Review: JBL Everest Elite 700 Bluetooth Headphones

Review: JBL Everest Elite 700 Bluetooth Headphones 1

With the Everest Elite 700 Bluetooth Headphones ($300), JBL shoots for the stars. Everest Elite 700’s clean design exudes quality — round corners, soft-touch plastic, and rubber joined by sturdy metal connections. Though we would have appreciated more padding on the rubber headband (which is alarmingly similar to that of the Beats Solo HD), the Elite 700 is light enough to wear without discomfort. Hardware controls are available for power/pairing, play/pause/Siri, volume up/down, and a “Smart Button” for the Elite 700’s advanced features. We were surprised by the lack of track controls, which we feel should be standard on headphones like this. The Elite 700 collapses for storage, with ear cups nesting within each other for a satisfying headphone sandwich. That said, the Elite 700’s ear pads do seem to crush when folded, so it may not be advisable to leave them folded for long periods of time. While the Elite 700 looks impressive out of the box, JBL may have tried to do too much this time around.

Review: JBL Everest Elite 700 Bluetooth Headphones 2

The Everest Elite 700 is as feature-packed as they come. Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity and 15-hour battery life made this headphone easy to travel with. Pairing was quick and easy, the headphone’s battery level was indicated on our iPhone’s screen, and volume controls were thankfully linked to those on our phone. A headphone cable is included for passive listening; although the Elite 700 is “made for iPhone”, our cable’s microphone pod had only one button, which is usually an Android configuration. Beyond these basic features, the real selling points of these headphones are Active Noise Cancellation, Ambient Awareness, and JBL’s TruNote Calibration.

The Elite 700’s Active Noise Cancellation (“ANC”), in a word, works. Like other ANC headphones we have tested, JBL’s software listens to ambient noise through external microphones and cancels out low end frequencies of the unwanted sound. This has an undesirable but unavoidable effect on your music — volume is substantially lowered, and everything sounds substantially thinner. While we generally recommend that you avoid ANC for general listening, it can be a godsend on planes and trains where you’d otherwise have to crank your music up to potentially harmful volume. In this context, our only problem with the Elite 700’s ANC is that switching modes was often accompanied by random loud blips and volume changes. These glitches made for a jarring and irritating experience that simply doesn’t mix with “noise cancellation.”

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In addition to ANC, the Elite 700 offers Ambient Aware, a feature that activates external microphones to allow some sound through these otherwise isolating closed-back cans. Pressing a button on the headphone cycles between Ambient Aware High, Low, and Off. Since ANC must also be activated for this feature to work, ambient sound has an artificial feel, as if everything was coming through a cheap microphone (it is). Nonetheless, we found this feature to be useful for having conversations with others or catching subway announcements without taking our headphones off. JBL takes this feature a step further in the Elite 700’s companion app, which allows you to tune your Ambient Aware experience to choose how much external sound comes through each ear separately.

The Elite 700’s companion app, simply called “JBL Headphones,” is a free download from the App Store. With the Elite 700 connected via Bluetooth, the app allows you to monitor battery level, toggle ANC, set Ambient Aware to high, low, or off independently for each ear, chance equalizer settings, activate TruNote calibration, and change the function of “Smart Button” on the right ear cup. We were surprised to learn that it is impossible to control both ANC and Ambient Aware without the app — the Smart Button can only control one feature at a time and unfortunately, the JBL Headphones app is the only way to access all of the Elite 700’s features at one time. The app runs well and the interface is intuitive, but we wish we didn’t need it.

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The Elite 700’s final tech feature is “TruNote,” which JBL claims automatically calibrates the headphones’ frequency response to the shape of your ears. When activated, the music stops playing, and a “blip” is played into your ears. As we understand it, the Elite 700 listens via microphones inside the ear cup, and adjusts the headphone’s frequency response based on what it detects about your individual anatomy. Calibration is activated in the companion app or via long-press on the Elite 700’s Smart Button. We tested this by first calibrating the headphones against inanimate objects like pillows and rubber balls shaped very differently from the human ear. We then listened to the Elite 700, re-calibrated against our own ears, and listened some more. After calibration, we noticed a warmer, bassier sound. Though TruNote did make some adjustment to the sound, we find it hard to believe that a pair of headphones could determine the anatomically ‘correct’ sound signature for us in just a few moments. In our testing, we were not convinced of the necessity of TruNote.

With or without TruNote calibration, we were not blown away by the Elite 700’s sound. Compared to several other headphones — many of which are cheaper than this set — the Elite 700 occasionally sounded inaccurate, and never excelled in detail. Their soundstage is a bit cramped for our taste, with vocals a bit weak compared to the rest of the presentation. That said, the Elite 700 does have a pleasing and present low-end that was enjoyable during electronic and rap tracks. We found sound quality to be a bit better in wired/passive mode, but our testing focused mostly on wireless, since that is clearly the Elite 700’s intended use. Overall, the Elite 700 are not reference headphones, but they do present an acceptable sound without wires and make music listenable in noisy environments.

