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The JBL Tunes 230NC TWS earbuds shown outside and next to the charging case on a wooden surface.

JBL Tune 230NC TWS review

On-the-go earbuds fit for workouts and commutes.
By
May 16, 2022
7.4
JBL Tune 230NC TWS
The bottom line
Fitness and commuting suit the JBL Tune 230NC TWS and its quirks likely won't get in the way in these scenarios. The noise cancelling, while convenient, won't blow you away and the fit is hard to get right. Still, if you can forgive its handful of drawbacks, you'll find a lot to like about these earbuds.

JBL Tune 230NC TWS

Fitness and commuting suit the JBL Tune 230NC TWS and its quirks likely won't get in the way in these scenarios. The noise cancelling, while convenient, won't blow you away and the fit is hard to get right. Still, if you can forgive its handful of drawbacks, you'll find a lot to like about these earbuds.
Release date

September 2, 2021

Price

Originally: $99.95 USD

May 2022: $79.95 USD

Dimensions

60 x 45 x 25 mm

Weight

10g (earbuds in total)

48g (case)

Model Number

JBLT230NCTWSBAM, JBLT230NCTWSUAM, JBLT230NCTWSWAM

Waterproof

IPX4

What we like
Lightweight
Sound quality
App with equalizer
Many configuration options
Price
What we don't like
Tricky to fit right
Unstable charging case
Annoying usage quirks
Only AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs
ANC is just OK
7.4
SoundGuys Rating
7.8
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Sound Quality
9.6
8.6
9.0
Bass
9.3
8.3
8.0
Midrange
9.8
8.6
9.0
Highs
9.7
8.3
8.0
Isolation / Attenuation
3.5
7.9
8.0
Active Noise Cancelling
5.1
7.1
7.0
Durability / Build Quality
8.0
8.7
9.0
Value
7.0
7.8
8.0
Design
7.0
7.6
8.0
Connectivity
5.5
7.1
7.0
Microphone
6.5
4.7
5.0
Portability
8.0
8.3
8.0
Battery Life
7.5
7.4
7.0
Feature
9.0
8.3
8.0
Comfort
6.0
8.3
8.0

JBL might be known for its rugged Bluetooth speakers, but the JBL Tune 230NC TWS aims to bring the brand’s signature sound to earbuds, too. These earbuds boast a lightweight build and the manufacturer claims the buds contain plenty of audio tricks. Marketing speak aside, they feel a lot like many earbuds around today.

Is the JBL Tune 230NC TWS good enough to earn a spot in your ears?

Editor’s note: this JBL Tune 230NC TWS review was updated on May 16, 2022 to add FAQs, update prices, and include a microphone score based on the results of the microphone poll.

Who is the JBL Tune 230NC TWS for?

  • Workout enthusiasts will appreciate the lightweight build of the JBL Tune 230NC TWS and its ability to stay in the ears even during head movements and likely won’t mind that they lose their seal slightly.
  • Commuters who need to hear stop announcements will like the ability of the JBL Tune 230NC TWS to let in more ambient noise if desired.

What’s it like to use the JBL Tune 230NC TWS?

The JBL Tune 230NC TWS being worn in two photos in the left and right ears, respectively.
The JBL Tune 230NC TWS is supposed to sit at a rather high angle in your ears, but I quickly find this arrangement uncomfortable for my right ear.

JBL produces some of our favorite portable Bluetooth speakers, and there’s some clear audio pedigree behind the JBL Tune 230NC TWS. These lightweight buds are only 10g and come with three sizes of silicone ear tips to choose from. My ears fit the large size, but if you have smaller ears, then the size range will likely suit you well. An IPX4 rating means these earbuds stand up to splashes, sweat, and drips.

