CES 2021: Headphones Hold Down the Audio Fort Page 2

JBL Previews 11 New Models and its ‘Most Advanced’ Wireless Tech
JBL Showed up at CES 2021 to tout a gaggle of new headphones and earbuds, including the new wireless Tour series featuring the brand’s “most technologically advanced true wireless option.” The series launches in May with the Tour One over-ear model ($300) and Tour Pro+ earphones (at right above, $200), both wireless and equipped with adaptive noise cancellation, which monitors environmental sounds and applies noise cancellation in real time. Both can be controlled via JBL’s headphone app or by voice through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and have a smart audio mode with “high-fidelity music” and “low-latency video “settings. There’s also a SilentNow mode that activates noise cancellation without turning on Bluetooth and a “smart ambient” feature that makes it possible to have a conversation without removing the earbuds.

The Tour One over-ear headphones boast 1.6-inch dynamic drivers and feature auto play/pause plus JBL's SilentNow mode. Call quality is bolstered through the use of four microphones. Rated battery life is 25 hours with noise cancellation engaged or 50 hours with it off, and a 10-minute charge provides 2 hours of playback. The headphones are also compatible with JBL’s headphone app.

JBL’s Tour Pro+ earphones pair automatically with Android devices when removed from their charging case and offer a “dual connect + sync” option for making calls and listening to music with one or both buds playing. Rated battery life is 6 hours with noise cancellation engaged or 8 hours with it off, but JBL says you can extend playtime to 30 hours with the charging case. The earbuds support Qi wireless charging and use a three-microphone beamforming setup to ensure voice clarity. Sound is delivered through quarter-inch dynamic drivers and the Tour Pro+ has an IPX4 rating for resistance to sweat.

JBL also announced plans to add new models this spring to three existing headphone lines: Reflect, Live, and Tune.

The Reflect series is being expanded with the super compact Mini NC TWS ($150) featuring active noise cancellation and a full-on IPX7-rated waterproof design with adjustable ear-fins to ensure a comfortable fit and drivers that are slightly smaller than the ones used in the Tour Pro+. The earphones pair automatically when removed from their charging case and include JBL’s “dual connect + sync” and “smart ambient” features. The battery is rated for up to 7 hours of music playtime when fully charged, which can be extended an additional 14 hours with the charging case. The Mini NC TWS supports voice control through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and automatically pauses music playback when the buds are removed from the listener’s ears. Black, white, and blue color options will be available.

JBL’s Live series is being expanded with four new wireless noise-canceling models, ranging in price from $130 to $200 and due out in mid-March. All support voice control through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and three of the models incorporate adaptive noise cancellation.

The Live Pro+ ($180) and Live Free NC+ ($150) earbuds feature respective IPX4- and IPX7-ratings for water/sweat resistance and support Qi wireless charging along with JBL’s “dual connect + sync” and “smart ambient” features. Quick charge capability is also a common feature, with the Pro+ providing 1 hour of playback per 10-minute charge.

The Pro+ is compatible with JBL’s headphone app and employs higher level adaptive noise cancellation with echo canceling microphone technology; rated battery life is 6 hours with noise cancellation engaged or 7 hours with it off, and can be extended to up to 21 hours with the charging case. The NC+ employs active noise cancellation and has a rated battery life of up to 7 hours, expandable to 14 hours with a fully charged case. Both models are available in black or white with additional pink and beige options for the Live Pro+ and blue and rose options for the Live NC+.

Two versions of the same full-size set of headphones round out the new additions to JBL’s Live series: the Live 660NC over-ear model (left in above photo, $200) and Live 460NC on-ear model ($130). Except for having different size earpads, both models offer an identical feature set, which includes compatibility with JBL’s headphone app, higher level adaptive noise cancellation with JBL’s “smart ambient” feature, and a rated battery life of 40 hours with noise cancellation engaged or 50 hours with it off; a 10-minute quick-charge mode provides up to 4 hours of playtime. The 660/460NC also supports multi-point connection, which enables listeners to switch between devices without re-pairing, auto play and pause, and the ability to control the headphones via voice commands or touch controls.

JBL’s Tune series is being expanded with four models ranging in price from $40 and $100 and due out in mid-March. All offer Bluetooth 5.0 and voice-assistant support. The Tune 215BT ($40) and 125BT ($40) are different style wired earbuds featuring a tangle-free cable and rated battery life of 16 hours with a 10-minute quick-charge mode that provides 1 hour of playback. The 215BT earbuds are distinguished by spherical “comfort-fit” eartips, while the 125BT earbuds have a magnetic attachment to help manage the cables. Both will be available in black or white.

Two wireless on-ear models round out the new offerings: The $100 Tune 660NC features active noise cancellation and a rated battery life of 44 hours with noise cancellation engaged, 55 hours without it off, and the $50 Tune 510BT boasts a foldable design and a rated battery life of 40 hours. Both models offer a 5-minute quick-charge mode that provides 2 hours of playback and will be offered in black, blue, or white.

Visit jbl.com for more information.

Cambridge Audio Improves its Lone Earbud
Just days before CES 2021 opened, U.K. audio specialist Cambridge Audio launched an upgraded version of the Melomania 1 wireless earbuds it introduced in 2019. At $150, the new Melomania Touch ‘buds cost $50 more than their predecessor but offer a number of significant improvements, including increased battery life, a more comfortable design with a transparency mode and intuitive touch controls, slightly larger graphene-enhanced drivers for “deeper controlled bass and clearer highs, and a “high performance audio mode” that uses amplifier technology borrowed from the company’s CX power amps to lower noise and expand dynamic range.

The earbuds weigh a mere 0.4 ounces (combined) and are supported by a companion app with controls for adjusting the level of outside ambient noise when the transparency mode is engaged and an equalizer for adjusting bass, midrange, treble and selecting among a half dozen EQ presets, including one that can be customized; the app will also facilitate future performance upgrades.

Rated battery life in low-power mode is 9 hours, which the company says can be extended to 50 hours using the supplied charging case. Playtime drops to 7 hours when the high performance mode is engaged and you get an additional 33 hours from the charging case. Like its predecessor, the Touch is resistant to water and sweat with an IPX4 rating and employs Qualcomm’s Clear Voice Capture noise cancellation with dual microphones to ensure clear phone calls.

Cambridge engineers analyzed data points collected from more than 3,000 pairs of ears to develop earbuds that “ensure long-lasting comfort” while improving noise isolation and sonic immersion.

The Melomania Touch earbuds are offered in black or white and come with an assortment of silicone ear tips and fins to ensure a tight, comfortable fit. Visit cambridgeaudio.com for more information.