The JBL Tour One Review: Stunning Pair of Commuter Headphones, But Are They Worth $300?
Known best for youthful, bright-colored beach speakers, JBL shows its grown-up side with its new Tour One headphones. They’re sleek, stylish, and sound fantastic—all for just a hair under $300.
- Ambient Aware mode
- True Adaptive Noise Cancelling
- 50-hour battery life
- JBL Pro Sound, hi-res certified
- 4-mic technology for voice calling
- Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Siri support
- Hands-free control
- 40 mm driver
- JBL Headphones app
- Brand: JBL
- Battery Life: 50 hours (ANC on) /25 Hours (passive mode)
- Material: Plastic and Metal
- Bluetooth: 5.0
- Noise Cancellation: True Adaptive Noise Cancelling, Ambient Aware mode
- Stylish and subdued
- Excellent sound-staging
- Bluetooth pairing was easy
- Calls sound phenomenal
- Slightly uncomfortable after long listening sessions
- Can’t charge and use wireless at the same time
- Noise cancelling feature doesn’t block out louder sounds
- Midrange dominates at higher volumes
- Extremely sensitive touch panel
JBL Tour One
For some people, Bluetooth headphones are only important when isolating themselves from grunting gym-goers or noisy subway cars. For these purposes, a pair of cheapies will do the trick just fine. True music aficionados, however, want a little more.
Enter JBL’s new Tour One. These over-the-ear, closed-back headphones are designed for the discerning mobile audiophile that wants Bluetooth flexibility but isn’t satisfied with “just fine.” Offering a 40mm driver, True Adaptive Noise Cancelling, TalkThru, and certified hi-res audio, the Tour One makes some big promises.
But can these classy cans measure up? Read on to find out.
What’s in the Box?
Opening the foam-lined box on these $300 headphones reveals a hardshell zipper case with everything tucked snugly inside. The ear cups are protected by a couple of plastic inserts, which keep the foam earpads from deforming during shipping.
In the case with the Tour Ones are an airplane adapter, a flat USB-C cable, and a 2.5mm to 3.5mm headphone cable.
Removing the protective case from the box reveals a rectangular package, that houses JBL’s quick-start guide, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant set up guides, the warranty information booklet, and a safety booklet.
- Headphone style: Over-the-ear
- Driver size: 40mm
- Driver sensitivity @ 1kHz/1mW (dB): 95 db SPL @ 1kHz
- Dynamic freq response range: 10 Hz — 40K Hz (in passive mode), 10Hz ~ 22kHz (in active NC mode)
- Impedance (ohms): 32
- Weight: .59 lbs (268 g)
- Bluetooth: 5.0
- Battery: Li-ion (920 mAh / 3.7 V)
- Max play time (ANC on): 25 hours
- Max play time (ANC off): 50 hours
The first thing you’ll notice about the Tour Ones is how understated they are. Like the Bose QuietComfort35 and Sony WH-1000XM4 models in the same class, JBL’s flat-black offering doesn’t shout “look at me.” This flat-black also avoids all but the greasiest fingerprints. That said, the majority of the Tour One’s components are plastic.
They feel light and a bit—shall we say—delicate. Not terrible, mind you, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable tossing them in my work bag without their protective case.
On the outside of the headphones, the JBL logo is tastefully engraved into each of the earcups. In addition, the headband is adorned with a discrete Tour One logo printed on a glossy black accent. On each of the earcups, you’ll find another glossy accent with the word TOUR.
Everything on these headphones is pleasingly symmetrical, save for the volume buttons on the right earcup. On that same side is the on/off/Bluetooth button, the audio input jack, and a tiny microphone grille with a tell-tale “R” printed on it.
The left side of the headphones has the customizable function button and the USB-C charging port. Next to the port is a nearly invisible LED that will let you know when the headphones are charging or when the battery is about to die. There’s also another speaker grille like the one on the right.
