JBL is the life of the party and has been since the days of Woodstock. It’s one of the most popular consumer audio companies, ranging from speakers to earbuds and its success is well earned with decades of work to show for it. Those looking for an affordable headset upgrade will be happy with any of the best JBL headphones currently available.
Editor’s note: this list of the best JBL headphones was updated on February 21, 2021, to address an FAQ about firmware updates.
The best JBL headphones are the JBL LIVE 650BTNC
The JBL LIVE 650BTNC is a great noise cancelling headset for much less than competing ANC headphones. Cheaper materials keep costs down and maintain a lightweight body. Don’t be fooled by the predominantly plastic construction: a metal-reinforced headband ensures durability for general use.
JBL Live 650BTNCFull Review
The headset does a pretty good job of filtering out low-frequency sounds like air conditioners, subway rumbles, etc. Such sounds are rendered about half as loud as they’d sound without noise cancelling technology. Sure, it can’t outperform the Sony WH-1000XM3 or Shure AONIC 50, but it’s among the best you can get for $150.
Microphone quality is fine; when taking a call, it’s obvious to the listener that you’re speaking from a headset microphone because it reduces the loudness of low frequencies, where much of the fundamental notes of human voices fall. As a result, friends and family may describe your voice as “muffled” or “distant,” which is made even worse by the mic’s inability to filter out background noise and focus on the speaker’s voice.
Listeners who have considered buying Beats headphones but are put off by the Beats brand-tax will enjoy the look and sound of these headphones. The strong bass response mimics Beats’ house sound, particularly with this headset: bass notes are twice as loud as the mids. While this isn’t the best sound signature for calculated listening, it’s very consumer-friendly.
What you should know about JBL headphones
There are benefits to JBL brand authority
As with any powerhouse brand, there are perks to buying into the JBL family, which happens to be a Samsung subsidiary. For one, companies with plenty of capital can afford to improve their products through software updates to further extend the product’s lifecycle. We’ve seen JBL do this by adding virtual assistant access to nearly all of its wireless headsets and other large companies like Sony that provide the same service.
What’s more, you benefit from responsive customer service and a reliable warranty—in JBL’s case, a one-year warranty covers defects in manufacturing, workmanship, and materials. It isn’t quite as enticing as V-Moda’s Immortal Life Program, but it’s something and the company can certainly afford to replace or repair a product when requested.
Then there’s the other side to the coin: JBL’s pervasive presence means that there are plenty of online complaints citing various issues. Although this complaints are valid, they’re likely to arise with any manufacturer given a great enough volume. Ultimately, we encourage you to research as much as possible before investing in a pair of headphones.
Editor’s note: Sara tested a JBL Flip 4’s IPX7 rating by submerging it in a pool for about 10 seconds, and it came out broken. The speaker still produced sound, but the sound was shrouded by a loud crackling. JBL customer support stated that the one year warranty had passed, and defective products out of warranty could not be replaced for free. Considering JBL is a company whose big selling point is their waterproofing, this was disappointing.
You won’t find any high-quality Bluetooth codec support with JBL
Despite nearly all of the best JBL headphones supporting the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), nearly all of its devices lack AAC support, and none of them include aptX or LDAC support. This means those who want high-quality wireless audio should look at other brands like Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, or even Bose. However, listeners may still benefit from high-resolution (lossless) playback on any of the on- or over-ear headphones, because each retains the headphone jack.
Break a sweat in the Under Armour Sport Wireless Train
JBL and Under Armour are one of the better brand marriages we’ve seen, and the Under Armour Sport Wireless Train by JBL is proof of the duo’s success. These sweat-resistant on-ears are made with athletes in mind and sport a compact, lightweight build that can collapse into itself for transport.
JBL Under Armour Sport Wireless Train
Since these are Bluetooth workout headphones, they have a snug fit which can get uncomfortable after an hour or so of wear. This is for good reason: it keeps the headset on during vigorous motions like jumping rope. Even the onboard controls are workout-friendly; they’re large and easy to identify and differentiate without much thought.
This headset is on the older end of the best JBL headphones list, so it shows in certain tech specifications like Bluetooth 4.1 firmware and microUSB charging. Certain things have been updated though and are accessible through the JBL app like access to various virtual assistants, as well as TalkThru and Ambient Aware modes. The latter of which is imperative for outdoor athletes who need to remain aware of their surroundings at all times.
