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JBL Club Pro Plus
October 25, 2020
As of 12/21/2021: $79 USD
5.5 x 5 x 3 cm
69g (earbud + case)
JBL has its fingers in a lot of audio pies these days, from Bluetooth speakers to gaming headsets and more—you name it, JBL has done it. Now the company is back with another pair of true wireless earbuds, the JBL Club Pro Plus. These earbuds bring active noise cancelling (ANC), various EQ options, and more.
Is that enough to differentiate these true wireless earphones from all the 0thers?
Editor’s note: this JBL Club Pro Plus review was updated on December 20, 2021, to include the JBL Reflect Flow Pro as an alternative, to update the frequency response chart, and to update the scoring with results from our reader poll.
Who is the JBL Club Pro Plus for?
What is it like to use the JBL Club Pro Plus?
If you’ve used a pair of true wireless earbuds before, the JBL Club Pro Plus should feel like pretty standard fare. The company bills these new earbuds as the ones to get if you need something that’s ready for anything, and that’s largely true.
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The JBL Club Pro Plus is made mainly of plastic, as is its charging case, which helps keep things lightweight. The earbuds feature touch-sensitive panels that offer a decent spread of onboard controls, which you can adjust in the My JBL Headphones app.
The buds feature a molded shape meant to nestle snugly into your ear, but whether it successfully manages this depends on your particular ear shape. There are no additional stabilizers like ear fins or hooks, so getting a decent seal with the properly sized ear tip is very important (especially if your ear shape isn’t suited to the shape of the bud). Fortunately, the JBL Club Pro Plus comes with three different sizes of silicone ear tip, so finding a decent fit shouldn’t be too hard.
The case is a little thick, compared to similarly shaped ones from the likes of the Apple AirPods or the Google Pixel Buds A-Series, but it still fits in a pocket just fine. Magnets hold the earbuds in place when you store them for charging, though insufficient connection with the charging contacts still happens—this is actually a rather persistent issue. I routinely have to fiddle with one bud or the other to make sure they’re both charging, otherwise I’ll pull them out and run into a situation where one is full and the other barely has any juice left. This can mean more than just being forced into mono listening occasionally (something the earbuds support, which is nice).
Much like with pretty much every other pair of true wireless earbuds, the JBL Club Pro Plus breaks its connection with your paired device when you store it in the charging case. However, since either bud can pair with your device, if the charging connection doesn’t happen for both earbuds, one will stay paired. This drains the earbud battery even more, and it makes answering phone calls kind of a pain if you’ve walked away from wherever you left the buds to charge.
Should you download the JBL My Headphones app?
When both earbuds are adequately charged, the JBL Club Pro Plus is pretty nice to use, and the MY JBL Headphones app is a big part of that. The earbuds’ companion app lets you switch between active noise cancelling modes, transparency modes, and select a connection mode to prioritize connection stability, sound quality, or audio-visual sync. You can also set on-ear controls, assigning profiles like volume control, playback control, ambient sound control, and more to either the left or right ear. Unfortunately, this means you’ll need to switch back and forth in the app if you make a habit of just listening with one earbud.
The available ANC modes are Everyday, which is the maximum noise cancelling, and Active, which is meant for people exercising outdoors and blocks less noise overall so you don’t miss cars while running. Similarly, the transparency mode (called Ambient Sound Control here) lets you switch between Ambient Sound Aware, which prioritizes the sounds of things like traffic coming through over the earbuds’ microphones, and TalkThru, which focuses on picking up speech. You can also just shut either of these features off whenever you like.
MY JBL Headphones also features EQ profiles associated with different well-known DJs like Martin Garrix, Tigerlily, and more—no doubt where the Club in the name comes from. It also offers a custom EQ feature where you can curve a line across the frequency spectrum as you like to increase or decrease output.
How well does the JBL Club Pro Plus cancel noise?
The JBL Club Pro Plus features decent isolation and above-average ANC performance for a pair of true wireless earbuds. It doesn’t approach the high water mark of something like the Sony WF-1000XM4, but attenuation like this should make the rumble of nearby traffic or the sounds of transit considerably quieter.
Turning on ANC should render sounds in the low-mid range, especially around 250Hz, at one eighth their regular volume. Walking down the sidewalk of a busy street with ANC turned on won’t eliminate traffic noises, but a lot of engine sounds will go away, making cars sound a little like faraway power saws.
How is the JBL Club Pro Plus battery life?
According to JBL, the Club Pro Plus can last up to 6 hours on a single charge with ANC turned on, and that’s not too far off. At a consistent output of ~75dB, the left earbud of the JBL Club Pro Plus lasted 5 hours, 23 minutes, while the right one lasted 5 hours, 53 minutes—some degree of difference between the earbuds is expected, as it’s largely the nature of how true wireless earbuds work. According to JBL, the earbuds should last up to 8 hours with ANC off, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the buds approached that number. Either way, there’s nothing especially impressive here.
