Let me start by saying I am far from an audiophile. First, I have a five-year old daughter who loves all things ‘princessy’ and six month old twins who are always listening to nursery rhymes, so the music that is regularly playing in my home would drive the average music lover crazy. That being said, when I am on my own on the rare train journey I take, I do like to pop on some headphones and enjoy some of my own choice of music. While it still may not be what many would call good music, when I’m on my own with my headphones on, it is my music.
In the days when I commuted, I always carried with me some sort of music player. I started with cassettes, then CD’s and MiniDiscs, then moved onto MP3 players and smartphones. With each iteration, I always used the supplied headphones and, to be honest, they did the job. I know packaged headphones have come a long way over the years but like any included accessory, they are usually packaged for convenience, rather than quality.
A few years ago, I upgraded to some slightly better aftermarket headphones and there was a definitely an improvement. Whilst they weren’t the cheapest headphones available, there were always enhancements available. But, these are simple, in-ear headphones for commuting, so I could never justify throwing money at something better.
As a tech enthusiast, I’ve always been interested in what could replace those existing headphones and of late, Bluetooth models seem to be the way to go. I actually had an early pair of the Motorola S9 Bluetooth neckbands way back in 2007, but the fit was terrible and the resulting sound suffered because of the fit. Much has changed in the past nine years and as return to cordless is something that I’ve looked into a few times.
So it when the JBL Everest 100 Wireless Bluetooth headphones popped up for review, I was eager to try them out.
JBL has, of course, been making audio equipment for the last 70 years, so they definitely know a thing or two about audio technology. They have recently released their Everest range of wireless headphones and the JBL Everest 100 is their entry-level model – a pair of Bluetooth ear buds costing £79.99/$99.95.
What’s in the Box?
The Everest 100 headphones are well presented. The bright orange highlights, used by JBL for quite some time now, definitely draws you towards the packaging, with small design touches adding a premium perception. Slide the internal box outwards, lift the lid and you are greeted by the headphones themselves. First impressions are very positive.
The earbuds themselves look small in the box and once removed, appear to have an odd shape. You may wonder how they will fit in your ears comfortably, but rest assured, they have been sculpted for comfort and long usage times. Remove the earbuds from the pack, place them in your ears and they feel very snug. Of course, not everyone’s ears are the same, so you wouldn’t expect the standard earbuds to be a one size fits all job. JBL has therefore included three sets of different sized ear tips, that should accommodate most ear sizes – three different sized ear ‘hooks’, as they call them, are also supplied to ensure the perfect fit. You’ll also find a flat micro USB cable for charging and the usual instruction and warranty booklets.
The headphones themselves comprise 5.8mm drivers outputting on the 10-22 Hz frequency. They produce an output of 103dB, which should be more than enough for anyone’s ears. The claimed 8 hours of use is delivered by two 3.7v 60mAh Polymer Li-ion batteries – yet even with these on-board, the headphones only weigh in at 16 grams. Bluetooth 4.1 takes on the connection duties and handles things well, translating into better battery life for both smartphone and headphones, alongside improved data transfer compared to earlier revisions of the Bluetooth standard.
While the headphones look great with a robust specification, you’ll be most interested in audio quality!
The pre-installed ear tips and hooks were a little small for my ears so I replaced them with the larger fitments, which was an extremely simple job. Slide the existing tips off and remove the hooks, then do the same in reverse with the larger fittings. The middle of the cable has a small clip to tidy away any excess so only the cable required is in use. When putting the headphones on, they slip into your ears easily and the hooks secure themselves in your “triangular fossa”.
While on the move, the cable moves slightly with each step so you know you have something around your neck. There is also an odd sensation where you can hear your footsteps when walking (which is the case with most in-ear earphones) and it does impact somewhat on the enjoyment of any music playing. The fact that these headphones cut out so much external ambient noise means it’s not advisable to wear these when navigating traffic on foot or on a bike.
