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JBL Free Truly Wireless 2018 Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.4
Reviewed Apr 24, 2018 at 11:10 am
JBL Free Truly Wireless 2018 Picture
Test Methodology v1.4
7.2
Mixed Usage
7.0
Neutral Sound
7.7
Commute/Travel
8.1
Sports/Fitness
7.0
Office
5.3
Wireless Gaming
5.2
Wired Gaming
6.6
Phone Calls
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.

Our Verdict

7.2 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.

7.0 Neutral Sound

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.

See our Neutral Sound recommendations
7.7 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.

See our Commute/Travel recommendations
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.

See our Sports/Fitness recommendations
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.

See our Office recommendations
5.3 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.

See our Wireless Gaming recommendations
5.2 Wired Gaming
6.6 Phone Calls
  • 7.2 Mixed Usage
  • 7.0 Neutral Sound
  • 7.7 Commute/Travel
  • 8.1 Sports/Fitness
  • 7.0 Office
  • 5.3 Wireless Gaming
  • 5.2 Wired Gaming
  • 6.6 Phone Calls
Pros
  • Above-average sound quality.
  • Good isolation.
  • Compact and portable design.
Cons
  • Very high latency.
  • No volume controls.
  1. Update 2/4/2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.4.
  2. Update 11/21/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.1.
  3. Update 11/6/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.
  4. 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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Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
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
Design
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.

5.5
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
Not OS specific
Ease Of Use Great
Feedback Good
Call/Music Control Yes
Volume Control No
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
No
Noise Cancelling Control No
Talk-Through
No
Additional Controls Voice Assistant

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
Design
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
Design
Portability
L 1.1 "
W 1.2 "
H 0.7 "
Volume 0.9 Cu. Inches
Transmitter Required No

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
Design
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
Design
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
Design
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.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

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

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
2.46 db
Treble Amount
-1.75 db
9.1
Sound
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.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
8.0
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
2.86 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
10 Hz
Low-Bass
2.79 dB
Mid-Bass
3.66 dB
High-Bass
2.88 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.

9.0
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.34 dB
Low-Mid
1.46 dB
Mid-Mid
-1.13 dB
High-Mid
-0.1 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.

7.5
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
3.29 dB
Low-Treble
-1.81 dB
Mid-Treble
-2.15 dB
High-Treble
-1.81 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.

8.6
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
0.81 db
Dips
1.2 db
8.7
Sound
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.

0.7
Sound
Passive 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.

0
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
No
Speaker Modeling
No
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
No
Virtual Surround
No App
7.5
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.253
WHD @ 100
0.165
Sound
Test Settings
Firmware
Unknown
Power
On
Connection
Unknown
Codec
SBC, 16-bit, 48kHz
EQ
No EQ
ANC
No ANC
Tip/Pad
Silicone (small)
Microphone
Integrated
Isolation
7.9
Isolation
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
Isolation
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.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
Yes
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No
6.5
Microphone
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
Microphone
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.

Active Features
5.9
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
Rechargable
Continuous Battery Life
3.1 hrs
Additional Charges
5.0
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, or the JBL Tune 120.

0
Active Features
App Support
App Name No App
iOS No
Android No
macOS No
Windows No
Equalizer
No
ANC Control
No
Mic Control No
Room Effects
No
Playback Control
No
Button Mapping No
Surround Support
No

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

Connectivity
6.3
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
4.2
Multi-Device Pairing
No
NFC Pairing
No
Line Of Sight Range
74 ft
PC Latency (SBC)
375 ms
PC Latency (aptX)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX HD)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX-LL)
N/A
iOS Latency
409 ms
Android Latency
102 ms

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
Connectivity
Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line Of Sight Range
N/A
Non-BT Latency
N/A
0
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
No
USB Audio
No
Detachable No
Length N/A
Connection No Wired Option
Analog/USB Audio 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.

Connectivity
PC / PS4 Compatibility
PC/PS4 Analog
No
PC/PS4 Wired USB
No
PC/PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
Connectivity
Xbox One Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
No
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Wireless
No
2.2
Connectivity
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.

Compared to other headphones

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

JBL Tune 120 Truly Wireless
SEE PRICE
B&H

The JBL Free Truly Wireless 2018 are slightly better than the JBL Tune 120 Truly Wireless. They have a more comfortable design and feel slightly better made as well. Our Tune 120 unit also had mismatched drivers, which thinned out the bass and made them sound bright. The JBL Free have more additional charges but have a lower continuous playback time than the Tune 120.

Jabra Elite Sport Truly Wireless
SEE PRICE
BestBuy.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
Unavailable
B&H

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.

Apple AirPods 1 Truly Wireless 2017
SEE PRICE
Newegg.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.

Jaybird Run Truly Wireless
SEE PRICE
BestBuy.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.

XFYRO xS2 Truly Wireless
Unavailable
B&H

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.

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JBL Free Truly Wireless 2018 Price

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