Review: JBL Everest Elite 700 Bluetooth Headphones 5

That brings us to the most troubling part of our experience with the Elite 700: they froze. Midway through one of our listening sessions, they simply stopped playing music and became unresponsive. We tried holding buttons in various combinations, charging, plugging in the analog cable, unpairing Bluetooth, and re-pairing. Nothing worked. Ultimately, the only way we could get the Elite 700 back in working order was to wait for the battery to die, then recharge. This is a profoundly disappointing experience for one to have with a pair of headphones, and should be completely unacceptable in a product that is fundamentally passive and analog. Headphone features should not have glitches. Headphones should not “crash.”

The Elite 700’s software problems factored heavily into our review score. We cannot say whether all of these headphones are affected, but such a failure is possible, and should be considered by potential buyers. Even if software glitches cannot be avoided, headphones like the Elite 700 should at least function in analog mode. Never should it be that a headphone designed for travel ends up being nothing more than a $300 pair of earmuffs for any amount of time.

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The JBL Elite 700 feels more like a tech demo than a top-of-the-line consumer audio product. We find it very strange to complain that a headphone’s software needs refinement, and we hope that the Elite 700 isn’t a harbinger of things to come. Even when all the tech features are operating as advertised, they seem to come at the expense of basic controls and the most important feature of all — sound quality. Products like the Elite 700 are often defined more by their compromises than their features, and it feels like Harman/JBL may have skimped on the important stuff — sound quality and stability — in exchange for more bullet points on the box.

Our Rating

C
Average

Company and Price

Company: JBL

Model: Everest Elite 700

Price: $300

Compatible: Bluetooth-enabled iPads, iPhones + iPods

Total
4
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22 comments
  1. I picked the Everest Elite 700’s up during a Best Buy holiday flash-sale, they were $100 off. I primarily purchased them to use with my new AppleTV4.The current firmware version for the headphones is 5.4, however, mine have 4.0. The JBL support site mentions that if you have version 4.x, you need to tether the headphones to a computer with a microUSB cable and do an initial update to 5.4, after which future updates will happen wirelessly via the iOS/Android app. The firmware download link lands on a page that says ‘no updates available’. It isn’t yet possible to download a current version of the firmware. A huge issue with version 4.x firmware: It won’t pair with the latest AppleTV models — doesn’t appear in the device list. Paired without issue to my iPhone, just no ATV4.JBL tech support, located in the Philippines, was useless, I tried online chat, email, and calling:Chat: sorry, JBL doesn’t allow consumer audio products to have firmware updates installed by the user (I sent the link, he was baffled and responded management should have told them)Email: Sorry, no idea but will pass it along to the next level… (2 weeks now, no word — sent a couple emails requesting an update, they remain unanswered).Phone call: We’re getting a lot of calls about this. Our engineers were rushed to get this product to market and used a non-standard version of Bluetooth — we hope to have it fixed soon. You should call back on a weekday and ask to speak with an engineer (called back as instructed, asked for to speak with an engineer — was told that wasn’t possible).I’m hoping a firmware update will fix the AppleTV pairing issue — if not, I’ll return them.

  2. I recently bought a pair of Everest 700 (standard not elite) and haven’t had any issues with freezing, pairing, or sound quality. However, there is a .5-1 sec delay which isn’t a big deal when listening to music and podcasts, but is extremely annoying when trying to watch video. I had a similar issue with a set of PowerBeats2, but they eventually issued a software update. Curious to see what JBL’s answer is to this (emailed tech support, no response yet). If they don’t have a fix or at least one on the way I’ll be taking these back to Best Buy.

  3. Hello Brandon,My name is Chris Smith, I am the Manager of Customer Service for Harman International. I noticed you contacted our Support Team and have replied to your email. I look forward to working with you on your concerns.

  4. Hi Benjitek,My name is Chris Smith, the Manager of Customer Service for Harman International. I am sorry to hear of the issue you have had not only with the Headphones, but also with my Support Team. I am eager to work towards a resolution with you, however I am unable to locate any contact information for you. Do you happen to have the email that you sent regarding this issue? I can search our CRM and reach out from there.

  5. Thanks anyway Chris — I gave up, it’s been around 25 days since that purchase and initiating support requests. Your response is the first time anything resembling issue resolution has occurred. You wouldn’t be able to locate my records using my Disqus userID.I returned the headphones to avoid the return window expiring. The experience has pretty much soured me to the JBL brand, at least until I’ve read a comprehensive product review on something I might be considering that mentions using it with the products I have. I’d like to avoid future attempts at obtaining tech support for the product lines JBL provides.

  6. Thanks for the reply. I just responded to your email and look forward to hearing back from you. Hopefully, with a solution to the issue. I really like the headphones, but the delay issue is a deal breaker for $200 headphones.

  7. I received a response that there was a firmware update. Tried it, alas, it’s only for the Elite 700’s, not the standard 700’s. An update for the entry level Everests is supposed to be on the way, curious to see what happens. I’m quickly approaching my 30 day return date.

