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Forget Sony and Bose: These JBL headphones are my sleeper pick for best of 2023


JBL black Tour One M2 headphones against white backdrop

Nina Raemont/ZDNET

As someone who spends their workdays researching the best earbuds and the highest-quality headphones, nothing excites me more than a pair of headphones with the latest features and a reasonable price tag. If you’re like me, you’ll love the JBL Tour One M2 headphones, which promise seamless listening, all-day comfort, and high-quality sound. 

Also: These $350 headphones allowed me to hear things I’d never heard before

With the new Tour One M2, JBL enhanced key features from 2021’s Tour One headphones, including active noise cancellation (ANC) and spatial sound. So, I put them to the test.

JBL Tour One M2 headphones against silver backdrop

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JBL Tour One M2 wireless headphones

The JBL Tour One M2 headphones offer all-day comfort, luxury features, and impressive battery life.

To test the headphones, I spent many workdays listening to my morning classical music playlist. And I’m happy to report that the ANC impressed me by insulating sound well enough to help me dig into my work or award myself some serious quiet time.   

With a 40mm driver and a vast frequency response range, the Tour One M2 headphones capture and reproduce robust sound that registers far below and above the audible level of human hearing. Basically, you’ll hear all the instruments and voices exactly like how the songwriter wants you to.

While listening to Jungle’s Back on 74, the JBL headphones delivered deep bass and crisp vocals. The sound on these headphones is insanely clear and made every album I listened to a delight. With every song I listened to, the immersive sound of the headphones turned my eight hours in the office into a private dance party. That’s how good it was.

For better or worse, the ANC is powerful enough that it can be difficult to hear and communicate with people or be aware of your surroundings with these headphones on. I wore them on the subway to test out the different audio modes — Ambient Aware and ANC — and found the headphones much better suited for moderately noisy environments compared to high-volume environments like a subway. 

Also: Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones: The perfect headphones for all-day listening

In too loud of spaces, I could tell that the Tour One M2 had trouble canceling every noise and delivered poorer sound when the volume was lower. The Ambient Aware mode, which was created for busy environments that require your awareness, reflects far too much background noise and complicates the listening experience. Because of that, I rarely used this feature.

JBL Tour One M2 headphones against white backdrop

Nina Raemont/ZDNET

I was especially blown away by how comfortable the headphones were after spending a few weeks with the Tour One M2 — I could wear them for an entire workday without ear fatigue. The headphones have a lightweight feel, which I noticed immediately. The ear cups swivel to fit the shape of your head and ears, so there’s less stiffness around the upper ear that causes irritation and ache compared to other headphones without such flexibility. 

Also: Shopping for expensive headphones? The best option for you may be much cheaper

One feature I especially love about the Tour One M2 is Smart Talk. You can turn this feature on in the JBL Headphones app to automatically pause your music once you start talking to someone. When the headphones register that you’ve stopped talking, they will restart your music after five, 15, or 20 seconds. 

Smart Talk is so handy for quick office conversations across cubicles when you don’t want to fumble with the pause and play controls. On that note, the touch controls on these headphones are so receptive and quick that there is minimal fumbling involved when you want to quickly tap the right ear cup to pause or play sound. 

The JBL headphones app offers an impressive range of equalizer settings for you to toy with to get the most out of your music. You can customize the EQ for songs heavy in bass, for jazz, for the club, and more. 

Also: Best headphones for music listening 

With ANC turned off, your battery will last you for up to 50 hours. You’re looking at around 30 hours with ANC turned on, which is still more battery than what Apple’s AirPods Max or Sony’s WH-1000XM5 are rated for. The Tour One M2’s extended battery life makes them an outstanding pair of headphones for all-day gaming, regular music listening, and long conference calls. Plus, with a five-minute quick charge, you can get three extra hours of power. 

JBL Tour One M2 headphones being held by a hand

Nina Raemont/ZDNET

If I haven’t given enough reasons why these headphones are amazing for the workday, then let me get into JBL’s SilentNow feature, another unique feature I love about the Tour One M2 headphones. This feature disconnects your headphones from Bluetooth and turns ANC on for a customizable duration of time to limit distractions and create a silent bubble of productivity around you. 

If you’ve got a business proposal you need to churn out or need to update a convoluted spreadsheet that requires your undivided attention, this is an amazing feature that encourages deep work. 

Also: The best noise-canceling headphones, tested and reviewed

There was some trouble in paradise, however. The touch controls are a breeze to use while sitting down and working, but while I was running outdoors on a windier day, they were less receptive to my commands. The volume buttons on the right ear cup had trouble turning up and down as I was running but had no trouble doing so while working at my desk. 

Additionally, the lack of an IP rating means the Tour One M2 are not waterproof, let alone sweatproof. So, the Tour One M2 are definitely best suited for stationary activities. 

ZDNET’s buying advice 

JBL’s Tour One M2 headphones impressed me with their breadth of features that make music more immersive and isolate you from external noises. For $300, you’re getting the latest version of Bluetooth, longer battery life compared to most wireless headphones on the market, excellent ANC, the convenient Smart Talk feature, and spatial sound, all within a lightweight and comfortable headset. 

Video gamers, EQ connoisseurs, and desk job employees looking for all-day music and deep work features will love and reap the benefits of the Tour One M2 headphones.





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