For the majority of people using these headphones, they will normally be connected to a smartphone or tablet of some sort. So when using them, you’d expect to have all the same features available as those free headphones supplied in-box and then some. Just like the headphones that came with your phone, an inline mic is built into the cable. You can control the playback of music on your phone, as well as change the volume level and skip tracks.
The power button will perform the obvious task of powering up the headphones but on first use, holding this button down for a few seconds will put the headphones in pairing mode. If you are wearing the headphones while turning them on, you’ll hear an audible commentary guiding you through pairing. Turn the headphones on and you will hear a mystery voice state “powering on”. Hold the power button for longer and you will hear “JBL Everest is ready to pair” and when the process is complete you will hear “connected”. When turning your headphones off , “powering off” lets you know they are shutting down so you won’t go back to a dead battery the next time you want to use them. These audible comments definitely make it easier to know that everything is working exactly as it should.
Once paired with your phone, the headphone controls can raise or lower the volume using the + and – buttons on the front of the control and move backwards and forwards through your music collection. The latter uses either 2 or 3 quick clicks of the power button. On the rear of the remote is a status LED. It glows red to denote battery charging, a slow white flash indicates a Bluetooth connection and a rapid, flashing white light indicates pairing mode. On one side of the control, a small flap covers the micro USB slot for charging, while on the other is a Bluetooth pairing button for when you want to add another device – say a tablet or a secondary phone. Both are far enough away from the controls that you are unlikely to access them by accident.
I certainly got a lot of use out of the JBL Everest 100 headphones on a day of commuting into London. Each charge would definitely allow me to get in and out of town with plenty of hours use to get through the day. I think it’s fair to say the average user would get two or three days of use on a single charge. The only missing for me is some form of bag or container to keep the headphones in when not in use. They will get dirty and tangled in your pocket, which is where they will invariably end up from most of the time.
So The Everest 100s fit comfortably and they are easy to set up and control, but how do they sound?
I tested the headphones with an iPhone 6S and the audio quality has been great. I ran a number of the headphone orientated tests over at http://www.audiocheck.net and the performance was really good.
My music comes from a few different sources when I’m out and about. My audio collection includes music stored directly on my phone, that I have transferred over using iTunes. This has all been ripped from my CD collection at 320 kbps. I also have access to Spotify Premium so I can access tracks over 3G/4G cellular networks or via tracks that I have saved offline. They are also played back at 320 kbps when enjoyed in Extreme mode.
My musical taste is also varied, so I got to try out the Everest 100s with a range of genres, including ridiculously cheesy pop, beat-heavy dance music and a selection of old classics too. Bass, on songs that need it, is low down and thumping while higher frequencies remain very crisp and clean. As stated previously, I’m far from an audiophile but at no point did the headphones feel lacking in any way.
I also tested the JBL headphones with movie playback on my iPad. I was using an 12.9” iPad Pro and while it is equipped with strong audio capabilities, that has no impact on personal listening via headphones. When watching Star Wars: A Force Awakens the sound stage was surprisingly wide – it really felt like I was in my own private cinema with such a large screen on my lap and no one interrupting my aural entertainment.
Phone call handling was also very good. Answering a call was as simple as hitting the power button when you see or hear your phone ringing. Calls were very clear with no noticeable echo. Ending a call was as simple as clicking the power button once more.
The JBL Everest 100 headphones sound great. They do a good job of keeping out external noise, meaning you don’t need to crank the sound up to an ear damaging level. The close-fitting of the earbuds means they also don’t suffer from sound leakage, so you won’t annoy anyone at home or during your commute.
I found the earbuds to be comfortable in use and the eight-hour battery life means all but the longest journeys will be hassle-free and filled with music. If you are the type of listener that likes to music discreetly with faithful audio reproduction, then the JBL Everest 100 in-ear wireless Bluetooth earphones could be a great investment. Cutting the cord has never felt so right.