The 8 Best JBL Headphones of 2020

Rock out to music with a pair of name-brand cans

JBL is known for its line of colorful headphones and portable speakers, but the brand has created audio technology for all kinds of settings, from huge concert venues to car interiors. It goes without saying that JBL knows sound. And if you’re in the market for a pair of headphones, JBL has options for just about every budget. From inexpensive earbuds you can throw in your bag like the JBL Tune 290 at Amazon, to top-of-the-line gaming headsets with advanced 3D audio positioning technology like the JBL Quantum One at Amazon. JBL blends smart design with playful color options. Want a pair of canary-yellow earbuds? How about a set of wireless headphones in pale pink or navy blue? You can even personalize certain devices with a photo or message.

JBL is most well known for its mid-range headphones, which tend to offer surprisingly premium features at an affordable price. For under $100, you can find features like active noise cancellation and fast charging, plus JBL’s signature sound profile (known for its punchy bass). We’ve done the research and picked our favorite headphones from JBL’s extensive lineup.

Make sure to take a look at our FAQ if you're trying to make heads or tails of the variety of headphones available before you settle on one of our picks for the best JBL headphones.

What We Like
  • Good sound quality

  • Fast charging

  • Control over ambient noise level

What We Don't Like
  • No active noise cancellation

  • Fit is on the smaller side

Featuring signature JBL sound quality and some cutting-edge features, the JBL Live 500BT are our favorite headphones from the brand. These Bluetooth over-ear headphones have 50mm drivers and enhanced low end for a deep, rich sound profile that’s great for bass-heavy music. They have a sleek, comfortable design with cushioned ear cups and fantastic battery life for all-day wear, offering up to 30 hours of listening after only two hours on the charger. It also has a quick-charge feature that gives you up to two hours of battery life after just 15 minutes connected to power.

JBL has also thrown in some interesting new features that make these headphones stand out. An “Ambient Aware” button on the headset lets in more environmental noise so you can stay alert to your surroundings. This is an important safety feature if you’re enjoying music while walking outside or even just listening for your stop on public transportation. You can switch it off for better sound isolation when you’re focusing at work or kicking back at home. The Live 500BT also has a TalkThru mode that drops your music volume with the touch of a button so you can have a conversation without having to take off your headphones.

Runner-up, Best Overall: JBL Live 650 BTNC

What We Like
  • Good sound quality

  • Active noise cancelling

  • Built-in voice assistant

What We Don't Like
  • ANC significantly impacts battery life

The Live 650 BTNC are some of JBL’s pricier headphones, but they’re a great option for anyone who specifically wants noise cancellation technology. Like the other headphones on this list, they feature high-quality audio performance with enhanced bass so your music sounds clear and rich. And you can hear that detail even better when you switch on the active noise canceling (ANC). The ANC performance is solid but not stunning — you’ll need to spend a bit more if you want extreme sound isolation inside your headphones. But the Live 650 BTNCs are great if you want to drown out background noise on a plane or keep the sound of coworkers’ conversations to a minimum. The only real downside of the ANC is its impact on battery life. If you know you’re going to use the noise-canceling feature all the time, note that this reduces the battery life to 20 hours between charges (compared to 30 hours when ANC is turned off). These headphones can charge up fully in two hours and can fast-charge for up to two hours of playback in only 15 minutes.

As an added bonus, the JBL Live 650 BTNC features a built-in virtual assistant — either Google Assistant or Alexa — that you can select in the JBL app and activate via a button on the ear cup. This is great for answering calls, asking questions, and queuing up music without having to take out your phone. 

Best Budget: JBL Tune 290

What We Like
  • Great price

  • In-line microphone

  • Pause/play controls

What We Don't Like
  • Weak bass

  • Not very durable

The JBL Tune 290 earbuds provide sound beyond what you’d expect for the budget price. The aluminum build and multiple ear tip sizes make for a lightweight and comfortable fit that you can wear for hours at a time. The flat cable design also resists tangling so you won’t have to untie knots every time you take them out of your bag. There’s an in-line microphone (always a nice feature on wired headphones) so you can easily take calls, plus a single button that lets you answer your phone and play or pause your music.

These earbuds feature 8.7-inch drivers that deliver decent audio. The sound isn’t amazing, but it’s better than your typical pair of sub-$20 headphones. Some corners have been cut on the build quality (as is expected for a pair of ultra-budget headphones) but these are still a solid option if you want a pair of JBLs that are super compact and wallet-friendly.

