Face-Off: Noise-Canceling True Wireless Earbuds JBL Club Pro+

JBL Club Pro+
($199.95) jbl.com


Featured-packed buds offering app-based customization for sound and control are generally a good thing, but JBL has gone way overboard on that aspect with its Club Pro+. The over-complicated sound modes included in these true wireless buds mar what was otherwise the best-sounding model I auditioned for this test.

Before you start listening to music, you use the My JBL Headphone app to choose between three smart audio modes: Normal (the default setting that provides a "stable" connection), Audio (delivers the "best" audio quality), and (Video) which is meant to improve lip-sync performance. Sound quality does gain additional presence in Audio compared with Normal mode,

but I'm not sure what you give up here since I didn't experience any Bluetooth connection issues. In any event, the Club Pro+ in Audio mode challenges the sonics of the Bose QC and Jabra Elite 85t, with detail that emerges from an almost 3D-like soundstage and a wide frequency range with even- tempered yet satisfying bass.


I could detect little sonic difference between Audio and Video modes—voices and sound effects were a bit sharper, and lip sync was equally spot-on with either. Quite frankly, I preferred the smoother sound signature of the Audio mode for watching movies. Bottom line: Audio mode on the Club Pro+ makes the other settings superfluous.

And then there are the JBL's confusing noise-canceling modes. There are three to toggle through— ANC (which JBL labels as "Adaptive"), Ambient, and Off—plus a TalkThru mode separate from Ambient, which I guess improves ambient mode conversation. When toggling through the ANC modes on the buds, instead of a voice prompt telling you which mode is which, a beep indicates that you've switched modes. To access TalkThru—which does sharpen up voices up a tad—you'll need the app, which is ridiculously inconvenient. There's also a separate Active mode that "optimizes noise canceling for active use," but I heard no difference with Active mode enabled.

Even with all these largely unnecessary options, the JBL's adaptive noise cancellation was a shade less effective than what I heard with the Bose and Jabra models. Voices were dampened, and it also eliminated the bottom end of airplane cabin noise, but a background of engine hum was disappointingly audible during all but the loudest music playback.

JBL supplies "gesture" control customization—basically bud taps. For each bud you can choose a set of multi-tap controls for playback, ambient sound, volume, and voice assistant control (phone call tap controls are static). But even with all this customization, what's missing is an option to pause music and activate Talk- Thru with a single tap to hear announcements or to engage in conversation. On-bud volume and operational control seems to be mutually exclusive —you must choose one or the other, which is pretty odd since many other buds accommodate both types of control.


The app also presents various "Stage+" EQs settings. There's a customizable EQ that uses a bendable 10-point frequency curve, and DJ Signature, Piano, Jazz, and Vocal presets. You can set an auto-off time from 15 minutes to 2 hours so the buds don't burn battery life when removed but not returned to their charging case, and there's a Find My Buds feature designed to help locate them in your home, office, or wherever.

JBL gives you a slightly above-average 6 hours of noise-canceling playback, and 8 hours without ANC. Total listening time is up to 24 hours with case recharges, and a 15-minute speed charge provides an hour of added playback time.

The My JBL Headphone app prompts you to test your bud fit when first opened. And once a noise-isolating seal is achieved, the lightweight and compact Club Pro+ wear easily and comfortably over hours of extended listening periods. JBL's 2 x 2 x 1.25-inch case also is relatively compact.

The Verdict
The JBL Club Pro+ offers great sound, above-average ANC, and a comfortable fit, but has way too many unnecessary and complicated settings.