JBL Quantum TWS earbuds review: Portable gaming’s new best friends

JBL Quantum TWS Featured ImageDexerto

JBL’s Quantum earbuds are yet another hat thrown into the ring of competitors to the almighty AirPod crown. So what makes them stand out?

Earphones have taken over the ‘status quo’, where every major star and a majority of the public now walk about with some sort of wireless earbud on them.

Over Bluetooth, latency isn’t an issue for listening to music, with software and hardware coming leaps and bounds. However, gaming requires lower latency to keep up with the real-time audio, it can begin to get a little tricky for those tiny little earbuds to keep up with. Regardless, are the JBL Quantum TWS earbuds themselves worthwhile?

Key specs:

  • IP Code IPX4
  • Active Frequency Response 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Bluetooth version 5.2
  • 2.4GHz connectivity
  • Active noise canceling, ambient mode, and talk-through modes
  • Battery:
    • Charge time: 2 hours
    • Talktime with Bluetooth: 4 hours
    • Music playtime with Bluetooth with ANC on: up to 6 hours
    • Music playtime with Bluetooth with ANC off: up to 8 hours
    • Music playtime with 2.4GHz dongle with ANC on: 3.5 hours
    • Music playtime with 2.4GHz dongle with ANC off: 4 hours
  • USB-C charging
  • Price: £129/$149

Included in the box: USB-C cable, extra earbuds, charging case and USB-C dongle.

Design

JBL Quantum TWS Lifestyle imageDexerto
Relax back and listen in.

Upon opening the little egg crate (also known as a charging case) that the two earbuds come in, JBL has fitted an additional slot for a USB-C dongle that provides a 2.4GHz signal to the earbuds for when playing on consoles or PC. It’s an interesting addition, one that we weren’t sure would actually pay off.

While we’d almost always opt for wired headsets on PC (because Windows and Bluetooth connections are a nightmare), we were pleasantly surprised to find that these just immediately paired up and removed the hassle of dealing with Windows.

The Quantum app for Windows isn’t especially robust but manages to mirror the functionality of the mobile app. The downside to connecting on a PC is that you’re required to have the app installed to unlock all the functionality you’ve come to expect while on the go.

However, PC gaming and wireless earbuds are not the intended use – that’s for the JBL Quantum headset to tackle, and we were more curious about how the earbuds perform while you’re out and about.

Sound quality

Though, as a small intermission to talk about the music performance, yes, it sounds pretty good. A similar problem that we found in the Asus ROG Cetra earbuds, is that the bass overpowered some of the mids and highs. Some songs on the default EQ on Apple Music, Spotify, and even on YouTube had this mild tinny effect that was rectified by messing around with the EQ settings.

For further control over audio quality and even direct control for those not feeling the touch-sensitive buttons on each earbud, the app is surprisingly well fleshed out and after a small error of it not detecting the Quantum TWS. It has full control over the EQ and an option to improve the Bluetooth signal for gaming and audio.

You can even choose to hear yourself in calls, which we found not to be entirely useful in terms of phone calls, but the people around us probably appreciated us being able to hear how loud we actually were.

We tested out the ambient noise control and the active noise canceling, all easily accessible with a quick, futuristic tap of the left ear. There’s even a talk-through mode to avoid pulling the bud out of the ear to have a conversation.

The Ambient Aware feature turns the Quantum TWS earbuds into your usual pair of earphones, the noise canceling was pretty great. Testing it while walking around Manchester, we were able to mute out the sounds of the tram’s horns, the rumble of the bus, and even the bustle from the coffee shops so we could focus on reading for a little bit.

We didn’t even hear the dropping of plates to shout mazeltov.

Music control is a little fiddly, it involves too much furious tapping, and it was still easier to whip our phone out, or just accept our fate that we had entered a Scissor Sisters marathon from Spotify’s algorithm.

Microphone quality

On multiple calls, there were complaints of it bringing in too much audio from the surrounding areas, while others thought they sounded pretty good. On testing a recording, they sounded, well, like your typical earbud microphones. Not particularly great, but for a phone call or even a Discord chat on your phone, you can’t do much worse.

It was considerably worse than the included microphone on the iPhone, however.

Are the JBL Quantum TWS good for gaming?

Quantum DongleDexerto
The review would have looked too funny if we wrote Quantum Dongle.

So, how does all of this translate to something that’s worthy of even gracing our ears with gaming? Well, outside of the PC, we tested it across an iPhone, Switch, Steam Deck, and an Xbox. All support Bluetooth, but all have various issues when it comes to games.

On iPhone, due to no USB-C being available, we decided to put the Bluetooth through its paces and play the Hatsune Miku: Colorful Stage rhythm game. Swapping between audio and gaming modes made a minimal difference, but it kept up and we were able to complete multiple levels without even noticing the potential for hiccups from latency.

Switch with JBL DongleDexerto
Wireless earbuds on the Switch? Yes, please.

It was no surprise that the built-in Bluetooth support for earbuds on Nintendo Switch was terrible. Slower-paced games like Atelier Sophie 2 and Triangle Strategy had their soundtracks and dialogue messed up as the latency just killed the experience.

After plugging in the included USB-C dongle, all issues were immediately fixed. It made the perfect companion for the Switch, with rhythm games like Groove Coaster playing close enough to perfect and even the aforementioned Atelier Sophie 2 having all the issues rectified. The issue then becomes more of sacrificing listening on the go or having your Switch able to charge, as the USB-C port will be blocked up.

As the Switch doesn’t have any USB-C ports on its dock, you will need to convert the dongle to USB-A, which JBL doesn’t include.

Steam Deck running Rogue WarriorDexerto
Listen to only the highest quality of video games.

On the latest major handheld, the Steam Deck, this was literally a plug-and-play thing. We didn’t even have to think about it. The Bluetooth had okay success, but we still preferred the wireless connection.

JBL also hasn’t included Xbox support, but it does support the PS5. Again, this is the manufacturer and JBL should consider releasing a specific dongle or version that supports the console.

Should you buy it?

The JBL Quantum TWS isn’t going to blow anyone away. They’re great earbuds, but if you’re a hardcore audiophile, you’re probably going to be able to point out the worst aspects of them immediately. Aside from highs being slightly tinny depending on the music source, we found them to be a great pair of earbuds for multiple use cases.

Eliminating the Bluetooth aspect for gaming purposes and ensuring that there’s wide support for consoles – barring the Xbox – while still providing really good earbuds in a quite excellent showing. It also helps that all the additional features, including the excellent noise cancellation, work great too.

8/10

The JBL Quantum TWS joins the Quantum Stream and 610 headsets, all three of which are now available.

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