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Best JBL headphones
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 May 3, 2022, to include a disclosure box regarding old test data, add information about the JBL Tune 510BT, and to add in-line FAQs.
Why is the JBL Tour ONE the best JBL headphones?
Those looking to nab the best JBL headphones ought to try the JBL Tour ONE. At $225 USD it’s certainly one of the pricier sets by JBL, but also one of the most kitted out. With a subdued metal and plush build, you get tactile buttons and a touchpad for basically every function. It also ships with an always handy headphone jack in addition to Bluetooth 5.0 using AAC and SBC codecs with multipoint.
The JBL Tour ONE uses active noise cancelling (ANC), and it comes with two modes: adaptive sound ANC (to adjust with your environment) and a normal ANC that works continuously. It also has ambient sound presets so you can filter out the world, or let some in. The noise cancelling won’t best say Bose QuietComfort 45 or Sony WH-1000XM4, but it’ll certainly help. With ANC activated the Tour ONE supplies 25 hours of battery, or 50 hours with it off, which is an excellent lifespan. It charges via USB-C and 10 minutes tops you up another 120 minutes. JBL gave the headset a four-mic array for all your Zoom call needs too.
JBL has really hammered down its app support and the Tour ONE is a good example of that. Like most JBL products it tends to favor an under-emphasized treble response, however, with the equalizer (EQ) in the JBL Headphones app you can really adjust the sound to your liking any which way.
Break a sweat in the Under Armour Project Rock Over-Ear Training Headphones by JBL
The next iteration in the JBL and Under Armour collaboration does pretty much everything you need. While this headset made with the advisements of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is geared towards gym goers, it works well for commuters too with its folding design, ANC mode, and long battery life of 41 hours and 13 minutes. It even comes with a headphone jack.
The over-ear design helps ensure a good seal. While the washable mesh ear cups keep things comfortable, though sometimes warm. An IPX4 sweatproof rating rounds out a worry-free gym experience, and big buttons help you make adjustments on the fly. Meanwhile, TalkThru, as well as, transparency modes help you converse with your workout buddy.
Newer updates like USB-C charging, Bluetooth 5.0, and dedicated My JBL Headphones app with EQ keep this headset with the times. The default frequency response is quite bass forward. You can, however, just use that in-app EQ if you want something more accurate. What’s nice about Project Rock is that you can really use it for more than just the gym, easily justifying the hefty price tag.
The JBL 650BTNC is great for daily use
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.
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 ANC. Sure, it can’t outperform the Apple AirPods Max or Sony WH-1000XM4, but it’s among the best you can get for around $150.
Microphone quality rates as 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, your voice can sound “muffled” or “distant.” The mic’s inability to filter out background noise and focus on the speaker’s voice won’t help either.
That depends on what you want out of a headset. The LIVE 660NC has a USB-C charging input rather than the outdated microUSB input on the 650NC. JBL also improved the battery life on the 660NC which lasts up to 50 hours, whereas the 650NC lasts just 20 hours according to JBL. Like the older model, you still have a headphone jack for wired playback. Both models have active noise cancelling, though it should be improved with the newer model. We haven’t been able to test it yet but will update this section once we do.
Forget about wires with the JBL Endurance Peak II
JBL’s headset lineup has quite a few wireless options and among our favorites is the JBL Endurance Peak II, a set of IPX7 earbuds with 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, making the earbuds comfortable to wear for hours at a time.
Battery life is above average, and the earbuds last for 6 hours before requiring a charge in the USB-C case, which doesn’t support fast charging. 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 and either earbud can be used in full mono mode. Listening in mono mode limits the onboard control functionality, however.
Save money with the JBL Tune 510BT
Listeners who don’t want to push beyond $50USD should get the JBL Tune 510BT. Its Spartan design keeps costs low without sacrificing usability, and it still has four colorway options to suit your style. This pair of on-ear headphones has 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 supports 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 kind of 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 not too much 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 cancelling should consider the JBL Club Pro Plus. Compared to some of the other TWS offerings such as the Reflect Flow Pro, the Club Pro Plus ANC tramples most of the lineup. Also, you can nab it for under $80 USD renewed.
It’s not perfect and sometimes the buds don’t sit perfectly in the case to charge. 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 CLUB 950NC: This premium noise cancelling headset features adaptive ANC that automatically adjusts to your environment. It has a huge 2,000mAh battery and a dedicated Google Assistant button.
- 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 is 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.
- JBL Reflect Flow Pro: The Reflect Flow Pro has a pleasing, albeit bass-heavy sound to it and an IP68 rating. If you need noise cancelling earbuds full of software features, this is a great option and a worthy adversary to the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
- JBL TUNE 230NC: This is a decent set of noise cancelling true wireless earbuds suitable for fans of bass-forward buds that still sound good. ANC ranks as okay, but not amazing.
- Under Armour Train Sport Wireless On-Ear Bluetooth Gym Headphones by JBL: The precursor to the Project Rock Over-Ear Training Headphones, this headset runs cheaper on some older tech, with a shorter battery life, though it’s smaller because it fits on-ears instead.
- Under Armour True Wireless FLASH X by JBL: This set of IPX7-rated earbuds can withstand complete submersion for up to 30 minutes. It also includes a 12-month premium membership to MapMyRun.
Hold up! Something’s different:
Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. We also have new standardized microphone demos, but it will take a while to update our backlog of old test results. We will update this list (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and isolation performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white). Each new mic sample begins with the phrase, “This is a SoundGuys standardized microphone demonstration …”
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
Check out these JBL gaming headsets
- JBL Quantum 50: Mobile gamers will get plenty of use out of these gaming in-ears that cost just $29 USD. 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: This is a solid gaming headset if your budget ends at $100 USD. You get good sound quality, a comfortable fit, and software that works on Mac and PC.
- JBL Quantum 400: 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
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 cancelling?
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 cancelling 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 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.
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 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.
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.
See also: How we test
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.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
Each writer has years of experience reporting on the consumer audio market, and SoundGuys adheres to a strict ethics policy. We don’t use sponsored content on the website at a time when doing so is the norm. Our survival as a publication depends solely on readers being happy with their purchases, and we pride ourselves on offering objective facts combined with subjective experience to contextualize an audio product’s performance. When we do make a mistake, we correct and own up to it.
Frequently asked questions about 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. If you want the convenience of Beats’ compatibility with Apple devices, Beats may be the way to go.