didn’t expect I would have a chance to meet Quincy and talk with him, but I was fortunately proven wrong.
Quincy told me that three artists he wished to have worked with in the past are Marvin Gaye, Bobby McFerrin, and one of my favorites, Whitney Houston. Quincy was going to work on Houston’s debut album, but there were scheduling conflicts at the time. I felt that I should have asked him a question about the headphones, but after trying so many Bluetooth headphones this year, I have to be honest and say that I didn’t care much. That is, until I tried the headphones.
I would not choose the E55BT over my current favorites, the Sony MDR1000X, the Bose QC30s, or the Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless as my go-to pair, but those headphones, which run from $350 to $400, are far more expensive than the E55BTs, which only cost $199 and give you every bit of a bang for your buck. When I heard Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” at the event with the headphones, I thought the E55BTs were good. But it wasn’t until I took them home and put on EDM songs such as “On My Mind” by the Disciples and “Stay” by Zedd that I was really impressed.
The E55BTs offer ear-rattling bass with strong highs while only slightly overwhelming the mids. I wore them to the gym and even though they didn’t offer the sound isolation (more on that very soon) of my favorites from Sony and Bose, they were still very comfortable to wear — probably the most comfortable set of Bluetooth headphones I have worn. The cloth-lined headband and soft, imitation leather earpads are meant to be long-lasting. And unlike the Bose headphones, these don’t start creaking when you turn your head.
The only thing I don’t like is the lack of sound isolation. I’m not disappointed that there isn’t any active noise cancellation on these new Quincy Jones-approved headphones. At times, noise cancellation can hurt the sound quality and can also get you killed if you are not careful. But it’s also great to physically block some sound, which the Bowers & Wilkins gets just right with P7 Wireless. However, the E55BTs remind me of the AirPods in that they barely block out any noise. However, they certainly do block out more than Apple’s wireless earbuds.
I have to use the JBLs a little bit more before I can make a final conclusion, but my initial impression is that they are definitely worth $199 and give $400 headphones competition when it comes to sound quality. And it’s also a pleasure hearing Quincy Jones give you voice prompts.