JBL is bringing the fight to the best from Bose and Sony
The Bose 700 Series and Sony WH-1000XM3 are comfortably our favourite noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones available right now. Everyone has slightly different priorities when it comes to buying a pair of headphones, but these cans are the best all-rounders and have long been our go-to recommendation. But the JBL CLUB ONE (stylised in all-caps by JBL’s marketing department, we haven’t accidentally left our Caps Lock key on…) want to change all that. And you know? They’re dangerously close to toppling to best from Bose and Sony.
JBL CLUB ONE hits the same £300-£350 price range as its closest competition. It also matches its rivals like-for-like when it comes to features too. Active noise-cancellation, Bluetooth 5.0, and TalkThru and Ambient Aware systems – so you don’t have to take off the headphones when you want to catch an announcement over the tannoy on your train are all present and correct. But none of these tricks are important if the sound isn’t great. Thankfully, that’s where the JBL CLUB ONEs really excel.
JBL CLUB ONEs have a truly expansive soundscape. It’s an incredible trick and really sets these headphones apart from the Bose, Marshalls and Sony. Despite the cups being pressed close to your ears, there’s none of the claustrophobic sound that can hamper other headphones at this price point.
Instead, the sound seems to extend well beyond the confines of the JBL CLUB ONEs and surrounds you – with plenty of room to breath. Couple that wide soundscape with the zealously cushioned headband and oval earcups and listening for extended periods is an absolute joy.
In fact, we’ve spent almost every hour of the workday listening to playlists on the JBL CLUB ONEs and have never felt the need to take a break. Whenever long-haul flights become an option again, no question about it, these will be our go-to headphones.
Alternatives to the JBL CLUB ONE headphones…
JBL CLUB ONE packs Bluetooth 5.0 to maximise the battery life
JBL CLUB ONEs have an incredible clarity to the audio. If we had any qualms, it would be that there isn’t quite the same oomph as Bose and Sony can offer. Even cranking the volume to 11 doesn’t always deliver the gut-punch we’d like.
As the name suggests, JBL CLUB ONEs were primarily designed for the sort of playlist you’d come across in, well, a club. Nowhere is this more evident than in the JBL Headphones companion smartphone app, which lets you tweak the EQ based on presets designed by renown DJs, including Tigerlilly and Nicky Romero.
But thankfully, JBL hasn’t fallen into the same trap as earlier efforts from Beats and supercharged the bass at the expense of everything else. Vocals still come through sharp and clear.
Despite the name, JBL CLUB ONEs do manage to do a solid job with any almost genre that’s thrown at them. If you don’t know your Nicky Romero from your Nick Knowles, JBL also offers EQ presets based on genres – like jazz and piano – and lets you endlessly customise the sound with simple tap-and-drag controls.
JBL hasn’t skimped on the cushioning on the earcups and headband, which adds to the comfort
JBL CLUB ONEs boast enough battery to outlast all commercial flights …until SpaceX starts colonising Mars
JBL has never been stingy when it comes to bundled extras – and we’re pleased to say the CLUB ONEs are no different. In the box, you’ll get a hard travel case to keep your brand-new £299 headphones safe, a 3.5mm braided cable with volume controls and a microphone, a coiled-cable with 6.3mm adapter, flight adaptor to plug into the infotainment system, and USB-C charging cable. In other words, you shouldn’t have to add any accessories to your basket during the check-out process, which is brilliant.
The JBL CLUB ONEs feel incredibly well-built and flex without any worrying creaks. Everything feels well thought-through – the CLUB ONEs fold-away into a compact ball, there’s aux slots on both earcups so you can attach the 3.5mm cable to either side, and there’s no complicated swipe gestures needed to control the volume or playback: just good ol’ fashioned buttons.
Pressing the outside of the left earcup triggers your choice of Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. For our money, this feels like a bit of a waste. Tapping the side of the earcup is the only button that it’s impossible to miss each time, so really should be reserved for the most common tasks.
Triggering Ambient Aware mode is something we do every time we wear the JBL CLUB ONEs …the same cannot be said of asking Google Assistant to send a text, or getting Alexa to check the weather. It would be great to see the ability to change the function of that foolproof button with the JBL app.
If that was our only quibble, the JBL CLUB ONEs would easily stand alongside the best from Bose and Sony. But unfortunately, what holds back the CLUB ONEs is the active noise cancellation.
While it does a solid job of cutting out the sound of traffic, or the monotonous drone of an air-conditioning unit, it’s not quite as bulletproof as the rival system on the Bose. Make no mistake, donning the JBL CLUB ONEs on your next flight will ensure you can get a solid nights sleep, or at the very least, watch an in-flight movie without straining to hear any dialogue over the roar of engines.
But the JBL CLUB ONEs don’t cut-out everything. Clicks from a mouse or chatter from friends will still cut-through in the office when listening at lower volumes. If JBL can tweak the noise-cancellation to make the next CLUB ONEs truly isolating – these could easily be our go-to pick.
Battery life on the JBL CLUB ONEs is pretty standard when using noise-cancellation, but switch it off, and it becomes truly stupendous. JBL claims you’ll be able to last 45-hours listening over Bluetooth without noise-cancellation (23-hours with it on), but we’re convinced our review units have outlasted that claim by an hour or so.
There’s an aux port on both earcups, so you can plug-in the cable to either side
JBL CLUB ONE review: Final Verdict
- Pros: Great Sound With Wide Soundscape, Long-Lasting Battery Life – Especially With Noise-Cancellation Switched Off, Loads Of Accessories In The Box
- Cons: Noise-Cancellation Not Quite As Strong As Bose and Sony, Less Expensive Than Bose 700 Series
With the fierce competition taking place between audio brands at the moment, there’s never been a better time to splash £300 on a pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones. Firm favourites from Bose and Sony have forced JBL to pull-out the stops.
The result is a stunning pair of headphones. The JBL CLUB ONEs look good, feel comfortable, and boast enough battery to outlast all commercial flights …until SpaceX starts colonising Mars.
Best of all, the CLUB ONEs sound great. With clear vocals and a wide soundscape that allows every part of the track room to breath, listening to your favourite albums on the JBL CLUB ONEs will reveal small details you’ve never noticed before.
Unfortunately, the noise-cancellation isn’t quite as first-class as the output from the 40mm dynamic driver. Smaller sounds still manage to slip through from time to time. If noise-cancellation is your biggest priority, there are better options.
But if you’re looking for a supremely comfortable, long-lasting pair of headphones with great sound and more accessories than you’ll ever need bundled in the box, the JBL CLUB ONEs are definitely worth a listen.