The inner portion of the headband is metal, the center of which JBL wrapped with marshmallow-y memory foam and faux leather. The padding for each earcup is the same foam and the same faux leather.
There is also a 12-step adjustment in the band to fit both larger and smaller-sized heads. Additionally, the headphones swivel inward if you need to pop them onto your collar temporarily.
As I said, the understatement of these headphones is striking. At first glance, the Tour Ones don’t scream expensive, but once you start digging into the details, you can see why they command a $300 MSRP.
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Despite how nice a pair of ‘phones looks the true test of quality is how they sound. These headphones carry JBL’s Pro Sound designation and are hi-res certified, so they should sound fantastic. But do they?
For the Tour One’s, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. These cans sound balanced to my ears—with only a tickle of mid-range dominating the mix.
Because this pair comes with a wired option, I chose to evaluate both wireless performance via my iPhone Xs, and my 2018 iPad Pro, and wired performance through two Fiido DACs that I own.
Compared to my favorite pairs of wired headphones—the ATH-M50 and the Sennheiser HD598—the JBLs performed well. When wired and run through both my Fiido K1 and my Fiido E17K Alpen 2, the Tour One’s sound-staging was impressive, and it was easy to pick out sparkling cymbals and layered harmonies.
While not quite as powerful when using wireless, instrumental separation on the Tour Ones was still remarkable.
James Blake’s “Limit to Your Love” is one of my favorite bass test tracks because the wobbling lows can’t be reproduced well on sub-par audio equipment. Queueing up the track on the Tour Ones resulted in the intended bass response, though it wasn’t quite the earthquake I believe Blake was going for.
On the other hand, switching to hip-hop allowed these headphones to shine. The bass on both Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” and J.Cole’s “pride.is.the.devil” was head-knockingly satisfying. It didn’t overwhelm the other elements, however.
To mix it up a bit, I also tried the Tour Ones with a more rock-inspired favorite—Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Despite being produced in 1982, both Jackson and Quincy Jones outdid themselves on this track.
It’s full of layered musical bliss in the form of Jackson’s ad-libs and harmonies, an ethereal synthesizer, an iconic bassline, and a bright buzzsaw of a guitar solo. Each of these elements was easy to distinguish on the JBLs, whether wired or wireless, and Jackson’s tongue rolls and other eccentricities came through with grinning clarity.
The playful violin of Beethoven’s “String Trio in C Minor, Op. 9,” and the introspective cellos of Hans Zimmer’s “Time” was also enjoyable when piped through the Tour Ones.
Overall, I would rate the sound quality of these headphones as excellent, with the mids displaying slightly more prominence. For all but the most well-tuned ear, the Tour Ones will be a significant step-up over something like the AirPods Pro.
If you’re wearing your headphones for long periods, you want to ensure that they won’t give you a sore neck. The feathery weight of the Tour Ones is fantastic here, though they do start to get a bit cumbersome after four or five hours.
I noticed this much more when wearing my glasses, as the earcups pressed the temples into the bony area behind my ears. However, the padding does a lot to mitigate the ultra-light clamping force, so it is possible to wear these headphones for most of the day. But, if you’re planning on wearing them for more than a few hours, you’ll want to take breaks.
Speaking of clamping force, it falls squarely in the Goldilocks range as it’s not so tight you feel constricted, but not loose enough that the headphones fall off when you’re dancing in the living room. As for using these babies in the gym, you could toss them on for exercise if you’d like, though getting them sweaty might not be best for longevity.
The generous earcups also stand out. I have slightly larger than average ears, so tucking them into headphones isn’t always easy. But, with the Tour Ones, I didn’t have any trouble.
From a comfort perspective, these cans are decently comfortable, though I wouldn’t give them the absolute highest marks. In my experience, however, headphones can take a bit to break in, and perhaps they’ll become more comfortable as time passes.
Pairing and Controls
Bluetooth pairing consists of toggling the switch on the right earphone and holding it down. Once in pairing mode, you can connect to most devices with Bluetooth support. My iPhone, iPad, Mac mini M1, and Macbook Air laptop all paired perfectly.
