Best JBL headphones Android Central 2021
JBL isn't as popular as it once was, but the brand still makes some great headphones and other audio products, especially at reasonable price points. The JBL Live 660NC are our best overall pick for having excellent sound, battery life, and comfort. But we've gathered a handful of other reliable options for different budgets and lifestyles to ensure you get your hands on the best JBL headphones for your needs.
- Best overall: JBL Live 660 BTNC
- Best workout buds: JBL Under Armour Flash X
- Best on-ear: JBL Live 400BT
- Best in-ear: JBL Tour Pro+ TWS
- Best over-ear: JBL Tour One
- Best true wireless buds: JBL UA True Wireless Flash
- Best value: JBL Tune T120TWS True Wireless
Best overall: JBL Live 660NC
The JBL Live 660NC are an incremental upgrade from their 650 predecessors, so a lot of what was already there will be easy to find here. One of the main draws was battery life, and that continues to be a focus with the 660NC by raising it to up to 40 hours of playback per charge with ANC on.
Not only that, but in a nod to attract a wider subset of users, JBL tweaked the default sound signature to feel more neutral, so the heavier bass presence is something you'll have to bring in via JBL's My Headphones app. Sound quality benefits, as a result, and the slightly improved active noise cancelation (ANC) performance is also nice to see. It continues to struggle a little in drowning out certain frequencies, but no less a step in the right direction.
While they are comfortable to wear, they can be a bit cumbersome due to their size. However, JBL only made minor changes to the design, so these should ultimately feel very similar on your ears by comparison. The larger cups do a nice job of passive isolation and generate warmer ears after wearing them for longer periods so that you may need more frequent breaks in between. It is a subjective thing, though, so you may find them to be snug and cozy just the same.
JBL also upgraded the charging port to USB-C, so no need to worry about using a Micro-USB cable to fill them up. Using the faster throughput also enables fast charging, which should get you up to four hours of playback with just a 10-minute charge.
- Long battery life
- Solid and neutral sound signature
- Great comfort in short bursts
- Good ANC performance
- USB-C and fast charging
- Not a huge upgrade over 650
- Cumbersome build
- Earcups can get warm after extended use
Best workout buds: JBL Under Armour Flash X
The JBL Under Armour Flash X are indeed a sequel to the previous pair bearing the same name, only the upgrade here is incremental, rather than a big leap. Still, there are plenty of things to like about this package, starting with the rugged IPX7 rating that all but ensures you can sweat and get these wet without worrying too much about it. Of course, you'd best stay away from saltwater, but in a lake, pool, or tub, you won't go wrong. TalkThru and Ambient Aware can also keep you apprised of your surroundings as you work out or run, adding safety to your listening pleasure.
JBL kept things fresh with the sound signature, which has a more balanced tonality than you'd expect from workout buds. Instead of the bass dominating the soundstage, mids and highs get their time to shine, too. It makes for a more accessible sound to wearers who aren't always looking for the deepest thump on every track. Unfortunately, there's no proper app support to take the sound further, which is a shame for something at this price.
Battery life is excellent at up to 10 hours per charge, but expect that to drop further the louder you go. The case delivers another four full charges, so you shouldn't have to refill it all that often. Strangely, there's no fast charging, so if you are going to fill up, it will take two hours from empty.
The bulky design may not feel comfortable for all ears, so it's hard to say how good they'll feel. The ear tips and wings can keep them in place well enough, but what's critical is whether you can get a good seal or not.
- IPX7 water resistance
- Excellent comfort and stability
- Fun sound signature
- Superb battery life
- 12-month Map My Run subscription
- Thicker body
- Lacks app support
- No fast charging
Best on-ear: JBL Live 400BT
While not as popular as they once were, on-ear headphones are still fantastic for a handful of reasons, including great sound without complete isolation. Enter the JBL Live 400BT, the best on-ear headphone the company currently offers.
The JBL Live 400BT perform excellently with an overall balanced sound signature. The bass is a bit boosted, giving them a slightly warmer sound. However, thanks to their on-ear design, the bass response is highly inconsistent. In some cases, the bass will be vastly boosted, while other times, the bass can sound underwhelming. Dynamic range is good, but the soundstage is small, and instrument separation isn't all that great.
However, battery life is superb with up to 24 hours of battery life on a single charge. Unfortunately, there's no fast charging, which means you'll be stuck waiting for roughly two hours to charge from an empty battery. The Live 400BT also charge over micro-USB, which isn't ideal as the world continues to move to USB-C.
Comfort is decent at best, thanks to the on-ear design. However, the ear cup will more than likely come into contact with the top of your ears as the cups aren't that large. Fortunately, you won't have any issues with warmth on your ear or discomfort towards the crown of your head. They are also fairly lightweight and portable, making them super easy to tuck away in your bag when you're done using them.
- Great sound quality
- Long battery life
- Lightweight and portable
- Comfort is OK
- Micro-USB for charging
- No fast charging
Best in-ear: JBL Tour Pro+ TWS
The Tour Pro+ TWS represent a new line for JBL, and the focus seems to be on an expectation of quality above all else. There are certainly design treatments to make the aesthetics match the intentions, but in any case, these earbuds are among the best JBL has made to date. With a nice and effective sound to start with, it's JBL's My Headphones app that offers far more customization through its onboard EQ. Tinker with that, create and save your own presets, and you aren't likely to be disappointed.
