Raycon The Performer E55 review

(CNN) —  

The brainchild of multiplatinum recording artist turned reality television mogul Ray J and tech entrepreneur Ray Lee, Raycon began releasing various speakers, headphones and earbuds in early 2018, including the E50. Its sequel, The Performer E55 Pro, comes at a time where the audio hardware maker has somewhat become a major player, with a reported 1.5 million customers.

An improvement on nearly every aspect of its predecessor, The E55 Pro feature a better case with wireless charging and the ability to charge earbuds five times for an average total of 35 hours of battery life. This also includes slight upgrades to the call and audio experience. At $119.99, The E55 Pro are a great option for those who sit between the lower budget range and higher-priced premium arena of wireless Bluetooth earbuds.

Who these are for: The Performer E55 Pro are suitable for iPhone and Android users looking for inexpensive Bluetooth earbuds with good comfort, above average audio quality, some serious battery life and a sufficient feature set. Having IPX4-grade protection makes them worth considering for frequent gym goers.

What you need to know: The Performer E55 Pro offer premium features, including wireless charging and battery life that promises to last for nearly 35 hours between case charges. There are also a plethora of comfortability options with five silicone ear tips. Users of iOS can rest assured that the earbuds are Siri compatible, and the IPX4-grade protection ensures sweaty gym sessions or accidental water splashes don’t damage the earbuds.

How they compare: At its price, The Performer E55 Pro do a fine job of straddling the line between budget earbuds like the $59 EarFun Air and higher-priced models in the $100 to $150 range ones, such as the Amazon Echo Buds, Samsung Galaxy Buds+ and Apple AirPods. One area where it manages to outclass both lower- and higher-end competitors is battery life.

Ural Garrett/CNN

Speaking with Raycon heads Ray J and Ray Lee about The Performer E55, they mentioned wanting to make significant improvements from the E50. “We’ve always tried to enhance our products by listening to customers and my close friends that really know music, and now the E55 is like 10 times better,” says Ray J. After opening the box, it’s clear where those advancements have been made.

The most significant improvements went to the charging case in two areas. First, the case has a fixed hinge that replaces the open-top design of the previous model. According to Ray Lee, many customers complained about losing the top of their charging case.

The other big addition to the case is wireless charging with full Qi compatibility. Mobile devices with reverse wireless charging and charging mats worked pretty well during our tests. Those who prefer a conventional charging solution can use the standard USB-C port that has been updated from the E50’s Micro USB. Interestingly enough, the newer case design doesn’t sacrifice the portability or weight of the previous model as well. There’s even a band that’s included for those who may want to attach their case to something like a key ring, which is a nice touch.

Despite improvements to the actual earbuds themselves, they retain essentially the same design of its predecessor. One of the better style decisions regarding the E55 is the fact that it doesn’t protrude out of the ear anywhere near as much as the AirPods or Galaxy Buds. They really sink well into the ear canal a bit better than something like the Jabra Elite series.

Those who need larger or smaller soft silicone gel tips have five to choose from. The default pair included is snug and can take all sorts of movements without feeling as if they’re close to slipping out. Considering The Performer E55 Pro earbuds cater toward more active users, having IPX4-grade protection means activities that may lead to excessive sweating may won’t ruin the earbuds themselves. Though it was difficult to procure enough sweat to test that out, it could handle being submerged in about 3 to 4 inches of water without failing.

There are also five available colors for The Performer E55 Pro, counting Carbon Black, Flare Red, Electric Blue, Frost White and Rose Gold for users looking to coordinate their earbuds with outfits.

Ural Garrett/CNN

Like previous Bluetooth audio devices from Raycon, including the E50, The Performer E55 Pro feature single-handedly the greatest “power on” chime we’ve ever heard in a device of its kind. It’s literally Ray J singing “Raycon” in a three-part harmony. If you’re going to have the man who gave the world “One Wish” as the celebrity face of your wireless audio tech brand, you might as well use those vocals properly. There’s no better way of setting a great first impression before attempting to connect to various devices. Will some individuals find that annoying? Absolutely, which is why the lack of ability to disable the chime may be a turnoff. The best way to avoid it is just to hold the earbuds in your hand for an extra second after removing the earbuds from the case.

From desktops, MacBook Pros, iPads and iPhones to Android devices, connecting the E55 Pro to various devices was fairly fast and simple. Each earbud uses a tactile button press for various commands like answering phone calls, increasing/decreasing volume and powering on/off. The earbuds are compatible with Siri but not with Google Assistant. Users don’t have to be close to their devices either, as The Performer E55 Pro have an outstanding 260-foot line of sight, which is perfect for those in an apartment or midsize house.