JBL designed the Tour One to switch between two devices, so if you have a computer and a smartphone, you can use the headphones with both. Switching is as simple as toggling the button downward for a moment. To pair new devices, just hold down the button for a bit longer.
Once you’ve completed pairing a few times, the act of switching devices becomes second nature.
There are a minimalistic amount of controls on the headphones themselves. The off/on and Bluetooth switch are on the right earphone. Below this switch are the volume buttons, which allow you to adjust volume without taking your phone out of your pocket.
There’s also a touch sensor outside the right earcup that responds to single, double, and triple taps as well as touch-and-hold input. Like many headphone controls, a single tap plays and pauses audio, a double skips forward, and a triple skips backward.
Touching and holding can be customized to toggle TalkThru, Ambient Sound Control, or the voice assistant. On the left earphone is a customizable function button that you can also use to summon your voice assistant or toggle noise cancellation modes.
For the most part, these controls work swimmingly, save for the play/pause touch function. Given the sensitivity of the touch sensor, sometimes lifting your arms overhead will inadvertently tap the touch panel, which pauses your music.
While not quite a dealbreaker, I wish there was a way to adjust the sensitivity of this sensor so that it wasn’t prone to so many false activations. Touch and hold would also get confused at times, which required me to turn the headphones off and back on again. Again, not a huge deal, though slightly annoying.
Ambient Aware, TalkThru, and True Adaptive Noise Canceling
Ambient Aware mode allows you to hear outside sounds while using your Tour Ones. The benefit of this mode is that you can still hear when someone says something to you, but your music will also play at normal volume.
This mode is excellent if you still need to pay attention to your surroundings—but don’t want to miss out on your tunes. It’s also fantastic for gaming, as you can still pick out in-game sounds while staying alert to what’s going on in the house.
A unique feature of the Tour One is TalkThru which lowers music volume and allows you to converse as though you weren’t wearing headphones. To activate the TalkThru feature, tap and hold on the outside of the right earcup.
This particular mode functions like Ambient Aware mode, but where Ambient Aware doesn’t lower music volume, TalkThru will—drastically. The mode also uses the built-in microphones for a more natural-sounding conversation.
I found TalkThru to be ideal for when I needed to pay close attention to my conversations, though I feel like sliding the JBLs off of my ears and onto my shoulders was slightly more polite. Doing so also automatically paused my music.
True Adaptive Noise Canceling
JBL’s flavor of noise cancellation is called "True Adaptive Noise Canceling." While this designation may sound exciting, the general principle of using a microphone to filter out ambient noise is common.
However, with True Adaptive, the Tour One headphones will automatically adjust the amount of noise cancellation based on the noise level in your environment.
The wizardry that makes active noise-canceling work is still somewhat foreign to me, and True Adaptive, even more so, but what I do know is that noise-canceling works well. While listening to music or watching movies, the room sounds were almost completely filtered out.
The good news is that the Tour Ones did filter out almost everything when music was playing, save for a reversing garbage truck and my dog’s aggressive barking at said garbage truck.
JBL states that you can turn this feature on when nothing is playing to eliminate outside distractions. That’s ideal for those who need a little quiet time in busy social spaces or who want to drown out distractions without playing music. Snapping my fingers with nothing playing was still slightly audible, though alternating between the ‘phones being on and taking them off was noticeably different.
Charging and Battery Life
Two of the best features for the Tour Ones are the quick charge time and the extended battery life. Plugging the headphones in for just 10 minutes yields three hours of playtime. Perfect for situations where you only have a few minutes to charge.
Two hours on the charger will top up the headphones to full. Once there, you have around 50 hours of playtime without True Adaptive Noise Canceling active and 25 with the feature enabled.
In the JBL app, there is also the ability to shut the headphones off after a certain amount of time. If you’re chasing the maximum battery life, then I’d recommend you use this feature. I have mine set to 15 minutes which allowed the first charge to last a whole week despite almost constant use.
