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  • Cheryl Tan

JBL Club One Review: More Expensive Than The Sony WH-1000XM4?!

Man, JBL is on a roll with their new products. The JBL Club One headphones are new and they’re surprisingly pricey, at S$539 or around US$350, which is actually, more expensive than one of my favourite headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM4. So, are they worth the money?

Let’s talk design first. If you’ve watched our recent review of the JBL Club Pro+ true wireless earbuds, you’ll notice that the design is pretty similar. That’s because they’re all part of the Club lineup from JBL, so I think they did a pretty good job in terms of design continuity.


The headset is really sleek, with 99% of it basically being matte black. The parts that aren’t matte black are the glossy Club words on either side of the headband and the JBL logo on either earcup. Oh, and this shiny silver strip. I love it; it’s subtle but it’ll catch your attention if you’re looking at it from an angle.


You do get these exposed wires running from the earcups into the headband, which I’m not terribly fond of, but this really is personal preference. The yokes are metal, which is excellent, it definitely gives the headphones a more premium feel. The headband itself has a good amount of flex as well, and it’s wrapped in pretty supple leather with a decent amount of padding.


The earpads come with super soft leather and padding, and they’re magnetic! Looks like JBL took a page out of Apple’s playbook, which is great, since this means that even if the earpads end up cracking, and they will in Singapore’s hot and humid weather, they’re easily replaceable. Moving on, there’s a thin rubberised strip around where the earcups and the earpads meet, and that’s because the control buttons are all there.


On the left earcup, you get the power button, Bluetooth pairing button and ANC button. There are also LED indicators for power, Bluetooth pairing status and whether ANC is on or off. On the right, you get volume buttons that double up for track skipping with long presses. In between those two buttons, you get a single one for play/pause, call control as well as voice assistant.


As for ports, you get a 2.5mm port on either side as well as a USB-C charging port on the right earcup.


Now, it’s time to talk about accessories, and the Club One impresses me here. In the box, you get a hard-sided carrying case that’s actually not too bulky. There’s a carrying loop that can be detached and attached via a button, which is nice since this means you can loop it through your bag handles or whatever and carry it that way. Pretty convenient for travelling.


Aside from that, you get a lot of stuff. There’s an AUX cable with mic and remote, there’s a USB-C charging cable, there’s even a flight adapter, which is nice. But what surprised me was the coiled AUX cable. It’s not something that you’ll often see with consumer headphones and I was really surprised to see this offered. One end is a 2.5mm jack to be plugged into the headphones, and the other end is 3.5mm but you get a 6.3mm adapter in the box that can be screwed on here. I’m just super surprised. Maybe it’s because JBL markets these as being able to be used for DJ-ing; I’m not a DJ, I don’t know if these actually are gonna be good for DJ-ing, but yeah. Providing choices for the consumers is always good in my book.


These headphones aren’t light, by the way. They’re around 378g, which is quite a bit heavier than the XM4, so you’ll be able to feel them on your head, but I could wear them for quite a few hours on end without my ears overheating or pinching at the crown of my head. Good enough. One thing to note is that the earpads aren’t quite long, so if you have longer or larger ears, they might not sit nicely inside the earpads. Now, I’ve had people asking me for the measurement between the top and bottom of the space inside the earpads before, so my rough gauge is around 5.3cm.


In the app, you get big buttons on the home screen for ANC and ambient sound. There’s also a bar indicating battery status, and of course, you get the EQ feature below. I currently have it on the new Personi-fi EQ setting, so let’s talk more about it.


Previously, there was only a 10-bar EQ feature that you could customise or DJ signature presets. But for the Club One, there’s the new Personi-fi EQ, which is great.


With it, there’s not only a personalised EQ, there’s even an Advanced personalised EQ available after you take a hearing test. The hearing test is relatively easy, a series of beeps are played and you either raise or lower the volume till it’s barely audible. It’s actually quite odd. I liked the basic personalised EQ even more than the advanced one. The basic one was louder, with more impact in the bass and more forward vocals. The advanced EQ just felt like a more restrained, more toned back EQ at a softer volume without that added thump in the bass. I compared my custom EQ with the three DJ signature presets and found it the most similar to Tigerlily, except that the vocals on my EQ were more forward, which I actually do like.


It’s quite surprising, because like I mentioned in the Club Pro+ review, those earbuds did need a bit of EQ tweaking to sound at their best. JBL has taken all that guesswork out for the Club One, and the custom EQ is definitely very enjoyable for me.


Aside from the EQ and ANC, there’s not much in terms of features to talk about. We’ll talk about ANC later, so let’s move on for now.


These run on Bluetooth 5.0, which is okay. But unfortunately, they only have SBC and AAC codec support, which means no aptX. I didn’t notice any sync or lag issues when watching videos or on video calls though, so yeah, it wasn’t much of an issue to me. There is multipoint support here, which is great. I can pair these to my laptop and phone at the same time and if a call comes in, I just need to use the button to pick it up and the connection switches. Pretty good.


As for battery life, these aren’t too bad. JBL claims 45 hours if you’re listening to music via Bluetooth, and if you have Bluetooth and ANC on, that drops to 23 hours. If you’re using AUX in and ANC though, it’s at 25 hours. All in all, it’s not the best battery life that you can find, but it’s definitely not too shabby either.


So now we come to ANC. Despite this being more expensive than the Sony XM4, don’t expect it to compete on ANC. In fact, the ANC here is rather… average. Sure, it does cut out a bit of external noise, but it struggles to effectively deal with train rumble or car noise. JBL is using adaptive noise cancelling here, and I’ve found that this really isn’t my preferred method of ANC. I prefer being able to adjust the strength, something similar to the Bose NC700 or even the optimiser feature on the XM4. Regardless, the ANC here does work to some extent, and JBL claims it listens and adjusts itself 50,000 times a second, which is, well, a lot. It’s not poor, and I definitely will still turn ANC on because it does help a little. But yeah, don’t expect insane ANC quality here, that’s all.


As for microphone quality, it’s not too bad. People I’ve called with this said that my voice is quite clear, although they still can tell that it’s through a microphone.


Coming to sound quality though, well, you get a very well-balanced sound with a little bump in the bass. You get punch and a good amount of attack and decay in the bass. With my personalised EQ turned on, the bass is lifted even more and there’s a good amount of rumble.


Mids aren’t too recessed and you get a full-bodied midrange with vocals that are just right. I personally prefer vocals to be a bit more forward, and my personalised EQ did bring that to the forefront, so yeah. You can use the custom EQ setting to tweak it to your liking though, so no worries there.


As for treble, it’s not too bad. There’s a good amount of brightness, although there’s a peak that might be a bit sharp for some people. Personally, I’m fine with the highs. I thought they were crisp even though there’s a bit of treble roll-off. Again, this is tweakable in the EQ settings, so again, my advice for you, if you get these, is to really spend some time playing around with the EQ to get it to where you like.


Now, price. As I mentioned, these are S$539 or US$350, which isn’t cheap. And while the ANC was a bit disappointing, I’d say the sound quality is actually really good. I have no idea about the consistency of the personalised EQ across different people, but for me, it’s really well done. So I’d say, if you can find these with maybe a $50 discount or something, it might just be worth the money.

 

Content by Cheryl Tan


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