Treblab, notable for its audio gadgets with good quality for the price, released another pair of headphones towards the end of 2019; the Treblab E3 which, unfortunately, does not check all the boxes.
That, in itself, is not a bad thing, as a single high-end tech gadget is not expected to check all the boxes, let alone a budget device. It’s not all bad news though, as this device checks boxes in other areas. One of the biggest is battery life, where this thing can be compared to a monster. However, the boxes the Treblab E3 fails to check might or might not be crucial, depending on what you consider as important for gadgets like Bluetooth headphones. Let’s find out in this review.
Pros & Cons
|Bluetooth Version||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Bluetooth Signal Range||33 feet / 10m|
|Bluetooth Audio Codec||SBC|
|AUX Support||USB-C to 3.5mm Audio Connector|
|Battery Life||Up to 32 hours|
|Charging Time||1 hour|
|Noise Cancellation Type||Active, Feedforward ANC|
|Noise Cancellation (dB)||20dB @ 20HZ-1KHZ (MAX)|
|Frequency Response||20Hz – 20KHz|
In The Box
The Treblab products I’ve reviewed so far have come with great packaging, and things are no different with the Treblab E3 headphones.
The box comes in the colours and design pattern I’ve come to associate with Treblab gadgets, but more importantly, it contains all the right items inside.
Inside the box, you’ll find:
- a carrying case for the headphones,
- the user manual,
- a thank you/warranty card (1-year), and
- a Treblab sticker.
Contained inside the carrying case are:
- the Treblab E3 headphones,
- a USB-C to 3.5mm audio connector, and
- a USB-C charging cable.
Design & Build
The Treblab E3 doesn’t go overboard on visuals. It looks cool; it’s black all around, with a matte finish on several locations like the logo on the outer sides of the earcups, the chassis around the earcups, and the outer side of the headband. It doesn’t look cheap, however; the device’s budget status is not hidden with the usage of plastic all over its build, but it’s not pronounced either.
The logo on the outer sides of the earcups is one of my favourite things about the Treblab E3’s design; the device’s predecessor, the Treblab Z2 has the same design on its earcups, but the matte finish on the E3’s makes it blend in with the rest of the design, and makes the headphones look cooler. Also, the “L” and “R” labels have been moved to the inner sides of the earcups. This keeps the outer sides clean, and it makes more sense that way since you only need to see those labels when you’re about putting the headphones on.
This ties in with the inclusion of a 180-degree swivel on the earcups, which allows you to wear the headphones comfortably in either direction. And if you, like me, wear your headphones around your neck when they’re not in use, you’ll love the new swivel design; you no longer need to be careful about wearing the headphones the right way, as you can fold the earcups inwards or outwards without taking them off.
An issue I have, however, with the 180-degree swivel design is the impact it has on the durability on the headphones. The swivel is usually the first point of breakage in headphones designed like this, and we’ve had it bad enough with 90-degree swivels. The swivel joints on the Treblab E3 don’t feel sturdy enough, and I’ve had to be extra careful about dropping the headphones or hitting anything with them; it feels like these will break on the slightest provocation. Sure, the swivel is nice-to-have, but they could have been designed better.
The durability issues extend to the controls on the right earcup. Apart from the power on/off button, there are three multi-functional buttons arranged together on that earcup, used to handle audio playback, volume control, phone calls, and summon the voice assistant when connected your phone. These three buttons are a bit loose, and they rattle whenever the headphones shake.
This might be an issue with my unit, but it’s also an indication that Treblab needs to get their quality control together, as little issues like this could impact the experience of using these otherwise great headphones (I received the Treblab Z2 headphones earlier for review, and the fluctuations in its performance were so bad that I couldn’t write a review on it). The rattle of the loose control buttons is usually drowned out while I’m listening to music, but in those moments when I have the headphones on without playing audio, the rattle can be quite annoying. Also, the slightly loose coupling of the buttons gives you the illusion of being able to tap or just ever so slightly press the buttons to perform their assigned functions; on the contrary, you have to exert the same force you would on other buttons in order to make them work.
The earcups are a bit larger than typical headphone earcups and can feel overwhelming at first, no matter the size of your head. I mean, my head isn’t small by any means, but the E3’s earcups still felt huge the first few times I put the headphones on. But like anything else you interact with over a prolonged period of time, you’ll get used to it. And there’s an added advantage: no matter the size of your ears, these earcups will completely go over them and provide a tight seal, which is important for good sound quality (more on that later).
Audio Quality & Fit
Having used three headphones from the company now (xFit, Z2 and E3), I’d say Treblab always manages to get their fit right, and this directly contributes to the great audio quality their headphones deliver. The earcups are well padded, and they’re deep enough to prevent your ears from touching their inner sides, while shallow enough to prevent fatigue on prolonged usage. And if for any reason, your ears do touch the inner sides of the earcups, there is enough cushioning there to eliminate discomfort.