I have to say that battery life has impressed me, and having to charge these headphones only once or twice a week saves a bit of hassle. The automatic off function also ensures that I’m not leaving the Tour Ones drained when I forgetfully set them down without turning them off, which I often do.
Microphones and Call Quality
JBL has equipped the Tour Ones with four microphones for phone calls: two voice mics, a voice feedback mic, and a noise cancelation mic. These four microphones do a phenomenal job of picking up sound, and it’s difficult for callers to tell you’re talking through a set of headphones.
It is slightly awkward to make calls with the noise cancelation feature enabled, though, as it filters everything outside of the headphones, including your voice. Not hearing your voice results in feeling a bit like someone stuffed you into a compression chamber. This won’t be an issue for some people.
Voice Assistant Support
Given the popularity of Amazon Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant, JBL has included support for these voice assistants in the Tour One headphones. To activate your preferred assistant, you’ll first need to set things up in the JBL app. From there, you can assign the assistant to a button press with the function button or to a tap-and-hold with the touch sensor.
I tried both Siri and Alexa and was able to control each assistant easily. No hiccups, no glitches, just a quick setup, and the voice assistant capabilities are available. Of course, if you have Android 6.0 or higher, you’ll have access to a much wider range of features, but even with iOS, I was able to adjust the volume and ask Siri stupid questions.
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The JBL Headphones App
Everything seems to have an app these days, and the JBL Tour Ones are no exception. The JBL Headphones app allows users to customize controls, manipulate EQ settings, set up voice assistants, and wirelessly toggle feature settings.
I found the app easy to work with, though it’s nothing out of the ordinary. The EQ settings do offer a bit more of a tailored sound for those who want to tweak their music even more. Additionally, the customization controls allow you to change what the touch surface and the left function button do.
Warranty and Repairability
Warranty coverage on these headphones is one year from the date of purchase. Unfortunately, there are no user-serviceable components inside. That means if you have a problem, then you’ll need to contact JBL directly.
I also feel I should mention the customer service experience briefly. I had a bit of trouble getting these headphones at first, but the customer service representative I dealt with was extremely helpful in sorting everything out. They were polite, kept in contact, and emailed me with updates. For that, JBL gets an A+ from me in the customer service department.
Are the JBL Tour One Headphones Worth It?
Absolutely. For a $300 set of headphones, these things—excuse the cliché—rock. They’re comfortable, light, good-looking, and, man, do they sound fantastic. If you’re in the market for a good set of wireless headphones and $300 is your cost ceiling, then the JBL Tour Ones are well worth a look.
At $50 cheaper than the Sony WH-1000XM4, and $249 less than the AirPods Max, these puppies are pretty enticing. That’s why, for most people, the Tour Ones are going to be money well spent.
What’s Not to Love?
As previously noted, these cans tend to become uncomfortable after long periods of use. Additionally, they made my ears a bit warm as they aren’t exceptionally breathable.
You also can’t use the Tour Ones while charging unless you have them plugged in via the 3.5mm headphone cable. That isn’t too bad when using the headphones on a computer, but it’s not so much fun when you’re using them with a device lacking a headphone jack.
Additionally, as good as the True Adaptive Noise Cancelling is, it doesn’t block out extremely loud noise. Dogs barks, loud subway cars, and noisy airplanes are going to get through the noise cancellation. That might be an issue for someone searching for that “sealed-in-a-glass-jar” feeling of serenity.
Our Verdict: Should You Buy the JBL Tour One?
Even though headphones will be individually subjective, the Tour Ones are a superior choice for a noise-canceling model in the $300 price range. They’re sleek, stylish, and subdued while also offering enhanced audio fidelity. They’ve seriously impressed us, even if they do possess a few slight annoyances. Overall, JBL’s new Tour Ones are a wonderful way to enjoy your favorite ear candy, and we think that they’re pretty sweet.
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September 9, 2021 at 07:08AM