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Best JBL headphones and earbuds
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, with products ranging from speakers to earbuds, and its success is well earned with decades of work to show for it. Those looking for an affordable upgrade to their headphones 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 June 28, 2023, to add the Live 660NC, Tune 660NC, and Reflect Flow Pro. We also expanded the Buying guide, updated the formatting, and ensured all information is current.
Why are the JBL Live 660NC the best JBL headphones?
The JBL Live 660NC take the cake as the best JBL headphones for most people due to their lightweight build, premium features, and good app. These active noise canceling (ANC) headphones are barebones in their design, but they come in three colors (black, white, and blue). We like how JBL combines button and touch controls so you can control just about every part of your listening experience without reaching for your phone.
JBL’s noise canceling isn’t the best on the market, but the Live 660NC render low frequencies about one-quarter their original loudness. This means your train commute will be noticeably quieter when you enable ANC. Noise canceling demands a lot of power, but even with ANC, we squeezed out 47 hours, 8 minutes of playtime from these headphones.
Bass heads will enjoy the exaggerated bass response from these headphones, but most of us will need to tinker with the in-app equalizer to get the sound just right. Fortunately, you can do so with the free JBL Headphones app. Here, you can also change your voice assistant and noise canceling settings. There’s even a video mode that reduces audio-visual lag. You’ll need this if you have an Android phone since the Live 660NC only support SBC and AAC.
Like a few other JBL headsets, the Live 660NC support multipoint connectivity. Enabling this lets the headphones connect to two sources at once — useful if you’re watching a YouTube video on your laptop and expecting a call on your phone.
These headphones don’t have any gimmicks. Instead, they’re just sturdy, long-lasting headphones that can accompany you on all of your travels.
Best on-ear pick: JBL Tune 660NC
The JBL Tune 660NC are a rare breed of on-ear headphones with noise canceling. The ANC isn’t the greatest, but its inclusion makes these cans unique. Aside from that, these headphones have multipoint connectivity and a long battery life. Really, these are just a more portable version of the Live 660NC.
Sound quality is quite good and we don’t think many listeners will find the need to equalize it. This is a good thing because JBL doesn’t provide the option to EQ the Tune 660NC; there’s no app support for these cans. Fortunately, most listeners will like the mild bass boost here. Like other JBL headphones, these stream over the SBC or AAC codecs. Historically, AAC hasn’t performed consistently across Android hardware, so if you want to ensure you’re receiving high-quality audio from your Android phone, you to listen via 3.5mm cable or look into aptX headphones.
We recorded 37 hours, 9 minutes of playtime with ANC, and the fast charging rate is rather efficient. A five-minute charge yields two hours of playback. Combine this long battery life with the compact build of the Tune 660NC, and you have yourself excellent on-ear headphones for any occassion.
Best versatility: JBL Reflect Flow Pro
The JBL Reflect Flow Pro earbuds have it all. From mobile app support to a durable IP68 dust- and water-resistant build, the Reflect Flow Pro are built to endure. JBL provides four sizes of removable ear and wing tips to get the best possible fit. You’ll want to test out all of your options to optimize ANC performance. Fortunately, JBL makes this easy with the in-app ear tip fit test.
The app also has a five-band custom equalizer and a few options to control the listening mode. Like the larger Live 660NC, there’s a toggle for reducing latency when watching videos. Admittedly, we don’t find JBL’s app as comprehensive as something like Sony’s, but it does the job.
Typical of JBL’s signature sound, the Reflect Flow Pro have a bassy frequency response with a narrow treble spike. You can always adjust the sound profile in the app, but if you’re working out, you may prefer this bass-heavy sound. Noise canceling is available with these earbuds, but it isn’t good. In fact, it does very little to quiet background noise, even with an ideal fit. We appreciate the feature but there are far better noise canceling earbuds out there.
Battery life, again, is stellar. The Reflect Flow Pro last 9 hours, 8 minutes with ANC, outpacing most of the competition. These are the JBL earbuds to get if you want something that can do everything.
Best workout earbuds: JBL Endurance Peak 3
JBL’s headset lineup has quite a few wireless options, and among our favorites are the JBL Endurance Peak 3. These IP68-rated earbuds have an ear hook design that keeps the earbuds in place during all kinds of movement. JBL angled the nozzles so they bend with the natural contour of the human ear canal. This design makes the earbuds comfortable to wear for hours at a time.
Battery life is above average, and the earbuds last for 8 hours, 47 minutes before requiring a charge in the USB-C case, which supports fast charging (10 minutes in the case will get you an hour of playback time). As we’ve seen with other workout earbuds, JBL supplies 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. The earbuds support AAC and SBC streaming; either earbud can be used in full mono mode. Listening in mono mode limits the onboard control functionality, however.
Best budget headphones: JBL Tune 510BT
Listeners who don’t want to push beyond $50 should get the JBL Tune 510BT. The Spartan design keeps costs low without sacrificing usability, and they have four colorway options to suit your style. These on-ear headphones have a substantial battery life of 40 hours, 43 minutes, with five minutes of charging via USB-C, yielding another 120 minutes of listening time. The Tune 510BT also support multipoint connectivity, something usually relegated to more premium headsets.
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 sound. The inherent downsides of an on-ear design consist of poor isolation and a less predictable fit compared to over-ear headphones. On the other hand, these JBL headphones are very portable and can rotate flat or collapse inward.
The TUNE 510BT affords access to Google Assistant and Siri too. Again, there’s nothing special about the JBL TUNE 510BT except that it just works.