The JBL Tune 230NC TWS can feel itchy and JBL’s product photography shows them sitting at a rather extreme angle in the ears, which is pretty uncomfortable—the ear tips don’t conform to the shape of my ear well. Turning the right earbud down toward the shoulder is a little more comfortable for me. However, this lessens the effectiveness of the seal and makes the bud slowly slide out of my ear a bit—it doesn’t fall out, but the isolation takes a hit. Chewing, smiling, and other facial movements also tend to move that bud around as a result. If you don’t struggle getting earbuds to stay in your ears, this may not apply.

The JBL Tunes 230NC TWS earbuds shown outside and next to the charging case on a wooden surface.
The JBL Tunes 230NC TWS only fits in its case in one orientation, which helps you see which side is which.

The JBL Tune 230NC charging case holds the earbuds pretty securely, but opening the case will cause it to tip backward if you set it down on its narrow end. The case is necessary for charging the earbuds themselves—so don’t lose it. If you drop it, the lid will open and send the buds flying in random directions, too.

Both the case and the buds themselves have small “L” and “R” markings on them. Unfortunately, each is a raised, black letter on a black background. That might be difficult to see for people with impaired vision. It would be better to have different colors, textures, or shapes indicating each side, instead. Helpfully, the buds only fit properly in one orientation in the case.

How do you control the JBL Tune 230NC TWS?

The JBL Tune 230NC TWS charging case lying next to a keyboard on a desk with the right earbud inside of it and the left earbud lying next to it.
The JBL Tune 230NC TWS features a black-on-black color scheme and small areas at the top of each bud to aim at for touch controls, which is not the most accessible of design choices.

You can set each JBL Tune 230NC TWS earbud to control different things using a series of taps, from one to three or tap-and-hold. For, instance, tapping the right bud once to play/pause content, twice to skip forward, and thrice to skip back. This works, but your taps have to be quite intentional and focused on the small upper part of the earbud. You’ll likely need a little practice to master it. Here’s what the controls are by default:

ModeSingle tapDouble tapTriple tapTap-and-hold
Mode
Playback control
Single tap
Play/pause
Double tap
Next track
Triple tap
Previous track
Tap-and-hold
Activate phone's voice assistant
Mode
Ambient Sound control
Single tap
Noise Canceling/Ambient Aware/off (in that order per single tap)
Double tap
TalkThru on/off
Triple tap

Tap-and-hold
Activate phone's voice assistant
Mode
Volume control
Single tap
Volume +1
Double tap
Volume -1
Triple tap

Tap-and-hold
Activate phone's voice assistant
Mode
Voice assistant (*specifics may vary by assistant)
Single tap
Cancel assistant*
Double tap
Assistant notification call out*
Triple tap
*
Tap-and-hold
Talk to assistant*

You can also set your voice assistant to the tap controls on one of the earbuds. That way, you don’t have to pull your phone out of your pocket to access it. This makes for a handy feature when you’re commuting or exercising.

Should you download the JBL Headphones app?

Three screenshots of the The JBL Tunes 230NC TWS earbuds' JBL Headphones app showing from left to right the equalizer, home screen, and additional configuration options.
The JBL Tunes 230NC TWS uses the JBL Headphones app, and it comes with many configuration options plus an equalizer.

The JBL Tune 230NC TWS uses the JBL Headphones app (iOS and Android). The app contains some pretty essential configuration options, so it is best to install it. Inside, you’ll find quick access shortcuts to the ANC controls, the Ambient sound mode, and the Smart Audio & Video functions. Tapping the gear-shaped icon in the upper right brings up many more options such as mapping different tap controls to each bud. The Find My Buds feature will cause the JBL Tune 230NC TWS to emit a loud screech to help you locate it, so don’t activate that when wearing these buds.

The JBL Portable app also contains an equalizer, which offers a way to fine tune the buds’ playback. Plus, you can see the battery status of each bud and the case itself on the home screen.

What Bluetooth codecs does the JBL Tune 230NC TWS support?

The JBL Tunes 230NC TWS earbuds shown next to a smartphone and the charging case on a wooden table.
The JBL Tunes 230NC TWS does not support Bluetooth multipoint, so it is easiest to keep it synced to your phone at all times.

