April 29, 2018
Consider this a 4.5 star review. These are some pretty excellent headphones for the price, and I was pleasantly surprised when I received mine - they're a bit better than I expected in almost every way. They do have a couple of minor flaws - one of which seems not so minor to some people - and the sound quality isn't *quite* as good as the best headphones on the market. That said, the best headphones can run hundreds of dollars, and these are less than a single Franklin.
First, the sound quality without noise cancelling on. It's bass heavy, a little bit muddy, but still the mids and highs come through clearly. Most headphones with muddy bass are really muddy all the way through the frequency range, but these aren't - if you can deal with the bass, the rest of the music sounds great. I also haven't detected any sibilance in the high end, which cheap drivers can often give you.
I've learned that you need to be careful how you test audio output equipment these days because many modern recordings already sound like garbage, and garbage in gives you garbage out. My go-to track for testing is Boston's "Hitch a Ride" from the days when engineers knew how to record stuff and off a very old, unremastered CD produced before the "loudness war" was a thing. I know this recording itself sounds amazing. And it sounds pretty great through these headphones. Really spacious sound stage, very good dynamics, crystal clear guitars, drums and vocals, but just that muddy bass that's a bit overemphasized, and not really at the most pleasing frequencies for it to be overemphasized. Still, I expected worse for this price and with all the other features these headphones have!
Other recordings sound better or worse, of course - these headphones are definitely good enough to distinguish easily between a good and bad recording. If a recording already has too much bass, though, then it's going to sound really boomy and kind of unpleasant with these. But, well, that's the same problem you'd have with a pair of Beats, and lots of people seem to like those.
Funnily enough, one way to kill the bass is by turning noise canceling on. I wouldn't necessarily recommend that just for audio quality because it does some other things to the sound as well, but they do still sound pretty good with the noise canceling engaged. I have a pair of Sony MDR-10RNC wired noise canceling headphones, which I absolutely *love* for their noise canceling but not so much for their sound quality, and the E7 Pros blow the doors off the Sonys for sound quality with noise canceling on.
The noise canceling itself seems to work pretty well, but you have to know why noise canceling exists on headphones at all, and that's for flying. That's it. Nobody's making noise canceling circuitry that's tuned for quieting your co-workers or muting a TV that your family's watching; I don't care what the product page here says. The circuitry is tuned for low frequencies, such as you'd hear from a jet engine inside a plane - that's what noise canceling was invented for and that's what it's still good at. I tested these phones against my Sonys using an app on my cell phone connected to my home audio system that gave me airplane-like low frequencies, and these seemed to do basically just as well from what I could tell. They really cut a lot of the low frequency roar. I'm anxious to try them on an actual airplane now, but I might be able to just totally replace my beloved Sonys for travel.
But this is why some people say the noise canceling works great and other people say it doesn't do anything. You have to understand the purpose of it, and use it for that purpose. It's not for shutting out life; it's for reducing fatigue caused by engine and wind noise on airplanes.
Ironically, there is a little added mid-frequency white noise with noise canceling on. You don't notice this when you're in a noisy environment; in fact, my Sonys do it too and I didn't even know it until I tested them against the E7 Pros. It actually sounds like it may be the exact same circuity in both sets of headphones, although I'm not sure if it is.
I do have the same problem that some have mentioned where quick turns of my head cut the sound out with noise canceling on. Honestly, to me this is not a dealbreaker because I really need to whip my head around fast for it to happen, and I just normally don't move that way - especially not when sitting in an airplane seat, which is where I'd be using the noise canceling. Maybe some individual units are worse, but if you do want to use the noise canceling while jogging or something (which I wouldn't recommend), then even the way mine are might not work for you. I do wish it wasn't a problem at all, but it's one of the few real operational flaws of these headphones and I can live with it.
As for the Bluetooth functionality, it seems to work as you'd expect. Turn Bluetooth on, wait for the pairing light to blink, then set your device to pair and that's it. It'll automatically connect each time from then on. The connection so far has been solid and stable for me, although on my desktop I did need to move my little Bluetooth adapter from the back to the front or I'd get small momentary dropouts. But I don't know if that's the headphones' or the Bluetooth adapter's fault. One minor thing is that I wish there was a manual way to pair and connect; it doesn't seem like there is. You just turn on Bluetooth and if there are no known devices to connect to, it goes into pairing mode. If there's a known device, it just connects. The problem is I want to pair with multiple devices, and I don't want to turn all the others (computers, tablets) off all the time when I use the headphones. We'll see how frustrating this ends up being over time. I'll update the review if I really have problems with connecting/pairing to the right device.
Lastly, the build quality on these seems pretty good; again, better than I'd expect for this price and with these features. Where are they cutting corners?? I guess they're slightly bulky and heavy, but not uncomfortably so. I have seen photos of the older (non-Pro) E7 and they have updated the casing to be metal on the outside, which looks and feels good, and the headphones themselves are comfortable and very softly padded. The quality isn't quite up there with my Sonys, but those were originally $300 headphones, and these are relatively close in look and feel. They don't feel like they're in another class, at least. There are still a couple spots (the sides of the earpieces, for example) with shiny, cheap feeling plastic, but it's pretty sparsely used.
I do recommend these headphones if you're looking for an inexpensive set of Bluetooth headphones. They sound good (except for too much bass), look good, they're comfortable, noise canceling cancels the noise it's supposed to cancel, and they're wireless. I'd buy them again.