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Reviewed on Apr 24, 2018 , Marc Henney, Yannick Khong

JBL Free
HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

Test Benches:

  • 1.2: Winter 2018
  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2017
  • 0.9: Winter 2016
7.0
Mixed Usage
What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
7.3
Critical Listening
What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.4
Commute/Travel
What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
8.0
Sports/Fitness
What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
7.2
Office
What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:
5.2
TV
Score components:
4.5
Gaming
Score components:
Type : In-ear
Enclosure : Closed-Back
Wireless : Truly Wireless
Noise-Cancelling : No
Mic : Yes
Transducer : Dynamic

The JBL Free are decent mixed-usage truly wireless in-ears, with an above-average sound quality. They have a fairly unique design which makes them a bit more compact than other truly wireless headphones but also a bit less stable. They're great for sports, and they're easy to use, but they lack volume controls. Unfortunately, they also have an unstable wireless connection and way too much latency for watching videos.

Test Results
Design 7.8
Sound 7.2
Isolation 8.0
Microphone 6.2
Active Features 5.2
Connectivity 2.2
Pros
  • Above-average sound quality.
  • Good isolation.
  • Compact and portable design.
Cons
  • Very high latency.
  • No volume controls.

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7.8

Design

Score components:
JBL Free Design Picture

The JBL Free Truly Wireless earbuds have a good, unique-looking design that's durable and compact enough to fit into most pockets. They come with a good case that doesn't add too much bulk, although it is a little larger than the Samsung Gear IconX's case. They have a stable fit for sports and working out, and they're easy to use. Unfortunately, their button layout lacks volume controls, which is a bit disappointing and their unique design may not be as comfortable for all listeners and makes them a bit less stable than some of the other truly wireless designs we've tested. 

Style
JBL Free Design Picture 2

The JBL Free have a unique look and decently compact earbuds but do not feel as premium as some of the other truly wireless headphones we've tested like the Beoplay E8. The earbuds are relatively narrow when compared to other similar models but also thicker. They feel decently dense and durable, and they're a bit smaller than the Samsung Gear IconX. They also come with a circular charging case that has a see-through cover so that you can tell the charging status of the earbuds without opening the case, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, like the Jaybird Run, their build quality lacks a bit of polish which makes them feel more rugged than high-end, unlike the Apple AirPods.

7.5 Comfort
What it is: Adjustability and degrees of freedom, pressure, stiffness and weight.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used for long durations.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
JBL Free Comfort Picture
Weight : 0.04 lbs
Clamping Force
What it is: The force that the headphones exert on your head, once you have them on. This is purely a measurement of the force applied, which does not take into account the earpad's surface area and the resulting pressure you will feel, on or around your ears.
When it matters: The tighter the headphones, the more force they put on your head. This can get uncomfortable or cause pain and soreness during long listening sessions.
:
0 lbs

The JBL Free are decently comfortable headphones but their unique shape may not fit as comfortably for all listeners. On the upside, they are super lightweight and come with a couple of additional tips and rubber sleeves to better adjust the fit for your ears. They're more comfortable than the Jabra Elite Sport but they won't be as comfortable as some of the other truly wireless headphones we've tested like the Gear IconX or the SoundSport Free but should be comfortable enough for most as long as you do not mind the fit of in-ears in general.

5.8 Controls
What it is: The control scheme of the headphones, the number of functions provided, button layout and ergonomics as well as the quality of tactile feedback.
When it matters: If you want to control volume, pause your music or make phone calls without directly interacting with your audio device.
JBL Free Controls Picture
Ease of use : Great
Feedback : Good
Call/Music Control : Yes
Volume Control : No
Microphone Control : No
Channel Mixing
What it is: Being able to mix audio channels directly on the headphones.
When it matters: This is most useful when using a separate chat software so that you can mix in-game audio and chat audio depending on your needs.
:
N/A
Noise Canceling Control : N/A
Talk-Through : N/A

These headphones have a very simple control scheme with physical buttons, but no volume controls. The right earbud's button plays pauses, answers calls, and triggers voice assistance (if you press the button twice). The left earbud, on the other hand, is dedicated to switching tracks. Pushing the button once fast-forwards to the next song and twice rewinds. It's an efficient and straightforward control scheme that's very easy to use, with decent feedback but no volume controls. You will have to pull out your phone whenever you want to lower or increase the volume of your audio, which is slightly disappointing.

9.0 Breathability
What it is: How hot the headphones get when you wear them for an extended period of time.
When it matters: If you often have long listening sessions or use your headphones while doing physical activities like running or working out.
Score components:
JBL Free Breathability After Picture
Avg.Temp.Difference : 1 C

Like most truly wireless in-ear designs, the JBL Free are super breathable headphones which makes them a good option for working-out. They barely cause any temperature change even after an hour of intense exercise since they do not cover your ears. They do trap a little heat in the ear canal due to their in-ear design and especially if you add the rubber sleeves to the earbuds but the difference is still fairly negligible and won't make you sweat more than usual.

9.5 Portability
What it is: The volume of space occupied by the headphones when folded into their most compact format.
When it matters: If you're often on the move and need to carry your headphones in a bag, purse , or pocket.
Score components:
JBL Free Portability Picture
L : 1.1 "
W : 1.2 "
H : 0.7 "
Volume : 0.9 Cu. Inches

Like most truly wireless headphones, these are small in-ear buds that will fit in almost any pocket. They're a bit smaller than most of the other truly wireless headphones thanks to their unique design. This makes them one of the more portable headphones we've tested, and unlike the SoundSport Free, their case is decently portable but not as compact as the Beoplay E8 or the Samsung Gear IconX.

7.5 Case
What it is: The provided carrying options to protect your headphones when transporting them.
When it matters: To prevent damaging your headphones, if you often carry them in your bag or pocket.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
JBL Free Case Picture
Type : Hard case
L : 2.7 "
W : 2.7 "
H : 1.1 "
Volume : 8 Cu. Inches

The JBL Free come with a hard plastic charging case that will protect the headphones from drops and mild impacts. The case is a bit bulky but should still fit a bit better in your pocket than some of the other truly wireless charging cases like the Bose SoundSport Free.

