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JBL Synchros S400BT On-Ear Headphone Review

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The Synchros S400BT is JBL’s latest edition to their wireless bluetooth headphone lineup. The S400BTs are on-ear headphones made of a beautiful blend of metal, leather, plastic, and LEDs. In addition to high fidelity sound quality and great collapsibility, they rock a few really interesting features.

JBL impressed us with the S400BT build. For large over-ear headphones, the S400BTs are still very portable. The earcups fold and swivel on the flexible metal headband. There’s reinforced joints that are enclosed in matte plastic and feel especially durable. The S400BTs curl up to half the size and there’s an included tough case for extra travel protection.

The S400BTs are bluetooth wireless headphones, but they come with a wired cable so you can use them with any music player or even when the battery dies. There’s a proprietary USB cable included that charges the headphones using the same headphone port. Bluetooth won’t work while the S400s are charging, and if you choose to use the wired method of listening, there’s no microphone or audio controls. If you have an NFC-enabled phone or tablet you can simply tap them to the headphones for effortless pairing. Otherwise, the bluetooth pairing process is just as easy as pairing any other device.

There’s two real buttons built in: power and bluetooth pairing. Then there’s a series touch sensitive controls built into the face of the earcup. It’s a fascinating feature, but not the most intuitive or convenient. Swipe right or left to skip tracks back and forward, swipe up and down to raise and lower volume, or tap in the center to play/pause and answer/end calls. There’s a swanky LED ring around the earcup that illuminates based on your action. The touch controls really take the right touch to master. We found it way too sensitive for our liking. If you ever touch your head (which is more than you think) you’ll mess with your music.

The built-in rechargeable battery will get you about 15 hours of playtime. Realistically, the battery lasts about a week of regular usage. The headphones have a quick auto-shutoff if there’s no bluetooth connection. When the battery dies you can still listen using the included headphone cable.

The bluetooth range wasn’t the greatest on our pre-release model. If there’s a short direct line of sight between the headphones and the source it’s fine, but if my iPhone 5S is in my pocket, there are cutouts. There’s a built-in microphone for making and taking phone calls. My callers could hear me, but it wasn’t clear.

You come to expect great quality with JBL, and that’s what the S400BTs provide. They sport an impressive 40mm driver capable of cranking out powerful tunes. There’s some really healthy low range bass and mid-range audio that favors newer-age music (club, rap, rock) but are still very fair to the classics. The audio reproduction is very clean and clear, even over bluetooth. Our only gripe is they sound a bit underpowered. Using them with an amplifier made a world of difference.

We were a little tough on the JBL S400BTs because of their price tag. They’re packed with great qualities like their high tech and premium appearance, tough build, comfort, portability, bluetooth capabilities, and of course, the signature JBL audio quality. We got a bit frustrated with the over-sensitive audio controls, subpar bluetooth range, loose fit, and less-than-perfect phone call voice quality (hopefully just faults of our pre-release model). They deserve some extra points for including a wired method of listening and a great protective carrying case. Pricing in at $229.95, you could get your money’s worth, though you might be better off waiting for the next generation. The JBL Synchros S400-BT’s are currently available from JBL.com in black or white.

The Good: Premium appearance, Durable build, Collapsable with included carrying case, Bluetooth or wired listening, Built-in audio controls and microphone

The Bad: Overly sensitive controls, Weak bluetooth range, Proprietary headphone and charging cables, Poor microphone quality for calls, Pricey, Loose fit