JBL Tour One M2 Review
Over-ear headphones brimming with features
JBL’s flagship wireless over-ears offer an enormous number of features to make the commute more enjoyable, with fine sound, effective noise cancellation and an excellent wireless performance. But the competition they’re up against is tough.
- Lightweight design
- Excellent wireless performance
- Great call quality
- Effective noise cancellation
- Clear, balanced sound
- Unremarkable looks
- Beaten for bass depth and extension
- Tough competition
- UKRRP: £279.99
- EuropeRRP: €299
- SilentNowWakes you up from your noise cancelling slumber
- Voice controlSupports both Google and Amazon’s voice assistants
- Multi-PointCan be connected to two devices at once
JBL makes a gazillion headphones and speakers each year. Just recently it announced it had sold 200 million headphones, making the company the numero uno brand in the overall headphone market.
The JBL Tour One M2 are the company’s latest flagship over-ears, and in its own words, outperforms its previous headphones. Ticking the requisite boxes for a headphone in 2023, there is adaptive noise cancellation, personalized sound, spatial audio support and long battery life provided in a lightweight design.
We’ve come across a few headphones that are jack of many trades but master of only a few. Could that same description apply to the Tour One M2?
- Unremarkable looks
- Lightweight and comfy design
- Good controls
There’s a definite lack of flash to the Tour One M2’s appearance, their only real indulgence to style are the glossy highlights on the earcups and headband. Otherwise, these headphones are here to do a job, which is to sit on your head without causing discomfort.
And it’s mission accomplished, as they’re light on the head, causing very little bother. That’s unlike the previous JBL over-ears I tested in the Club One, which had a tight clamping force and bulky size. The Tour One M2 is positively light by comparison.
They’re comfortable in the right places, the padding on the underside of the headband and earcups is nice and supple, the earcups are spacious and the clamping force is nice and snug. I can’t find anything to complain about. I haven’t noticed wind noise to be a factor in disrupting the ANC performance.
Controls are a mixture of physical buttons (power/Bluetooth, noise cancelling and volume) and touch controls (playback). Power button is a slider, a slightly flimsy one that you might accidentally swipe down on it as I did when grabbing the headphones. It can also be a little difficult to turn them off with the headphones on the head; I had to dig my fingernails in to ease the slider up.
Touch controls are well implemented: one tap to pause, another to skip forward and three to skip back. The noise cancelling button is on the left earcup and that allows for toggling between ANC on and pass-through modes. This is another aspect of the headphones I can’t find much to grumble with.
The headphones are also collapsible, which is a change from 2022’s trend of non-foldable headphones, which means you can pack them easily into a bag or put them into the carry case, which also has a pouch for storing cables/accessories (a 3.5mm cable, USB-C charging and airplane adapter). They also come in a more fetching silver finish (at least from the promotional photos).
- Effective rather than resounding ANC
- Pretty faultless call quality
- Features in abundance
JBL does like to pack headphones with as many features as possible, and the Tour One M2 are no different. The adaptive noise cancelling is the highlight, and the performance is respectable, if not quite emphatic.
They do clear out a lot of surrounding noise, from people walking past on a late night in Shoreditch (voices effectively subdued) to cars, buses and vans going by, but there’s still some noise peeking through.
I did notice the level of the adaptive noise cancelling was not always consistent, which you would expect since it’s adaptive, but oftentimes it let through more noise than the ‘standard’ ANC mode.
Compared to the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bose QuietComfort 45, the Tour One M2 can’t match both pair’s eerie sense of calm.
They’re also not too effective at dealing with the noise on the Tube when it starts to get ‘loud’. I’ve used these headphones on the Northern, District and Jubilee lines and as soon as the howl of the wind picks up, music tends to take a background seat until it dies down. You can, obviously, raise the volume to combat it, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
It does, at least, exercise its noise cancelling cleanly, with none of that ‘whooshing’ sound as cars go by or that ANC whine. It also doesn’t noticeably alter the tone of audio being played, so I’d describe the noise cancelling as effective, but you can get better around the £300 mark.
The transparency is another effective feature, amplifying surrounding sounds so I can hear announcements on the train easily. As is the case with JBL headphones, the Tour One M2 has two different versions in Ambient Aware and TalkThru.
The former sounds clearer and adopts a more natural tone – it’s the standard ambient mode that grants greater transparency to sounds around you, the strength of which can be altered in the app. The response sliding from low to high ambience is instant.
TalkThru mutes music and focuses on people’s voices, and it does this very well. Used on the train, the headphones fixed their focus on people’s voices across the carriage, including the rustling of a bag which was amplified so much I felt it was happening right beside me.
For calls the JBL uses a 4-mic set-up with JBL’s Voice Aware technology, and the performance was excellent. The person I called commented they could hear me clearly and that background noise was kept to a minimum. They could hear people nearby but not to the point where he could make out what they were saying. That’s a very effective performance in my book.
Battery life is stated as 30 hours with noise cancelling on and 50 hours with it off. There’s no mention of fast charging but filling up the battery from dead reportedly takes two hours.
Delve into the JBL Headphones app and there’s a choice between enabling Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or accessing a mobile device’s native voice assistant. The Equalizer comes with five presets and the option to make a 10-band custom EQ.
Or you could rely on the Personi-Fi to craft your own personalized audio profile. It achieves this by conducting a test that measures how well you hear a series of receding blips for your left and right ear. The Low Volume Dynamic EQ boosts highs and lows when listening at lower volumes.
There is JBL’s take on Spatial Sound with Movie, Music and Game profiles, and you can modify controls for the Action Button (left earcup) and the touch panel, though that only refers to disabling it.
