So the JBL Tour Pro+ earbuds are some of the first on the market aside from the Google Pixel Buds to come with the ability to reply to the “Hey Google” hotword, and they even have noise cancelling, which puts them one step up from the Pixel Buds off the bat.
Anyway, let’s talk about how these look first. They’re pretty big. Everything about these earbuds is big. From the charging case, which will definitely bulge out in a pocket by the way, to the earbuds themselves. But besides that, the charging case looks pretty nice. It’s plastic, but it has a matte metallic look to it, which does appear quite premium. There’s a USB-C charging port on the bottom, along with a reset button and an LED indicator for charging status. On the rear, you get a flat surface that has a sort of, rubberised soft touch coating so that it has some grip and doesn’t slide around surfaces. This surface is also where the wireless charging coil is.
Opening the case is easy, and inside you get the two earbuds along with individual LED indicators that light up when you open the lid as well as when you put the earbuds in to show that they’re charging.
As for the earbuds, they’re honestly pretty big. They feel like they’re around the same size as the Sony WF-1000XM4, and those are big earbuds too. Honestly, it looks bigger almost, because of the stabilising fin. They really are pretty bulky, and while it’s not uncomfortable to wear, they do start wriggling out of my ears when I’m walking or eating and stuff, so I did find myself twisting them back into place quite frequently.
When you get them seated right though, the passive noise isolation is pretty good, simply because they’re so big they kinda just seal off your ear canal.
Anyway, you’ll have to get the JBL Headphones app for these, since that’s where you get firmware updates and all. It’s pretty much the same thing that we’ve seen for the other JBL products. You get battery levels for each earbud as well as the case, a toggle for noise cancelling, a toggle for ambient sound and a smart audio & video button where you can select either lower latency for videos, better audio quality or to prioritise connection.
At the top right, you get the settings cog and you can customise your touch controls, in a sense. Again, you only get to select from groups of controls, so for example, I have the left earbud set to ambient sound, which allows for me to toggle between noise cancelling, ambient aware, talkthrough and the likes. On the right, I have it set to playback control, so play/pause and track skipping. A tap and hold always pulls up the voice assistant, Siri in this case, since I’m currently connected to my iPhone, but once I connect to an Android phone, I don’t even need to tap and hold, all I need to do is say “hey Google” and it’ll automatically start Google Assistant. One thing to note though is that if you want this feature to be active, the app will automatically set the left earbud to voice assistant control as you’ll need to tap and hold the earbud for follow up replies to Google Assistant after the initial command.
There are also other features like auto-off, in-ear detection, a fit check, a find my buds feature that makes the earbuds beep loudly, and even a multi-language option so you can hear voice prompts in different languages. There’s quite a few too: French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese and more.
The one thing that I’m actually a bit bummed about is that JBL has inexplicably left out the Personi-Fi auto EQ feature from these. I thought that was a really nice, convenient feature, so to be left with only the manual EQ and a miserable four auto-presets really is a letdown. That being said, you can still create your own custom EQs, so yeah.
These run on Bluetooth 5.0 and only support SBC and AAC which, well, is a bit of a shame. Seeing as these have support for the “hey google” hotword, I was hoping they’d come with aptX since most people who get these should be using an Android phone. No luck. There’s also no multipoint connectivity here, although you can use either side independently.
Battery life is pretty good, thankfully, since these are big. JBL claims eight hours in the earbuds with three extra charges in the case for a total of around 32 hours with ANC turned off. It drops down to six hours with ANC on, for a total of around 24 hours. Pretty decent, slightly better than average I’d say.
There’s an IPX4 water resistance rating here, which is okay, but I’d say you won’t be looking to exercise with these since they’re not all that secure in the ear.
As for ANC, it’s actually surprisingly good at cutting out low pitched noises. It wasn’t all that great at stuff like fan whir or rain, but it still helped to muffle them a bit. The thock of my mechanical keyboard was also audible, but definitely not quite as noisy.
Microphone quality isn’t the best though. Sometimes my voice got kind of muffled while on calls, but in a pinch, they’ll work. If you’re looking for earbuds to take plenty of work calls with, these won’t be a good option for you.
As for sound quality, well, JBL is owned by Harman after all. You get a more neutral, balanced sound that’s generally quite accurate. The bass is very decent and you don’t get boomy, bloated bass. Mids are good with plenty of accuracy, although I’d say there’s a slight underemphasis here, resulting in vocals sometimes sounding a bit distant. The upper mids are perfectly fine though and female vocals did sound slightly better on these with plenty of clarity. Treble is also accurate, although it’s not quite as bright and sparkly as I’d like. Overall, I’d say the earbuds are on the warmer side of things with a slight dip in the mids.
Soundstage isn’t great, but imaging is pretty decent with good results when listening to songs that require a bit more finesse when it comes to instrument imaging and accuracy. Again, the sound is tuneable through the EQ, although I’ll have to repeat again my disappointment at not having Personi-Fi with these earbuds.
Overall, I’d say that for S$299 or US$199, I’d say these are pretty decent. You’re getting a relatively good amount of features in these, along with that nifty ability to just say “hey google” instead of pressing and holding on an earbud, as well as a balanced, neutral sound that holds up well to EQ-ing. At this price point, you could do a lot worse, so well done JBL, yet another decent offering.