Using one set of true wireless earbuds for everything from music to gaming isn’t easy, mainly because of the hassle of pairing and switching from device to device. The JBL Quantum TWS could truly be a set of everything earbuds thanks to their unique take on wireless connectivity.
Like other true wireless earbuds, these connect to your phone or other devices via Bluetooth. The trick they have up their sleeve comes in the form of a USB-C dongle that adds 2.4GHz wireless connectivity to the device of your choice, dramatically lowering latency.
Most true wireless earbuds aren’t the best choice for video or gaming, thanks to latency. Can the JBL Quantum TWS actually handle video and gaming as well as music?
Build and Controls
- Earbud weight: 11g (0.4oz)
- Charging case weight: 42.4g (1.5oz)
- IP rating: IPX4
Looking at the Quantum TWS, they bear similarities to other models in JBL’s earbud lineup. Thanks to the stem design on each earbud, they also look somewhat similar to the Apple AirPods Pro, but slightly more rectangular with a black and silver finish.
Those silvery highlights with the JBL brand name on them are more than just a bit of visual flair. These are the capacitive touch controls, letting you control your music or calls with a few taps.
Basic functions are relatively simple: tap the right earbud to pause and resume playback, or to answer and end calls. A tap on the left earbud toggles between noise canceling and transparent modes. From there, you’ll likely need to consult the manual a few times because the double and triple taps for other functions can be hard to memorize.
Thanks to the included wireless dongle, the charging case is slightly larger than you would see on a typical set of true wireless earbuds.
- Bluetooth version: 5.2
- Bluetooth profiles: A2DP V1.3, AVRCP V1.6, HFP V1.8
- Dongle connector: USB-C
The JBL Quantum TWS are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2. This comes with a few extra features over Bluetooth 5.0, but as far as I can tell, JBL isn’t making use of these features with the Quantum TWS. Bluetooth 5.2 is faster, for example, but this point is made somewhat moot by JBL’s own wireless system with the dongle.
Similarly, these don’t seem to support multipoint Bluetooth. Again, this makes sense here because JBL favors its own Dual Source system, which lets you quickly switch between a Bluetooth connection and the wireless dongle.
I can say that in practice, this system was incredibly easy to use. It wasn’t necessary to look up how to switch in the manual. I could be in the middle of listening to a podcast, plug the dongle into my PC, start audio, and the headphones would instantly and automatically switch.
To make the most of the headphones, you’ll want to install the JBL Headphones app (available for iPhone and Android). In my case, the app wouldn’t recognize the headphones. This seems to be an issue with the app, as this was the case when we reviewed the JBL Live Free 2.
Music and Sound Quality
- Driver size: 10mm (0.39in)
- Driver impedance: 16ohm
- Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
When it comes to listening to music, I compared the Quantum TWS to the Live Free 2 earbuds mentioned above. I was surprised at the difference. The Live Free 2 sounded somewhat more raw and ragged, while the Quantum TWS had much more of a pronounced EQ curve.
This has positives and negatives. While the EQ curve lent a smoothness to some songs, it caused issues in others.
Listening to Queens of the Stone Age’s “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret,” the bass hits its lowest notes in the song’s chorus. On most headphones, this sounds relatively even. With the Quantum TWS, however, there was a sudden volume increase with these notes.
That said, this mostly seemed to be an anomaly. On the stereo remix of Jethro Tull’s “The Whistler,” there are numerous instruments playing at once, but everything fell into place nicely. On some headphones, parts of this song can sound shrill, but this didn’t happen with the Quantum TWS.
These aren’t your average true wireless earbuds, and the EQ curve explains that. The sound signature seems designed to handle not just music, but movies and games, and this is hard to do.
If you’ve ever tried to listen to music on a home theater system, you’ll notice it sounds okay, but somewhat off. This is the feeling I got with music on the Quantum TWS.
Hook the USB-C dongle that comes with the Quantum TWS into your PC, and it will automatically install the JBL QuantumENGINE app. This is Windows-only, so if you’re using a Mac, you’ll have to get by with the smartphone app mentioned above.
While you can very much use the Quantum TWS for gaming (as we’re about to see), they aren’t JBL’s only option in the Quantum line for gamers. The company also sells multiple standard gaming headsets like the Quantum ONE. That said, not everyone wants to wear a bulky headset, and the Quantum TWS turn out to be a great solution in this type of case.
Once you’ve got the QuantumENGINE app running, you can enable QuantumSURROUND, which, as the name implies, gives you a virtual surround sound setup. This can be useful for directional cues, but the DSP reverb added harshness to most everything that kept me from using it.
Playing a few levels in Neon White, the directional cues were still plenty to help me locate enemies I’d missed on early runs. The latency was far less than with Bluetooth, and the ease of plugging in the dongle and instantly having sound was preferable to the annoying pairing process.
Next, I unplugged the dongle from the PC and plugged it into my Nintendo Switch for a little Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Again, the sound was great, and the dongle worked instantly. This is much easier than connecting Bluetooth headphones to the Switch. I didn’t have a Steam Deck to try out, but these probably work great with it.
Noise Cancellation and Voice
In addition to everything we’ve talked about so far, the JBL Quantum TWS also feature active noise cancellation (ANC). That’s not all, either, as like the JBL Live Free 2, these have two different modes for listening to what’s around you. Ambient Aware is similar to Apple’s Transparency mode, while Talk-through aims to be a convenient way to briefly hear people around you.
I haven’t found the noise cancellation to be the strongest suit of any true wireless earbuds, but the Quantum TWS did an admirable job. On a day when the wind was frequently gusting over 25 miles per hour, I was able to listen to music uninterrupted.
Ambient Aware isn’t as impressive. Yes, it let through some sound, but if I actually wanted to clearly hear what was happening around me, I needed to remove the earbuds.
Talk-through is also confusing. A double tap on the left earbud activates this mode, which cuts music volume and boosts voices around you. It works, but the music is effectively inaudible, so it’s a mode you’ll only want to use for a minute or so at a time.
Voice quality was similar to other earbuds in this price range, though I’ll add that my voice came through fairly well on the aforementioned windy day.
Microphone Audio Sample – Indoor
Microphone Audio Sample – Outdoor
Battery and Charging
- Earbud battery capacity: 51mAh
- Charging case battery capacity: 340mAh
- Maximum run time: 8 hours (earbuds), 16 hours (case)
The JBL Quantum TWS offer a maximum battery life of up to eight hours. This is with noise cancellation turned off, and with volume somewhere around 50 percent. If you want to use ANC, that time comes down to five to six hours, which is still not bad.
The charging case will fully recharge the earbuds twice, which adds another 16 hours of battery life. Of course, this assumes you’re not using ANC, but it still gives you a good idea of how much life you can expect out of the Quantum TWS. Recharging the case fully takes around two hours.
Should You Buy the JBL Quantum TWS?
Are you looking for a true wireless earbud that you’ll be able to use for not just music, but gaming and watching videos too? The JBL Quantum TWS does this in a unique but also very effective way. You won’t find many other true wireless earbuds with this amount of versatility.
Of course, there are trade-offs, and these aren’t perfect. Music quality suffers somewhat from having to take a more generalized approach to audio, and the controls can be confusing.
Still, for the money, this is a fine set of “do nearly everything” earbuds. They’re also a perfect companion for the Switch or Steam Deck, which may be all the recommendation you need.
JBL Quantum TWS
- Switching between Bluetooth and the dongle is effortless
- Lower latency audio with dongle is great for gaming
- Noise cancellation is very effective
- Good battery life
- Sound quality for music isn’t the best
- Controls can be difficult to remember