The market for high-end true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation is continuing to grow every year. Sony and Bose are two of the main competitors, but there are brands vying for your hard-earned dollar, such as JBL with its latest Tour PRO+ true wireless earbuds with ANC.
Fortunately, JBL was nice enough to send out a pair for review, and here are my thoughts after using them for the past few weeks.
The JBL Tour PRO+ comes in a fairly compact matte black plastic case that has a nice weight to it and feels solid in the hand. There’s a USB-C charging port on the bottom and it lies flat for wireless charging. Also, I have to call out JBL here for including a charging cable that is reversible on both ends.
JBL is the only brand that I know of that includes cables with its products with a reversible USB-A connector, and I’ve always been a huge fan of its bundled cables for that reason.
My only complaint about the case is that you cannot stand it up straight while having the lid open. The bottom is slightly rounded and with the top opened it causes it to tip over.
Inside the case are an attractive pair of buds with IPX4 water-resistance and touch-sensitive buttons to control music playback, noise cancellation, and more where the JBL logo is located.
JBL includes four sets of ear tips for the Tour PRO+ buds, and unfortunately, none of them were small enough for my ears. Admittedly, I have smaller than average ear canals and this is an issue for me with many earbuds, even Sony’s top-of-the-line buds.
While I was able to use the smallest set of ear tips, they weren’t the most comfortable things to jam into my ears, but once in, I was able to listen to music for a couple of hours before ear fatigue set in.
Still, it would have been fantastic if JBL and other brands were to include slimmer ear tips with their earbuds. At least JBL uses a standard connector, which allows you to buy third-party ear tips for a better fit such as this set from Amazon.
The JBL Tour PRO+ incorporate Google Fast Pairing technology which makes them easy to connect to your phone and set up right after taking them out of the box.
JBL also has an app on the Play Store that you’ll need to install for additional features such as customizing the touch-sensitive buttons, changing the equalizer settings, viewing the battery life of the buds or case, and more.
The JBL Headphones app isn’t as fully featured as something like the app from Sony, but it still provides the most important controls, and it even allows has a feature that will prioritize audio quality or try to keep audio and video in sync better.
Overall, my experience with the JBL Tour PRO+ was a positive one, except I did run into a couple of issues. For instance, when trying to reposition or push the buds back in, I would often end up activating one of the touch-sensitive buttons. This must be due to the button itself being quite large and it makes it easy to accidentally press or graze with your finger.
Next, there were several occasions when I would put the buds back in the case and I would hear a loud piercing noise while closing the case. I’m not sure what the root cause of this was, but I did notice a couple of times one or both of the buds wouldn’t disconnect and I would have to remove them and insert them again.
In the end, these are minor quirks, but when you’re spending $200 on a pair of headphones, you do expect these sorts of issues to not be present.
Back on the positive side of things, the JBL Tour PRO+ offers hands-free Google Assistant integration which makes listening to and responding to your notifications a breeze on the go. You can also disable this if you don’t care for it and still use one of the touch-sensitive buttons to activate Assistant.
Furthermore, each bud can be used independently if you’re the sort of person who needs to keep one ear free. However, the JBL Tour PRO+ also offers a fantastic ambient aware mode that allows you to listen to music while hearing your surroundings, so you can wear both buds all the time if you choose while keeping in touch with the world.
Many earbuds in this price range offer high-quality Bluetooth codecs for audio decoding such as aptX, aptX HD, or even LDAC. Despite JBL omitting these codecs, the Tour PRO+ still provides some top-tier sound.
The high-end was bright and clear providing clarity in tracks and allowing for separation from the different instruments, while at the same time, there was a deep low-end for some thumping bass. It’s a V-shaped sound signature that I’ve been accustomed to from JBL over the years, and that I’m a big fan of in general.
So, even though I was a bit disappointed there was no high-res audio codec support, I still found myself fully enamored in the sound from the Tour PRO+ and wasn’t let down.
The ANC capabilities of the JBL Tour PRO+ come up a little short when compared to Sony’s WF-1000XM4 earbuds. That’s no surprise because Sony and Bose both lead the pack when it comes to noise cancellation.
Regardless, the JBL Tour PRO+ are still able to block out some low-level repetitive noise and it should be helpful at silencing airplane noise or the air conditioner running in the background when music is played at a low to moderate volume.
The JBL Tour PRO+ offer up to a whopping 32-hours of battery life, which is some of the longest I’ve seen from a pair of true wireless headphones. When it comes to uninterrupted playback, the JBL Tour PRO+ offers around eight hours before the buds need to be topped off by the case.
Plus, you can get an hour of playback time with only a few minutes of charging in the case for when you need to quickly extend your listening time.
JBL’s latest Tour PRO+ true wireless earbuds pack in a lot for the $200 price tag. They sound fantastic, feature ANC, and provide all the essential options you’d expect from flagship headphones in the JBL Headphones app.
Nevertheless, there are a few quirks with getting the buds to reliably disconnect when placing them in the case, the noise cancellation is a little weak, and there’s no hi-res Bluetooth audio codec support.
Despite those drawbacks, the Tour PRO+ buds are still a great pair of headphones and especially considering they come in quite a bit cheaper than some of the competition.