Before I worked at RadioShack, I didn’t really use headphones. However, spend enough time in a cubicle environment and you start to understand the need for headphones. Also, having kids helps, too. I’ve had a chance to use and test lots of different headphones, so when JBL announced their new Synchros E40BT Bluetooth headphones and offered to let me review them, I said yes.
The JBL Synchros E40BT headphones are stylish – they sent me the black pair, which has silver/grey accents on the hinges and earcups, but they’re also available in white, red, blue, and purple. They come in a box with a wired auxiliary cable and a USB charging cable, along with the expected documentation. The headband is a little on the small size – expandable from 13-inches to 15.5-inches and is padded along the top with a soft cushion. The earcups are small for on-the-ear style headphones – 3-inches across and about 1.5-inches thick, including the padding. The earcups are hinged so you can rotate them in for a more comfortable fit, which is nice.
The right earcup is just that – an earcup. The left earcup is where all the action is. Along the edge you’ll find the charging port – it’s a small pin, roughly 2mm, and is used for charging and to connect the optional wired auxiliary cable, so you can listen to them with a non-Bluetooth device (or if you somehow drain the battery). The power button is also along the edge, with an embedded LED indicator light that flashes white, red, or blue, to indicate various status. One the outside of the earcup, the outer panel is a 4-way tilt-type button that allows access to the rest of the features.
Pressing up/down on the outer edge of the left earcup allows you to adjust the volume, and to the left is the multifunction button. To be honest, ‘multifunction’ is a bit of an understatement. For music, you can press this button once to play/pause your music, press it twice to skip to the next track, or press it three times to skip to the previous track. If you press it once, then press and hold, you can skip the currently-playing track forwards, and if you press it twice, then press and hold, you can skip the currently-playing track backwards.
For phone calls, you can answer an incoming call by pressing the JBL Synchros E40BT’s multifunction button once, or press and hold it for a few seconds to reject the call. When a second call comes in (via call waiting), you can press the multifunction button once to end the current call and answer the second. If you’d like to toggle between the two calls, you simply long-press the button.
The last button on the outer panel of the E40BT’s left earcup is the ShareMe button. ShareMe is a proprietary JBL feature that lets you share your music via Bluetooth with another pair of ShareMe-compatible headphones. This way, you can play music on your phone, but two people can listen to it via headphones. We used to use a hardware splitter for this when I was a kid. Unfortunately, JBL only supplied me with a single pair of ShareMe-compatible headphones, so I didn’t get a chance to test this feature, though it sounds interesting.
The JBL Synchros E40BT headphones sound great. JBL has a “PureBass” technology onboard that allows plenty of bass without getting distorted, and the 40mm drivers handled everything I threw at them quite well. Music and speech were clear, though I would have liked the headphones to be a few clicks louder. They’re not noise-cancelling, and I found that at about 3/4 volume, my music began leaking out so others around me could hear.
JBL claims the Synchros E40BT can charge in 3 hours from the supplied USB charging cable, and advertise 16 hours of music playback. In my tests, I got right around that before I started getting the ‘plug me in, dude’ alerts. As mentioned before, you can use the E40BT to take phone calls, but honestly, that seemed like a ‘checking the box’ type feature. Sure, it worked, but the sound on both ends was about what I would expect from a pair of headphones that are designed for music, not phone calls.
Overall, I’m quite impressed with the JBL Synchros E40BT headphones. They’re great at the office in my cubicle life, as long as I keep the volume down so the music doesn’t leak out. Battery life for that type of setting is perfect, and the Bluetooth connection let me roam to the printer and back, if necessary.
JBL sent me the Synchros E40BT to review, but you can pick up a pair for $99.95 from Amazon.