I’ve been a fan of JBL for many years. I’ve used their speakers for everything from studio situations to floating in a lake, and I’ve long appreciated how they design their headphones for durability as well as attention to sonic detail. I also appreciate how their product line is wide enough that it spans from the extremely affordable to the slightly more premium, with obvious iteration as you move up the ladder while still getting value for money at all levels. I was thus excited to check out their latest wireless over-the-ear consumer headphones dubbed the JBL Tour One. Would they live up to the company’s reputation? Let’s find out!
Features of JBL Tour One Headphones
- “True Adaptive” Noise Cancellation, including “SilentNow” mode
- “Smart Ambient Aware” and “TalkThru” modes
- Bluetooth 5.0
- 40mm drivers, 10hz-22kz response
- 4 microphones (2 beamforming) for excellent call quality
- Battery life: 50 hours or 25 hours with ANC on
- Foldable design, protective case
- 5mm headphone jack (w/ 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable included)
Unboxing JBL Tour One headphones
From the outset, the JBL Tour One feels like a premium product in this segment. While the outer packaging isn’t so fancy where the unboxing is more appealing than what’s contained within, there’s still a sense of substance that denotes that we’re in for a pretty decent bit of kit. Inside a form-fitting carrying case are the headphones, folded and twisted like some mad Yoga post to basically hug one earpad inside the other, making for a far less bulky thing to schlepp in your bag.
Controls on JBL Tour One headphones
Each earcup on the JBL Tour One headphones has physical button controls to do things like change tracks, play/pause, engage with a virtual assistant or enable/disable noise cancellation. I particularly appreciated the power switch, as it’s easy to find without looking. Pressing slightly past “on” engages Bluetooth pairing mode, a far more elegant and intuitive solution than the normal random button mashing that’s required.
Sound quality of JBL Tour One
Weighing a decidedly svelte 270g, you may be quick to think that the JBL Tour One sound quality would involve pretty paltry drivers with a lack of bass slam. Instead, the 40mm drivers can still move a lot of air quickly and accurately, and I found the sound to be rich without being overly bombastic or brittle. After many hours of listening, I was still able to hear more subtle elements come through clearly and found joy in the music without feeling fatigued.
There are certainly plenty of headphones that’ll blast the sides of your head, but overall I found the sound quite pleasing and quite musical. Listening to everything from podcasts to folk to funk to the thumping electronic sounds of Hans Zimmer’s Dune soundtrack showed these headphones could handle almost anything thrown at them. The treble was never piercing, even at volume, and the bass was never so thumpy that it dominated the mix.
ANC on JBL Tour One headphones
Engaging the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) on the JBL Tour One headphones do change the tonality a bit (one reason I’m often loath to apply it), but to its credit the attenuation was limited.
Furthermore, the application of noise cancellation is actually far more nuanced than with lesser models, adjusting the general volume through their Ambient Aware system and adapting to your own listening level. While the earpads themselves do let a bit more sound in than other competing models and could use a bit more passive sound insulation incorporated in the shells, I found that even walking on busy streets the need for engaging ANC wasn’t high.
One pretty great feature is the ability to turn on ANC when there’s no music playing, essentially using them like those construction earmuffs to drown out the world while either napping or just wanting to chill out. Frankly, that’s a feature I’d use more than ANC during music playback, and it’s a pretty cool trick.
Phone call quality on Tour One
Call quality and voice dictation were excellent thanks to the four built-in microphones, and call quality is superior to almost any other device I’ve tested.
Overall, I think the sound with these headphones is better than me holding my headset to the side of my face, a welcome feature for those of us who still like to communicate without our thumbs tapping on glass.
All hail the minijack
As pleased as I was with its wireless performance (there’s no APTX or LDAC for higher resolution audio, unfortunately), that was trumped when I got to bypass the internal amplification and use my portable music player. This is not to denigrate the built-in sound, merely to say that I can get the most of the engineering of these fine headphones by directly plugging them into devices sometimes costing many times the price of the model and wringing the ultimate sound from the drivers.
For those that listen in front of their own systems, or are trapped on long flights with those built-in entertainment systems, the ability to choose between wired or wireless is an absolute boon and I am thrilled to see JBL continue the tradition.
The compromise by having the output be 2.5mm to occupy less space inside the earcup is a decent one, and while it requires the use of the 2.5mm to 3.5mm included adapter cable, replacements are relatively easy to come by and you can even choose a more robust one if you wish.
Songs that sounded good via Bluetooth were immediately elevated when connected via the wire, especially when listening to high-resolution FLAC or DSD files. The result is that the JBL’s are perfect for when you’re on the go or at home wanting to truly dive into your music, and they provide the best of both worlds thanks to that little cable input we all took for granted for decades.
Connecting via Bluetooth 5.0
The built-in Bluetooth 5.0 receiver was very quick to connect to my Android systems, even without installing the JBL app. I’ve had issues in the past with JBL on the software side, and this time was no different.
On iOs, the app would connect fine, as it would on my music player that’s built with a much older version. However, on the latest OS build the application would simply not connect, no matter how many times I tried. It would connect intermittently and hold a signal to the app (music playback was fine, of course). After some help from JBL’s fine support team who encouraged the manual modification of permissions* I was able to get things up and running in no time.
For those on Android, go to App Info in Settings, click on JBL Headphones, Click Nearby Devices, and make sure “Allow” is already checked. It was checked on mine, but simply going through that process seemed to do the trick after exiting out!
You can’t do much with the app save for firmware updates and tweaking some of the other operations, and it’d be nice to be able to sculpt the inner amplification EQ curves via the connection. Still, once it worked it all was pretty seamless, and the sound is rich enough by default that for many it won’t be an issue.
Final thoughts on JBL Tour One headphones
I had high expectations for the JBL Tour One headphones, and I’m pleased to see that they were all met. While the app issues were a bit troublesome, once settled things operated as smoothly as could be. I went hours and hours without any issue and found myself going back to listen to things again to enjoy their sound.
Thanks to the ability to connect via minijack, I enjoyed testing out how different music behaved differently switching between Bluetooth and wired. Plus, remember, that long after the batteries have given up the ghost many, many years from now you’ll still be able to have these blast your favourite tunes!
One thing to note is that there’s no water resistance rating, meaning that on super rainy days you might want to be a little bit more careful than you otherwise would be with sealed in-ear solutions.
At this sweet spot of high-end consumer headphones, just below where the more professional or esoteric models take off and the price raises exponentially, I think you’ll find JBL Tour One headphone near the absolute top in terms of performance, flexibility, comfort, style and durability. I was super impressed with the JBL Tour Ones, and highly recommend you give them a listen If you’re looking to get the best for your buck in this segment.
You can find JBL Tour One headphones on Best Buy right now.