JBL works its sound-enhancing magic to create a truly feature-packed pair of over-ear noise cancelling headphones
- Comfortable, attractive design
- Effective noise cancellation
- Impressive range of features
- Disappointing spatial music mode
Hot on the heels of JBL’s innovative true wireless Tour Pro 2 earbuds, the Tour One M2 pack an extensive range of features into a larger, over-ear design. Customisable noise cancellation, personalised sound and spatial audio modes are just the tip of the iceberg, and the Tour One M2 perform admirably across the board.
The understated design lacks the wow factor of some rival headphones, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss the Tour One M2 out of hand: they deliver advanced, sound-optimising features at a price that keeps them in contention with the big-name competition.
JBL Tour One M2 review: What do you get for the money?
The Tour One M2 have an RRP of £300 and are available from JBL, Argos and Amazon. You can spend a lot less on over-ear headphones, but as far as premium noise-cancelling headphones go, the M2 are competitively priced.
The Technics EAH-A800 and Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless both cost similar money, the Bose QuietComfort 45 typically cost £320, and Sony’s WH-1000XM5 and the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 both command prices in excess of £350. Apple’s Apple AirPods Max remain immensely popular despite rarely dipping from their RRP of £549.
Compared with those rivals, the Tour One M2 stack up well when it comes to specifications and features. They operate wirelessly over Bluetooth 5.3 and support multipoint pairing with two devices, though you’re currently limited to a choice between the SBC and AAC codecs. For high-resolution audio, you’ll need to use a wired connection via the 2.5mm jack located on the right earcup.
The Tour One M2 use both physical buttons and touch controls. A power/pairing slider and volume buttons are located on the right earcup, along with a touch-sensitive panel that allows you to play or pause audio, skip tracks, answer and reject calls, and hail your voice assistant. An Action button on the left earcup switches between noise-cancelling modes or engage TalkThru, while Android users can also set up hands-free Google Assistant access should they wish. Amazon Alexa is built in, too, which is handy if it’s your voice assistant of choice.
Battery life clocks in at up to 30 hours if you’re making use of noise cancellation, a figure that can be extended to around 50 hours if you turn ANC off. That’s a solid figure, and just ten minutes on charge will get you around five hours of audio playback.
A USB-C charging cable is included in the box, along with a 2.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable and flight plug adapter. There’s also a hard-shell carrying case which is suitably sturdy and has a pouch for safely storing the various cables.
An extensive range of features are accessible via the JBL Headphones app. Ambient Sound Control is JBL’s blanket term covering the Noise Cancelling, Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes, and each feature can be tailored to your preferences via the app.
Other core features include Harman’s hearing test and audio personalisation tool Personi-Fi, a handful of EQ presets, a ten-band graphic equaliser for creating your own EQ, and Low Volume Dynamic EQ, which boosts highs and lows when listening at lower volumes. There are also Movie, Music and Game spatial audio modes and the ability to switch between Audio and Video modes, which prioritise sound quality and lip-sync performance respectively.
You also have a few convenience tools at your disposal. SmartTalk works like Sony’s Speak-to-Chat, automatically lowering the volume of your music and engaging TalkThru mode when your voice is picked up. VoiceAware lets you adjust how loudly you hear yourself on calls, while Max Volume Limiter, Auto Power Off and Auto Play & Pause are self-explanatory. Silent Now is a rather niche feature also found on the Tour Pro 2: it enables the headphones’ ANC while Bluetooth and audio are disabled. This is moderately useful if you want to sleep on a plane or shut out the outside world, but it’s not something I used regularly.
JBL Tour One M2 review: What do we like about them?
The Tour One M2’s design is stylish yet understated. The JBL branding on the outside of the earcups is mercifully subtle and the reflective metal accents where the cups join to the headband look smart.
Where they excel, however, is comfort. The size of the earpads proved just right to sit over my ears without cramping them unduly, and the headband provides enough clamping force to keep them in place without compromising on comfort.
Another boon is the ability to fold the earcups inwards to create a more compact package that can be stashed in a coat pocket. This isn’t a big deal if you plan to use the case religiously, but is a handy option to have nonetheless.