  8. Update!!!!! From the manager of their customer support division,”Brandon,Your timing is perfect. We just released a firmware update for them. The update is found in the Manuals & Download section on the product page; it is listed as HID Software. As a beta tester I ran through 3 updates earlier this week with no problem.”I just performed the update and they work beautifully!!!! I am now officially thrilled with this purchase and highly recommend them to anyone. It’s a bit annoying that it took all the hullabaloo to get to this point, but all’s well that ends well.

  9. Now that JBL has fixed the delay issue (see previous comment / thread) I would highly recommend the standard or Elite 700s to anyone. Fantastic sound and comfort for the money.

  10. I totally disagree with the review. Why would jbl send out a prototype with bluetooth issues. Because it can definitely effect sound quality. My version came with 5.6 software and sound great. Using Kayne West recordings to demo sound quality is like putting wagon wheels on a Porche. Just don’t get it. Also never once tried eq which is well desighned. Unless you have perfect hearing you never got a taste of what these phones can sound like. Especially with the bluetooth issues. I’m baffled why JBL would send those particular cans for review. But I think there should be another review of this product it’s not accurate to sound quality IMHO.

  11. Agree totally I hope people won’t pass on trying these cans. Better than my P5’s easy. Way more comfortable. Great bargain I have headphones that cost three times as much I like these just as much if not better.

  12. I tested these headphones in the shop the other day and although I found the sound to be very impressive for the most, the high tones were far too pronounced – they sounded very harsh and shrill in the higher ranges.Autobahn by Kraftwerk for instance sounded almost uncomfortable to listen to on these headphones, in some sections, and so did the horns on “Friday Night Saturday Morning” by The Specials.In other parts of the songs the sound with simply spectacular however, so I wonder to what extend this is better with newer firmware, or can be “fixed” with autotune or the equalizer in the app?Could anyone comment on their experience with this?Anyone else who finds the sound too harsh and shrill in the highs?

  13. When I tested these headphones, on 3 different pairs (one was the Elite version, the others the ‘normal’ version), I noticed stuttering in the BT connection which was not present with Sony, Philips or Bose headphones which I have tried with the same phone.Since you have these headphones, I’m wondering if you have encountered something similar, and whether the latest software fixes this issue?

  14. I am really disappointed with these. I recently purchased the ‘regular’ JBL Everest 700s only to find out about the massive audio delay problem when watching Video of any kind!It’s almost as if JBL released the ‘Elite’ line which quickly rectified the issue, leaving us with the normal range high and dry and unable to update the firmware. I currently live in South Africa, and the store i purchased these in did not allow me a refund on the grounds that the sound is delayed. Absolutely gutted. Would appreciate a response from JBL if its going.. 🙁

  15. We don’t redo reviews. We receive final products from companies, and they’re reviewed as if we were any normal consumer. Some products may indeed be improved with firmware updates later on, but it’s extremely time-consuming (and silly) to redo a product review for every firmware update that comes along. If you want to know when we did our review, check the date.And Kanye West isn’t even mentioned in this review.

  16. I have not encountered that problem at all when they are working. I bought mine from best buy and they have a 45 day return policy. Of course mine completely died on day 55. Also not sure why JBL is sending out the phone with the 4.0 software. They have been out for awhile. I will say with the eq these are fabulous sounding to me. But with all the reviews that mention freezing up when upgrading to new software I’m am real apprehensive to upgrade from 4.0 with my current version that I just got. Best Buy was nice to exchange said they do not normally exchange after 45 day period. Because of some contract obligation with HK. TOTAL BS IF THIS IS TRUE HARMON IS A HUGE COMPANY. TO SEND OUT A PRODUCT LIKE THIS THEY SHOULD BE ASHAMED. IF THEY CANT MAKE A HEADPHONE THAT LAST LONGER THAN 45 DAYS PRETTY SAD.

  17. Very DISAPPOINTED with this product. Was enjoying them immensely until they died last night. I started to charge them all of a sudden a loud high pitched whine and then some loud clicking. The they just kept saying battery low powering on over and over. Would not charged so I went through whole bs of pairing unpairing. Then they just cratered. Got a new pair because I love the way they sound. I just can’t believe this is a Harmon product. I’ve worked in audio for twenty years. Sold ML amps and preamps I own ML 333 stereo amp and a 38s preamp been great going on 14 years now. Why would they release something like this. I going to try one more time. I’ve got 45 more days we will see. Very disappointed. I wanted to write this for buyer beware. Also wanted to apologize to ilounge getting my reviews mixed up.

  18. I apologize for the mix up! Also TOTALY agree with review to some point. I don’t watch movies through these so the delay issues don’t effect me. But I will say for the money there seems to be some serious QC issues. Again sorry for the mix up.

  19. Chris Smith I’m on my second pair. First pair died. Tonight as I was listening to music on my new pair then I turned the volume down to speak to my wife. When turning back up volume came on all the way up. It did this twice hurt like heck. I am scared now to even try them again. It sad these are truly nice sounding phones. I worked in audio for along time I understand these things. What can be done. I don’t know how much more Best Buy will do but just take them back. Any help would be appreciated. Very frustrated customer.

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