Many of you have probably seen a recent Apple patent describing AirPods with a screen in a case, with which you can, in theory, control tracks, turn noise cancellation on or off, and much more.
But what if I told you that such headphones already exist and were released by JBL earlier this year? Meet: AirPods from the future, they are also JBL Tour Pro 2!
Equipment, design, convenience
The key features of the headphones are displayed on the packaging, and the packaging is made so that on its reverse side you can see the headphones themselves in a case with a sticker imitating the active screen built into it. I will not focus on the kit for a long time, it is the most standard here – a charging cable, several interchangeable ear pads, nothing special. The case takes all the attention.
Large touch screen, built into the case clearly in the middle. Wireless charging pad on the back. USB-C port and reset button on the bottom. Dense matte plastic, not soft touch.
Heavy, impressive, thick case. And this is its main disadvantage. It hardly fits into a small pocket of jeans and sticks out a lot, so you definitely don’t want to wear it this way. But the pocket of a jeans jacket, the inside pocket of a jacket, a shoulder or chest bag is another matter.
The case is comparable in size to the AirPods Pro 2 in a large silicone case, without which the AirPods Pro 2 case seems so small compared to JBL. Especially in terms of thickness.
At the same time, the headphones themselves are not much larger than the AirPods Pro 2, but they sit in the ears in a completely different way – more densely and more deeply. Yes, and their surface is flat, not convex, besides, the control is touch-sensitive, you don’t need to compress anything. One earpiece is responsible for switching between noise reduction or sound skipping modes, the other is responsible for playing music. If desired, the control can be reconfigured for yourself through the application.
I will often be comparing these headphones to the AirPods Pro 2 going forward, and for a couple of reasons. First, AirPods are the most popular headphones on the market. Secondly, the AirPods Pro 2 are some of the best sounding true wireless earbuds, and our comparisons with Pro earphones from other brands, as well as with simply the most expensive TWS earbuds, confirm this.
In addition, Apple decided to patent what JBL already has, so there is a real reason for future litigation. In general, these are the most competitors, especially in terms of price – in Europe they ask for 249 euros for the JBL Tour Pro 2, while AirPods Pro 2 cost 299 euros on the official Apple website and the same 249 euros from various retailers.
If we talk about the convenience of the case, then AirPods Pro 2 is undoubtedly ahead. However, the headphones themselves in the ears sit tighter and more securely at JBL, besides, they are not so slippery and smooth – there is less chance of accidentally dropping them. Yes, for AirPods Pro 2 you can buy a bunch of accessories for every taste and color, but you can also find cases on sale on Tour Pro 2. But protection for such a case is not particularly needed, except perhaps for its screen, and here we come to the most interesting.
The screen is the head of everything
Why is there a screen at all? It allows you to control playback – switch tracks, pause, and so on. With it, you can change the modes of noise reduction, transparency, turn on the emphasis on speech, which slightly cuts off external noise, but amplifies the speech of the person speaking next to you.
You can also enable or disable proprietary spatial audio, set timers and alarms, look for headphones, use the screen as a flashlight, receive notifications of calls or messages, and much more. You can even put a photo of your favorite cats on your lock screen. Everything, this is the main feature of the headphones, which can sell them without further ado.
The screen has three levels of backlighting, by itself it is very clear and contrasting, perfectly visible under the sun, the sensor is responsive, and the interface does not slow down at all. For the first product with such a smart case, this is not just commendable, but amazing. I thought that everything would lag and blunt, and in general I didn’t expect anything so well-implemented from JBL, who had never really aimed at the innovative premium segment before, but here everything turned out right the first time.
In fact, the screen duplicates some of the functions of the branded application for iOS and Android, but only the most basic ones, which you will most likely use often. That’s just for this you now do not have to get a smartphone or go to the application. Not a single smartwatch on your hand will allow you to do everything with headphones that such a screen offers – switch songs in the player to the maximum and turn noise reduction on / off.
The screen perfectly complements the headphones, eliminates the need to take out the phone once again and gives additional freedom of action. Adds an element of tactility that many accessories currently lack. Even switching tracks of the player feels different, because you do it without touching the headphones or the smartphone screen. Someone will say that this is complete nonsense, but, believe me, the screen here is more than ever on topic. Especially if you usually do not let go of the case, like to twist and turn it.
The coolest thing about all this is that thanks to competent power-saving settings, in which the headphones go to sleep after a certain time or turn off completely, the headphones and the case practically do not discharge in the background. They can lie in a case for a week and lose no more than 5-10 percent of the charge. Deep sleep, but instantly ready for use and instantly connected to your smartphone. Albeit not as instant as the AirPods Pro 2.
Application and chips
It is worth dwelling on the headphone application separately, because no other TWS model on the market offers such a number of settings and modes. Let’s go in order.
The first time you plug in, the headphones immediately prompt you to determine the best fit, test your ear canal to optimize noise cancellation, and set up your voice assistant by selecting Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant (when connected to Android). This will take you literally a couple of minutes, but if you don’t want to do it all at once, you can repeat the setup later.
Most likely, you will immediately be prompted to update the software of the headphones, after which you will need to update the software of the case – this can take up to 10 minutes, the process is not fast. Next, you can move on to setting up noise reduction by turning on its adaptability to ambient noise, sound leakage compensation and compensation for the loose position of the earpiece in the ear canal.