7.5 Build Quality
What it is: Durability, material quality, cheap/expensive feel.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used by multiple users (classes/studios), by children, in tough conditions, on a daily basis, or for exercise.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
JBL Free Build Quality Picture

The JBL Free, like the Jaybird Run, have a good build quality that feels durable enough to survive multiple accidental drops from shoulder height. The earbuds are decently dense, and the case is sturdy and durable. Unfortunately, despite their rugged and decently sturdy design they do not feel or look as premium as some of the other truly wireless headsets we've reviewed, like Beoplay E8 or the Apple AirPods.

7.5 Stability
What it is: How the headphones are designed to prevent them from slipping off your ears or falling off your head.
When it matters: If you plan on using the headphones while doing sports or other physical activities that requires a lot of movement.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
JBL Free Stability Picture

These earbuds are good for sports, thanks to their stable in-ear design and multiple tips + rubber sleeve to help you achieve a good, secure fit. Once in your ears, they don't move around much but the unique shape of the earbuds may not fit as well for all listeners. The rubber sleeves do help and they will rarely fall out of your ears but compared to some of the other truly wireless designs, they are not as stable under more intense training conditions. They're still good enough for running and working out but you may find yourself adjusting the fit of these earbuds a bit more than the Gear IconX or the Jaybird Run.

Cable
JBL Free Cable Picture
Detachable : N/A
Length : N/A
Connection : N/A

These headphones come with a USB charging cable.

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Headshots 1
Headshots 2
7.2

Sound

What it is: How accurately the audio is reproduced. The tests are performed with the headphones' most commonly used features enabled (noise-cancelling, wireless, etc.)
JBL Free Frequency Response

The JBL Free are an above-average sounding pair of closed-back in-ear headphones. They have a deep, punchy, and well-balanced bass, a warm and clear mid-range and a very good treble. This makes them quite versatile and suitable for a variety of genres, from bass-heavy EDM and Hip-hop to rock and indie, and even podcasts and audiobooks. However, vocals and lead instruments could sound a tad pushed back and lacking in detail, due to the recesses in their mid and treble ranges. Additionally, they have excellent imaging, but like most other headphones, they don't have a large and speaker-like soundstage. See our recommendations for the best sounding wireless earbuds.

9.1 Bass
What it is: Frequency Response from 20Hz-250Hz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on bass frequencies, such as those of kick drums and bass guitar.
Score components:
JBL Free Bass
Std. Err.
What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in bass frequency response (20Hz-250Hz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) bass performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.32 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
What it is: The lowest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response.
When it matters: Shows how extended the bass is.
Good value: <40Hz
Noticeable difference: 5Hz
:
10 Hz
Low-Bass
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 20Hz-60Hz.
When it matters: Kick drums and low frequency effects get their 'thump' from this range. Mostly felt than heard.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.71 dB
Mid-Bass
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 60Hz-120Hz.
When it matters: Melodic bass instruments have most of their fundamental frequencies in this range. This is where the 'body' and 'punch' of the bass sits.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.25 dB
High-Bass
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 120Hz-250Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments get their warmth and full-ness from this range. When over-emphasized, mixes tend to get muddy and boomy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.48 dB

The bass of the JBL Free is excellent. LFE (low-frequency response) is at 10Hz, indicating a deep and extended bass. Also, the response throughout the range is very well-balanced and virtually flat, but it is consistently over our neutral target by about 1.5dB. This means the bass of the Free is well suited for all music genres, even though it is ever-so-slightly hyped.

8.8 Mid
What it is: Frequency Response from 250Hz-2KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on mid-range frequencies. This is the case for the majority of audio content.
Score components:
JBL Free Mid
Std. Err.
What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in mid frequency response (250Hz-2.5KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) mid performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.56 dB
Low-Mid
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 250Hz-500Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments have their fundamentals or low harmonics in this range. Over-emphasis in this range sounds muddy and cluttered. Under-emphasis, thins out the vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
0.43 dB
Mid-Mid
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 500Hz-1KHz.
When it matters: This range is occupied mostly by upper harmonics. Over-emphasis sounds forward and boxy. Under-emphasis pushes instruments to the back of the mix.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-2.25 dB
High-Mid
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 1KHz-2KHz.
When it matters: Most instruments, especially vocals, get their intensity and clarity from this range. Over-emphasis sounds honky and harsh, under-emphasis sounds weak and distant.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-0.53 dB

The mid-range performance is great. The response in low-mid and high-mid is well-balanced and virtually flat, however, mid-mid is underemphasized by about 2dB. Overall, their mid-range is quite well-balanced, producing a clear and warm mix. But the recess around 700Hz, nudges the vocals and lead instruments towards the back of the mix, by giving more emphasis to the bass frequencies.

8.8 Treble
What it is: Frequency Response from 2KHz-20KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on high-range frequencies, such as voice, cymbals, and any other material where brightness, brilliance and airiness is desired.
Score components:
JBL Free Treble
Std. Err.
What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in treble frequency response (2.5KHz-20KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) treble performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
2.51 dB
Low-Treble
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 2KHz-5KHz.
When it matters: Almost all instruments rely on this range for their presence, detail, and articulation. Over-emphasis can sound harsh and painful. Under-emphasis hurts the comprehensibility of vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-1.44 dB
Mid-Treble
What it is: The average amount of over/under emphasis in frequency response from 5KHz-10KHz.
When it matters: This is the sibilance range. Cymbals, vocals, and lead instruments rely on this range for brightness and presence. Over-emphasis sounds piercing and painful, under-emphasis sounds dull and lispy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-2.07 dB
High-Treble
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 10KHz-20KHz.
When it matters: This range gives brilliance and airiness to the sound. Over-emphasis sounds hissy, under-emphasis sounds closed-up and lifeless.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
0.79 dB

The JBL Free have a very good treble range performance. The response is relatively even throughout the range, and quite well-balanced. The wide and shallow dip around 5KHz, will have a subtle but negative effect on the detail and presence of vocals and lead instruments. The dips/peaks between 6KHz and 10KHz, make the sibilances (S and T sounds) a bit uneven.

