If you've been on the hunt for a well-priced set of headphones with active noise cancelling, then the JBL Tune 600BTNC ($99.95£89.99) are definitely worth a closer look .
Launched in 2018, these American-made, wireless on-ears come with some eye-catching features, and along with very respectable ANC, they feature JBL's Pure Bass. With a foldable design and decent battery life, they're also made for portability.
They feature in our guide to the best budget wireless headphones and although three years old, we think they're definitely worthy of your cash. Here's what we thought.
JBL Tune 600BTNC headphones review: Design
Available in blue, pink, black or white, the JBL Tune 600BTNCs look about as premium as you'd expect from a pair of headphones at this price. With their matte plastic band and contrasting gloss earcups, they're fairly stylish – just don't expect people to salivate with jealousy when you walk past.
JBL claims that the cans have a “rugged construction” but, while it would take considerable effort to break them, we did find that the plastic scuffed fairly easily. This would be less of a problem if the headphones came with a hard case, or even a carry pouch, to protect them once they're folded down, but sadly they don't. On the plus side, we found the headphones comfy, with the cushions sitting snugly on our ears.
As for the controls, they're all positioned on the left earcup and include buttons for turning the volume up or down, playing/pausing your music, taking calls (the headphones come with a built-in mic) and activating or de-activating the ANC. Pressing the volume up or down button for two seconds will skip the track forward or back, and there are also LED lights to tell you if ANC is activated and when your battery is low.
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JBL Tune 600BTNC headphones review: Features
JBL clearly had mobile listeners in mind when they developed the Tune 600BTNC; not only are these headphones foldable, making them easy to stow away. They're lightweight too, tipping the scales at just 6.1oz / 173g. But the clearest indication these were made for people on the move is that they boast impressive battery life.
The US company claims that you'll get up to 12 hours' use with Bluetooth and ANC activated, and that extends to 22 hours with those functions switched off. While that is by no means best in class (the similarly priced Anker Soundcore Life Q20 offer up to 40 hours, for example), it's certainly not to be sniffed at – especially as you can restore the headphones to full capacity from empty with just two hours of charging.
As previously mentioned, these headphones are wireless – however, they come with a detachable cable, meaning you can listen to your music tethered if you so wish (and your smartphone has a socket for it). If you are planning to listen sans wires, bear in mind that the JBL Tune 600BTNC only come with Bluetooth 4.1, meaning you'll get less range than you would with the more up-to-date versions – expect your music to start cutting out at around 10 metres.
Inside each of the earcups there's a 32mm driver, and together these help to power JBL's Pure Bass technology. The manufacturer has been providing sound for festivals and concerts for decades, and claims that Pure Bass channels this experience into “making your favourite artists sound incredible.” We'll put that assertion to the test in the next section.
Finally, these headphones support both Siri and Google voice assistance, meaning you can make and take calls, find out scores, check the weather forecast etc, without removing your phone from your pocket.
JBL Tune 600BTNC headphones review: Sound
With JBL being owned by Harman International, you'd expect these headphones to sound pretty good. To find out if that was the case, we paired them with our phone and lined up Rage Against The Machine's incendiary classic Killing In The Name. As the track battered, torched and looted its way through the JBL Tune 600BTNC's earcups, the first thing that struck us was the quality of the bass – sorry, the Pure Bass. Robust yet refined, it added fresh vitality to this 30-year-old anthem. The headphones were equally competent when handling the higher frequencies, Tom Morello's menacing guitar licks sounding as crisp as a prawn cracker.
One thing we noticed about the Pure Bass: it never really lets up. While that's fine if you're only going to be playing heavy rock, it's way too full-on for quieter ballads. We managed to remedy the problem by switching off the active noise cancelling (which, by the way, is really good for the price), but that of course meant that we were once again susceptible to ambient murmur.
JBL Tune 600BTNC headphones review: The alternatives
If you can't be dealing with all that pairing malarky – and you want something even cheaper – then the Lindy NC-60 headphones ($82/£60) are well worth adding to your shortlist. Number one in our guide to the best headphones under £100, these comfy on-ears come with active noise cancelling technology, along with a whopping 72 hours of battery life (providing you have a couple of AAs).
If you have a bit more budget, then the Bose 700 noise cancelling headphones ($329/£349) are superb at blotting out peripheral din, and come with a four-microphone system that will make your calls as clear as day. With up to 20 hours of high-quality sound available from a single charge, they're ideal cans for audiophiles in transit.