The JBL Tune 230NC TWS uses Bluetooth 5.2 and supports the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. That means users in the Apple ecosystem can take advantage of AAC, but Android users don’t get aptX or any other high-quality options. In an attempt to make up for this, the JBL Headphones app offers three playback modes: Normal, Audio, and Video. The last mode is meant to combat audio-visual lag, and while it is better than Audio mode, it’s hardly perfect.

In Mane Na Meri Balma, Roona Laila sings as the actors lip-sync and dance. Yet the dancers’ ankle bells, the soundtrack, and their movements sometimes don’t quite match in Video mode. While the delay isn’t drastic, it could negatively affect your performance during fast-paced video games, for instance.

The JBL Tune 239NC TWS automatically enters pairing mode when you remove it from the charging case. There is no support for Bluetooth multipoint. To put the earbuds into pairing mode once more, you must put them back in the case and take them out or tap and then tap-and-hold a bud until they re-enter syncing. Make sure the last device’s Bluetooth signal is off before doing so, otherwise they may connect to it again instead.

How long does the battery last on the JBL Tune 230NC TWS?

The The JBL Tunes 230NC TWS charging case open and tipped backward lying on a white surface.
The JBL Tunes 230NC TWS comes with a charging case that tips over when you open the lid.

JBL claims that the Tune 230NC TWS earbuds can last for up to 10 hours without noise canceling plus another 30 hours from the charging case. Activating noise canceling brings this down to 8 hours for the buds and 24 hours from the case. These earbuds produce a tone once they drop below 50% battery that plays again every 10% until depleted, which can get annoying. The app does not contain an obvious way to disable this feature, either. You’ll need the case to charge the buds. They come with a short USB-A to USB-C cable, but not a power adapter. Note that the hole in the charging case is cut quite close to the shape of the included cable, so third-party cables might not fit.

Our standard headphone battery test uses music played back continuously with a 75dB (SPL) maximum output level measured at the eardrum of our test head. The JBL Tune 230NC TWS lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes with ANC enabled. That means JBL’s battery life estimate is pretty accurate and you’ll get through listening to songs at work, but will need the charging case before tackling the gym afterward.

How well does the JBL Tune 230NC TWS block noise?

A chart of a the JBL Tune 230NC TWS ability to block out noise; the earbuds do not do well blocking out sub-bass and bass sounds, but do a decent job of blocking out mids.
The JBL Tune 230NC TWS does a decent job blocking out mids but not bass or sub-bass noises while highs are dealt with via isolation alone, not ANC.

The active noise cancelling (ANC) and isolation of the JBL Tune 230NC TWS aren’t great, but you can change the way the ANC deals with ambient sounds to suit your needs in the JBL Headphones app. These buds definitely can’t block out all the noise you’d run into from traffic and other sources while commuting. Isolation is tricky because of these buds’ tendency to slide out slightly, too. Isolation is how these earbuds block out highs, so screeching car horns will make it to your ears unless you get a superb seal.

Turning ANC off can be useful, though. It lets in more noise, but also gives you the ability to clearly hear stop announcements on the bus, for example. TalkThru mode lets you talk to people or order a coffee without removing the buds (but you have to manually pause content). If you want to strike a balance between extremes, there is Ambient Aware mode, too.

How does the JBL Tune 230NC TWS sound?

JBL products are known for a certain frequency response, heavily influenced by the Harman Target—understandable, since JBL is part of the same company as Harman. We found these match our (calculated and very much unofficial) projected target quite well, though the JBL Tune 230NC boosts bass a little bit more and somewhat underemphasizes mids—not unusual for in-ears. JBL claims these earbuds deliver “pure bass, zero noise,” and while there’s always going to be some noise over a wireless signal: it’s not an issue here. Likely that’s a reference to the brand’s reputation for bass-heavy sound and the included ANC. Hype aside, if you remember that these aren’t studio monitors—rather earphones for commuting and exercising—you’ll likely enjoy what you hear.