Raw Frequency Response
What it is: The average uncompensated frequency response of the headphone. For in-ears and earbuds, this corresponds to the average of 5 measurements/re-seats on the dummy head (HMS). For over/on-ear headphones, this corresponds to the average of 5 measurements/re-seats on the HMS (Head Measurement System) for the mid and treble ranges, and 5 measurements/re-seats on 5 human subjects for the bass range.
When it matters: This is for those who want to see the raw and uncompensated frequency response of the headphone. Some of the more advanced users, are able to read and evaluate headphone frequency response in its raw form and without compensation. This will be especially useful to them if they have their own headphone compensation/target curve, which may differ from the compensation curve/target response used by RTINGS.com.
Score components:
9.1 Frequency Response Consistency
What it is: The amount of deviation of each frequency response pass, from the average frequency response.
When it matters: Shows how consistently the headphones perform after re-positioning them.
Score components:
JBL Free Consistency L JBL Free Consistency R
Avg. Std. Deviation
What it is: The average amount of deviation in frequency response of 5 re-seats, from the average frequency response.
When it matters: Shows how consistently the headphones perform after re-positioning them.
Good value: <0.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
0.18 dB

The JBL Free has excellent frequency response consistency. Assuming the user is able to achieve a proper fit and an air-tight seal using the assortment of tips that come with the headphones, they should be able to get consistent bass and treble delivery every time they use the headphones. However, if the user fails to achieved a proper and air-tight seal, they could experience a drop in bass.

8.7 Imaging
What it is: Imaging qualities are inherent to the audio content, the headphones have to 'reproduce' them rather than 'create' them. They determine how accurately the objects are positioned in the stereo image, and how transparent the imaging is.
When it matters: When accurate positioning of the objects in the stereo image, and clear and transparent imaging is desired.
JBL Free Group Delay JBL Free Phase Response
Weighted Group Delay
What it is: The average amount of group delay calculated based on a perceptual weighting filter. Group delay indicates how long it takes for each frequency to reach their maximum amplitude. This is a monaural quality and can be perceived even with one ear.
When it matters: Headphones with lower group delay have more transparent imaging and a tighter bass. Headphones with higher group delay in the bass range tend to have a wimpy and loose bass, and headphones with higher group delay in the treble range tend to have a less transparent imaging.
Good value: <0.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
0.14
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
What it is: The Left/Right balance of our test unit, that is, the amount of amplitude difference between the left and right drivers. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When a properly balanced stereo image and low manufacturing tolerance is desired. A poor score indicates a noticeable difference in level between the left and right drivers.
Good value: <1.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
1.4
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
What it is: The amount of difference (Std. Err.) between the frequency response of the left and right drivers of our test unit. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When an even and stable stereo image, as well as a low manufacturing tolerance, is desired. A poor score indicates there may be 'holes' in the stereo image at certain frequencies.
Good value: <2
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
1.15
Weighted Phase Mismatch
What it is: The amount of difference (Std. Err.) between the phase response of the left and right drivers of our test unit. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When an even and stable stereo image, as well as a low manufacturing tolerance is desired. A poor score indicates there may be inaccuracies in the stereo image reproduction at certain frequencies.
Good value: <16
Noticeable difference: 3
:
2.22

The imaging is excellent. The weighted group delay is at 0.14, which is very good. The GD graph also shows that the group delay response never crosses the audibility threshold, suggesting a tight bass and a transparent treble reproduction. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were well-matched in amplitude, frequency, and phase response, which is important for the accurate placement and localization of objects (voices, instruments, video games effects) in the stereo image.

1.1 Soundstage
What it is: Soundstage qualities are not inherent to the audio content, the headphones have to 'create' them rather than 'reproduce' them. They determine whether the sound is perceived to be coming from inside or in front of the head, how open and spacious the soundstage is, how much the headphones acoustically interact with the environment, and how strong the phantom center is.
When it matters: When an accurately produced, large and spacious soundstage, similar to that of a stereo loudspeaker setup is desired.
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
What it is: The standard deviation of the PRTF (Pinna-related transfer function) of the headphones compared to a reference loudspeaker's PRTF at 30°. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test does not apply to in-ears and earbuds, due to the lack of pinna interaction.
When it matters: An accurate pinna activation is mainly responsible for how natural and speaker-like the soundstage is perceived to be. The less error in the shape of the PRTF, the more natrual and speaker-like the perception of the soundstage will be. High amounts of error may indicate a soundstage that is unnatural or odd.
Good value: <2.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
N/A
PRTF Size (Avg.)
What it is: The average amplitude of the PRTF (Pinna-related transfer function) of the headphones compared to that of a reference loudspeaker's PRTF at 30°. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test does not apply to in-ears and earbuds, due to the lack of pinna interaction.
When it matters: This value is responsible for the perceived size of the soundstage. The higher the value, the larger the perceived size of the soundstage. However, values above the reference (5.0dB) could result in a soundstage that is perceived as unnatural or odd.
Good value: >3.7
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
N/A
PRTF Distance
What it is: The depth of the "10KHz notch" of the headphone's PRTF, which is caused by phase cancellations at the concha. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test does not apply to in-ears and earbuds, due to the lack of pinna interaction.
When it matters: This value is mainly responsible for the perceived distance and elevation of the soundstage. A small distance value may result in a soundstage that is perceived to be located inside the head. Larger values may help pull the soundstage out from inside of the head and bring it to the front.
Good value: >13
Noticeable difference: 1
:
N/A
Openness
What it is: How open the headphones are, and how open and spacious they sound. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test differentiates between acoustically and electronically produced crosstalk and only takes the acoustically generated crosstalk into account. This value is the inverse of the Noise Isolation test score, and could be indirectly related the acoustic impedance of the headphones.
When it matters: When a headphone with a sense of an open, and spacious soundstage is desired. A value of 10 indicates a fully open headphone, and a value of 0 indicates a fully closed headphone.
Good value: >7.5
Noticeable difference: 0.5
:
2.6
Acoustic Space Excitation
What it is: How loud the headphones are, and how much they excite their environment acoustically. If the headphones are loud and open enough, the sound leaking from the headphones will be affected by the environment (reflections/reverb) before reflecting back into the open headphones and to the listener's ears. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This value is the inverse of the Leakage test score.
When it matters: Headphones with higher excitation values, similar to openness, tend to have soundstages that are perceived as more open and spacious.
Good value: >7.5
Noticeable difference: 0.5
:
0.8
Correlated Crosstalk
What it is: How strong and solid the phantom center is. This is mostly a stereo quality and its effects on mono content are minimal. This test is sensitive to the phase of the crosstalk and whether it is produced acoustically or electronically.
When it matters: When a true reproduction of the stereo image is desired. A value of 0 indicates no crosstalk, or that the existing crosstalk is not correlated enough to affect the phantom center. A negative score means the crosstalk is out of phase with the original signal, resulting in a slightly wider stereo image at the expense of creating a 'hole' at the center of the stereo field. A positive score means the crosstalk is in phase and positively affecting the phantom center.
Good value: >1dB
Noticeable difference: 0.3dB
:
0.0 dB