Smart Talk is like Sony’s Speak to Chat, automatically enabling the TalkThru mode when it senses you’re speaking and lowering music volume. It not only reacts quickly when I start talking but is prompt to return to music. The speed at which music resumes can be set in the app.
The Smart Audio & Video feature presents the best audio quality with music (in what way it doesn’t specify) as well as improving lip-sync performance with video. Switching between them necessitates the JBL headphones re-connecting with the source device, and I must admit that watching videos on Prime Video and YouTube, I couldn’t tell if there was a pronounced difference between the two modes. What I did notice was a couple more dropouts on YouTube with Video mode than I did in the Audio mode.
The SilentNow feature disconnects the Bluetooth connection and turns on the noise cancelling, so you can catch 40 winks and not be disturbed. You can set when it starts, how long it goes for and whether you want a notification to wake you up.
The Personal Sound Amplification seems to achieve a similar objective as the Ambient Aware feature, which makes me ponder why it’s included. At least it offers a different set of customisations by changing the balance from left ear to right.
Elsewhere there’s Auto Power Off, Auto Play & Pause (which is speedy) and a Max Volume Limiter that protects your hearing. All the way at the bottom of the app is the means to update the firmware.
The headphones support Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC and AAC codecs supported. Connectivity has been excellent, there hasn’t been any dropout, significant or otherwise, whether walking through populated areas like Soho or in busy transport hubs such as Victoria train station.
- Good treble performance
- Not for bass addicts
- Clear, balanced tone to music
In a similar vein to JBL’s Live Pro 2 wireless earbud, the Tour One M2 take a balanced approach to audio that may strike some as bland. On the default volume they do sound reticent, the soundstage is rendered small and its sense of energy lacks ‘fizz’. But just two nudges on the volume control and the JBL gives a much better account of itself.
With GoGoPenguin’s Erased by Sunlight there’s clarity to the headphones’ treble performance and good tonal variation of the piano notes throughout the song. You can sense how much pressure is applied to each piano note, the sound of the trailing edge as it lingers; the brightness of each note is an improvement on the Club One’s dulled performance.
I wouldn’t say the JBL offers the biggest bass performance. There’s weight provided to the drum hits in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Bullet with Butterfly Wings, but a headphone such as Sennheiser’s Momentum 4 Wireless expresses it with more depth and heft.
You get with the JBL a spacious, slightly wider and clearer performance, but the sense of energy and drive half-way through the track in its frenzied guitar section isn’t as intense on the JBL as it is with the Sennheiser or even the Club One.
Dynamically, the headphones feel broad in terms of describing the difference between a track’s highs and lows, a shade less sprightly in conveying the nuances of singers. The stereo image it offers of Tune-Yards’ Hypnotized is also not as vividly realized as on the Sony WH-1000XM4, I sense more depth to the Sony’s performance than the JBL can offer.
With vocals there’s a clarity that’s possibly better than either the Sennheiser or Sony’s smoother approach takes. The difference with the Spinners’ Could It Be I’m Falling in Love is hard to judge, but I think there’s more character and a smidge more presence to the lead vocals on the Sony.
It matches up to what I think of the JBL’s mid-range performance, which is clear and detailed, but the other headphones dig out more definition of instruments for a more musical performance.
That said, the JBL holds up well to both the Sennheiser and Sony. Its more neutral, perhaps even clinical approach doesn’t have the richness of either the Momentum or WH-1000XM4, but some listeners may prefer that approach.
The JBL also offers spatial sound within the JBL Headphones app and that amounts to a wider soundstage with vocals recessed to create a sense of depth. I’d stick with the default audio as all this really does is make the soundstage bigger rather than the sense of sounds being around you.
The Personi-Fi personalized audio is something that will differ with each person. I preferred to have it off than on, the slight emphasis on the midrange that I heard came across as too processed and giving voices a tone that felt artificial.
Should you buy it?
If you prefer clear, balanced audio to a richer-sounding headphones Everybody has their preference when it comes to audio. There are many ways to serve a track to your ears, and if you prefer a balanced, more neutral approach to audio that’s what the Tour One M2 offer.
The competition is fierce You’ve got efforts from Sony, Bose, Sennheiser, and Shure, all around the same price and they range from being pretty good to excellent. There’s lots of options to choose from, especially for better noise cancelling.
The JBL Tour One M2 are a pair of headphones that score 8/10 in many categories and 9/10 in a few, which made deciding on a score a tad more difficult than expected.
As an overall package, they’re very competitive with regards to the competition. Their wireless performance is pretty faultless, as is their call quality performance. They sound very good but not brilliant, and perhaps the lack of any high-res audio codecs goes against them. But for those who prefer a balanced sound then they’re a pair to seek below the £300 mark.
Their noise cancelling is not class-leading – the Bose QuietComfort 45 are better in this instance – but they’re good for the commute and travel, and the levels of comfort the headphones offer is finely tuned. The list of features is extensive, and some will probably never use half of them, but there’s something for everyone who enjoy music, games or TV on-the-go.
I’ve found the Tour One M2 have been a very reliable pair of headphones in the two weeks I’ve used them, and while they’re short of the very best, for those who want headphones that cover a wide range of features and boast a very good performance (and who wouldn’t want that?), this flagship effort from JBL are well worth checking out. But the competition is decidedly tough.
How we test
We test every set of headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested across two weeks
Tested with real world use
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As far as we can tell, the Tour One M2 do not have any fast-charging abilities
The the Tour One M2 does carry support for Bluetooth multi-point, and they’re able to connect to two devices simultaneously.