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JBL Tour One noise-canceling headphones review: Competing with Sony

July 23rd, 2021 at 8:00 AM

The high-end noise-canceling headphones world is getting more competitive. There was a time when Sony and Bose were the only real competitors, but then Apple entered the game with its ultra-expensive AirPods Max. Now, JBL is entering the market, with the new JBL Tour One headphones. Unlike Apple, which went on the more expensive end, JBL undercuts the competition a little, with the headphones coming in at $300.

But $300 still isn’t cheap. Should you buy the JBL Tour One noise-canceling headphones, or save up a little more for the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones? We put the JBL Tour One headphones to the test to find out.

JBL Tour One Noise-Canceling Headphones List Price:$299.95 Price:$199.95 You Save:$100.00 (33%) Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission

JBL Tour One design

The first thing to notice about these headphones is their design, and they look pretty nice. The JBL Tour One headphones aren’t the most unique headphones out there, but they’re still lightweight, offer a relatively premium build, and so on.

The headphones are built almost entirely from plastic, except for the metal frame. It does mean that they can feel a little cheap at times — but the trade-off is that unlike the metal AirPods Max, the Tour Pro headphones are quite light. That plays into comfort down the line.

JBL Tour One DesignImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The left earcup offers a button to control the noise cancelation modes, and can cycle between ambient mode, off, and noise cancelation. It also offers the USB-C port for charging. The right earcup is where the rest of the controls are. You’ll get volume controls, a power switch that doubles as a pairing control, and an aux port. It’s pretty much everything you’ll need on a pair of wireless headphones, and the controls are intuitive too.

In the box, apart from the headphones themselves, you’ll get plenty of accessories. There’s a nice, high-quality case, along with a USB-A to USB-C cable, an aux cable, and a plane adapter. Again, it’s everything you’ll need.

JBL Tour One features and battery

These aren’t Apple-built headphones — so you won’t get things like Spatial Audio or Automatic Switching. But the headphones still offer some great features, all of which are controllable through the JBL Headphones app.

JBL Tour One CaseImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

First among those is support for your preferred digital assistant — Google Assistant or Alexa. You’ll need the accompanying app downloaded on your phone, and you’ll be prompted to download it if you don’t already have it.

The app is relatively well-designed and easy to use. I definitely prefer the design of this app over Sony’s Headphones Connect app. Everything is just a little cleaner and easier to take in. Through the app you can control noise cancelation, and switch modes. There are two modes — “Everyday mode,” which simply has ANC turned on, and “True Adaptive NC,” which is supposed to compensate noise cancelation in real-time. I found this to be distracting and simply stuck with Everyday mode.

The app also allows you to see the battery life of your headphones, and even optimize your Bluetooth connection for different scenarios, though I found little difference in the modes. There’s also an EQ, which is always helpful, and the ability to change the function button.

Last but not least is Ambient mode, which can be enabled in the app. There are two ambient modes on offer here. There’s one that’s simply built to help you be more aware of your surroundings, and one for conversation. This mode basically turns whatever you’re listening to right down and seriously amplifies outside voices. It works well, though it’s easier to simply take your headphones off for a few seconds than reach for the app to enable to TalkThru toggle.

JBL Tour One comfort

The JBL Tour One headphones offer plenty of padding in both the earcups and under the headband and are pretty lightweight. The result? They’re comfortable. Easily comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time.

JBL Tour One ComfortImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The lightweight build really does help here. Apple has had to seriously flex its design chops in the headband of the AirPods Max to get around how heavy they are. It helps, but on a pair of headphones that’s trying to undercut the competition, it makes more sense to just…make them light. Some will argue that they feel cheap as a result, but the same argument could be made for the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones.

JBL Tour One sound

JBL is a long-time audio company, and as a result, you would expect these headphones to sound good. Thankfully, they sound great.

The bass response on the headphones is powerful and deep. The headphones definitely offer a slight bass boost out of the box, but the EQ can fix that if you don’t like it. Usually weak kick drums in AC/DC’s Back in Black got a little more oomph, while bass guitars sounded smooth.

The mids are well-tuned too. There did seem to be a little extra meat in the low mids, which made for a warmer sound overall — but again, you can tweak that in the EQ if you so choose. High mids were definitely still present enough to deliver a good bite in guitars and synth tracks.

JBL Tour One ButtonsImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The highs offered good detail and clarity, though perhaps not quite as much as the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones or much-more-expensive AirPods Max. Detail is still very good here, so don’t expect cheap-sounding headphones. This means that you’ll get an exciting sound overall, with plenty of cut in the vocals and percussion. That’s always helpful.

Noise cancelation on the Tour One headphones is very good. It’ll easily cut through the majority of outside noise, and some will love the Adaptive noise-canceling mode. Generally, the noise cancelation isn’t quite as impressive as some slightly more expensive headphones, but it’s still great.

Conclusions

The JBL Tour One headphones have a lot going for them. They’re highly comfortable, sound great, and offer good noise cancelation. I’m glad to see JBL taking on the Sonys and Boses of the world — even if these headphones aren’t quite up to the same level. If $300 is your budget cap, then I absolutely recommend buying the JBL Tour One headphones.

The competition

Of course, if $300 isn’t your budget cap, there are other headphones to buy. The JBL Tour One headphones put up a good fight, but if you can stretch your budget an extra $50, it’s worth going for the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones instead. They’re a little bit more comfortable, offer better noise cancelation, and sound just a bit better. If you’re an Apple fan and you don’t have a budget cap, you could go for the $550 AirPods Max headphones, which sound excellent and offer awesome features like Spatial Audio and Automatic Switching.

Should I buy the JBL Tour One headphones?

Yes. If your budget cap is $300, or you find them on special, the JBL Tour One headphones are worth buying. If you can stretch your budget to $350, you should get the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones instead.

JBL Tour One Noise-Canceling Headphones List Price:$299.95 Price:$199.95 You Save:$100.00 (33%) Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission



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