Ever since producers Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s Beats headphones started selling like hot cakes, audio brands have been attempting to use big names to move their gear. As far as name brand celebrities go, there’s perhaps no greater get than JBL’s recent partnership with legendary producer Quincy Jones — the musical genius behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller, among countless other hits. Sister brand AKG previously released a gorgeous set of ultra-premium cans with Jones’ help, but JBL saw an opportunity to cater to those without $1,500 to burn, as well as those eyeing wireless connection. For our JBL E55BT Quincy Edition review, we spent time with both the special edition and standard version of the E55 wireless headphones, aiming to discover whether the Quincy Edition pair really offer something unique.
Luckily, they do. Despite a fairly steep price increase over the standard JBL E55BT, the producer-branded version help capture a taste of Jones’ iconic sonic aesthetic at an achievable price, giving audio enthusiasts (and obsessive Michael Jackson fans) a unique musical experience in a very functional package.
Out of the box
The first glimpse you’ll catch of the E55BT Quincy Edition comes after you flip the lid on a simple black box, where the inviting blue-grey exterior of the headphones (or “dusty rose”, if you chose the alternative colorway) will immediately grab your attention.
Inside, the headphones are joined by a few accessories, including a 2.5mm-3.5mm audio cable for wired listening, a micro USB-to-USB charging cable, a small user guide, and a simple neoprene carrying case, perfect for protecting the headphones from nicks and scratches when you’re on the go.
Features and design
We think the Quincy-branded headphones are much easier on the eyes than the standard edition model. Sure, the buttons and ports are all in the same configuration, and feature the same thick leather earpads and rounded earcups. But Quincy Edition’s exterior is smoother than the golf ball-shaped E55BT, offering a leather-clad headband in place of cloth, and a softer matte finish. In addition, the design team also employed rose-gold highlights on the headband’s reinforcement rings and the Quincy Jones logo (a stylized “Q”) on the outside of the earcups to make them standout. These improvements to fit and finish class up the look of the Quincy Edition, and help justify their higher price tag.
Acoustic guitars, synthesizers, and mid-range vocals shine through even densely mixed songs.
In terms of comfort, we preferred the Quincy Edition’s leather band to the cloth one found on the standard E55BT, but otherwise couldn’t tell the two apart in terms of weight or feel once we put them on. In general, passive noise isolation is relatively poor for an over-ear headphone on both models, but that looser fit also means they stay comfortable on your head for longer.
Functionally, everything on the E55BT Quincy Edition matches the original model. There’s a 2.5 mm balanced analog input on the bottom of the right headphone just above a Bluetooth pairing button, while power, play/pause, and volume buttons rest above them. The bottom of the left earcup features a micro USB charging port and an LED charging indicator. Both iterations offer a solid 20 hours of wireless playback, which means you’re very unlikely to run out of power except on the longest of journeys.
Perhaps the most unique feature JBL added to the Quincy Edition headphones is the producer himself – well, his voice anyway. When you turn on the headphones, Jones’ soft gravelly vocal tone tells you the headphones are “powering on,” and then, “connected,” and there are also voice prompts for pairing and powering off. It’s fun little things like this that tell you JBL actually worked with the producer on the headphones, rather than simply slapping his name on the product and paying him a licensing fee.
As with most Bluetooth headphones, pairing the JBL E55BT Quincy Edition to your device is a breeze. Simply power the headphones on and press the pairing button, at which point Jones’ voice will let you know you’re in pairing mode, then select the headphones on your Bluetooth enabled device and pair.
While both iterations of the E55BT feature the same 50 mm drivers and a claimed frequency response of 20-20kHz, the two versions are tuned quite differently. Both offer a clear and balanced overall soundstage, but the Quincy edition are tuned for less punch down low and more clarity in the high end. Depending on what sound you’re looking for, a good case could be made for either version.
Acoustic guitars, synthesizers, and mid-range vocals shine through even densely mixed songs like The Dirty Projectors’ Gun Has No Trigger, with stereo-panned harmonies that shimmer at the edge of a wide soundstage. As you may be guessing, Thriller’s tight ‘80s production perfectly pairs with the Quincy Edition headphones, which provide each of Jones’ upper register layers a special place in the sound.
That said, the Quincy Edition headphones are a bit out of their element when it comes to some modern music. Despite a decent amount of low-mid punch, they lack the boomy sub-bass response we look for when listening to hip-hop like Chance The Rapper’s No Problems or Flying Lotus’ Zodiac Shit — an issue that the standard E55BT don’t headphones don’t share.
Which model you prefer will be more a matter of musical taste than objective superiority. For those who listen to more classic rock, folk, jazz — or really anything other than contemporary urban music — the tuning of the E55BT Quincy, with it’s cleaner and more transparent upper register, may be preferable. But if you’re a bass nut, the more affordable standard model makes more sense.
JBL offers a one-year, limited warranty on all of its E55BT headphones, which qualify for an exchange at an authorized online or local retailer with a valid receipt.Our Take
The JBL E55BT Quincy Edition wireless headphones offer a bright and clear sound signature, an intuitive and comfortable design, and good looks to pair with the legendary producer’s music.
Is there a better alternative?
Apart from the cheaper standard edition JBL E55BT headphones, there are numerous competitors worth considering. A few good choices in this price category include The V Moda Crossfade II Wireless, the Marshall Mid Bluetooth headphones, and Jays u-Jays Wireless, each of which offer differing sound profiles, designs, and fits to compare.
How long will it last?
JBL is a storied and trusted audio brand, and the E55BT Quincy Edition are a well-built set of headphones. Users will likely get years of solid playback out of them.
Should you buy it?
Yes – or you should at least consider them. Whether you’re a fan of Quincy Jones, good style, or well-balanced wireless headphones, the E55BT Quincy Edition are worth checking out.