Battery life (rated): 6 hours (ANC on), 8 hours (ANC off), 24 hours (with charging case), 32 hours (with charging case and ANC off)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Size: 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5 inches (per bud), 2 x 2 x 1.5 inches (charging case)
Weight: 0.3 ounces (per bud), 2 ounces (charging case)
JBL continues its onslaught of new audio releases, bringing to market its latest flagship wireless earbuds: the Tour Pro Plus. Originally debuting at CES 2021, this in-ear version of the Tour One headphones comes with signature JBL bass-forward sound, adaptive noise cancellation, sufficient battery life and a plethora of features that are accessible through the companion app.
The Tour Pro Plus boasts one of the more dynamic spec sheets in its category, combining smart listening modes with advanced proprietary technologies for intelligible performance. Sadly, it also drops the ball in areas where other JBL models have excelled, making this model a questionable purchase for those seeking an elite AirPods Pro alternative for less. Read our full JBL Tour Pro Plus review to see whether these drawbacks are dealbreakers.
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JBL Tour Pro Plus review: Price and availability
- $199 MSRP
- Multiple retailer options, though only one color
This pair of buds shares the same MSRP as other popular wireless ANC earbuds, including the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and the JBL Club Pro Plus. It's also priced higher than the newer Beats Studio Buds ($149), but lower than the AirPods Pro ($249) and Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279).
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JBL Tour Pro Plus review: Design and comfort
- Well-styled buds and case
- However, buds get uncomfortable quickly
JBL’s design pedigree for its premium wireless earbuds is understated, yet classy. The Tour Pro Plus features an all-black color scheme, oval shape and nicely minimalist detailing. Build quality is superb, thanks to a durable shell that resists scratches well, as well as IPX4-rated sweat resistance.
The charging case is really no different than the Club Pro Plus’ case. Size-wise, it’s bulkier and larger than the cases of its Apple and Sony rivals, but is still light enough to carry around and has a sturdier exterior. Furthermore, the magnet for the flip-top lid is strong to keep the buds secure when charging on the go. Small details like the flush pairing button at the bottom and the tiny LED below each charging port are nice touches.
You may think that due to the buds’ bulging form that they would make for an uncomfortable wear, and, well, there’s some truth to that. Those who can tolerate the buds pressing up on the concha won’t mind sporting them for 2 to 3 hours before giving their ears a breather. Others, like myself, couldn’t endure the soreness that was inflicted after an hour of use.
I was concerned about the buds falling out because of their weight and how much they stick out. However, they provided an honest fit. The sound port inserts easily into the ears, while the tips create a tight seal around the canal and the stabilizers mold to the cymba for proper stabilization. JBL also developed its own ear tip fit test (Check My Best Fit) that works well to achieve optimal fit.
JBL Tour Pro Plus review: Touch controls and digital assistant
- Touch controls extensive and dependable
- Impressive digital assistant implementation
JBL always programs its headphones and earbuds with a wide variety of controls, and the Tour Pro Plus is no different. Users receive a full suite of media controls, including playback, call management, volume, digital assistance, and listening mode activation.
All of these can be assigned in the JBL Headphones app and employed through single, double, and triple taps or the long-hold gesture. The touch panels are highly responsive for seamless operation. On-ear detection is just as reliable, automatically pausing music when removing the buds from your ears and resuming playback when placed back on.
Adding to their smart capabilities is Google Assistant and Alexa voice activation, giving you hands-free functionality when speaking their respective wake-work commands: “Hey Google” or “Alexa.” The feature doesn’t skip a beat and JBL’s mics are highly intelligible, registering verbal commands with precision and responding to them quickly. You can enable the digital assistant manually when wake-word access doesn’t oblige, which is rare. Siri also works with the buds on iOS/Mac OS devices, but not the “Hey Siri” function.
JBL Tour Pro Plus review: Active noise cancellation
- Not great, not poor
- Decent wind resistance
The Tour Pro Plus isn’t a model you’ll find on our best noise-cancelling earbuds list. Noise neutralization is average at best, which is disappointing since the Club Pro Plus offered better ANC. These buds are designed to deal with low-frequency sounds, so you’ll be able to avoid noises like engine rumble or vibration echoes from electronic devices like smartphones or massage guns. Common household distractions such as doorbells, loud televisions, and specific kitchen appliances will be silenced too.
I emphasize "specific" because while the ANC circuitry on these buds can cancel out something simple like the humming from a refrigerator, it won’t tame the grinding effects of a blender.
High-frequency noise is another area where the Tour Pro Plus struggles. An early morning walk had bird chirps, car horns, and crying babies break through and invade the soundscape. Wind resistance, meanwhile, was OK. The whisking effect created by gusty winds was noticeable, but not so much when speeding cars passed by.
JBL also included the Silent Now function, which keeps ANC engaged while disabling Bluetooth and audio functions. Essentially, it was developed to give you some quiet time and preserve battery life simultaneously. I get the idea, but since the noise reduction technology isn’t all that effective anyway, you’re not going to block out much without playing some music.
Ambient Aware was a bright spot on the Tour Pro Plus that increased my environmental awareness. I picked up on people’s conversations from several feet away, as well as any fracas coming from across the street, which was helpful during night walks. TalkThru was even more useful, dropping volume down to 10% to hear people clearly; this was my go-to every time the missus inquired about small babysitting tasks during work hours.