The soundstage of the JBL Free is poor. Creating a large and speaker-like soundstage is partially dependent on having a speaker-like pinna activation, and in-ear headphones bypass the pinna (the outer ear) and don't interact with it. Therefore, their soundstage will be perceived to be small and located inside the listener's head. Their closed-back design also means that their soundstage won't feel as open as open-back earbuds like the AirPods and the SoundSport Free.

6.6 Total Harmonic Distortion
What it is: The subtle, unwanted frequencies (harmonics) produced alongside the intended frequencies.
When it matters: When clean and pure sound reproduction is desired, though its effect is not as noticable as frequency response.
Score components:
JBL Free Distortion
Weighted THD @ 90
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion measured at 90dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: How pure the sound is at moderate listening levels.
Good value: <0.100
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
3.317
Weighted THD @ 100
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion measured at 100dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: How pure the sound is at loud listening levels.
Good value: <0.300
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
25.751

The harmonic distortion is about average. The overall amount of THD is elevated, especially in the mid and treble ranges. This could make the sound of those frequencies a bit of harsh and brittle which will mostly affect vocals and cymbals.

8.0

Isolation

Score components:

The JBL Free block a lot of noise passively. They create a good seal once in your ears, that prevents a lot of high-frequency noise from seeping into your audio. They also do fairly well with rumbling low-frequencies, like that of an engine despite not being noise-canceling headphones. You may still hear some of the ambient chatter in your surroundings, especially in very noisy conditions. However, since they barely leak, you can easily mask some of this noise by turning your music up without distracting the people around you.

7.4 Noise Isolation
What it is: How much outside noise is blocked out by putting the headphones on.
When it matters: If the headphones are going to be used in a noisy envinronment (airplane, subway, etc.)
Score components:
JBL Free Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
What it is: The simulated noise isolation of the headphones, demonstrating how much outside noise is blocked out by putting the headphones on. This recording is created using an EQ and is not an actual recording. For headphones with ANC (active noise cancellation), the playback simulates the isolation with ANC enabled.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used in a noisy envinronment (airplane, subway, etc.)
:
Overall Attenuation
What it is: The overall amount of environmental noise reduction in dB.
When it matters: In loud envinronments like planes, trains, offices, etc.
Good value: <-20dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-24.17 dB
Bass
What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the bass range (20Hz-250Hz).
When it matters: When the outside noise is bass-heavy, like in airplanes.
Good value: <-15dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-9.73 dB
Mid
What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the mid-range (250Hz-2.5KHz).
When it matters: When the environment's noise is mid-heavy, like in an office.
Good value: <-15dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-20.78 dB
Treble
What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the treble range (2.5KHz-20KHz).
When it matters: When the environment's noise is treble-heavy. Although uncommon, areas with sharp sounds fall under this category.
Good value: <-30dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-42.93 dB
Self-Noise
What it is: The amount of noise created by the active electronics of the headphones (if applicable), measured from 300Hz-20KHz. Applies mostly to wireless and noise-cancelling headphones.
When it matters: If too loud, it could become distracting when listening to quiet material like podcasts and audiobooks.
Good value: <16dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
20.07 dB

The isolation performance of the JBL Free is above-average. In the bass range, where the rumble of airplane and bus engines sit, they achieved about 10dB of isolation, which is about average. However, this is quite impressive for a headphone that isolates passively. In the mid-range, important for blocking out speech, they isolate by more than 20dB, which is very good. They also perform great in the treble range, occupied by sharp sounds like S and Ts, by achieving about 43dB of reduction.

9.3 Leakage
What it is: The amount of sound bleeding out of the headphones.
When it matters: When the listener doesn't want people around them (in office, recording studio, etc.) to hear what is being listened to.
Score components:
JBL Free Leakage
Leakage Audio
What it is: The simulated sound leakage heard 1 foot away from the user, while the user is listening to a 100dB SPL signal. This recording is created using an EQ and is not an actual recording.
When it matters: When you don't want people hear what you are listening to.
:
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
What it is: The amount of sound leakage heard 1 foot away from the user, while the user is listening to a 100dB SPL signal.
When it matters: When you don't want people hear what you are listening to.
Good value: <35dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
25.65 dB

The leakage performance is excellent. The significant portion of their leakage is spread over a very narrow range in the treble range, around 2KHz. This makes their leakage very thin and sharp sounding. The overall level of their leakage is also very low. With the music at 100dB SPL, the leakage averages around 26dB SPL, and peaks at around 30db SPL, which is way below the noise floor of the average office.

