The old adage of “you get what you pay for” is particularly true when purchasing technology. At $79, the Treblab E3 headphones won’t deliver the balanced audio and powerful active noise cancellation of the $300+ pair of Bose headphones. But what they will do is deliver solid sound quality along with a few smart features while saving you quite a few dollars. The headphones deliver a good amount of bass and last 48 hours on a charge. However, the ANC could be much better.
Headphones in the sub-$100 range are an alternative to the cheap one thrown in with a shiny new smartphone purchase. The thing that surprised me on the Treblab E3 was the bass response, which provided a surprising punch. The bass is a double-edged sword though, as it muddies up the rest of the audio experience. Some tinkering with the EQ can definitely help but won't totally fix the problem.
The E3s have a surprisingly long battery life of 48 hours with ANC off, but the headphones can be uncomfortable at times, leading to shorter-than-desired listening sessions. The ability to fully recharge the battery in an hour is good for life on the go, but the quick charge features are even better.
Treblab E3 Headphones pricing and configurations
The over-ear Treblab E3 headphones can be purchased for $79.97 at major retailers. As Wesley Snipes famously said, “always bet on black.” Treblab must have heard him loud and clear because the E3s come in black...and only black. It’s disappointing because other headphone makers in the sub-$100 range offer multiple color options to help you coordinate with your devices or outfits.
Treblab E3 Headphones design
While I would love a few more color schemes, I really adore the design of the E3 when viewed from the side. There's something about the Treblab logo set against that all-black design. It reminds me of a set of blacked-out car rims, which makes me a bit giddy. The lines on the logo reflect light perfectly, drawing just the right amount of attention when wearing them out in public. I also like the simplicity of the “E3” printed in white on the inside above the earcups.
However, the all-plastic design doesn’t feel sturdy although that is expected for sub-$100 headphones. That said, they don’t feel fragile and should withstand normal day-to-day use. The exposed side of the extenders is aluminum reinforced by black plastic. The headband and earcups both have leatherette cushioning. The headphones can fold flat to be placed inside the included travel case.
The majority of buttons and the USB-C charging port are located on the right earcup with the lone exception of the ANC button on the left earcup. The E3’s dimensions and weight are 8 x7.1 x 2.2 inches and 0.6 pounds. The E3 looks like a normal size pair of headphones until placed next to others; these are taller and wider than the ZVOX AV50 and the Panasonic RB-M700B.
Treblab E3 Headphones comfort
The headphones are not as light as I anticipated considering how hollow the plastic feels. These are the first headphones I've used in a long time that didn't require me to use the extenders. If you have a larger-than-normal head or have a lot of hair, these could be comfortable headphones for you.
The E3 feel soft and comfortable when I initially put them on. However, the headphones fit snugly, which is why I started to feel some pain around the bottom of my right ear after about 30 minutes of use. On the upside, while my ears got warm while wearing the E3, they didn’t start sweating until about two hours of use.
Treblab E3 Headphones setup
Pairing your Trelab to Bluetooth-compatible devices is a straightforward process. Hold the dedicated power button for three seconds to turn the headphones on and a voice says “pairing.” Select the headphones from the list of discoverable devices and you’ll hear “connected” when the pairing is successful.
The headphones can only be connected to one device at a time, which is a bummer, but it’s to be expected for a sub-$100 pair of cans. However, the headphones can save up to eight devices in its memory for future connections. The downside is you must turn off Bluetooth on the first paired device to connect to the next device since the headphones always connect with the most recently used gadget. If that device is not available, the E3s will connect with the next device in its hierarchy.
Treblab E3 Headphones controls and voice assistant
The Treblab has several physical buttons for the controls. Along the back of the right earcup sits the volume buttons with the play/pause button nestled in-between. Holding the volume up for one second skips to the next track while volume down jumps backward. The play/pause button does its job with starting and stopping music playback.
But due to their position, I had difficulty hitting my intended button on the first try. I wish the buttons were more defined like the power button, which is located near the front of the right earcup.
Double pressing the power button activates your digital assistant with support for Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, and Bixby. It was a welcome surprise as many of the sub-$100 headphones I’ve reviewed lack this ability.
The ANC button is the sole button on the left earcup.
Treblab E3 Headphones active noise cancellation
I tested the Feedforward Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) feature without any music playing. I went into the noisiest environment in my home where the TV was on and my kid was playing then flipped on the feature. The ANC was barely noticeable. There was a minor reduction in environmental sounds as I toggled ANC off and on but I could still easily conduct a conversation with my kid while wearing the headphones.
