Reviewed on Apr 24, 2018

JBL Free Truly Wireless HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.3
7.3
Mixed Usage
7.3
Neutral Listening
7.8
Commute/Travel
8.1
Sports/Fitness
7.0
Office
5.4
Wireless Gaming
5.3
Wired Gaming
6.6
Phone Call
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
Isolation 8.4
Microphone 6.3
Active Features 5.3
Connectivity 2.8
Pros
  • Above-average sound quality.
  • Good isolation.
  • Compact and portable design.
Cons
  • Very high latency.
  • No volume controls.
  1. Update 11/6/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.
  2. Update 6/17/2019: We've updated the Base/Dock score of this review to reflect what a truly wireless charging case should be scoring. We had previously scored this incorrectly.

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7.8

Design

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

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
Weight : 0.04 lbs
Clamping Force
:
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
OS Compatibility
:
N/A
Ease of use : Great
Feedback : Good
Call/Music Control : Yes
Volume Control : No
Microphone Control : No
Channel Mixing
:
N/A
Noise Canceling Control : N/A
Talk-Through
:
N/A
Additional Buttons : No

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
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.

9.6 Portability
L : 1.1 "
W : 1.2 "
H : 0.7 "
Volume : 0.9 Cu. Inches
Transmitter required : N/A

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
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

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

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 often than the Gear IconX. They also do not have ear hooks like the JBL Endurance Peak or Anker Spirit X so if you mostly use your headphone for running and working out then you might want to consider those models instead.

Headshots 1
Headshots 2
Top

Sound

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.

Sound Profile
Neutral
:
8.4
Bass-Heavy
:
8.9
Warm
:
5.1
Bright
:
7.5
8.4 Peaks/Dips
Peaks
:
0.93 db
Dips
:
1.16 db
9.1 Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
:
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
Weighted Group Delay
:
0.14
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
:
1.4
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
:
1.15
Weighted Phase Mismatch
:
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.

0.6 Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
:
N/A
PRTF Size (Avg.)
:
N/A
PRTF Distance
:
N/A
Openness
:
2.1
Acoustic Space Excitation
:
0.9

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.

7.5 Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
:
0.253
WHD @ 100
:
0.165
8.4

Isolation

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.

7.9 Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
:
Overall Attenuation
:
-24.17 dB
Bass
:
-9.73 dB
Mid
:
-20.78 dB
Treble
:
-42.93 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.

9.2 Leakage
Leakage Audio
:
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
:
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.

6.3

Microphone

Integrated
:
Yes
In-line
:
No
Boom
:
No
Detachable Boom
:
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
Recorded Speech
:
LFE
:
257.68 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
:
3.72 dB
HFE
:
3417.19 Hz
Weighted THD
:
3.731
Gain
:
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. If you want a better mic in a truly wireless format then check out the Jabra Evolve 65t although they are quite a bit pricey then the JBL Free, which may not be worth the improved mic performance for some.

6.0 Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise :
Speech + Subway Noise :
SpNR
:
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.

5.3

Active Features

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.

5.9 Battery
Battery Type
:
Rechargable
Continuous Battery Life
:
3.1 hrs
Additional Charges
:
5
Total Battery Life
:
18.6 hrs
Charge Time
:
1.4 hrs
Power Saving Feature
:
Auto-Off Timer
Audio while charging
:
No
Passive Playback
:
No
Charging Port : micro-USB

They have a decent battery life of 3.1 hours and their case provides 5 additional charges which result 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 and is shorter than similarly designed headsets. They also do not have any special battery features like the Xfyro xS2 which have a power bank that can recharge some of your devices, although it's not the biggest battery pack for that use case. If you want a longer lasting truly wireless design then consider the Apple Airpods.

0 App Support
App Name : N/A
iOS : N/A
Android : N/A
Mac OS : N/A
Windows : N/A
Equalizer
:
N/A
ANC control
:
N/A
Mic Control : N/A
Room effects
:
N/A
Playback control
:
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.

2.8

Connectivity

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.

6.7 Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
:
4.2
Multi-Device Pairing
:
No
NFC Pairing
:
No
Line of Sight Range
:
74 ft
Default Latency
:
375 ms
aptX Latency
:
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
:
N/A

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.

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

0 Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line of Sight Range
:
N/A
Non-BT Latency
:
N/A
0 Wired
Analog Audio
:
N/A
USB Audio
:
N/A
Detachable : N/A
Length : N/A
Connection : N/A
Wired Latency
:
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.

PC / PS4 Compatibility
PC / PS4 Analog
:
No
PC / PS4 Wired USB
:
No
PC / PS4 Non-BT Wireless
:
No
Xbox One Compatibility
Xbox Analog
:
No
Xbox Wired USB
:
No
Xbox Wireless
:
No
2.2 Base/Dock
Type
:
Charging Case
USB Input
:
No
Line In
:
No
Line Out
:
No
Optical Input
:
No
RCA Input
:
No
Dock Charging
:
Yes
Power Supply
:
USB

Update 06/17/2019: We've updated the Base/Dock box to show that the JBL Free have a charging case that has no input. We previously had it listed as N/A, which was giving these headphones a higher score than other truly wireless headphones in this test. The score has been adjusted.

They have a charging case that delivers up to 18 hours of extra battery life. However, it has no inputs and not distinguishing special features like Qi wireless charging on the Altec Lansing True Evo.

In the box

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

Compared to other Headphones

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, the best headphones under $100, the best wireless headphones under $100, and the best wireless earbuds for running.

Jaybird Run Truly Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The JBL Free are slightly better truly wireless headphones than the Jaybird Run, but have a lot more flaws with their wireless connection, which may be a deal-breaker for some. The Jaybird have a customizable sound, so you can adjust them to match what you're listening to. They also have a bit more tip options and sizes, which make them slightly more comfortable than the JBL. On the other hand, the JBL 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.

Apple AirPods 1 Truly Wireless 2017
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The JBL Free are a slightly better truly wireless headphone than the Apple 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.

Jabra Elite Sport Truly Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

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, 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 Truly Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Samsung Gear IconX are a better headset overall when compared to the JBL Free. The IconX have a lot more features including 4GB 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 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.

XFYRO xS2 Truly Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The JBL Free are better headphones than the XFYRO xS2. They outperform the XFYRO in pretty much every category. They are more comfortable, are better built, and they have great audio reproduction. Both headphones have short battery life, but the XFYRO have better wireless range and you can also use their case to charge up other devices, which can be useful.

+ Show more
7.3 Mixed Usage

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.

7.3 Neutral Listening

Above-average for neutral 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 neutral 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.

7.8 Commute/Travel

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.

8.1 Sports/Fitness

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.

7.0 Office

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.

5.4 Wireless Gaming

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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