Get true wireless ANC with the JBL Club Pro Plus
Folks looking to get a good set of true wireless earbuds with noise canceling should consider the JBL Club Pro Plus. These buds aren’t perfect, and sometimes they don’t sit perfectly in the case to charge. That said, battery life is above average; with ANC activated, the buds last 5 hours, 23 minutes according to our testing. Add bonus points for wireless charging compatibility. Out of the box, the Club Pro Plus sounds good as well, with some under-emphasis in the mids, but you can EQ that in the dedicated app.
The best JBL headphones: Notable mentions
- JBL Live 300 TWS (on the product’s website): These true wireless earbuds are IPX5, support fast charging, allow stereo audio during calls, and offer Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes.
- JBL Tune 230NC ($49.99 at Best Buy): This is a decent set of noise canceling true wireless earbuds suitable for fans of bass-forward buds that still sound good. ANC ranks as okay, but not amazing.
- JBL Tune 760NC: Even more premium than the Tune 660NC, these headphones have a long battery life and ANC. The design is more streamlined, and the buttons ar larger, making it easier to control media.
Check out these JBL gaming headsets
- JBL Quantum 50 ($34 at Amazon): Mobile gamers will get plenty of use out of these gaming in-ears that cost just $29. You don’t get anything fancy but it’s compatible with all 3.5mm devices and has an inline remote and mic.
- JBL Quantum 350 ($99 at Amazon): This is a solid gaming headset if your budget ends at $100. You get good sound quality, a comfortable fit, and software that works on Mac and PC.
- JBL Quantum 400 ($81 at Amazon): Pick up this gaming headset for its comfortable fit, even for folks with glasses, and surround sound software.
What you should know about JBL headphones
JBL’s headphones target consumer audiences, rather than audiophiles. Before you buy a pair of headphones from JBL, there are a few features and terms you may want to be aware of.
Do JBL headphones sound better than other brands?
JBL’s headsets may or may not sound better than other brands’ headsets depending on your own preferences. There is, however, a “JBL signature sound” that amplifies bass and treble notes to make them louder than mids. Largely speaking, a lot of headsets sound similar to this, but JBL often makes a point on its marketing to let you know that its headsets really amplify bass with phrases like, “From rich, punchy bass to thrilling top notes …”
As you can see in the gallery of frequency response charts above, JBL doesn’t just blindly give each headset an identical frequency response. Instead, the various product frequency responses (cyan) generally follow the rule that bass and treble notes sound louder than mids. This is similar to, but different from, our house consumer curve (pink). JBL still tailors its products’ frequency responses for their intended use cases (i.e., gaming headsets have an even more pronounced bass response than general consumer headphones).
Do JBL headphones block out noise well, and does JBL have good noise canceling?
JBL headphones have pretty normal isolation performance across the board with average to very good active noise cancellation depending on what product you’re looking at. First, let’s break down isolation: this is how well a headset can block out noise by creating a barrier between your ear canals and the environment. None of the JBL headphones and earbuds listed here feature an open-type fit, so each headset will block out some noise.
In order to get good isolation with headphones, you need to make sure the ear pads completely encompass your ears (over-ear headsets) and don’t form gaps between the pads and your skull. If you’re using earbuds, a good fit requires you to test all of the included ear tips. The one that fits best will create a seal to the entrance of your ear canal and will stay in place if you shake your head a bit.
Active noise canceling is a bit more of an active process that requires battery power to work. In order to get the best ANC performance, you need a good fit, so start there. Only then will you enjoy the full effect of a product’s ANC. JBL doesn’t have bad ANC, but it isn’t known as the go-to brand for noise cancellinlg headphones. As you can see in the charts above, one of JBL’s most expensive headsets (released in 2021) still can’t outperform the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, which was released in 2017. Interestingly, the Bose QC 35 II can almost always be found for quite a bit less than the Project Rock Over-Ear Training Headphones.
Do JBL headphones support high-quality Bluetooth codecs?
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 LDAC or aptX (save for the discontinued Synchros S400BT). This means those who want high-quality wireless audio should look at other brands like Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, Sony, or even Bose. However, listeners may still benefit from high-resolution (lossless) playback from any of the on- or over-ear headphones, because each retains the headphone jack.
There are benefits to JBL brand authority
As with any powerhouse brand, there are perks to buying into the JBL family, which is a Samsung subsidiary. For one, companies with plenty of capital can afford to improve their products through software updates to extend the product’s lifecycle further. 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.
JBL often cuts the prices of its headphones and speakers around the holidays and big shopping days depending on the region. This is something that smaller brands are less likely to do because they have smaller profit margins to begin with. Sometimes holiday promotions only affect older product lines, so make sure you’re purchasing the right product from your designated vendor.
Are there downsides to JBL headphones?
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 these 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 IPX7 rating by submerging it in a pool for about 10 seconds, and it came out broken. The speaker still produced sound, but a loud crackling shrouded the sound. 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 that prides itself on waterproof products, this was disappointing.
How we choose the best JBL headphones
We have an entire lab dedicated to collecting objective data from headsets, microphones, and speakers, and we subject JBL products to the same rigors as anything else that comes our way. In order to do so, we have a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 head and torso simulator (HATS) with an anatomically realistic ear canal that yields results that closely resemble what most listeners will hear under ideal conditions.
After we collect all of this data, create charts, and score each product, we go onto the review process. Once we have enough reviews and hands-on experience with a certain category, our team discusses with one another and votes on the best products, in this case, the best JBL headphones. Once we cast our votes, we keep our ears open to new and worthy products that get released. That way, we can update this list at a moment’s notice so you always have the most up-to-date data to inform your purchasing decision.
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Frequently asked questions about the best JBL headphones
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. Beats may be the way to go if you want the convenience of Beats’ compatibility with Apple devices.