6.2

Microphone

What it is: The microphone section shows the quality of speech capture and transmission by the mic, as well as how well the microphone under test handles noisy environments.
When it matters: For your speech to be transmitted to and understood properly by the listener, the microphone needs to have a good recording quality. If the environment the microphone is being used in is noisy, a microphone with a good noise handling performance would be needed as well.
Score components:
Integrated
What it is: The microphone integrated in the ear cup or ear bud of a wireless headphone.
When it matters: For calls, gaming and voice over IP software or for any other use of the microphone.
Good value: Yes
:
Yes
In-line
What it is: The microphone inside the in-line remote of audio cables for wired and wireless headsets.
When it matters: In-line microphone are usually better than integrated mics. If you need better recording quality and noise handling for calls, gaming and voice over IP software then use the audio cable of your wired or wireless headphone if it has an inline microphone.
Good value: Yes
:
No
Boom
What it is: A typically better microphone, that's also adjustable and extends so that the mic is closer to your mouth.
When it matters: Much better recording quality and noise handling than in-line or integrated mics. Primarily used for gaming and voice over IP software.
Good value: Yes
:
No
Detachable Boom
What it is: A boom mic that is detachable from the headset.
When it matters: If you want to use your headphone outdoors without the bulk and hassle of the Boom mic.
:
N/A

The JBL Free has a mediocre microphone. In quiet environments, speech recorded or transmitted with this mic will sound a little thin, but noticeably muffled and lacking in detail. However, it will still be decently easy to understand. In noisy situations, it will struggle to separate speech from background noise even in moderately loud environments, like a busy street.

6.5 Recording Quality
What it is: Microphone recording quality shows how natural, neutral, extended and intelligible speech would be with the device under test, in a quiet environment.
When it matters: A microphone with a good recording quality ensures that the person listening to you would hear a full, clear, and easily understandable speech. Therefore, it is important whenever a good quality of speech transmission and intelligibility is needed.
Score components:
JBL Free Microphone Frequency Response
Recorded Speech
What it is: Actual audio recording of the headphone's microphone, recorded while placed on the dummy head, with speech being played back through the dummy head's mouth simulator.
When it matters: When a clean, full, and intelligible speech transmission is required.
:
LFE
What it is: Low-frequency extension shows how deep the bass response of the microphone is, and therefore, how deep and full your voice would sound to the listener. It is the lowest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response.
When it matters: LFE is not a big factor in speech intelligibility and even speech recorded with a mic that has an LFE of 500Hz could still be easily understood. Therefore, it is mostly important if you are concerned with how deep and full your voice would be heard.
Good value: <150Hz
Noticeable difference: 30Hz
:
257.68 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
What it is: Frequency Response Standard Deviation shows how accurately and balanced sound is captured by the microphone at each frequency. FR Std. Dev. is calculated between LFE and HFE, and the rest of the spectrum is ignored.
When it matters: A good frequency response is desired when a natural and neutral speech quality is desired. As opposed to HFE which is more a metric for speech intelligibility, frequency response could be considered as a metric for a natural and neutral sound.
Good value: >3.5dB
Noticeable difference: 0.5dB
:
3.72 dB
HFE
What it is: High-frequency extension is the highest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response. It shows how extended the treble response of the microphone is.
When it matters: HFE is one the most important factors in speech intelligibility. The higher the HFE, the brighter, more open, and more extended the speech quality will be which makes it a lot easier to understand by the listener.
Good value: >8KHz
Noticeable difference: 1KHz
:
3417.19 Hz
Weighted THD
What it is: The unwanted frequencies (harmonics) produced alongside the intended frequencies, which cause deformation of an output signal compared to its input.
When it matters: When clean and pure sound reproduction is desired, though its effect is not as noticable as frequency response.
Good value: <1.5
Noticeable difference: 1.0
:
3.731
Gain
What it is: Shows how much louder the microphone can go above our reference loudness level. The gain value is reported relative to our reference level, which is 94dB at a distance of 5cm from the mouth.
When it matters: A microphone with a high gain is important when the input signal (speech) is very quiet. For example when whispering, or talking on the phone in a library.
Good value: >18dB
Noticeable difference: 3dB
:
37.96 dB

The integrated microphone of the JBL Free has an average recording quality. The bass range is quite lacking, except for the area around 90Hz. This results in a recorded/transmitted speech that sound a little thin. The HFE (high-frequency extension) is at 3.4KHz, indicating a speech that lacks bit of detail and sounds noticeably muffled. However, it will still be relatively easy to comprehend, since speech intelligibility is mostly dependent on the 500Hz-4KHz range.

6.0 Noise Handling
What it is: How well the microphone is able to separate speech from background noise, so that the transmission would include more voice and less noise.
When it matters: When a clean and intelligible speech transmission is desired in a noisy situation like talking on the phone on a busy street or on the bus.
Score components:
JBL Free SpNR
Speech + Pink Noise :
Speech + Subway Noise :
SpNR
What it is: Speech to Noise Ratio is the difference in level between speech and background noise as heard by the listener
When it matters: If the microphone is going to be used in a noisy environment, it is important for it to be able to separate the speech from background noise, so the voice would be easily audible and understandable.
Good value: >24dB
Noticeable difference: 3dB
:
12.06 dB

The JBL Free's microphone is mediocre at noise handling. In our SpNR test, this mic achieved a speech-to-noise ratio of 12dB, indicating it is best suited for quiet environments, and they will struggle to separate speech from ambient noise in moderate or loud situations.

5.2

Active Features

What it is: Headphones with active components that require a battery. This includes noise cancelling and wireless headphones that actively reduce noise or transmit audio via a wireless connection.
When it matters: How suitable the power and wireless specifications of an active headphone will be, depending on your listening habits. The range and/or discharge time of the active headphone you select will be important if you're often on the move or have long uninterrupted listening sessions.
Score components:

The JBL Free have a sub-par continuous playtime but a decent battery life overall. They only lasted 3.1 hours when playing continuously and took a surprisingly long time to charge for a truly wireless headset. However, they have up to 5 charges stored in the case which totals to about 18.6 hours. This should be more than enough for a full day's worth, as long as you take breaks, which may not be ideal for more heavy-users. Unfortunately, they also do not support the JBL My Headphones app so they won't be as customizable as some of the other truly wireless headsets like the Jaybird Run, Samsung Gear IconX or the Beoplay E8.

