JBL Quantum TWS review: Game on
- Supports both Bluetooth and 2.4Ghz wireless audio
- Low latency is great for gaming
- Lives up to battery life claims
- ANC isn’t notably strong
- JBL App can be hard to manage
- Only average for music playback
If you want a set of true wireless buds, you're awash with choices. With just a few seconds of online searching, I can find a set of wireless buds for under $10, though I suspect at this price, I'd get better-sounding audio crinkling a $10 note near my earlobes.
JBL's Quantum TWS sits somewhat in the middle, with a $229 price point that puts them well above the cheap-and-not-so-cheerful crowd, but also below the premium set. Like any manufacturer, JBL promises that its wireless buds deliver high-quality audio, long battery life and ease of use.
The reality here is that JBL's positioning of these particular buds within their gaming range is spot on, as they're best suited for gamers who want low-latency audio as well as a pair of everyday buds. They're not absolute premium grade, but there's not too much to dislike for the price.
Design: AirPods meet the dark side (again)
Human ears do have variance, but when you're designing true wireless buds, there are only so many shapes that will work.
For the JBL Quantum TWS headphones, JBL's opted for a look that I'll simply call "AirPod" style – because they look for all the world like AirPods, but for the fact that they're black and shiny, and each bud has a silver JBL logo on them.
That's a very much tried and tested design that does have some advantages. I've jogged with the JBL Quantum TWS headphones in my ears with no real concerns about them bouncing out, although like any stalk-based bud I did have the sensation of them tapping my upper cheeks as I bounced along the road.
The JBL Quantum TWS case is a mostly regular affair from the outside. At (approx) 70x35x25mm, it's small enough to fit into most pockets without fuss.
One quirk here is that JBL positions the headphone sockets in the case in the opposite direction that you're likely to take them out of your ears from, so you've got to flip them in order to get them to click into place for charging.
At first glance, you might also think that the JBL Quantum TWS case has a superfluous bump at the front. This isn't part of the case, but instead a USB-C dongle that forms a big part of the reason why I do like the JBL Quantum TWS headphones so very much.
Performance: Average for music, great for gaming
The JBL Quantum TWS headphones don't support true multi-pairing between Bluetooth devices, but they do support JBL's own version of much the same thing because of that 2.4Ghz dongle.
Connect up via Bluetooth 5.2 and they're much like any other set of true wireless buds, but they'll also support wireless 2.4Ghz connectivity via the supplied USB dongle to PCs and gaming systems at the same time.
The JBL Quantum TWS headphones will automatically pair to the dongle if it's inserted into a compatible USB-C socket. Initial pairing via Bluetooth is simple enough, although annoyingly, there's no external pairing button if you want to or need to pair to a new Bluetooth source.
For optimal usage, JBL has its own app for iOS and Android that allows you to update firmware, modify audio settings and equalisation and control what single, double and triple taps (as well as hold gestures) do for each ear.
JBL's app is workable enough, but while the 2.4Ghz dongle limits latency, I can't say the same thing for the app, which often lags 30 seconds or more before it works out that I've actually got the Quantum TWS headphones in my ears.
Likewise, tapping is functional but not great. I'm not a big fan of touch controls on buds because I either feel like I'm attacking my ears with too many taps, forget which function is which or have them kick in or off when I'm actually just putting them into my ears. The JBL Quantum TWS are no better or worse in this respect.
In terms of audio throughput, the JBL Quantum TWS do a good, but not quite stellar, job. They're essentially tuned for gaming, which means that they're rather bass-centric, losing some clarity in higher note areas compared to more premium headphones.
Testing with Prince's "Purple Rain", the buds picked up the guitars well enough at this price, but they lost a little of the edge on the drums as they came through.
Suzanne Vega's "Marlene On The Wall" was likewise good while being just a little flat compared to the same track through (for example) the Apple AirPods Pro Gen 2.
Then again, the AirPods Pro are far more expensive, so there's room for the JBL Quantum TWS to impress here within their price space.
The real value proposition with the JBL Quantum TWS is via that 2.4Ghz wireless dongle, making it simple to get game and movie audio with absolute minimal lag.
This works very well indeed, and if you hook it up to a PC, it'll automatically launch JBL's Quantum Engine app for configuration including a surround sound mode. Like most virtual surround sound set-ups, the quality here varies a lot depending on your game choices.
What doesn't vary is the genuine utility of this approach, especially for devices like the Nintendo Switch. Being able to sit on my sofa with the JBL Quantum TWS paired to my phone for calls and simultaneously plugged into a Switch Lite is a truly glorious – but very indulgent – experience.
The JBL Quantum TWS headphones are also ANC-enabled with passthrough modes for ambient awareness available with a (default) tap on the left bud.
Testing with the JBL Quantum TWS and a variety of noise sources showed them to be fair with ANC, but well below the best in breed in this regard, letting more sound in than you might expect. At this price point, ANC isn't always included, so it's nice to see it here, even in a rudimentary form.
Battery: Solid but unspectacular battery endurance
JBL's claims around the JBL Quantum TWS headphones' battery life depend on whether you've got active noise cancelling enabled. With it disabled, it claims up to 8 hours of playback, dropping to 5 hours if you want ANC running. Outside of emergencies, I never want ANC disabled if I can have it running, but those figures are pretty much dead on the industry averages for true wireless buds right now.
It's also just about dead on what I got out of the JBL Quantum TWS headphones in my tests with and without ANC enabled for general music playback over Bluetooth. If you're heavily using the 2.4Ghz wireless dongle, it may be a little lower as it's less power efficient.
The case for the JBL Quantum TWS headphones is stated to be good for 2 further recharges, or another 10–16 hours depending on your connection and audio preferences. That's a little lower than many competing cases. Charging is via USB-C only, with wireless charging notably absent.
Should you buy the JBL Quantum TWS
- Buy it if you need one set to cover both your on-the-go music and gaming needs.
- Don't buy it if you need higher audio quality or longer battery life.
The JBL Quantum TWS are a good set of true wireless headphones, but their value very much rests on how much you're likely to use that 2.4Ghz dongle for gaming or video-watching activities. If you're only after Bluetooth, then there are better alternatives in the market, but if gaming is part of your daily entertainment activities, they're a good general usage pair.
Pricing and availability
The JBL Quantum TWS headphones retail in Australia for $229.
How we tested
I tested the JBL Quantum TWS headphones paired to a variety of devices including a desktop PC, Nintendo Switch, Apple iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel 7 Pro during my 2-week review period. The headphones were used consistently to test and assess battery life and audio quality over that period. The pair tested were supplied to me by JBL for review purposes.
As a product reviewer, I've got more than 20 years of experience covering the consumer tech space including a wide array of headphones, both wired and wireless. I'm a multi-time Australian IT Journo award winner, including winner of the 2022 Best Reviewer award.
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