The E3s have an Environmental Mode which allows you to hear the ambient noise the headphones would normally eliminate because of its over-ear design and the resulting passive isolation. Environmental Mode did an excellent job of allowing me to hear my surroundings as though I wasn’t wearing headphones. Having a conversation with my kid with this mode on and music off allowed me to hear him much more clearly.
Treblab E3 Headphones audio quality
Like other headphones at this price point, the E3s are limited in their audio capability. The bass feels heavy and muddy, the midrange lacks fullness, and the high-end is severely lacking presence. I cycled through equalizer settings in Apple Music to find a profile to compensate for the lack of mids and treble while attempting to clear up the low end. The Electronic setting struck a decent balance.
Listening to Drake’s “Back to Back” sounded muffled when I played it for the first day. The following day, the overall sound was much clearer, which could be due to burn-in. However, the bass is heavy and often masks Drake as he’s spitting his diss lyrics wondering how he got into the rap beef in the first place. The headphones had me wishing for more openness and presence to feel the excitement and anticipation that is normally potent in this song.
Compared to the E3sm the ZVOX AV50 headphones had a much cleaner low-end that brought out the mid and high frequencies in the arrangement. I experienced the energy the E3s were lacking. The high hat patterns bounced from one ear to the other, which I had not noticed in the E3s. The drawback of the AV50s is that distortion occurred during the same musical phrases throughout the song.
The E3 sounded much better when listening to pop music. On Benee’s “Kool,” the muddiness was not as pronounced as it was on hip hop and rap tracks. The band’s opening started off muffled, but then cleared up as soon as Benee settled into the opening lyrics and the other instruments took dominance. Benee’s lyrics were clear but often masked when the bass guitar played sustained notes. The bass guitar was not overpowering on the ZVOX AV50 compared to the E3, and provided a nice balance between Benee’s clear lyrics and bass.
The Treblab shined when I listened to Tones and I’s “Fly Away” with its pop/dance feel. The four-on-the-floor bass was deep when paired with the accompanying lyrics. The song felt more open than the previous ones, and the headphones seemed a lot more balanced. The E3 and the AV50 both sounded great with this song, but the AV50 made "Fly Away" feel airier.
Treblab E3 Headphones battery life and bluetooth
The Treblab E3 has an estimated 48 hours of battery life with ANC off, according to Treblab. The battery life drops to 35 hours if you use ANC. The user manual says the battery life drops to 27 hours with the volume at 100%. I would suggest leaving ANC off to maximize the battery life since ANC is not doing much to mitigate environmental noises. The battery level can be checked by pressing the power button, and a voice says the battery is either high, moderate, or low.
When your headphones die, a quick 5-minute charge will get you an additional 10 hours of battery life while an hour will get a full charge. The headphones support PD Quick Charging resulting in 7+ hours of power after 3 minutes depending on the charger’s voltage. After doing the math, that results in a full charge in about 20 minutes using PD Quick Charging.
Bluetooth 5 is supported on the E3s and enables 33-foot range. I sat my iPhone down on one side of my home, then walked throughout my entire two-story home and heard my music relatively uninterrupted. There was a random jump every now and then, but shifting to a new position solved the problem. I finally experienced skipping when I walked halfway across my backyard.
Treblab E3 Headphones call quality
Using the E3s to make calls via my iPhone was frustrating. I called a friend and the sound switched from the headphones to the smartphone once he answered. I tried calling again, and the headphones disconnected from the iPhone and needed to be re-paired. When I finally got the headphones paired and working, I could hear my friend clearly but I sounded really far away to him. I experienced similar audio problems when using the headphones to receive calls.
The Treblab E3s have a solid sound (once you tinker with the EQ) with plenty of low end. As a bass junkie, I was feeling the low-end response but would have liked more clarity to open up the mid and high end. The non-existent ANC should just be scrapped altogether and invested in cleaning up the bass. The headphones severely lack presence and I had to reach for the equalizer settings to balance the E3s. The headphones underperform when listening to hip-hop and rap, but they provide a better audio experience when listening to pop and dance.
I appreciate the long battery life, which could easily last for two weeks without reaching for a charger, and the fast-charging feature is beneficial when you're in a rush. The support for multiple voice assistants is cool and having a dedicated power button to activate them is a nice touch. The Bluetooth 5.0 range is exceptional, providing coverage throughout modestly-sized homes.
However, using the headphones for phone calls is frustrating and makes voices sound distant to the person you are calling. And I wish the cans were more comfortable, so you could wear them for long periods of time.