JBL also made strides with call quality, delivering the kind of performance not really available in the Live Pro+ TWS earbuds. ANC performance is also better in that regard, suggesting that the Tour line will be a cut above the Pro line going forward.
As for comfort, the app does offer a fit test to help find the perfect seal for your ears. Assuming you do get them right, the earbuds should feel sturdy, yet lightweight. The onboard controls are neat in that they audibly tell you when you tapped the right way, except the custom settings force you to go with "groups" of controls, not assigning them individually.
Battery life is reasonable at six hours per charge with ANC on. Turn it off, and you might stretch it to eight hours — all depending on volume level, of course. The case, which also supports wireless charging, gives you another three full charges. And when you need to add some juice, plug in for five minutes for an hour's worth of playback.
- Great sound quality
- Excellent comfort
- Great app support
- Improved call quality
- Fast charging
- Bizarre grouping for onboard controls
Best over-ear: JBL Tour One
The JBL Tour One are not just any pair of over-ear headphones. They're a company making a statement. These headphones are packed with an array of features with the clear intention to compete against the best in the business. Sound quality is superb and an improvement over what JBL has previously done. Hi-res audio fans will also love that the headphones go up to the 40kHz frequency range, certifying them for hi-res playback. Whatever your preference to hear those tracks, the Tour One can make it happen when you plug in with the included cable.
The My JBL Headphones app figures prominently throughout because it controls so many of the onboard features. Anytime you want to tweak the audio, use the app's EQ to do it. For example, adaptive ANC will adjust noise cancelation automatically based on how many background sounds you're immersed in. Likewise, SilentNow will kick in ANC without music when you need peace and quiet. Even Google Assistant will pipe up by simply saying the wake word — no hands necessary.
They are comfortable to wear, finding the right balance. And that matters when looking at 25 hours of playback with ANC on. Turn it off, and it goes up to 50 hours, depending on volume levels. Call quality is superb, thanks to the 4-mic array managing to amplify voices over all else.
- Very comfortable to wear
- Solid sound quality
- Certified for hi-res audio
- Hands-free Google Assistant
- Excellent app support
- Decent battery life
- Adaptive ANC isn't bulletproof
Best true wireless buds: JBL Live Pro+ TWS
JBL put a heavier emphasis on good bass, and a thicker overall sound signature with the Live Pro+ TWS, and that should feel perfect when you're looking for that kind of thump between your ears. The key to it all is the equalizer in JBL's My Headphones app, which helps orient sound how you might like it. Its presence is even more tremendous when considering how the default sound changes because of the onboard ANC.
They are comfortable to wear, in part because of the five different ear tips available out of the box. Finding a good seal shouldn't be hard with all those options, and their lightweight design makes them easier to enjoy while being leisurely. They aren't especially rugged with their IPX4 rating, but you could break a little sweat with them. Just keep them clear of too much water.
Bluetooth hiccups and inconsistent call quality do sully what is otherwise a good pair of earbuds. A shame, too, since the ANC and ambient performance is solid. Battery life is also pretty good at up to six hours per charge with ANC on. The case, which also supports wireless charging, gives you another three charges for all-day playback.
- Excellent audio quality
- Comfortable fit
- Decent ANC performance
- More direct voice assistant access
- OK battery life
- Good app support
- Finicky touch controls
- Inconsistent call quality
- Random audio cutouts
Best value: JBL Tune T120TWS True Wireless
If you're looking for the best bang for your buck and want to stick with JBL, the Tune T120TWS True Wireless are your best bet. In terms of sound quality, they are bass boosted quite a bit. In addition, the mids and treble are balanced, giving them a warmer, bass-heavy sound overall.
In terms of comfort, the Tune T120TWS True Wireless are excellent. The earbuds are super small and the ear tips don't shove in your ear canal. As a result, you won't experience any discomfort or fatigue from them unless you're not a huge fan of bass, which could be an issue.
For battery life, you'll get four hours of audio playback on the buds themself, with an additional 12 hours with the charging case, netting you a total of 16 hours of battery life, which isn't bad by any means. You'll also get fast charging, with a 15-minute charge adding an extra hour of charging time on the case. Unfortunately, you're stuck with Micro-USB here when it comes to charging the included charging case.
- Long battery life (buds + case)
- Excellent, bass-heavy sound
- Superb comfort
- Fast charging capable case
- Micro-USB for charging
- Could be uncomfortable for those who don't like bass
JBL may not be the kind of audio brand it used to be, but it still holds a steady reputation for making solid audio products, including headphones, at a reasonable price. This group of headphones partly represents a desire to change the perception and make the company more relevant. With the variety of choices, don't count JBL out. They're not on the best wireless headphones list, but could make a move there if this keeps up.
The JBL Live 660NC are the best all-around headphones the company makes. They offer great battery life, solid ANC performance, and a superb warm sound signature many people will love. The best the company has made to date, purely on performance and specs, would go to the JBL Tour One.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Peter Cao is constantly listening to and analyzing headphones and earbuds. When he's not on the clock, he plays video games or listening to even more headphones.
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar.
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