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JBL’s Synchros S400BT wireless headphones: ‘Cut the Cord!’

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JBL’s Synchros S400BT wireless headphones

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In a previous review, this author was enamored with JBL’s Synchros S700, the big brother to the reviewed Synchros S400BT headphones ($229.95). But, how does this new relation stand up to its big sibling?

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The packaging between both brothers is very similar. The Synchros S400BT too possesses a deceptively plain, outer, white sleeve that displays pictures and product information. Just past that layer, a strikingly all orange box awaits with the phrase “Bluetooth freedom – with a touch of revolution.” Some say, “there is no truth in advertising;” yet, this author completely disagrees, as this tagline exactly foreshadows JBL’s product within.

Much like the S700, the S400BT too comes with a black, soft-sided carrying case. The front is embossed with JBL’s logo and the back with the word “Synchros.” This case is zipper enclosed and when opened, not only holds the S400BT, but also, a retention pouch in the lid for storage.

The S400BT comes as a primarily all black model (with a subtle white ring around the outer earcups) or a white model with blue accents. The headphones are composed of plastic and metal elements (including a stainless steel headband) that results in a lightweight product. By no means do these feel “cheap” and they lack the creaking plastic noise (that is present in much of the competition) when flexed.

The fit has been comfortable for hours due to plush padding on the earcups and at the top of the headband. The aforementioned conform nicely to one’s ear and provide a substantial amount of passive noise cancelation.

Additionally, the adjustable headband nicely fit this author’s larger-sized head. Both sides of the headband are capable of lengthening to one of fourteen sequential markings (each approximately 2mm). The earcups turn 90 degrees either left or right, thus, improving fit and allowing them to contort into the highly portable carrying case.

Even though the S400BT ship with two cables that connect to the left earcup (a 3.5mm audio cable and USB charging cable), one rarely needs either cable. First, these JBL headphones connect wirelessly via Bluetooth 3.0 or Near Field Communication (NFC). Syncing to various Apple devices was as easy as going to Settings -> Bluetooth -> selecting JBL S400BT. This author did not connect via NFC; but, if one believes the rumors, he will shortly be able to on the upcoming iPhone 6. Second, the S400BT’s internal battery easily lasts the quoted 15 hours and charges to full in just over 2 hours.

Big brother, Synchros S700, had mind-blowing audio due to the integration of JBL’s “LiveStage” technology. The S400BT lacks such tech; yet, still produces an accurate and enjoyable auditory experience. Moreover, these headphones integrated a satiating amount of bass without being single-minded.

The killer functionality of JBL’s S400BT is their touch control. The left, outer earcup responds to all of the following intuitive gestures:

• Touch = Play/Pause
• Swipe Forward = Next Track
• Swipe Backwards = Last Track
• Swipe Upwards = Volume Up
• Swipe Downwards = Volume Down

Ingeniously, JBL also inconspicuously incorporated a microphone into the body of these headphones that allows one to wirelessly answer/end calls via a simple tap.

While the smaller S400BT cannot match its brother in audio playback, it more than makes up for it with portability, excellent battery life, wireless connectivity via Bluetooth 3.0 / NFC, and amazingly cool touch controls. This author has been astounded by JBL’s Synchros line of headphones for design, quality, and value. Apparently, he has not been the only one as JBL’s Synchros S400BT headphones were an Honoree for CES 2014’s Innovations Design and Engineering Awards. Lastly, this author cannot wait to meet any future offspring from this Synchros family of perfectionists.

Rating: 5+ out of 5

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