5.8 Battery
What it is: The power source of your headphones. All headphones with active features have a battery that will deplete over time.
When it matters: To continue using the active features of your headphones. Some models lose features or switch off completely when the battery is drained, which limits what you can do with them until the next charge.
Battery Type
What it is: The type of battery that the headphones use. Usually AAA or embedded, Li-ion rechargeable batteries.
When it matters: When your headphones run out of power. Rechargeable batteries usually charge via the headphones Micro-USB port whereas AAA batteries have to be replaced or charged with an external device.
:
Rechargable
Battery Life
What it is: The amount of time it takes for a headphones' battery to be completely drained. Battery life will vary depending on the active features used and volume level.
When it matters: For active headphones that connect wirelessly, have noise cancellation or other audio-enhancing features, that cease to work once the battery is dead.
Good value: >10hrs
Noticeable difference: 0.5hrs
:
3.1 hrs
Charge Time
What it is: The amount of time your active headphones have to be connected to a power source to charge from 0 to a 100%. However, charging time will vary depending on your power source.
When it matters: To be able to use the active features of your headphones. Especially, wireless ones that completely switch off and need to be recharged when the battery is dead.
Good value: 2h or less
Noticeable difference: 0.25h
:
1.4 hrs
Power Saving Feature
What it is: A feature that turns off the headphones, after a set time, when they're not in use.
When it matters: To prolong battery life when the headphones are not being used, or if you forget to manually turn off your headphones.
:
Auto-Off Timer
Audio while charging
What it is: Some active headphones remain usable while charging. They continue to stream audio and do not disable other active features.
When it matters: This makes sure that your headphones's battery are not being drained when your relatively close to a power source. However, this means wireless headphones will need a wired connection to the power source during the charging process.
:
No
Passive Playback
What it is: Active headphones that still work when all their active features are turned off or out of power.
When it matters: If you run out of power and do not have spare AA/AAA batteries or access to a power source to recharge your headphones.
:
No

They have a decent battery life of 3.1 hours and their case provides 5 additional charges which results in 18.6 hours of total battery life. It's decent for most use cases and should be enough to last you a day if you do not have long continuous listening sessions, but they won't be ideal for more heavy users.

0 App Support
What it is: The additional app provided to enhance your listening experience. They typically deliver a set of practical features that give you more control over the sound, noise cancelling and effects that the headphones produce.
When it matters: An app with a lot of features allows you to customize your listening experience to suit your taste and preferences. For example, additions like an equalizer can give you more bass or treble and room effects can simulate a bigger Soundstage in closed back headphones.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
App Name : N/A
iOS : N/A
Android : N/A
Mac OS : N/A
Windows : N/A
Equalizer
What it is: Parametric, graphic or preset sound profiles that slightly alter the frequency response.
When it matters: If you want to tailor, your listening experience. Depending on what you're listening to you may want more or less bass for some tracks or more mid-range for vocals-heavy audio.
:
N/A
ANC control
What it is: Control over the Active noise canceling technology. This could be either a simple on/off button, and adjustable slider or even adaptive self-regulating noise cancellation.
When it matters: If you're in an environment where you need to monitor your surroundings or completely isolate yourself from ambient noise.
:
N/A
Mic Control : N/A
Room effects
What it is: Room effects that enhance the audio quality to make it more immersive.
When it matters: If you want to further tweak your listening experience. Adding room effects, can simulate a more spacious Soundstage or deliver a surround sound-like feel.
:
N/A
Playback control
What it is: An in-app player that gives you access to play/stop, track skipping or volume controls directly with the app.
When it matters: It's a shortcut that allows you to control your audio without leaving the application.
:
N/A
Button Mapping : N/A
Surround Sound : N/A

These headphones do not support the JBL my Headphones app like the JBL Everest Elite 700.

2.2

Connectivity

What it is: The inputs and outputs of wired and wireless headphones, as well as their latency performance and range.
When it matters: To know how compatible your Bluetooth device, console or PC will be with your wired or wireless headset.
Score components:
  • 10% Bluetooth
  • 33% Wired
  • 10% Base/Dock
  • 22% Wireless Range
  • 25% Latency

The JBL Free Wireless only connect via Bluetooth. They cannot pair simultaneously with multiple devices and do not support NFC but do keep the last synced device in memory for auto-pairing once you take them out of the case. They have a decent wireless range of 31ft indoors when the source is likely to be obstructed and up to 74ft in direct line of sight. Unfortunately, they have way too much latency to be a suitable option for watching video content, and the left earbud would often disconnect regardless of range, which may be a deal breaker for some.

6.0 Bluetooth
What it is: Bluetooth support for wireless headphones.
When it matters: To connect wirelessly to Bluetooth sources like your phone, tablet, console, PC and TV.
Score components:
  • 80% Multi-Device Pairing
  • 20% NFC
  • <1% PS4 Compatible
  • <1% Xbox One Compatible
Bluetooth Version : 4.2
Multi-Device Pairing
What it is: A Bluetooth profile that allows some headphones to be simultaneously connected to multiple Bluetooth sources, and have full call and media support on both/all devices they are connected to.
When it matters: To quickly switch between your Bluetooth sources. For example, switching from your phone to your home or work PC and still have call and media support on both devices.
Good value: 2 devices.
:
No
NFC
What it is: Near Field Communication technology that allows you to quickly, pair your headphones with your Bluetooth and NFC-enabled device.
When it matters: This makes pairing with an NFC-enabled device a lot easier than the typical and often tedious hold-to-pair procedure that most wireless headphones have.
Good value: Yes
:
No
PS4 Compatible
What it is: Bluetooth compatibility with the PlayStation 4.
When it matters: To connect your headphones wirelessly with your PS4.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
No
Xbox One Compatible
What it is: Bluetooth compatibility with the Xbox One.
When it matters: To connect your headphones wirelessly with your Xbox one.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
No

They only connect to other devices via Bluetooth. They do not support NFC or simultaneous multi devices pairing but do remember the last sync device for auto-pairing when you open the charging case.