JBL Tour Pro Plus review: Sound quality
- Immense bass presence for a pair of earbuds
- Lacking in detail, however
These buds are calibrated for contemporary, bass-forward music. The neutral sound profile you get right out of the box unleashes deep, boomy lows. Listening with ANC on slightly increases the bass levels. Mids can be middling at times and highs aren’t emphasized much. However, you can enhance audio by turning on the EQ in the app and sticking with the default EQ (Club Pro+), which gives music an even warmer presence.
The snares on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Check the Rhime” knocked hard, but it’s the pounding bass drum rumble that shakes your skull with energetic vibrations. This is one head-nodding session all the way through. Unfortunately, the vocals take a hit and lack crispness, with the rappers sounding fuzzy at certain points.
Orchestral recordings like Ahmad Jamal’s “Stolen Memories” are where the buds lose their sonic focus. Instrumental separation isn’t a smooth as it is on the Club Pro Plus or WF-1000XM4; the double bass produces overly aggressive reverberation that results in some distortion. Hi-hats are pronounced, which shows that the Tour Pro Plus can give highs some attention, but they end up taking a backseat as the low-end dominates the entire recording.
Despite some mishaps on the music end, the Tour Pro Plus is a solid performer when it comes to video content. YouTube clips were loud and clear, which was perfect for ESPN commentary clips, movie trailers, and podcasts. Action movies were also engrossing to watch with explosions and weapon fire sounding distinctive for a lively listening experience.
JBL Tour Pro Plus review: App and special features
- Customizable EQ
- Lots of other bonus features
The JBL Headphones app is where all extended functionality lives, and there's a lot to explore. I previously touched on some of the more notable features, including ANC, Ambient Sound (Ambient Aware, TalkThru), Silent Now, the ear tip fit test, and voice activation. What else is left?
Let’s go back to the EQ. What I didn’t mention was that it can be personalized to create your own sound profiles by manually adjusting the frequency levels. If tailoring sound to your hearing seems like too much of an ambitious task, there are four presets to select from: Bass, Jazz, Vocal, and the aforementioned Club Pro+ TWS EQ. Each one is well engineered, but the Club Pro+ gets you the best sound on these buds.
Smart Audio & Video is a newer feature that has shown up on current JBL releases and lets you prioritize performance by connectivity or sound. Normal keeps connection stable in busy areas, Audio is optimized for sound, and Video is set for synching audio and video accurately. The first two work as advertised, though I’m not entirely sold on Video mode this time around; any improvements were more noticeable on the Club Pro Plus. Most video clips looked and ran the same whether in Audio or Video mode.
You can set a timer for music to play before entering Silent Now with My Alarm. There is also an Auto-on function to place the buds in sleep mode when inactive for a certain amount of time. Another key feature is Find My Buds for helping locate misplaced buds. Rounding out the app are battery level indicators for the earbuds and charging case, multi-language voice prompts, toggle controls, and firmware updates.
JBL Tour Pro Plus review: Battery life and charging case
- Pretty average uptime with ANC
- Supports wireless charging
Battery life is rated at 6 hours with ANC on, 8 hours with ANC off. Take volume, streaming, and other special features into account and playtimes drop by about 30 minutes to 1 hour, which is still great for several days of moderate use. This is also longer than the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours), but also shorter than luxury models like the Master & Dynamic MW08 (10 hours).
The charging case holds between 24 to 32 hours, depending on how you use the buds. Again, more portable power than the AirPods Pro charging case (24 hours). You can either charge the case via USB-C or wirelessly by placing it on a Qi-enabled wireless pad. Speed charging is available to expedite the charging process; 10 minutes in the case generates 1 hour of use.
JBL Tour Pro Plus review: Call quality and connectivity
- Unreliable mic quality in calls
- General Bluetooth performance much better
If you’re thinking about using the Tour Pro Plus as a calling headset, set your expectations low. Several friends mentioned that the clarity wasn’t good on my end. My wife also mentioned that there was too much muffling; she compared the quality to using the phone with my hand covering the mic. One client even mentioned that my voice was cutting in and out during video calls. Outside was worse, with wind creating a crackling noise that made it tough to communicate.
Bluetooth 5.0 is what the Tour Pro Plus operates on, which is odd considering the older Club Pro Plus runs on Bluetooth 5.1. Nonetheless, you get some strong range (roughly 43 feet) out of these buds. Connectivity is on point with buds instantly pairing to devices. Google Fast Pair also expedites the process for Android phones.
Dual Connect + Sync comes part of the package. The name kind of makes you think that this the company’s version of multipoint technology, but this feature does not allow for the buds to be paired to two devices simultaneously. Instead, it acts as a faster solution for switching the connection from one device to another recognized device.
JBL Tour Pro Plus review: Verdict
For a flagship model, the JBL Tour Pro Plus doesn’t live up to the standards that come with the status; the older Club Pro Plus proves to be the better performer.
That’s not to say you won’t get any value out of these wireless earbuds. JBL’s monstrous bass is loud and impactful, and there's plenty of cool features to enjoy audio across different media formats.
But is the Tour Pro Plus worth $199? Not when compared to the competition. Headphones like the Beats Studio Buds offer better sound and noise cancellation for a lower price, and the poor call quality and uncomfortable design are put-offs as well. Shave $50 off the MSRP and it might be a different story, but for now there are superior alternatives.