There are notable areas where corners were cut to compete on price, however. Actual call quality is fairly average, as The E55 Pro earbuds lack any active noise-canceling technology. That feature is reserved for the higher-priced The Works Earbuds that Raycon offers.

Busy places like street intersections, parks with an abundance of people and gyms may lead to some possibly frustrating phone calls for outgoing audio. During several phone calls outside during a walk, there were moments where both callers were left with more than enough “huh” and “excuse me.” Microphone quality simply doesn’t feel premium when outdoors. In quieter areas, things were much better. Generally, it doesn’t seem like as much thought went into call than music volume.

Call quality doesn’t match higher-end earbuds like the Samsung Galaxy Buds and Apple AirPods, but it’s on a similar level to our favorite budget earbuds in the EarFun Air. Incoming phone audio volume could sound a bit louder in places, but it’s serviceable and isn’t hard to hear. Due to the lack of an app to work alongside the earbuds, there’s no way of tuning audio quality too. Users who are on the move and need to take quick phone calls in quiet places should get some solid mileage out performance-wise.

Ural Garrett/CNN

The Performer E55 Pro audio quality for music is just as we expected from the brand: crisp and clear heavy bass without much musical nuance. That’s totally fine for the millennial-targeted consumers through their influencer marketing campaigns around social media. The Performer E55 Pro can handle a large majority of mainstream radio-friendly music. Crisp, heavy bass means that everything from contemporary hip-hop to EDM sounds loud with great low-end. This puts the earbuds more in line with the Amazon Echo Buds and Jabra Elite Active 75t.

Users more prone to listening to Cardi B’s “Up” and preparing to do Young Thug’s “Ski” challenge should feel right at home. West Coast bounce tracks like Dezzie Gee’s “I Need That 2.0” and Southern club joints like Beatking’s “Keep It Poppin” sound flat-out amazing on the E55 Pro. Even more international pop-leaning tracks, including the Becky G and Burna Boy collaboration “Rotate” or EDM-focused tracks like Major Lazer’s “Jadi Buti,” do an admirable job. Anyone looking for earbuds to handle their bass-heavy playlist at loud volume will find much to love here. Compared to the E50, there wasn’t much to improve on this particular aspect. However, this is where the most notable improvements to the audio quality end.

The Performer E55 Pro don’t provide much of a nuanced musical experience. In general, there’s a flatness to the overall music-listening experience that’s definitely noticeable when listening to genres that lean toward classical, jazz, country, classic rock and the likes. The opening guitar riffs of Gene Harris’ “losalamitoslatinfunklovesong” and horn section moments lack much richness. As a huge Staple Singers fan, it was really difficult to enjoy the musical dynamics of classics like “That’s What Friends Are For” or “Let’s Do It Again.”

Those looking for a richer audio experience across multiple genre types may walk away a bit disappointed. But if your tastes skew toward hip-hop and electronic music, The Performer E55 Pro hold up very well.

Ural Garrett/CNN

Claiming an impressive 36-hour battery life fully charged, the earbuds themselves remained powered for about five hours of continuous usage on their own before needing to go back into the case. This means that the case can charge the earbuds up to five times before they give out completely.

If users plan on making work commutes or working out for an hour at the gym, the case really only has to be charged once a week, if that. Despite the earbuds lasting around five hours, the five additional charges make these earbuds a strong contender in the battery life department. During testing, those claims were fairly true, as the earbuds themselves died a little over five hours of general music listening. If The Performer Earbuds can’t compete feature lists or audio quality-wise, it more than stands toe to toe with competitors when it comes to battery life, including the Powerbeats Pro, Apple AirPods and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.

The earbuds lasted closer to six hours when we mainly focused on phone and video calls. Charging the case itself took around an hour and a half with some additional time using wireless charging.

Ural Garrett/CNN

The Performer E55 Pro are admirable earbuds for bass-loving individuals on the go who don’t want to worry much about battery life management. And let’s not forget about that charming “power on” harmony. Though the feature set is ample enough for those types of users, audiophiles may find themselves a bit turned off by the overall music listening quality, which is fairly average at best.

Those who couldn’t care less about musical nuance will find extremely comfortable earbuds that are reasonably priced and offer a 45-day no-questions-asked return guarantee. After that, the earbuds have a one-year manufacturer’s warranty. Android and iOS users who don’t want to pay the more premium prices of the AirPods and Galaxy Buds Pro range should definitely look at The Performer E55 Pro earbuds as a more affordable alternative.

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