0 Wired
What it is: The type and compatibility of audio cables for wired and wireless headphones.
When it matters: For all devices with a regular audio jack (line-out) and also compatibility of the in-line remote/boom microphone with consoles and Personal computers.
Score components:
  • 13% Analog
  • 9% USB
  • 26% PS4 Compatible
  • 26% Xbox One Compatible
  • 26% PC Compatible
Cable Tested : N/A
Analog
What it is: A regular 1/8" TRS audio jack or a 1/4 or 1/16 TRS with a 1/8 TRS adapter.
When it matters: For all devices with a line out.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
USB
What it is: A USB or USB adapter to connect to your devices for audio and microphone.
When it matters: A digital USB adapter usually offers a slight advantages over a regular audio jack, like a DAC, and amplifier module or software support and compatibility with PCs. However it may not be as compatible with consoles.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
PS4 Compatible
What it is: PS4 compatibility with a regular 3 or 4 pin 1/8 TRS audio cable.
When it matters: When you want to use a wired headphone with your PS4
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
What it is: Xbox One compatibility with a regular 3 or 4 pin 1/8 TRS audio cable.
When it matters: When you want to use a wired headphone with your Xbox One
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A
PC Compatible
What it is: PC compatibility with a regular 3 or 4 pin 1/8 TRS audio cable.
When it matters: When you want to use a wired headphone with your PC.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A

These are truly wireless earbuds that do not have an audio cable or a wired connection. If you want a decent sounding and stable in-ear with a wired connection, we would suggest the Mee Audio M6 PRO or the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear.

0 Base/Dock
What it is: The base station, dock or dongle transmitter of wireless headphones that receive data/audio via a proprietary frequency range.
When it matters: Knowing the inputs and outputs of the base/dock/dongle as well as its compatibility with consoles and Personal Computers. Also whether the base supports dock charging to easily recharge the headphones without any cables.
Score components:
  • 5% Optical Input
  • 22% Line In
  • 5% Line Out
  • 22% USB Input
  • 4% RCA Input
  • 9% PS4 Compatible
  • 9% Xbox One Compatible
  • 9% PC Compatible
  • 2% Power Supply
  • 13% Dock Charging
Wireless Type
What it is: The type of wireless connection used by the base station/dock to communicate with the headphones.
When it matters: For latency and range. For example Radio frequency has low latency but mediocre range when obstructed and proprietary docks have their own 2.x GHz or 5 GHz frequency which varies in performance.
:
N/A
Optical Input
What it is: Optical input for audio.
When it matters: Optical can carry a bit more data at faster speeds than typical wired connection which allows for more high quality, lossless audio.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
Line In
What it is: The regular wired input via a 1/8" TRS audio jack.
When it matters: For any device that has a line out for audio transmission.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
Line Out
What it is: A regular 1/8TRS audio jack output.
When it matters: If you need to share the audio source with other devices. A line out lets you connect other headphones or speakers to the dock/base station.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
USB Input
What it is: A digital USB input instead of a typical 1/8 TRS line-in.
When it matters: A USB connection can provide both an audio input and power to the Dock or Base station.
:
N/A
RCA Input
What it is: Audio input using via an RCA connectors.
When it matters: Provides better stereo audio to the dock/base that's then transmitted to the headphones.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
PS4 Compatible
What it is: Dock/Base station compatibility with the PlayStation 4.
When it matters: To be able to use all the features of the dock/base station with out losing audio or microphone capability.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
What it is: Dock/Base station compatibility with the Xbox One.
When it matters: To be able to use all the features of the dock/base station with out losing audio or microphone capability.
:
N/A
PC Compatible
What it is: Dock/Base station compatibility with your Personal Computer.
When it matters: To be able to use all the features of the dock/base station with out losing audio or microphone capability.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A
Power Supply
What it is: The connector type of the power source.
When it matters: The accessibility of the power source. For example a power supply with USB/USB-C connects to multiple devices, PC , PS4, Xbox One or even with your regular phone charger whereas a A/C adapter is less common.
Good value: USB/USB-C
:
N/A
Dock Charging
What it is: Charging the headphones via the dock/base station instead of a charging cable.
When it matters: It makes charging your headphones easier and gives you a sport to store your headphones when they are not in use.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A

They have a charging case that delivers up to 18 hours of extra battery life. However, it has no inputs.

7.2 Wireless Range
What it is: Headphones that offer a cable-free listening experience over a wireless network, typically via Bluetooth or radio frequency.
When it matters: If you don't want to be limited by the length of an audio cable. This means having the freedom to move around in your home or office with a much greater range than an audio cable could provide, especially, if the Bluetooth source is heavy or difficult to carry.
Score components:
Obstructed Range
What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when the Bluetooth source was placed in another room.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you, while listening to your audio in an indoor environment. Although, the obstructed wireless range will slightly depend on your home or office layout.
Good value: >35ft
Noticeable difference: 5ft
:
31 ft
Line of Sight Range
What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when in direct line of sight of the Bluetooth device.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you, while listening to your audio in a large and open environment.
Good value: 170ft or more
Noticeable difference: 10ft
:
74 ft

These headphones have a decent wireless of 30ft when the Bluetooth source was obstructed by walls and up to 74ft in direct line of sight. It's a slightly lower range than more typical wireless in-ears like the Fitbit Flyer or Jaybird X3 but should be enough for everyday use cases, especially if you keep your paired device on you. However, the left earbud would often lose connection even when the Bluetooth source was in range which is frustrating and may be a deal breaker for some.

