JBL Tune 230 NC review: Noise cancelling you can afford and not at the cost of audio quality

Technology


A few years back, when anyone serious about their music asked me to recommend a pair of affordable headphones, I would always end up suggesting the JBL Tempo. These offered a very balanced audio profile without burning a hole in your pocket. When I heard the price range of the new JBL 230 NC noise cancelling earbuds, I knew these truly wireless earphones where going to play in the same space.

The JBL Tune 230 NC does not stand out much in terms of design. Yes, there is an LED array at the front of the charging case that is interesting and the earpieces themselves have an orange tinge inside that’s trademark JBL. The stem of the earpods have edges that I have not encountered before. But they are what one would expect to see in truly wireless earphones these days.

There is an LED array at the front of the charging case. The earpieces themselves have an orange tinge inside that’s trademark JBL. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/Indian Express)

But then looks are secondary when it comes to audio devices. They are all about how good they sound, or don’t. I said don’t here because these are noise cancelling earphones, among the most affordable in the market at the moment. And how good are they? Well, good enough for me to be in front of my 65-inch television beaming IPL and be able to hear only Harsha Bhogle’s commentary.  No buzz of the crowd or the cacophony that follows every hit that crosses the boundary. I tapped the left earphone to switch off the active noise cancellation and soon the noise of the crowd hit me, along with the whirr of the fan in my living room and the drone of the AC struggling in the heat wave. If JBL can do this at Rs 5,999, it does not even need to be good with the music.

But then this is a JBL and they do take their music seriously. The silky voice of Christy Baron singing ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ with the cello creating a layer of bass in the background put to rest any doubts I had about how good the Tune 230 NC would sound. These earphones offer a full bodied audio profile — lows when you need them and highs when it gets sharp.

The high resolution recording of Rebecca Pidgeon’s rendition of ‘Spanish Harlem’ gave me the chance to see how layered the playback could be on the Tune 230. I could hear the shakers in the background as a separate layer and not something smudged with the rest of the instruments. That’s good enough for me for earphones that cost under Rs 6,000.

The JBL app gives enough controls when it comes to touch gestures and preset equalisers. It also asks if you want to optimise the playback for video or audio, which is a unique feature. The noise cancelling can be switched off in favour of the talk through mode or just transparency that makes you aware of your surroundings.

The battery life can easily last up to 40 hours with the case, or let’s say five working days — if you still work just eight hours a day.

At Rs 5,999, this is the best noise cancelling one can get at this price and certainly with audio quality that does not weaken the experience. It is good news for music lovers that noise cancelling is becoming more affordable and without compromises. The JBL Tune 230 NC is a must-buy for those looking at noise cancelling that helps them with work and leisure.

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