The JBL E55BT is great for everyday listening
The JBL E55BT proves that a headset doesn’t need to be flashy or fill a niche in order to be good. This follows a nearly identical design to the reigning best JBL headphones, the LIVE 650BTNC, but spares listeners the cost of noise cancelling technology.
JBL E55BTFull Review
This uses good old, and I do mean “old,” Bluetooth 4.0 firmware; even so, battery life is impressive and clocks about 20 hours of playtime before requiring a top-up via the microUSB cable. Despite the outdated Bluetooth version, the headset supports multipoint connectivity. Unfortunately, when we tested the E55BT, there were connection problems, but this may be remedied by updating the firmware in the JBL app.
JBL added virtual assistant access to the E55BT headset through a firmware update.
Build quality is just ok, because the plastic tends to creak which isn’t very confidence-inspiring, but the same creaking sounds disappear when the headset is actually being worn. The onboard controls all blend together, making it nearly impossible to accurately control playback and volume on the first try. It’s not a huge deal but definitely proved annoying after just a few misfires.
Related: Best Google Assistant headphones
As far as accessories are concerned, these JBL headphones include only a braided cable with an in-line mic and remote as well as a microUSB cable. If you want a carrying case, you’ll have to find something from a third-party manufacturer; alternatively, you can just wear the headset around your neck when inactive. Sound quality isn’t stellar: bass frequencies are massively emphasized and subject vocals to auditory masking, which can make it sound like something is “missing” from your music. The upside to this is that it’s easy to keep a pulse on the beat of your song, making it a great pick for bassheads on a budget.
Forget about wires with the JBL Under Armour True Wireless FLASH X
JBL’s headset lineup has quite a few true wireless options and among our favorites are the Under Armour True Wireless FLASH X by JBL: these IPX7-rated earbuds can withstand complete submersion for up to 30 minutes. They also come with a 12-month premium membership to MapMyRun.
JBL Under Armour True Wireless FLASH XFull Review
Battery life is great, and the earbuds last for almost 10 hours before requiring a charge in the USB-C case, which doesn’t support fast charging. As we’ve seen with workout earbuds from Jaybird, JBL and Under Armour provide listeners with an array of wing and ear tips for a secure, comfortable fit. This is incredibly important with true wireless workout earbuds because they’re harder to find when they fall out due to a poor fit.
Onboard controls are easy to operate when working out because there’s plenty of space for your fingers to tap the touch-capacitive panels. You can access Siri, Google Assistant, enable Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes, and playback controls. Unfortunately, there’s a minor lag between making a command and its execution. Even with their shortcomings, these earbuds are among the best JBL headphones for their durability and versatility.
Save money with the JBL Tune 500BT
Listeners who don’t want to push beyond $50 should get the JBL TUNE 500BT, because its Spartan design keeps costs low without sacrificing comfort and usability. These on-ear headphones have a substantial 16-hour battery life and support multipoint connectivity, something typically relegated to more premium headsets.
JBL Tune 500BT
Each ear cup houses a 32mm dynamic driver that, in typical JBL style, favors low-end emphasis over accurate audio reproduction. Again, this isn’t inherently bad as most consumers prefer this kind of sound. These JBL headphones are very portable and can rotate flat or collapse inward. You’re afforded access to Google Assistant and Siri like the other best JBL headphones listed, too. Again, there’s not too much special about the JBL TUNE 500BT except that it just works.
- JBL LIVE 300 TWS: These true wireless earbuds are IPX5, support fast charging, allow stereo audio during calls, and offer Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes.
- JBL LIVE 400BT: If you want cheap Bluetooth headphones, the JBL Live 400BT are a good choice. For their price, they sound pretty good and their sound can be EQ’d via their companion app. Though their isolation is not great, this is typical for on-ear headphones.
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Frequently Asked Questions
If you download the JBL Portable app, you can check to see if your JBL headphones have the latest firmware installed. If they do not, the app will allow you to download the update for your headphones.
You don't. JBL is just another brand in a sea of brands, but their headphones are fairly affordable, have a consumer-friendly sound, a 1 year warranty, and smart assistant access, so they're certainly a brand to consider.
It depends on the metric you are measuring them with. Both the Beats Studio 3 and JBL Live 650 prioritize a strong bass sound, which can mask and reduce the quality of the vocals and other sounds in the mid and high frequency ranges. In general, though, JBL has similar quality to Beats with a more forgiving price point. If you want the convenience of Beats' compatibility with Apple devices, Beats may be the way to go.