Above the clouds

JBL’s Everest Elite 700 Platinum edition headphones are a testament to hardware and software integration that excels on the basics but comes with some flaws

January 31, 2017 04:28 pm | Updated 04:37 pm IST

Sound sense  The JBL Everest Elite 700 Platinum  Photo: Jbl

Sound sense The JBL Everest Elite 700 Platinum Photo: Jbl

Remove one tiny jack, and all hell breaks loose in headphone land. The Bluetooth headphone market is seeing a spike in demand and everyone is out making one. JBL, which recently turned 70, decided that a Platinum edition of its Everest Elite 700 headphone would be a fitting present to the audiophiles of the world, and we had the opportunity to test one.

On the build front, there is little not to like about the Elite. The Platinum version has a nice finish and materials are sturdy, lending it a premium sense of heft. The ear-cups are large and well-cushioned, though the wide frame design and shiny colour can make you look like someone out of a Nineties sci-fi TV show when wearing it.

Moving on from build quality, design is where the Everest has a few chinks in the armour. Adjusting the headphones can be cumbersome at times, and for people with larger heads (like yours truly) the travel of the metal adjusters isn’t enough for a comfortable experience. The top of the headphone has also not received the same lavish padding the ear-cups have, and all these combine to it pressing into the crown of the head within a short period. This may, of course, be an issue with my anatomy, but if you have a slightly larger-than-average head, it’s a point to consider.

The buttons on the headphones are located on the sides of the ear-cups, and while they are distinguishable by touch, they could have been larger for easy use on the go. The left ear-cup features play/pause and volume controls, while the right one has the power button and a programmable smart button, which we’ll discuss in a bit. The ear-cups also exert significant pressure on the ears, which is preferred by some but annoying for those who prefer a milder seal.

It’s not like the Everest needs much passive sealing anyway, as among the lengthy feature set it boasts of comes Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). The headphones have a companion app for Android and iOS, which calibrates the headphones for individual users by playing a note into the ear, offers basic equaliser settings and custom options, and allows the smart button to be set for toggling noise cancellation on or off, or setting ‘Ambient Aware’ levels. This is a feature that allows users to adjust the intensity of the noise cancellation, blocking out surroundings completely or allowing some noise to filter in through the external microphones, depending on the situation.

Noise cancellation on the Everest is a mixed bag. It works, certainly, but like so many headphones out there, it doesn’t make a world of difference. Conversation still filters through, and we found it best suited to slightly-mute loud background noise like a TV set. Ambient Aware was even more of a mystery, as the settings didn’t seem to affect the listening experience in any significant way.

That listening experience, however, is a pretty good one. The Everest is easy to pair with Bluetooth devices, and once done, the audio is crisp and rich. It isn’t naturally bass-heavy, opting for balanced, true sound, and the results are good across genres. Our testing tracks span across classic rock, a dash of metal, some blues and complex Indian melodies, and the Everest didn’t break into much of a sweat in the sound department. Battery life was quite respectable, with the Everest capable of doing a couple of days of moderately-high music playback, and standby was dependable too. JBL has incorporated an auto-off feature to help preserve battery life and a cable for passive listening.

The verdict on the Everest Elite is tough to arrive at. The headphones are a great showcase of hardware and software, but they come at a price well north of Rs. 20,000, and this is where the problem lies. There are better-priced offerings with a similar feature set, like the Plantronics Backbeat Pro, and JBL’s pricing puts the Everest Elite in competition with the proven Bose QC35. They’re well-built, and sound great, but the uncomfortable headband and gimmicky noise cancellation make the Everest Elite a tough sell as value-for-money.

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