It is raining cats and dogs in the world of TWS earbuds these days; I wish it was the case for actual rains in Delhi NCR during this onset of summer! Every week or two, you will find some company launching another set of new earbuds with ANC, toting another AirPods clone design, and some gimmick to make you spend a large chunk of cash. This is more notable in the affordable segment, wherein the smartphone brands and local-bred brands are hyperactive. Hence, for a company like JBL, it needs something special to stand out and make people take notice! Something “hatke”! And they think the JBL Tune 230 NC is just the one we had asked for.
It costs Rs. 5,999 and on paper, it promises two things that customers in this price bracket yearn for — bass and Active Noise Cancellation. Another crucial thing that gets sidelined is tremendous battery life, which this pair of JBL offers in copious amounts.
But so do most other TWS earbuds from most other brands! How does the JBL Tune 230 NC hold up in the real world then? Let us find out.
When luxury audio brands do affordable entry-level products, the build quality or design on these products usually takes a back seat (for example, the iPhone SE that makes its lowest price possible with a dated design). JBL goes for an average build quality on the JBL Tune 230 NC that doesn’t seem reassuring. The plastic used to make the case is low quality and is prone to scratches. The “wannabe funky design'' looks cringe, especially with the battery indicator lights, and so does the bold “JBL” logo. The earbuds themselves are larger than usual in size and carry over the same cringe design, with the JBL logo stamped on the stems. The only relief comes from the orange accent in the ear tips, which is subtle and tasteful.
Maybe if you are a 10 year old, this design will appeal. But the build quality certainly won’t please many and JBL could certainly have asked its design team to find better quality plastics. I mean, products like the Realme Buds Air 3 and Nothing ear (1) have far more interesting designs and superior build quality to flaunt.
The build quality is not impressive but the audio quality! That is classic JBL masterpiece! JBL mostly tunes its products for bass and low-end grunt, which the JBL Tune 230 NC delivers with comfort. The soundstage isn’t very wide and for someone like me reviewing higher end audio products, the tuning appears to be more suited for mid-range oomph and some strong bass. The highs mix up with overwhelming mids and hence, the experience may not always be enjoyable if you prefer a balanced setup.
With the bass-oriented setup though, listening to party numbers becomes a joy when you are in the mood for those thumping beats. For example, the title track of “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” sounds incredible with all the exaggerated bass but something like “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys gets ruined. JBL does allow you to customize the signature with the equaliser setting via its JBL Headphones app. Know that these earbuds are catering to a very specific kind of consumer — the die-hard bass lovers.
Then there’s the noise isolation, which is best described as extreme! The passive noise isolation with earths is good and blocks out a fair amount of wind noise as well as ambient sound. Turn on the ANC though and you are transported into a vacuum. This is the kind of ANC that creates pressure in the ears and you will want to turn it off eventually. You can still hear some shrills or high-pitched noise but it cuts off effectively.
In this department, the JBL Tune 230 NC does the bare minimum. The JBL headphones app lets you tinker with the tap gestures to configure the controls, and manually control the noise cancellation levels. You can also adjust the transparency mode to either let in all the ambient noise, or keep it suitable for a conversation.
The app also lets you choose the voice assistant on your device, which in the case of an iPhone user is either Alexa or Siri. Sadly, JBL skips the basic feature of wear detection, something that is available on most affordable TWS earbuds these days.
This is where JBL has hit the ball out of the park! The earbuds themselves are rated for 10 hours of stamina, and while I would have had to bid goodbye to my ears in order to test those claims, I saw the battery percentage on these buds drop to 67 percent on some days wherein it did 3 hours of call and then another hour of music. Note that I switched to Transparency mode for the calls and ANC for the music sessions. The case claims to add another 10 hours of battery life and in the real world with my usage involved, the JBL Tune 230 NC lasted for an entire week on a single charge.
The affordable end of the market seeks bass-oriented earbuds and JBL has obliged. The JBL Tune 230 NC is designed to deliver all kinds of music with a handful of bass and mid-range grunt. If you prefer that sort of tuning, you will be satisfied spending Rs. 5,999 on this pair of TWS earbuds. The strong ANC is another positive in the bag and so is the incredible battery life, which could be a blessing for the ignorant ones.
That said, the JBL Tune 230 NC is not meant for audiophiles and someone seeking balanced aid steps should look elsewhere. The build quality is tacky too and I find the design gaudy. It even lacks the wear detection feature, something that is standard is most earbuds in this price range. Products like the Nothing ear (1) and Realme Buds Air 3 from this year’s quota of ANC earbuds will be better suited for more people. You will have to be a fan of JBL’s audio tuning to blindly go and pick up the JBL Tune 230 NC. Or, if you love bass and battery life over everything else, you will be happy with the JBL Tune 230 NC.
Copyright © HT Media Limited
All rights reserved.