Best Value: JBL E55BT Wireless Headphones

What We Like
  • Solid audio performance

  • Comfortable

  • Mid-range price

What We Don't Like
  • No active noise cancellation

  • Slightly shorter battery life

These headphones are a few years old at this point, but if you’re in the market for a basic pair of wireless headphones with good sound quality, the reduced prices on the JBL E55BT make them a great value. The 50mm drivers deliver balanced audio and the thickly-cushioned ear cups provide good sound isolation, though there is no active noise cancellation feature. They’re also comfortable to wear for long periods of time and have a fabric-lined headband that adds to the secure fit.

These headphones come with a detachable cord that includes an in-line microphone and button controls (there are also sound controls on the ear cup itself). Whether you’re listening with a cord or going wireless, you can easily pause or skip tracks without going to your phone. The JBL E55BT delivers about 20 hours of battery life per charge, which is slightly shorter than the newer headphones on this list but still very good. If you’re looking for a solid pair of over-ear headphones that just fit comfortably and sound good, these are a great value. 

Best Sport: JBL UA True Wireless Flash

What We Like
  • IPX7 waterproof rating

  • Secure fit

  • Control over ambient noise level

What We Don't Like
  • No built-in volume controls

True wireless earbuds have become the trend for sport headphones. Their incredibly compact design makes them a weightless and cord-free addition to your workout routine, and the True Wireless Flash earbuds are no exception. They’re the product of a collaboration between JBL and Under Armour, meaning they’re designed for both great audio and active lifestyles. The earbuds come with several different sizes of ear tips and wings so you can find a secure and comfortable fit, and they’re engineered to sit snugly in your ears for your entire workout. The JBL UA True Wireless Flash also features an IPX7 waterproof rating, meaning they’ll hold up to sweat and rain with no problem.

These earbuds include JBL’s TalkThru and Ambient Aware modes. The first is a button you can press to temporarily lower the music volume when you’re talking to someone. This lets you stay in the rhythm of your workout and means you don’t have to remove and reinsert a tiny earbud. Ambient Aware mode allows more ambient noise into the listening experience and is an important safety feature for those who run on the road.

Best Budget Sport: JBL Endurance Sprint Wireless

What We Like
  • IPX7 waterproof rating

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Tricky touch controls

  • Limited battery life

If you’re looking for an affordable pair of exercise headphones, the Endurance Sprint Wireless is another water-resistant option that’s made for people in motion. These Bluetooth earbuds are connected with a wire that goes around the back of the head, and a magnetized hook design that secures around the ear for a reliable fit. Their IPX7 waterproof rating is unusual for a pair of headphones in this price range, and it means they can endure both your sweat and the elements. In fact, these headphones seem to punch above their price tag on almost every spec — they’re really only limited in their battery life, which tops out at about eight hours. That isn’t bad, but it’s shorter than most of JBL’s other Bluetooth headphones.

The Endurance Sprint’s most polarizing feature is the touch control design. You can change the volume, skip and pause tracks, and answer calls all on the headphones themselves using a set of tapping and sliding gestures. This is an interesting and surprisingly high-tech feature for a sub-$50 device, but the execution is a little lacking. The controls are known to be highly sensitive and require a bit of practice before they feel intuitive. 

Best for Gaming: JBL Quantum One

What We Like
  • 3D audio positioning

  • Active noise cancellation

  • Clear microphone

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Advanced software features for PC only

If you’re okay with the premium price tag, the JBL Quantum One is a wired headset that delivers on premium performance. It focuses on the features that matter most: immersive, great-sounding audio, a comfortable fit, and a clear, high-quality microphone. The Quantum One includes JBL’s QuantumSPHERE 360 audio positioning software. This software requires a USB connection to run (making it especially suited to PC games) and creates an immersive soundscape that remains stable when you turn your head. Working in tandem with the headset’s internal head-tracking sensor, this software makes it sound as though your game audio exists in a three-dimensional space around you rather than just in your headphones. This feature, combined with active noise cancellation for superior sound isolation, makes for a truly immersive experience.

The Quantum One’s design is lightweight and suitable for long-term wear, with memory phone ear cups for a snug, comfortable fit. Its detachable boom mic is echo-free and effectively isolates your voice so your teammates can hear you loud and clear.