JBL also claims the charging case has enough charge for 18 hours of ANC audio, or 24 hours of non-ANC audio, and we haven’t seen anything to dispute that throughout the review period. However, it is admittedly hard to get a sense of the case’s charge capacity given how frequently one earbud or the other doesn’t make the connection it needs to begin charging. The case also supports wireless charging with Qi-compatible charging pads.
How does the JBL Club Pro Plus connect?
The JBL Club Pro Plus connects to devices using Bluetooth 5.1, which means it won’t ever be compatible with features like Bluetooth LE Audio and the LC3 codec (which will launch using the 5.2 firmware). The true wireless earbuds support the default SBC Bluetooth codec and AAC, which means there isn’t a reliable high-quality option for Android users either. AAC will work fine most of the time, but it’s definitely tailored to Apple devices, and doesn’t operate as efficiently elsewhere.
How does the JBL Club Pro Plus sound?
The JBL Club Pro Plus sticks very closely to our target curve pretty much across the frequency spectrum. This shouldn’t come as much surprise; like most test targets, ours is influenced by the Harman curve, and both Harman and JBL are Samsung subsidiaries. There’s a little more under-emphasis than we’d like to see with the upper-bass and midrange response, but otherwise music of all genres should sound quite nice coming out of these earbuds.
Lows, mids, and highs
Pineapple by Engelwood sounds really nice coming through the JBL Club Pro Plus—the kick drum comes through with just the right amount of oomph to feel nice without drowning out even the quieter guitar strumming in the background. In Don’t Change by Electric Six, the vocals clearly compete a little bit with the bass guitar, but it’s still easy to hear the song’s layered composition. In a song like this, the rhythm guitar, bass guitar, and lead guitar normally would drown each other out a little, but they come through distinctly with the JBL Club Pro Plus.
Can you use the JBL Club Pro Plus for phone calls?
The JBL Club Pro Plus microphone sounds pretty average for a pair of true wireless earbuds. It does an alright job cutting down on things like wind noise, and it filters out the persistent hum and rumble of things like refrigerators or washing machines. Incidental noise will still come through even if it’s pretty quiet. Basically, this should be fine for phone calls in most situations, but if the cars start honking on your walk, whoever you’re talking to will still hear it. Listen for yourself:
How does the microphone sound to you?
As of December 20, 2021, approximately 75% of participants rated the mic sample somewhere between “okay” and “good,” which is about what you’d expect from a set of true wireless earphones.
Should you buy the JBL Club Pro Plus?
If you want a pair of true wireless earbuds with impressive audio and noise cancelling, you should consider the JBL Club Pro Plus, as long as you’re comfortable with some mundane inconveniences.
On paper, the JBL Club Pro Plus is very compelling. It sounds great, features solid ANC and isolation, and it has an IPX4 rating so you can exercise without worrying about sweat damage. In fairness, most of the time its execution matches that promise, but little things can add up.
The microphone is pretty lackluster, and the lack of a reliable high-quality Bluetooth codec for Android is a shame. While the IP rating is nice to have, these don’t sit securely enough in the ear for a lot of vigorous forms of exercise (like running). The inconsistent charging connection feels like a serious unforced error, and it can drag everything else down—hopping on the bus in the morning and finding one or both earbud is out of juice gets old pretty fast. The JBL Club Pro Plus battery life already isn’t spectacular, but the charging issue can make it feel pretty egregious.
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However, if you don’t mind these kinds of inconveniences, you’ll probably enjoy your time with the JBL Club Pro Plus. As of December 20, 2021, you can get the JBL Club Pro Plus for as little as $79 USD making it an absolute bargain buy.
What should you get instead of the JBL Club Pro Plus?
If workout earbuds are what you’re after, something like the Bose Sport Earbuds retails for less money, sounds great, and features ear hooks that make for a much more secure fit. These earbuds don’t do much for isolation, but you might actually like that if you’re a runner and want to stay aware of your surroundings.
If you’re looking for something with more options overall, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro runs for $199.99 USD, just like the JBL Club Pro Plus, and features more audio codecs, more customizable controls, Spotify integration, as well as more secure fit and higher IP rating. Its battery life is a little worse with ANC turned on, but it also doesn’t have the charging issues of the Club Pro Plus.
Anyone who likes the JBL brand and house sound but wants something a bit more compact should investigate the JBL Reflect Flow Pro. While the ANC on the Reflect Flow Pro isn’t as good as it is with the Club Pro Plus, you get much better battery life with the Flow Pro. The Reflect Flow Pro provides just over 9 hours of listening on a single charge, nearly four hours longer than the Club Pro Plus. Listeners with average-to-small ears will get a more comfortable fit with the JBL Reflect Flow Pro.
Next: The best JBL headphones