Same goes for the headband. It has enough padding to make you feel comfortable no matter how tight you fit the headphones over your head, and with nine adjustment levels available, you’ll surely find your fit.
Coming to audio quality, the Treblab E3 headphones sounded muddled when I initially got them, but I recognized that this was due to the use of dynamic drivers in the device, which needed to be burnt in. Hence, after conducting my battery life tests, which involve constantly playing audio at maximum volume from full charge till 0% on the headphones, the muddiness had all cleared up and I had this one conviction: these sound great!
Don’t get me wrong; these won’t beat premium headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM3 when it comes to audio quality, but I’ve used enough budget Bluetooth headphones to stand by my opinion that the Treblab E3’s audio quality is good and impressive for the price. The sound is balanced; bass is well-represented, but it doesn’t muddle up other audio parts. The mids are good, the highs don’t sound harsh or flaky, and there’s no sound distortion at high volumes. This impressive audio quality is aided by the good fit you get from the E3, as the earcups fit snugly over your ears and isolate outside noise, even without using the Active Noise Cancellation feature (more on that below).
It’s also a good thing that the headphones have a frequency range of 20Hz – 20KHz, which covers all possible frequencies that are audible to the human ear. The utility of this range of sensitivity to extreme sound frequencies is demonstrated in well-recorded songs like “Kiss the Fire” by Collectiv3 and Tems; the headphones literally vibrated to the low-ends in the first 23 seconds, giving me an immersive feeling that’s hard to get otherwise. The Treblab E3 does get pretty loud too, with a dynamic range of 93dB; I’ve been streaming audio comfortably at a volume level of between 50% and 60% since I finished my battery tests on these headphones.
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
I no longer get overly excited at the inclusion of ANC in budget headphones, as they usually don’t – and are not expected to – work as well as premium headphones like the Bose Quietcomfort series, but Treblab roused my excitement in the E3 with two details. First, there’s an extra mode called “environmental mode”, which when activated, allows you to hear what’s going on in your surroundings without taking the headphones off. This feature is usually seen only in aforementioned premium headphone models, and it was quite a surprise to see it work so well in the budget E3 headphones. When environmental mode is on, it feels like you have only the plastic frame of the headphones between your ears and outside noise, and I’ve found it very useful when walking by the roadside between my apartment and workplace, which I do daily.
The second thing that got me excited about the ANC on the Treblab E3 is that it doesn’t impact the quality of sound in any way when turned on, and touching or hitting the device while ANC is on doesn’t give off static sound. These are issues I’ve had with ANC on budget headphones in the past, and it’s nice to be able to do away with them even with the addition of more features on these E3 headphones.
The only grouse I have with Active Noise Cancellation on the Treblab E3 is ironically not with the feature itself, but the voice prompt announcing “ANC mode”, “Environmental mode”, “ANC off” when you switch between these modes with the single button on the left earcup. The voice prompt is annoying, more so as it interrupts the audio you’re streaming; beeps would have sufficed instead. I had the same issue with voice prompts on the Treblab HD7 speaker, but it’s more acceptable for a speaker than headphones that feed audio directly into your ears.
After conducting my battery tests, my reaction was: “This thing is off the charts!”. The battery life on the Treblab E3 is very impressive, especially when you consider the price and the average battery life of similarly-priced budget headphones in the market. The device lasted for just about 32 hours of constant audio playback at 100% volume level. Turning on ANC does reduce the battery life, but only slightly; the device died off after about 30 hours of constant audio playback, at 100% volume level, and with ANC turned on. I tend to keep my volume level for listening to music around 50-60%, so I’ve been able to squeeze more than a week’s usage out of these cans without charging them.
The device comes with a USB-C port for charging, and you need to plug it in for only an hour to get a full charge from 0%, thanks to a quick charge feature that works even if you use a USB-C cable other than the one included in the package.
The Treblab E3 has Bluetooth 5.0, which offers improved connection strength and signal range. Though the device has a rated signal range of 10m with a clear line of sight between the host and source devices, I’ve used the E3 several distances away from my phone with some walls in-between with no drop in connection.
The device also has support for wired connections, allowing you to stream audio via its USB-C port with a USB-C to 3.5mm audio cable included in the package.
On one hand, excellent battery life, solid connectivity, impressive ANC features, great fit and decent audio quality make the Treblab E3 a great device for its price. On the other, the absence of a waterproof rating and issues with durability and build quality are worrying in terms of long-term usage prospects, but you could overlook these if you tend to be careful with your gadgets.
The Treblab E3 currently goes for around $70, but you can get a 15% discount by applying the coupon code E3OFFSTEVE during checkout, both on Amazon and the official Treblab store.