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JBL Club Pro Plus review: Almost an AirPods Pro contender

The JBL Club Pro Plus has the performance and features to challenge the AirPods Pro, but also a major bug problem

JBL Club Pro Plus review
(Image: © Regan Coule/Future)

Our Verdict

Buggy performance aside, the JBL Club Pro Plus packs great sound, noise cancellation, and special features into a luxe design.

For

  • Superb sound
  • Effective ANC and listening modes
  • Long battery life
  • Premium design
  • Loaded with special features

Against

  • Very buggy
  • Terrible controls
  • Disappointing call quality

The JBL Club Pro Plus is the latest addition to the company’s popular Club line of headphones. On top of powerful noise cancellation, these buds have customizable sound, steady battery life, and a high-end design with water resistance. A vast number of special features come part of the package for optimal performance as well.

JBL Club Pro Plus specs

Color: Black

Battery life (rated): 6 hours (ANC on), 8 hours (ANC off), 24 hours (with charging case)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1

Processor: Not stated

Size: 1.3 x 1.5 x 1.1 inches (per bud), 2.1 x 2 x 1.3 inches (charging case)

Weight: 0.24 ounces (per bud), 1.9 ounces (charging case)

After several days of testing, the Club Pro Plus can indeed challenge the best noise-cancelling earbuds, though there are performance issues that keep it from being a category leader. These include poor controls and numerous bugs that have yet to be fixed. Should these drawbacks sway your decision? As our JBL Club Pro Plus review will explain, you should probably be more interested in the pros than the cons.

JBL Club Pro Plus review: Price and availability

The JBL Club Pro Plus can be purchased at major online retailers, including Amazon and Best Buy or direct from JBL. It is only sold in one color: Black. 

It costs $199, which is relatively affordable for ANC wireless earbuds. By comparison, the Club Pro Plus shares the same price point as the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and Jabra Elite 85t (though the latter is currently on sale), while luxury models like the AirPods Pro ($249) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds ($279) have a higher MSRP. All of these models offer similar features and performance, though the AirPods Pro currently stands as the top overall model, while the QuietComfort Earbuds offers the most effective noise cancellation. 

For all of the latest sales, feel free to bookmark our best headphones deals page.

JBL Club Pro Plus review: Design and comfort

JBL knows its way around constructing a pair of stylish and sturdy wireless earbuds. The Club Pro Plus is the brand’s most attractive true wireless design to date, even if there are certain details that make it hit or miss among fashion-forward audiophiles.

JBL Club Pro Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

These buds have a striking triangular shape that is more enticing than the AirPods Pro’s dangling stem silhouette. The shiny embossed logo doubles as the touch panel and has a nice shine factor. Placing the mics at the bottom was also a practical decision for voice assistance and phone calls and doesn’t take away from the overall look. While the bulky form is a bit of an eyesore, know that JBL did this so they could stuff some serious hardware into these bad boys.

Furthermore, the plastic casing is durable and fends off scuffs and scratches very well. You won’t have to worry about the buds shattering if dropped from a high distance either. The Club Plus Pro comes IPX4-rated for sweatproof and water-resistant protection, the sample level of protection that the AirPods Pro offers.

JBL Club Pro Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The charging case is sleek, granted it takes a page from Klipsch's book: doesn’t it bear a resemblance to the T5 II's zippo lighter-inspired charging case, minus the aluminum body? It’s lightweight for its size and the all-plastic exterior is solid. I also like how strong the magnet for the flip-top lid is, ensuring the buds remain safe when charging on the go. The buds look pretty cool when docked, too.

JBL Club Pro Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

I had concerns about comfort and fit based on the Club Pro Plus’ design and my past experiences with JBL releases; its buds have not been kind to my ears. Thankfully, these buds were a pleasant wear. The tips created a decent seal and locked in when properly adjusted, but they could only handle so much movement before losing their grip around the canal. The left bud popped out a few times during a short run around the neighborhood. 

The tiny sound port also had me thinking that my concha was in for a world of hurt, especially since the cavity rests right on top of the inner part of the ear. That wasn’t the case at all. I managed to keep these on for about 2 hours before fatigue set in. 

JBL Club Pro Plus review: Touch controls and digital assistant

JBL programmed a full suite of media controls (e.g., playback/call management, digital assistant, volume) into the buds that can be activated with single-, double-, and triple-tap gestures and long presses. On-ear detection is available as well to automatically pause music when removing the buds and resuming playback when placed back on the ears. Unfortunately, the controls are inaccurate and unresponsive at times. 