Lows, mids, and highs

The JBL Tune 230NC TWS earbuds' frequency response chart; it boosts sub-bass notes more than bass notes, while tracking pretty close to the ideal SoundGuys response curve for mids and highs.
The JBL Tune 230NC TWS earbuds boost sub-bass notes more than bass notes while tracking mids pretty accurately and then deviating in the highs.

Pop songs and commuting music do well through the JBL Tune 230NC TWS. For example, Oh No! by Marina opens with a literal bang and thumping drums while her voice is audible over them. Similarly, Rent by Big Freedia showcases her powerful vocals while the New Orleans Bounce instrumentation comes through well.

These earbuds do well distinguishing between the vocals of Kali Kali Badli as sung by Nooran Lal and the drums, cymbals, and flutes. Plus, at around the 1:47 mark, where Nooran glides between notes (called meend in Hindi/Urdu), the transitions are as smooth as you’d hope them to be.

All of this only remains true if the earbuds remain firmly in your ear. If they slide out even a little, the bass will drain out of whatever you’re listening to, and auditory masking due to external noise could become an issue. Finding better-fitting ear tips would be a boon here.

Can you use the JBL Tune 230NC TWS for phone calls?

The JBL Tune 230NC TWS has four microphones total, and does a fairly good job at handling voice calls—at least, provided your network or carrier can handle it. Call control is always accessible whenever a call comes in on either earbud, too. When one comes in, double-tapping answers while tap-and-hold rejects. In a call, double-tapping again will hang up, and tapping-and-holding again will mute or unmute the earbuds’ mic. Phone conversations are audible for both parties and background noise doesn’t mask either person’s words.

JBL Tune 230NC TWS microphone sample:

How does the microphone sound to you?

2508 votes

Should you buy the JBL Tune 230NC TWS?

The JBL Tunes 230NC TWS earbuds in the charging case which is upright because it is carefully resting on a curved white surface.
The charging case that comes with the JBL Tunes 230NC TWS can balance upright when open if you set it just right on a curved surface.

If you like to listen to your favorite music while commuting or exercising, the Tune 230NC TWS makes for a good companion. You can adjust these earbuds’ noise canceling while on the go, which is handy for ordering a coffee or hearing stop announcements. And because they’re sweat- and splashproof, using them during workouts won’t be a cause for concern, either. Plus, mastering the tap controls gives you quick access to your voice assistant. That’s sure to be useful to catch up on notifications or ask for directions on a busy day, too. But as good as this all sounds, the Tune 230NC TWS just isn’t very comfortable. Plus, its odd usage quirks like chirping as the battery dips below 50% and an unstable charging case make it less appealing as a whole.

See also: JBL LIVE 300 TWS review

JBL Tune 230NC TWS
All prices listed in USD unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and vary by region. Unfortunately, we cannot list Amazon prices on the site, as they vary greatly by currency.

What should you get instead of the JBL Tune 230NC TWS?

If you want earbuds that are great for getting around, the Bose Sport Earbuds also let in ambient noise (but cannot block it out, either) so commuters can use it on the go. Meanwhile, the Jabra Elite Active 75t has noise canceling, multipoint, passthrough, and more plus an IP57 rating. Both of these options are more expensive than the JBL Tune 230NC TWS, though. If you want noise canceling at a similar price point, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is still more expensive than the JBL Tune 230NC TWS, but not as much as the other two previous options. They only have an IPX2 rating, however.

Frequently asked questions about the JBL Tune 230NC TWS

No, the JBL Tune 230NC TWS doesn’t have any sort of wearing detection.

We’ve actually got a full guide to using headphones and earphones with your TV. In sum, however, it depends on your TV. Using either its volume controls or adjusting the volume using the buds themselves should be the basic gist of it.

No, the JBL Tune 230NC TWS must connect together to your device. You could try using third-party options or setting your device to only play audio from one side, but the buds themselves can’t do that.