0 Latency
What it is: How long it takes for audio to play through your headphones once the audio signal has been sent from a source.
When it matters: When gaming or watching movies. High latency means you will hear the audio much later than the images you see on screen.
Score components:
Default Latency
What it is: The Base RF latency or the default sub-band coding (SBC) of most Bluetooth headphones.
When it matters: When watching videos a high latency can cause sync issues between the images you see and the audio you hear.
Good value: 50ms or less
Noticeable difference: 15ms
:
375 ms
aptX Latency
What it is: An audio coding algorithm (Codec) that improves bit rate efficiency. It reduces latency and improves sound quality over Bluetooth.
When it matters: For better sound quality if your often streaming music over Bluetooth. Also it slightly improves latency when watching videos with wireless headphones.
Good value: 50ms or less
Noticeable difference: 15ms
:
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
What it is: Low latency variation of aptX that significantly reduces sync issues between video and sound when using Bluetooth headphones.
When it matters: When watching videos or gaming latency is a lot more noticeable than just listening to music.
Good value: 50ms or less
Noticeable difference: 5ms
:
N/A

These earbuds have a lot more latency than typical Bluetooth headsets. At 375ms of latency, they are not suitable for watching movies and gaming.

In the box

JBL Free In the box Picture

  • JBL Free Headphones
  • Earbud tips (x3 sizes)
  • Rubber sleeves (x2 sizes)
  • Charging case
  • USB charging cable
  • Manuals

Compared to other Headphones

JBL Free Compare Picture

The JBL Free are decent mixed usage headphones with an above-average sound quality. They are compact truly wireless in-ears that you can have on you at all times and they're stable enough for sports and casual use. However, their unique shape will not be as comfortable for all users and they have a couple of reliability issues with their wireless Bluetooth connection compared to some of the other truly wireless in-ears below. See also our recommendations for the best truly wireless earbuds and the best wireless earbuds for running.

Apple AirPods

The JBL Free are a slightly better truly wireless headphone than the AirPods when they have a stable connection. The JBL Free have a more isolating in-ear fit that will be better for noisy environments and a bit more stable for running and working out. They also leak a little less than the AirPods and have a better sound quality thanks to their stronger bass range that caters to more tracks. On the other hand, the AirPods have a much stable wireless connection, better range, longer battery life and lower latency, especially on iOS devices.

Jaybird Run

The JBL Free are slightly better truly wireless headphones than the Jaybird bird Run but have a lot more flaws with their wireless connection which may be a deal breaker for some. They Jaybird have a customizable sound so you can adjust them to match what you're listening to. They also have a bit more tip option and sizes which make them slightly more comfortable than the JBL Free. On the other hand, the Free have a better-balanced default sound quality. They also come with a better case that's slightly more portable overall and provides a longer battery life than the Run.

Jabra Elite Sport

The JBL Free would be a better truly wireless headphone overall than the Jabra Elite Sport if they didn't have a spotty wireless connection that will be a deal breaker for most. The Jabra Elite Sport have a much more durable design. They also come with a customizable companion app that lets you EQ their sound quality and has better health tracking features. The JBL Free, on the other hand, are a bit more comfortable than the Jabra. They also have a better-balanced default sound and easier to use controls although they do not have any buttons for volume which is a bit disappointing.

Samsung Gear IconX

The Samsung Gear IconX are a better headset overall when compared to the JBL Free. The IconX have a lot more features including 4gigs of onboard storage and a somewhat customizable sound profile. They're also easier to carry around, are a bit more comfortable and stable for the gym and come with a much better-charging case. On the upside, the JBL Free have a slightly better default sound. They also have a longer battery life and are a bit easier to use but do not provide any volume controls compared to the IconX.

Sony WF-1000X

The Sony WF-1000X are great looking and well-built truly wireless headphones. They're one of the only truly wireless designs with active noise cancellation but unfortunately, they do not block as much noise as the passive isolation of the JBL Free.  They also sound a bit worse with a slightly sharp sound quality that won't be ideal for more critical listeners. They also have a terrible latency performance, which makes them one of the worst headphones for watching videos, although the JBL are not much better. The Sonys have a more premium design than the JBLs but overall, the Free are a bit better priced for their performance and would be the superior choice for most users.

+ Show more

Conclusion

7.0Mixed Usage
What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
Decent for mixed usage. They're better-used for sports although they isolate enough for commuting and have a decently balanced sound for more critical listening. Unfortunately, they have too much latency for gaming and watching movies, and their wireless connection is often unstable, which may be a deal breaker for some.
7.3Critical Listening
What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
Above-average for critical listening. The JBL Free have a well-balanced bass, mid and treble ranges that sound relatively neutral and should cater well to most music genres and tastes. However, since they're closed-back in-ears, they have a poor soundstage which means they won't be the ideal headphones for more critical listeners. Their high-mid/low-treble is a bit recessed, which may make some instruments and vocals sound slightly distant. Overall though, their sound quality is good and sounds balanced enough for most listeners.
7.4Commute/Travel
What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
Above-average for the commuting. They're portable and passively isolate better than some noise-canceling headphones we've tested. They also have an easy-to-use control scheme but lack volume buttons, which is slightly disappointing since you will have to pull out your phone or Bluetooth device whenever you want to increase the volume.
8.0Sports/Fitness
What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
The JBL Free are great headphones for sports. They're truly wireless with a stable and decently comfortable in-ear fit. They're lightweight and portable with an easy-to-use control scheme. They're also stable enough to workout with, provided you can achieve a good fit with the extra rubber sleeves. Unfortunately, they have no volume controls and their unique design is not as stable as some of the other truly wireless headphones.
7.2Office
What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:
Above-average for office use. They isolate well and barely leak. This makes them suitable to use in a lively or quiet office environment. However, they do not have many connection options and have too much latency for watching videos. Their battery life is also not ideal for long listening sessions but does last quite long overall.
5.2TV
Score components:
Below-average for home theater. They have too much latency for watching a lot of video content. Also, their in-ear design, though decently comfortable, won't be ideal for watching movies and long videos.
4.5Gaming
Score components:
Below-average for gaming. The JBL Free have a mediocre-at-best microphone, and way too much latency to be suitable for gaming. They also do not have a companion app, which means they won't be as customizable as most gaming headsets.

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