At first, several attempts were required to get single-tap gestures operating; it’s as if the touch sensors needed time to warm up and recognize commands. Triple taps were often misinterpreted for double taps, and on-ear detection didn’t work until an hour after I started using the buds. I thought digital assistance would have performed better, but I was wrong.

JBL Club Pro Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Alexa and Bixby are compatible with the Club Pro Plus, along with Siri, though the latter didn’t work at all on any of my iOS or macOS devices. Every time I tried enabling Siri on my MacBook Pro or my wife’s iPhone 12 Pro, a voice prompt told me “Google Assistant is not connected.”

Update: JBL confirmed that in order to use Siri, users should not select Google Assistant or Alexa as their native digital assistant.

Firing up Google Assistant wasn’t an issue (it’s actually the one gesture that seems to work), nor were the mics, which did a decent job of picking up vocals. It was the software that acted up whenever enabling the feature. For some reason, it was giving me wild answers to inquiries. I asked, “What is my next event?” and it returned “Sorry, can’t share details about Juan Dalvos’ created event.” Last time I checked, that was not my government name. Google Assistant even struggled with basic tasks like pulling up the previous day’s basketball scores.

JBL Club Pro Plus review: Active noise cancellation

JBL’s active noise cancellation has gotten better with every new model. My impressions of the Reflect Mini NC were mostly positive and the Club Pro Plus has given me no reason to think differently. It isn’t on the QuietComfort Earbuds' level, but no model is. However, it’s competitive enough to give the AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Pro a run for their money.

I was satisfied with the amount of ambient noise blocked at 80 percent volume; these buds blast sound, so keep volume below the max level to protect your hearing. Hanging out in the gazebo with family members seemed silent for the most part, as all chatter was inaudible, along with whatever music was playing on the portable speaker. On walks, I was also able to ignore distractions like dog barks, garbage trucks, and whisking bikers. ANC didn’t completely mute high-frequency noises like ambulance sirens and whistles, though it diminished their presence well enough to keep my attention focused on Spotify.

JBL Club Pro Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Inside the house, the buds blocked out appliance timers, door buzzers, and loud TVs. I could still hear the humming noise from our centralized AC, as well as my baby’s whimpering during tummy time; the QuietComfort Earbuds drowned these noises out.

JBL also included their Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes, both of which act as ambient-listening modes, but serve different purposes. Ambient Aware lets you hear what’s happening around you and listen to music at the same time, while TalkThru amplifies the level of ambient noise you can hear by opening up the mics and lowering volume to 15%. Both modes work well, but I thought TalkThru was more useful, as it let me engage in clear-sounding conversations with family members without taking off the buds.

JBL Club Pro Plus review: Audio quality

Most JBL wireless earbuds have a warm sound profile, and while the Club Pro Plus certainly leans in that direction, its profile is more well-rounded. You’ll get impactful lows, along with a nice taste of mids and highs, which all come together to create a lively listening experience.

A record like Nas’ “One Love” showcased the buds’ dynamic range. The drum patterns knocked hard and blended smoothly with the exotic xylophone keys, giving this melodic banger proper sonic representation. Moving onto jazz, I was satisfied with the depth displayed on John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme, Pt. II.” The introductory guitar left the impression that I was listening to the musician pluck each string in front of me. More impressive was the instrumental separation, as every musical tool was accounted for and sounded transparent.

JBL Club Pro Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

These buds produce adequate sound on the video end as well. Vocals were crisp and emphasized on YouTube videos. You can also jump into the app and pick from a selection of presets that cater to different content (like movies, music videos, sporting events and so on), but the default EQ is fine.

Noise isolation was OK, meaning that some ambient noise will enter the soundscape when in passive mode. Chances are you’ll want to listen to music with ANC on, especially if you want extra kick from the low end.

JBL Club Pro Plus review: App and special features

The JBL Headphones app is loaded with functionality to enhance the user experience. The headliner is Stage+, which has a customizable EQ to create your own sound profile or pick from a handful of preprogramed presets (Piano, Jazz and Vocal). There's also a DJ Signature setting that has professional-engineered presets named after select DJs: Armin van Buuren, Sunnery James, Nicky Romero, Ryan Marciano, and Tigerlily.

Personally, I thought the DJ presets weren’t anything to rave about. Armin van Buuren’s seemed like the most well balanced of the five, producing warm sound with some clean mids. Tigerlily’s had a neutral presence to it, but I feel anyone with the knowledge to adjust frequencies on the EQ can create something more refined. The regular EQs serve better purpose with Piano and Jazz sounding great for instrumental genres and Vocal fine for podcasts.

