JBL Club Pro Plus Wireless Earbuds REVIEW
JBL Club Pro Plus Wireless Earbuds REVIEW
PAT PILCHER stuffs JBL’s latest earbuds into the holes on the side of his head and is impressed with the results.
Not so long ago, wireless earbuds were synonymous with shrill, bass-free ear beaters that offered little more than terrible battery life and poor comfort. Since then, things have steadily improved to the point where truly wireless buds like JBL’s Club Pro Plus really are the business.
After spending a few weeks with the Club Pro Plus buds stuffed in my ears, I’ve come away impressed. They offer affordable ANC, decent audio, wireless charging, and water resistance.
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JBL has done an excellent job with the Club Pro Plus design. They look good and seem sturdy enough to survive a nuclear war. They have an organic, triangular shape, and best of all, they lack the AirPods Pro’s stem – so you don’t look like you’ve stuffed a golf tee into your noggin. Their embossed logo doubles as touch control. With them in my ears, I was able to wear a beanie and put on and remove glasses with no problems at all. They’re also IPX4-rated, which means they’re sweatproof and water-resistant.
The buds are only half the story. Their charging case is a similar size to a zippo lighter. That said, it isn’t so bulky that after you’ve pocketed it, someone will say, “Is that a headphone case in your pocket, or are you pleased to see me?” Another nice feature is the case’s magnetic sockets. These hold the buds in the case, so you don’t accidentally lose them when fumbling with them.
The default silicon tips (several different sized tips are bundled) were a good fit. They created a physical seal that bolstered ANC. Inserting the buds resulted in a snug but comfy fit, and they felt properly locked into my ear sockets. With extreme exertion (such as lifting a pint or picking up a kebab), they had no problems staying put.
The touch panels on both buds offer up both media controls and access to a nominated digital assistant. This comes into play with tap gestures/long presses. I also liked in-ear detection, which paused playback when I removed the buds, resuming when I stuffed them back into my ears. The Google Assistant, Alexa and Bixby all play nice with the Club Pro Plus (JBL’s blurb also says Siri works too, but I didn’t have an iPhone to test this out).
The headline feature with the Club Pro Plus is active noise cancellation. To this end, the noise-cancelling worked reasonably well. Taking them for walkies through Wellington’s CBD (a crowded RF environment, perfect for testing Bluetooth), I liked the amount of ambient city noise they kept at bay. ANC won’t completely shut out all the noise. Still, considering it was coming from two petite wireless earbuds, I was nonetheless impressed. On the connectivity front, they dropped the connection just once.
For strolling, jogging and cycling, there’s an Ambient mode that uses the built-in mics for better situational awareness. A TalkThru mode handily boosts ambient noise levels, lowering playback levels so you can have a conversation without pulling the buds out of your ears.
Throwing some FLAC audio at the Club Pro’s saw them delivering surprisingly deep lows. Mids were there too, as were upper frequencies. Nothing screamed. Their audio packed plenty of warmth, sounding balanced and lacking the digital harshness that can be part and parcel of using wireless buds.
Audio is also helped along thanks to the JBL Headphones app. It has a customisable EQ, so you can craft your own sound or use several pre-sets. There’s also a selection of DJ Signature EQ pre-sets. I tended to find that the best results were, however, obtained by creating my own pre-sets.
As well as EQ tweaks, the app also has Smart Audio Modes to further enhance sound. “Normal” prioritises connectivity, which worked well in my CBD testing. Audio mode focuses on audio quality, while Video Mode drops latency for better lip synchronisation. The app also gives battery level indicators for each bud plus the charging case, the ability to customise touch controls, and the usual Find my Buds function.
JBL’s marketing bumf says the Club Pro’s battery life should be six hours with ANC on and eight hours with it off. That said, your mileage will vary owing to other factors such as listening modes, volume levels and so on. Wired Quick charging gave just over an hour of use from a 10-minute charge. The case also supports wireless charging and holds around five extra charges.
The Club Pro buds are a strong contender thanks to solid audio, good battery life and excellent noise cancellation. Android users will also like their built-in quick pairing technology, making getting the Club Pro’s connected to an Android device effortless.