JBL Club One

Traditionally focussing on the more affordable end of the market, with its new Club range JBL’s consumer division is aiming for a slightly more discerning audience. There are three models, starting at £130, but the flagship Club One weighs in at £300 and promises hi-res audio and advanced noise cancellation.

The over-ear headphone boasts 40mm graphene drivers housed in sturdy earpieces with adjustable metal hinges, while the padded headband and earpieces are comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time. The Club One can be used with Bluetooth, but the emphasis seems to be on wired listening as the hi-res support and extended 10Hz-40kHz frequency response are only available with a wired connection. Both coiled and straight cables are bundled as well as a 6.35mm adapter and hard case.

The Bluetooth side of things is a little basic with no aptX support, which is disappointing at this price. However, the Club One compensates with versatile noise-cancellation options. ‘Ambient aware’ allows you to keep an ear on things around you to avoid accidents, ‘talkthru’ lowers music levels so you can have a chat without removing the headphone, while ‘silent now’ simply blocks out any background noise.

Battery life is good, at around 45 hours using Bluetooth or 23 hours when using Bluetooth and noise-cancellation together. A wired connection with noise-cancellation lasts 25 hours. Finally, the ‘Club’ branding comes from the EQ presets provided by well-known DJs that are included in the JBL app.

Sound quality
I kick off proceedings with The Orb’s Prime Evil and am impressed by the firm, precise delivery of the bass in the intro. Despite JBL’s emphasis on club music, the lower frequencies aren’t especially overwhelming as the Club One shows a deft touch with the nervous, ticking percussion.

Turning to the soaring polyphonic choral of Spem In Alium by Thomas Tallis and performed by Pro Cantione Antigua, there’s a genuinely imposing sense of space as the dense, multi-layered harmonies swirl around me, giving each set of voices room to be heard clearly. The hi-res headphone handles higher frequencies particularly well, picking out the gentle, whispered voices in the early sections of the track and allowing them to float by. Yet it embraces the power of the 40-singer chorus, maintaining clarity and detail as the voices converge in an almost overwhelming crescendo.

Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, the Club One really flexes its muscles with the raucous energy of My Chemical Romance’s Vampire Money. It handles the frenetic guitar with aplomb, stepping back and allowing the chopping riffs to take off like fireworks. The chanted chorus, thrashing guitars and pounding drums risk collapsing into sonic mush, but the JBL deftly balances the clashing sounds and maintains a clear, precise focus throughout.

The noise-cancellation features work well too – even if the process of timing button presses in order to switch between the various modes is irritatingly fiddly. The Club One is particularly effective at cutting out the deep rumble of aircraft engine noise and manages to do so without muffling the sound of the music, as some noise-cancelling headphones can. However, the sound does start to feel a bit more confined as I switch to wireless Bluetooth streaming, with the challenging chorus of Vampire Money losing some of its brightness and clarity. Even so, the hi-res precision of the Club One remains impressive when used in wired mode and the noise-cancellation features will earn their keep for those that are embarking on long journeys. CJ    

Product: JBL Club One
Type: Over-ear headphone

●  40mm graphene dynamic drivers
●  Frequency response: 10Hz-40kHz (passive); 20Hz-20kHz (active)
●  Bluetooth streaming (SBC)

Read the full review in  Issue 467