JBL Club Pro Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Something also odd happened when downloading the latest update: all of the DJ presets were gone except for Tigerlily. Luckily, I had the app on two different smartphones and didn’t opt into the latest update on my second device. I’m not sure if this was due to licensing issues, but judging by the Club Pro Plus’ unstable performance, it wouldn’t surprise me if this yet another bug.

Update: JBL confirmed that the DJ presets were removed due to expired contracts with the talent.

Another, seemingly new preset called Bass2 also showed up on the Custom EQ page  after the update, and I don’t recommend it because it buzzes up the vocals. Then, something stranger occurred, as the JBL Club Pro Plus TWS EQ randomly showed up several days later. It’s actually the best EQ and gives the soundstage a boost in bass and clarity.

JBL Club Pro Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

There is a Smart Audio Modes setting that offers three different ways to enhance sound. Normal emphasizes connectivity for stable wireless streaming, Audio Mode makes audio quality priority, and Video Mode improves lip synchronization when watching video content. I couldn’t tell the difference between the first two, but Video Mode was a step up from Audio Mode. There's also an Active Mode toggle that was designed to optimize ANC for active use.

Adding to the Club Pro Plus’ intelligibility is a fit Check My Best Fit feature to listeners achieve the best fit for optimal sound. While a thoughtful inclusion, it doesn’t do much and gives the same result almost 90% of the time, that being “your ear tips are a good fit for both ears.” 

As for the rest of the app, you get battery level indicators for each bud and the charging case, toggle controls (digital assistant and on-ear detection), a sleep mode, and a Find my Buds function. Talk about a vast number of features at your disposal.

JBL Club Pro Plus review: Battery life and charging case

JBL rates battery life at 6 hours with ANC on, 8 hours with ANC off. Be mindful that the listening modes, streaming, and volume drains the battery quickly and drops these playtimes by about 30 minutes to 1 hour. I wore the Club Pro Plus moderately throughout the workweek and didn’t need to recharge till about the fifth day, which was about two more days of use than what the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours) has ever afforded me. Quick charging is the same as Apple’s noise-cancellers, generating 1 hour of playtime on a 10-minute charge.

JBL Club Pro Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The charging case holds an additional 24 hours, equating to 5 extra charges. It’s also a longer amount of playtime than the AirPods Pro’s charging case (24 hours). Wireless charging is available as well to juice up the buds without being tethered to a USB-C charging cable or wall adapter. Just place it on any Qi-enabled wireless pad and watch the device power up.

JBL Club Pro Plus review: Call quality and connectivity

Call quality on JBL wireless earbuds has been decent at best, but the Club Pro Plus is a step down. On calls with my wife, she mentioned my voice sounded hollow whenever I spoke indoors. She could also hear everything around me when taking strolls around the neighborhood with the baby, from dog barks to speeding cars. Wind resistance wasn’t the best either, which made it more difficult for her to hear me.

Connectivity was finicky too, though it improved the more I used the buds. Opening the case enables pairing mode and allows for instant connectivity with Android devices, thanks to Google Fast Pair. The Club Pro Plus pairs quickly with iOS and macOS devices as well. There were times when only one bud would connect to my recognized devices, and though the latest software did improve the issue, it still occurred from time to time.

JBL Club Pro Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Range should be considered the Club Pro Plus’ unsung feature. Bluetooth 5.1 not only keeps dropout to a minimum, but also gets you up to 45 feet of wireless listening, which is about 10 feet longer than most wireless earbuds. The Club Pro Plus also supports Dual Connect+Sync, so you can easily switch the connection from one device to another recognized device.

JBL Club Pro Plus review: Verdict

Anyone looking for an AirPods Pro alternative with better sound, longer battery life, and just-as-good noise cancellation will find that in the Club Pro Plus. Audio quality is superb, giving listeners punchy, warm sound with some mids and highs thrown into the mix. The JBL Headphones app also provides several ways to personalize the soundstage. JBL’s ANC technology does an admirable job of minimizing external sounds as well.

If only JBL placed as much attention on getting the controls to work properly. The touch gestures and digital assistant fail to function at times. Then there are the several bugs tied to both the app and connectivity, which knock these buds down a tier in the best wireless earbuds conversation.

It's possible that JBL can fix these snafus with a software update, but you would be a fool to overlook the high level of performance the Club Pro Plus grants you, and at such an attainable price.