Headphones can both completely dampen noise and let in ambient sounds, and do this both for all sounds around, and only for the speech of the person speaking next to you. The TalkThru mode is responsible for this, slightly muffling all the sounds around, but amplifying speech next to you. It really works, and it works very cool. When you need to talk to someone, you can not remove the headphones, but activate this mode from the case.
The equalizer has five ready-made presets, each of which can be customized to your liking, or even create a personal profile. Personalization of everything and everything is built in these headphones to the absolute. You can even customize the sound to your own ears based on your previous listening experience: beginner, intermediate, advanced, professional.
The result is saved and available for quick switching at any time – you can compare how the headphones sound after tuning and before it. You can also amplify your own voice for voice chats, increase the degree of transparency of ambient sound, limit the maximum volume level, or test proprietary spatial audio that adds volume to all tracks.
The silence mode deserves special attention – SilentNow, which disconnects the headphones from the phone and creates a quiet space with active noise reduction, the ability to adjust the duration of such a break and turn on the alarm after a certain time. It will come in handy if you decide to take a nap on a trip.
Among other settings, it is worth noting the ability to remap the control of both headphones, enable or disable automatic playback when you take them off or put them on, search for headphones, as well as smart optimization for playing music or watching videos with minimal delay.
The case also has a few tricks in store: screen brightness, lock picture (from standard or from your gallery), access to quick functions, energy saving with automatic standby or automatic shutdown of headphones, notification display and message preview.
The Help Guide will help you understand all the features or explore individual modes in more detail. Resetting the headphones to factory settings is also carried out through the application, and this happens in just a couple of minutes. All your headphone and case settings are erased in an instant.
Sound, noise reduction and more
But the most important thing is the sound. And this is the second after the case that really surprised me. I’m used to listening to music on the AirPods Pro 2 with the sound settings to my liking through the audiovisual options and the “Electronic” equalizer enabled in the iPhone settings. In this form, the headphones do not give out their standard loud, sharp, dark, albeit quite voluminous sound, but much brighter, warm, dense – exactly the one you usually want to hear while walking around the city or on a trip.
In most of the TWS headphones I tested, I had to do the same – rarely did any models sound out of the box in such a way that I liked it. But the JBL Tour Pro 2 forced me to turn off all settings and EQs – their 10mm drivers sounded too good right away, without any action on my part. Headphones sound juicy and bright, but by default it may seem that they lack density and bass. They appear as soon as you turn on noise reduction.
But even in this mode, the bass does not drown out other frequencies, but only gets a little more emphasis. If desired, you can add any other accents to the headphones through ready-made equalizer presets or a manual equalizer. Of these, I liked “Club” the most, but only for those tracks where you want the bass to be the most rhythmic and clear. Otherwise, they can generally be used without an equalizer or set to the “Studio” preset, enjoying a fairly even, clean and clear sound, which is perfectly revealed by tracks of absolutely any genre.
However, it is difficult for me to choose between them and AirPods Pro 2 a clear leader. In some tracks, JBL sounds much better than AirPods even with all my settings, in some – not as voluminous, detailed and deep as AirPods Pro 2 can do. settings, the sound is not as good as that of the JBL Tour Pro 2 – they immediately sound like the AirPods Pro 2 can play only after careful customization.
To my ears they sound better than the Sony WF-1000XM4 , better than the Bose QC EarBuds 2, better than the Beats Studio Buds , and better than the Google Pixel Buds Pro, but not as bright and detailed as the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. and not as warm and soft as the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2. It’s not an audiophile level, but it’s a great, juicy, tight, massive sound that’s tuned to immediately please a potential owner without any frills. By the way, from the codecs here AAC, SBC, LC3, they promise to add support for LC3 + in the next updates. No hi-res codecs, but they don’t need them.
On the other hand, there is the possibility of personalizing the sound to your hearing, taking into account your listening experience – professional or amateur, but I didn’t like the results of such a setting, I managed to set it up better with my hands. In addition, for some reason, the application constantly wrote to me about the loose fit of the left earphone, even after checking the complete nozzles of all sizes, so to pass the test, I had to use a trick by pressing them tightly with my hands. In general, pampering is everything. With AirPods Pro 2, personalization through audio-visual settings works better, and headphones are easily recognized in the ear with the right tips.
But what is not pampering is the operating time – 40 hours in a case without noise reduction, 32 hours with noise reduction, up to 10 hours from a single charge without a case, fast charging in 15 minutes for 4 hours, as well as wireless charging. It also has IPX5 splash protection. The only thing I didn’t like was the microphones – even though there are six of them, the quality of voice transmission and recording of voice messages is not even close to AirPods Pro 2 and is at the level of some Google Pixel Buds Pro.
These are wonderful headphones that will definitely appeal to anyone who is looking for something unusual and is willing to overpay for innovation. They have great sound, an advanced app, an incredibly handy case with a screen, long battery life and a lot of smart features.
But personally, I was dissatisfied with the size of the case, the periodic loss of communication between the headphones and the application, the application crashes. The very things that do not happen when using AirPods Pro 2, if we consider them as the main competitors in terms of price and sound quality.
However, if you use Android smartphones and are not afraid of small software roughness, then the headphones will definitely please you.