After the smartphone, headphones are the gadget we reach for most often in our daily lives and they are everywhere. You will see them on your commute, at the gym, and on the heads of celebrities and star athletes. The emergence of wireless in ear buds has also caused an upsurge of on ear headphones and as more and more smartphone makers do away with the 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth headphones have become the standard.
The JBL Tune 750BTNC is such a headphone.
JBL have become somewhat of household name especially here in the UK when it comes to audio accessories. Their headphones and speakers can be found almost in any electronics store and they have become synonymous with high end features at a lower cost and this is essentially the story and takeaway of the Tune 750 headphones.
These headphones come fully packed with Bluetooth 4.2, Active noise cancellation, built in microphone, battery life between 22 and 15 hours (dependant on Active noise cancelling being on or off), Alexa/Siri/Google Assistant support, 40mm drivers and the ability to use traditional 3.5mm headphone cord when the batter is flat. As I mentioned above, the story here seems to be value and at time of writing the current cost of £119.99 points to decent value for money but how well does it fare in the real world.
I have listened to audio using earphones or headphones pretty much since I can remember listening to music and although I am absolutely no expert, I feel I have certainly reached a level where I can tell poor sound from good and although Audiophiles will always have better options to recommend you, in summary, the 750’s offer good noise cancellation, better-than-expected durability, lengthy battery life, and a balanced sound profile that won’t rattle your skull with amped-up bass. Yes there is major competition in this space with Apples Beats, Sony, Sennheiser and more all offering some fantastic headphones but these also come at a price so lets take a deeper look to see if the Tune 750’s can be an option for anyone looking for the aforementioned brands.
The Tune 750’s carry similar DNA and design language as most other on ear headphones. Lets face it, there’s not much you can do to redesign this kind of form factor so you can forgive JBL for going the safe route here. You can get these in 4 colours; Black, Blue, White and a orange/reddish colour.
JBL have avoided the greasy, glossy plastics seen on a lot of other headphones (ahem, Beats) but have opted for a matte plastic with a subtle sheen that doesn’t catch fingerprints at the slightest touch. Now although they are predominantly plastic, they feel sturdier and robust and carrying them about at the gym, at home and to work didn’t cause any creakiness or rattling which tends to happen over time with plastic headphones.
My only gripe with the design isn’t even so much with the design, I just wished it would come with a protective case just for that extra security when you are throwing them in your gym bag and other knocks life can throw.
The band has faux leather padding, similar to the ear cups and is fairly comfortable however for my bigger than average head (its hard finding a hat that fits) they did feel a little tight. I wore these to the Gym and to work and found that the time I needed them for was just about right in terms of comfort. I did get some “normal” people to try the headphones and although the fit was much better, they did come across the same tightness I experienced so this may cause issues if you are looking to use something for more than a couple of hours at a time. I stand by the fact that ear fatigue is a real thing!
These aren’t JBL’s first on-ear headphones with active noise cancellation. It works the same way as on the company’s higher-end Live 650BTNC cans: the 750’s analyse ambient noise with the built-in microphone and cancel out the clamor of city streets and the low rumble of a car or plane.
Everything happens automatically; you can’t control the level of noise cancellation with these like you can on headphones from Bose, Microsoft, Sennheiser, and other companies. You can activate the ANC with a long press of the button on the right earcup and you’ll here a little chime to let you know its on but you wont need it as a lot of the background noise seems to switch off which is very impressive but in real-world use, I’d say the Tune 750’s noise cancellation is good, even decent for what you are paying but still not a match for Bose’s Noise Canceling Headphones 700 or Sony’s 1000X M3s.