What We Like
  • Premium design

  • Built-in voice assistant

  • Amazing battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Fit can be finicky and affect ANC

The Club One headphones from JBL are a solid addition to the premium headphone market and our pick for the best splurge. The sleek, all-black design and appealing materials definitely look and feel high-end. The profile may be a bit bulky for some, but the Club One reflects the same kind of ultra-plush, ear-hugging design that so many high-end headphones have embraced. They feature active noise cancellation that adjusts to ambient sound in real-time (meaning the ANC automatically notches up if you suddenly enter a louder space) and can be turned on without any audio if you just want some quiet. You can also tap the ear cup to summon either Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. These headphones have incredible battery life, delivering up to 45 hours of playback between charges.

One downside to the Club One’s large ear cups is their ability to “seal” against the side of the head. Depending on your head shape or the kinds of accessories you wear (glasses, earrings, etc.), the ear cups may not sit entirely flush around the ear and can reduce the effectiveness of the ANC. Unfortunately, you can only really know how they fit once the headphones are in your hands, but it’s good to keep in mind if you’ve had this particular issue with headphones before. 

Final Verdict

Our top pick is the surprisingly affordable JBL Live 500BT. It nails the basics like audio performance, comfort, and battery life and throws in a few interesting new features like ambient noise control. If you have a little extra money to spend, we’d also recommend checking out the JBL Live 650BTNC for its noise cancellation features and built-in virtual assistant.

What to Look For

Wired vs. Wireless - JBL makes both wired and wireless headphones. Wired headphones require a cable connection to your audio device, almost always through a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and occasionally through a USB port (in cases where the headphones have advanced software features). But most of JBL’s offerings are wireless at this point. Wireless headphones use Bluetooth technology to connect to your phone or computer without any cables. If you want to listen to music on an older device like a stereo or MP3 player, you’ll need to make sure that the device is Bluetooth compatible.

Fit - JBL offers several different types of headphones with very different fits, so you want to look for designs that are comfortable and match your lifestyle. “In-ear” designs sit in the ear canal. These kinds of headphones usually come with multiple sizes of ear tips for adjustability, and some have plastic hooks that go around the ear or brace against the outside of the ear for a snug fit. In-ear designs can also be wired or wireless. Some connect to your device via Bluetooth but are tethered to each other with a cord. “True wireless” earbuds have no cords at all, which makes a secure fit especially important. These designs are light and low-profile, so almost all sport headphones are in-ear. If you find this fit uncomfortable or want something for more long-term wear, look into on-ear or over-ear designs. These kinds of headphones have ear cups connected by a headband. These types of headphones are bulkier, but they also provide a very immersive sound experience. For maximum comfort, look for lightweight materials, plenty of cushioning, and an adjustable band. Features like rotating ear cups also make for a more customized fit.

Sound Quality - It’s hard to know how a pair of headphones will sound before you actually listen to them. Generally speaking, specs like driver size don’t have much of an impact on sound quality. But you can keep an eye out for certain descriptors to get a sense of how the headphones have been tuned and what kinds of music they’re most suited to. Headphones that are “bass-boosted” can be a plus for fans of bass-heavy music, but they might sound distorted to those that prioritize high-fidelity audio. Headphones with adjustable sound profiles or EQ apps can give you the power to adjust audio levels from your smartphone, but you may want to read others’ reviews on how effective these software features are.

Battery Life - Wireless headphones rely on battery power to operate, and it’s frustrating to have to constantly recharge or have your music cut off unexpectedly. When you’re shopping, look at the specs to see how many hours you can use them between charges — most mid-range headphones can go for at least 15 hours. Premium headphones should be able to last longer than that, while budget headphones will need more frequent charging. Advanced features like active noise canceling can also have a big impact on battery life and may drain your power faster when they’re turned on. Several models of JBL headphones include fast charging, which provides a few hours of playback time after only a few minutes on the charger. Some of their true wireless headphones also come with a charging case for a power boost on the go.

Extra Features - Many of JBL’s mid-range and premium headphones come with a host of extra features. These can really bump up the price, so it’s good to know which features will actually be useful to you so you don’t spend more than necessary. A lot of the headphones on this list have active noise cancellation, which is great for people who want to block out as much ambient noise as possible. Other models include microphones and built-in virtual assistants that allow you to take phone calls, set reminders, dictate texts, and more without having to pull out your phone. For those who listen on their commute or while exercising, some JBL headphones feature ambient noise controls that let you adjust how much of the outside world you can hear. This can be a good safety measure for those who use headphones while running on the road or in any other situation where environmental awareness is important. Athletes will also want to keep an eye on the IP rating for water resistance (look for IPX4 or higher) to make sure their headphones can stand up to sweat.

About our Trusted Experts

Emmeline Kaser is a former editor of Lifewire’s product round-ups and reviews. She has several years of experience researching and writing about consumer tech.

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