Excellent audio performance for the price. Detachable cable with inline remote. Lightweight and comfortable.
No volume controls on remote. Dialed-up bass and sculpted highs not for purists.
- Bottom Line
The JBL E35 headphones deliver a strong audio experience with rich bass and well-defined highs for a budget-friendly price.
By Tim Gideon
We see a lot fewer simple, affordable wired headphones these days, as Bluetooth options flood the market. But if a comfortable on-ear pair that can bring the bass is what you're after, JBL has you covered. The company's $79.95 E35 headphones deliver an excellent audio experience for the price, with deep sub-bass, rich lows, and well-defined presence in the high-mids and highs. It's a sculpted sound, to be certain, but it's also well-balanced. For the price, the E35 is an excellent no-frills pair of headphones with enough power and grace to earn our Editors' Choice.
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Available in black, blue, green, red, and white models, the supra-aural (on-ear) E35 headphones feature a cloth-lined headband and faux-leather earpads. The earcups feature matte plastic on the outside and are emblazoned with the JBL logo. The headphone frame collapses at hinges just above each earcup, which can swivel outward, a bit like DJ-style headphones do. The padding for both the headband and earpads is generous, and overall the headphones are lightweight and comfortable—the fit is secure, but it barely feels like there's any pressure on your ears.
Inside the earcups, cloth grilles are stylishly emblazoned with L and R demarcations. Behind the grilles, 40mm drivers deliver the audio.
The included cable is detachable, which is a nice feature to see in this price range—since cables are often the first thing to die on headphones, being able to simply replace the cable (rather than the entire product) adds to the overall value. The cloth-lined cable features an inline remote control and mic that are situated at the upper torso. The remote is of the single-button variety, which means you can control playback, answer and end calls, and skip tracks, but there's no way to control the volume, which is a bit of a bummer.
The inline mic offers excellent intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, recordings were clear and crisp, with every word easy to understand and no notable audio artifacts.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the headphones deliver a bass-forward rumble that doesn't distort at top, unwise listening levels. At more moderate volume levels, the bass still packs plenty of punch, and is matched by some sculpting in the highs to balance things out.
Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with far less deep bass, gives us a better sense of how much JBL invents bass when it's not really in the mix. The drums on this track can sound comically boosted on bass-forward headphones, and the through the E35, there's certainly some added, intense thunder, but they don't sound ridiculous. Luckily, the high-mids are also very crisp and well-defined, allowing the guitar's attack to shine and lending some extra treble edge to Callahan's rich baritone vocals. This is a very sculpted, but balanced, sound signature.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence to keep its attack fairly sharp, allowing it to slice through the layers of the mix. The loop's sustain gets a little added thump in the lows, however, and the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with gusto. This is a bass-forward sound, for sure, but the highs are dialed up in the right areas, so that vocals are always clear without sounding overly sibilant or harsh.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get more added bass depth than purists will want, but it's not so intense that the balance of the mix is upset. Lower register instrumentation gets a little more body and presence in the mix, but the stage still belongs to the higher register brass, strings, and vocals.
Anyone looking for a flat response, reference-style pair in this price range is looking in the wrong place—Shure's SRH145m+ headphones are probably more your speed. But most listeners tend to seek out a sound signature like the E35's: solid bass depth matched with crisp high frequency definition. If that's what you're after, they're your best bet in this price range, and an Editors' Choice.
By Tim Gideon Contributing Editor, Audio
Contributing Editor Tim Gideon has been writing for PCMag since 2006. He specializes in reviewing audio products, and is obsessed with headphones, speakers, and recording gear. More »
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