If you need to hear ambient noise for safety reasons or to pay for your coffee or something, unfortunately you won’t find that here, you will have to turn the ANC off or just take the headphones off altogether which isn’t great and in addition, the 750’s don’t automatically pause music when you remove them or pull away a single ear cup, and that’s one feature I really wish they had. But again, the features reflect on price and although JBL pack everything they can at lower price point, you wont find more advanced features that are usually associated with higher priced cans
The Tune 750’s allow for 2 simultaneous Bluetooth connections. The idea being you an listen to music or watch a video on a tablet and if you get a call on your phone, you can seamlessly switch your headphones to your phone to take the call. In practice, this worked exactly as JBL advertise and although a very useful feature to have, its not something I will ever really need as I tend to have a set of earphones or headphones allocated to a certain device.
With the amount of time I spent using this I am glad to say I did not experience even one connection drop out or issue with music streaming at all. In fact, I was expecting some to happen as these headphones use the Bluetooth 4.2 standard instead of the newer and more stable 5.0 but the connection was a breeze and stayed stable throughout my use. When watching videos on my iPhone, I did on the very odd occasion see some latency but this was rare and for the most part, the audio kept up well with what was happening on screen.
Another feature you will find on these headphones is a 3.5mm input. Yes that’s right, 3.5mm jacks are a feature now. With companies like Apple and now Samsung determined to kill the headphone jack, its refreshing to see the 3.5mm jack is still alive and kicking outside the smartphone world. If you want to use them wired for full-quality audio (or if the battery dies), a 3.5mm aux cable is supplied which is one feature I can definitely get behind and commend for JBL for adding this in when a lot of other comparable headphones at a higher cost omit the 3.5mm jack.
Battery life is 15 hours if you have Noise cancelling on but If you if turn it off (with a long-press of the button), you can get up to 22 hours of good old music playback. After trying to squeeze as much out of the battery as I can, I can confirm that JBL’s numbers are on point and in line with my testing. With the amount I use, this means I only have to charge the headphones once a week if that. You should bare in mind however that it takes 2 hours to charge from empty so always worth keeping that 3.5mm aux cable with you.
Now, on to sound quality. JBL has been up and down in this area for a long time, with their lower cost propositions making it obvious that they are low cost and their higher cost options providing great sound quality, but this has also been their biggest improvement in recent years as they have done well to decrease this gulf in quality.
JBL fell in the same trap that other brands did when Beats by Dre arrived on the scene. It was about commanding, head-rattling bass at the expense of everything else. But that’s not true anymore, and it hasn’t been for a while now. With the 750’s, the bass is still pronounced but not boomy or overwhelming. Yes you can hear the thump of the Bass go through you when you have the volume high but its not as muddy or as distorted as it would have been a few years back.
The word I’d associate with these headphones is emphasis. They don’t have the widest soundstage in the world, but they’re balanced and consistently enjoyable. I listen to a wide array of music ranging from Tupac to Bob Dylan and the 750’s emphasises the correct aspects of the sound dependant on the genre. Bass and kicks are thumping with Hip Hop music without bloating the vocals and the acoustic musings of Dylan and emphasised by the highs ever so subtly, making the vocals clear and crisp enough to separate from the guitar.
Do the 750’s sound as good as Sennheiser’s also-noise-canceling Momentum 3 headphones or the Sony WH-100XM3? No. But they cost more and the 750’s are not really coming out to compete with them. That said, the 750 doesn’t offer any EQ customization, so it’s worth trying them in a store first to be sure you’re into the sound. These aren’t audiophile cans, but they fill the role of everyday, take-everywhere headphones remarkably well.
Now, as this is a review, and I always have to nit pick, aside from my disappointment over the lack of auto-pause and carrying case not being provided, I would say the sound and noise cancelling could still be slightly better.
You are looking at a headphones that cost over £100 after all but at the same time, when you look at the other options out there that offer similar features for triple the price, the value could be in the compromise. JBL aren’t trying to sell these to hardcore audiophiles or to be used in a professional studio environment. These headphones are ideal for day to day use, for people who want a lower cost but comparable option to the Beats line and the Tune 750’s are a fantastic option for that.
JBL has done what they always do with the Tune 750’s – Decent sound, decent noise cancelling and good battery life. Not one of the best in class but definitely one of the best in value. The headphone market is a crowded place and the 750’s do just enough to be worth considering