The Tour One M2’s noise cancellation is effective. You can choose to engage adaptive mode, which adjusts attenuation based on the ambient noise level or select one of seven levels yourself in the companion app. At its maximum setting, it effortlessly quieted the hum of an aeroplane’s ventilation system, the rumble of busy roads and the whir of my dishwasher.
It’s nice to be able to tweak the level of attenuation, but the Tour One M2’s adaptive noise cancelling is effective enough that you may not need or want to – I used adaptive mode for most of my testing.
Ambient Aware (JBL’s transparency mode) isn’t adaptive but you can choose how much sound is pumped in, again from one of seven levels. At level seven you’ll be able to hear everything going on around you, so it’s useful to be able to tailor the setting to suit your environment.
I wasn’t particularly fond of how the JBL Tour Pro 2 earbuds sounded, but their over-ear counterparts deliver a much improved audio performance. The 40mm dynamic drivers deliver a far more balanced sound, and there’s none of the treble harshness at higher volumes. Low-end frequencies are dramatically more powerful, too.
Black Church’s “Dimension” features both a high-pitched female vocalist and deep, rolling bassline, testing the M2 at both ends of the frequency spectrum, and they remained composed and confident throughout. The frequency extremes blend harmoniously without either one vying for dominance.
I felt little need to EQ the Tour One M2 as a result, but there is a ten-band graphic equaliser in the JBL Headphones app. If you don’t like the default Club preset or any of the Jazz, Vocal, Bass or Studio modes, you can create and save your own EQs.
I’ve already praised it in recent reviews, but the JBL Headphones app is a gem: it’s a veritable treasure trove of features and the range of adjustments you can make is fantastically useful. The key convenience features – wear detection, max volume limiter, VoiceAware, Smart Talk and SilentNow – work as intended and are thoughtful inclusions rather than just extras thrown in for the sake of it.
Other features such as Low Volume Dynamic EQ, which successfully ensures consistent audio regardless of how quiet or loud your music is, and the separate Audio and Video modes, mean that it’s easy to get the Tour One M2 sounding consistently good.
JBL Tour One M2 review: What could be improved?
There are a few areas in which the Tour One M2 could do better, however.
Much like my experience with the Tour Pro 2, I didn’t find the Person-Fi audio personalisation to be effective. The technology has you listen to a series of tones at gradually decreasing volumes and state when you’re no longer able to hear each, with the results used to create a listening profile that tweaks the frequency response to boost output in areas of perceived auditory weakness. However, I was unable to hear any tangible difference between how music sounded when my Personi-Fi profile was engaged and when it wasn’t, which was disappointing.
I wasn’t particularly impressed by the spatial mode for music, either. This applies spatialisation to music regardless of the source, which is an advantage over the spatial audio support on offer from Apple and Sony, but the results were lacklustre. Toggling the mode on certainly changed how music sounded, but not in a way that added any extra immersion.
The spatial movie mode was more worthwhile, creating a more convincing feeling of being in scenes rather than a passive observer of them. Positional sound cues were more precisely located within a broader soundstage, so it’s definitely worth turning this mode on if you’re watching video content.
Finally, I’d have liked to have seen volume controls available via touch controls. There are discreet volume buttons on the earcups, but given there’s a touch-sensitive panel, it’s a shame swipe gestures weren’t added as an alternative method of increasing and decreasing volume. I also found the panels themselves slightly too sensitive. They’re pleasingly responsive when you want them to be, but I also found commands triggered accidentally when adjusting the headphones on my head.
JBL Tour One M2 review: Should you buy them?
The JBL Tour One M2 are some of the most fully featured over-ear headphones I’ve tested. The level of customisability on offer embarrasses several more expensive rivals, and while their audio personalisation tech and spatial audio music mode failed to wow during my testing, there’s vanishingly little to complain about.
I wouldn’t rate them as a perfect ten in any category, but their all-round performance is impressive. The price undercuts many popular options from Sony, Bose and Apple, and the quality of sound, noise cancellation, aesthetics and comfort more than justify the price.
If you’re looking for a quality pair of over-ear noise-cancelling headphones, you definitely need to consider the Tour One M2.