JBL makes some of the most interesting and affordable headphones you can buy right now. How do we know? Because our experts have personally tried and tested them, drawing on decades of audio know-how to identify the best-sounding, best-value models.
It's not always easy. Some pairs look the part but fit poorly; others promise 'high fidelity' sound but don't deliver. And we never recommend wireless headphones without checking that the stated battery life lives up to reality.
Ready to pick out the perfect pair of JBL headphones for your needs and budget? We've got you covered with our honest, impartial guide. Every entry on this list has excelled and won our approval, so you can trust our buying advice and shop with complete confidence.
You'll find more buying tips below, followed by What Hi-Fi?'s definitive list of the best JBL headphones.
How to choose the best JBL headphones for you
If you want a pair of headphones for home use (to plug into your hi-fi system, say) then a wired pair of the best over-ear headphones is the way to go. More likely to listen on the go? In-ear earbuds or on-ear headphones might be a better bet.
Your next decision is between wired and wireless. The best wireless headphones and earbuds (and even the worst) offer cable-free convenience and typically pair with any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, tablet or laptop. On the downside, the technology generally attracts a higher price tag compared to wired counterparts of similar sonic quality.
JBL also makes noise-cancelling headphones, for those who want to block out the world, and sports headphones – such as the excellent Reflect Flow Pro – for gym-goers. The latter prioritise workout-friendly features and waterproofing.
One pair that unfortunately hasn't made this list are the JBL Tour Pro 2 wireless earbuds which feature the first-ever 'smart charging case'. They're an ambitious concept but the execution – especially regarding sound quality and ANC – we found lacking.
Instead, check out the best JBL headphones below.
The design is a little bulbous – they're nowhere near as discreet as the flatter Jaybird Vista 2 – but they're satisfyingly lightweight. We find that the firm fit keeps them in place when things get slippery due to sweat or rain.
JBL's noise-cancelling tech performed OK, but not brilliantly, in our tests. There's also an ‘ambient’ mode that lets you stay aware of your surroundings and comes in particularly useful when running through busy cities.
Hitting play on GUNSHIP’s Woken Furies, the barrage of synths sparkle and sizzle with clarity and texture, underpinned by a strong bassline. Sound is wonderfully balanced – less rich than the Jaybird Vista 2 but more energetic than the original Bose Sport Earbuds.
The Reflect Flow Pro are durable not only in terms of build quality but also battery life. In our tests, the buds lasted the claimed 10 hours (plus another 20 hours from the charging case).
Sure, you can buy wireless earbuds not geared towards sport that, for a similar price, will deliver more detail (Sony's WF-1000XM4, for example). But unlike the Reflect Flow Pro, they aren't aren't nearly as rugged or fitness-friendly.
Read the full JBL Reflect Flow Pro review
JBL might not dominate headlines like Sony or Apple, but it's been making wireless earbuds for years. And mighty fine they are too. Case in point: the JBL Live Pro 2 TWS, which sit just above the entry level.
They look decent for the price, with their mirrored finish elevating them above their similarly-priced peers. They're a comfortable fit – if not quite as secure as some pairs – and have extras that are above what we expect at this level. These include wireless charging, IPX5 water-resistance (most pairs are IPX4), and Bluetooth Multipoint which lets you seamlessly switch between devices without having to reconnect to each. And at 30 hours (including the case), the battery life is up there with pricier pairs.
The noise-canceling feature is impressive, automatically adjusting to the optimum level depending on your environment. And the sound? Worthy of the Live Pro 2's five stars.
Read the full JBL Live Pro 2 TWS review
The market for true wireless earbuds around the £100 / $120 / AU$180 mark is full to bursting, but the JBL Live Pro+ manage to stand out from the crowd with their entertaining sound.
The AirPods-style design might not be to everyone's taste but we found these buds easy to position securely and comfortably. Touch controls are responsive and reliable throughout our testing period and the JBL control app lets us tinker with the EQ settings, degree of noise-cancellation and voice assistant (Alexa and Google Assistant).
JBL's oversized (11mm) full-range dynamic drivers – a nice touch at this price point – deliver the big dynamic variations in Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major. We play a CD-quality file of Grace Jones’ My Jamaican Guy and are similarly impressed by the rhythmic expression and impressive levels of detail. There's a proper intimacy to the midrange here.
Battery life is seven hours from the buds, with three further charges held in the case, making a total of 28 hours. That's competitive, but not class-leading. The case wirelessly charges via any Qi-certified pad, and 10 minutes on the power returns an hour of playback.
The Panasonic RZ-S500W (£100 / $150 / AU$219) serve up even more detail and a more spacious presentation. But if you're keen to buy from JBL, and don't fancy the sportier models above, the Live Pro+ are a good value option.
Read the full JBL LivePro+ review
If you're after a pair of bass-heavy, DJ-friendly headphones, JBL has you covered with the Club 950NC over-ears. They're much heavier than the What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Sony WH-1000XM5 (372g vs 250g), but they're a fun listen.
First impressions are good: we like the fact that the Club 950NC are foldable and portable. Both the headphones and the included case feel like they're built to last.
JBL’s noise-cancelling tech does a solid enough job of cutting out background noise but if you spend a little extra, you’ll get even better tech from the likes of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless.
The Bass Boost function can be turned on and off via a button on the right earcup. During our time with the headphones we leave the boost turned off. It definitely adds power and bass weight, but the trade-off is precision and clarity. The whole presentation sounds cloudier and muddier with it switched on.
We play Dua Lipa’s Don’t Start Now and the track’s upbeat, funky tempo suits the Club 950NC to a tee. The song’s short, stabby bassline, plucky percussion and expressive vocal are all given plenty of room to breathe.
We squeezed around 22 hours of battery life out of these headphones with Bluetooth and noise-cancelling activated, and 30 hours when plugged in using the supplied cable with noise-cancelling on.
The all-conquering Sony WH-1000XM5 (£380 / $399 / AU$550) are, by far, the better noise-cancellers. But if you can't get enough of chunky club basslines, the JBL Club 950NC will have you tapping to the beat.
Read the full JBL Club 950NC review
How we test JBL headphones
Here at What Hi-Fi? we review hundreds of products every year, from TVs to speakers, headphones to hi-fi systems. So how do we come to our review verdicts? And why can you trust them? Allow us to explain.
The What Hi-Fi? team has more than 100 years of experience in reviewing, testing and writing about consumer electronics. We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in Reading, London and Bath, where our team of expert reviewers do all our in-house testing. This gives us complete control over the testing process from start to finish, ensuring a high level of consistency. What's more, we keep class-leading headphones in our stockrooms so we can always compare new pairs to ones we know and love.
We are always honest, fair and impartial, and do our best to make sure we're hearing every product at their very best, so we'll try plenty of different genres of music and give them plenty of listening time (and time to run in), while the wired headphones that might warrant being used with a DAC are tested with a suitable one.
It's not just about sound quality, of course. If a pair has active noise cancellation – increasingly the case these days – we'll ensure part of our testing involves using them in different environments, whether it's a busy train station or a noisy aircraft cabin. When it comes to battery life, we don't just take the manufacturer's word for it – we test and then test again to find out if the claims really stack up in a real-world scenario.
The same goes for comfort. It's all very well slipping on a pair of headphones for an hour or so, but will you still be headache-free after a full day of wearing them? Build quality is extremely important to us too. If the construction or finish is not up to scratch, we'll be the first to tell you. That way, you can buy with always confidence based on our recommendations.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than a single reviewer, helping to ensure consistency and avoid individual subjectivity. That's why our reviews are trusted by retailers and manufacturers as well as consumers. And there's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, ensuring that we continue to deliver honest, unbiased reviews for many more decades to come.
Our ultimate guide to the best over-ear headphones
On the move? Here are the best earbuds
Expert guide: How to choose the right pair of headphones