Headphones are a dime a dozen in some respects, with many buyers having their preferred brand loyalties in play. There are a lot of buyers though, who look for the best value option and, based on our testing, JBL may have a big bang for low dollars option: The Tune 660NC.
Priced at $149.00 you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re cheap and cheerful, but I assure you they’re surprisingly good value. Normally, I’d suggest that there’s far too much missing to be considered “value”, but while they lack some polish vs the likes of $500 Sennheiser or Bose options – they’re wallet friendly without having to compromise too much.
Design and Features
Generally, I’m a fan of over-ear rather than on, or in-ear audio options for a few reasons but primarily the comfort factor. I find on-ear put a bit too much pressure on the back of my ear which pushes my ear onto the arm of my glasses, after a while that’s unpleasant. I was fully prepared for that discomfort with these and it just didn’t come.
They’re not heavily padded but they are padded in all the right places. The headband offered plenty of adjustability and minimised that pressure on the ears. So despite the fact, I have a fairly large head (physically, not ego – be gentle with me in the comments…) I was able to adjust this to be really comfy. The fact that the ear cups too are adjustable through a swivel action plays its part there too.
That being said, they do become quite hot to wear after a while. Now that isn’t a problem right now in cooler months, but I wouldn’t want to commute in 35 degrees with them. JBL walked a fine line pretty well here for fit and comfort, even on a treadmill or energetic walk these stayed put.
Sticking with the simplistic, JBL has also delivered a really simple control setup with only five buttons on the right ear cup. These include power, ANC controls, a play/pause button as well as volume up and down buttons. To add a little bit more to the feature set, a double-tap of the play/pause button will trigger the assistant on your chosen device. There are no fancy touch gesture issues with these, it’s a very simple implementation.
Sound and Battery
We’ve mentioned the comfort factor already, but if headphones sound terrible they just won’t sell. Thankfully the 600NC headphones from JBL really don’t fade into the background, they deliver a really solid and reasonably balanced sound range.
We say reasonably balanced sound because they’re impressive for the dollars, but they just won’t stand up next to the bigger — and more expensive — names on the market. The sound ranges are clean and crisp, but for music playback, they’re a touch bass-heavy for my liking at a lower volume. This can of course be balanced out either via an EQ app, or turning the volume to a level that is borderline uncomfortable for some listeners.
If I were to describe the audio of these in simple terms, it would be that they’re broadly capable but not particularly outstanding. We’ve already mentioned that the bass is a bit heavy at low volume, the mid-range is very good and high range clean but lacking a little bit of power. If I were to make a guess, they’ve been tuned for streaming video vs music.
Even if you are turning the volume up to quite high levels, you’ll see some pretty impressive battery life. While I didn’t have them turned anywhere near full volume most of the time, they were loud and I got over 40 hours from a charge where I used ANC the whole time and nudging 60 hours of playback without ANC.
2 hours on charge will give you a full battery, but if you get caught out: 5 minutes on charge will give you 2 hours of playback, more than enough to see you through a commute home. Ultimately, if it comes to it you can physically (providing your sourced device supports it) plugin the 3.5mm cable to get your tunes happening.
The ANC feature is not bad for commuting and removing some of that background white noise. But it doesn’t handle a lot of those bigger noises and you’ll still get a reasonable amount of noise around you. Having tried them out in a fairly noisy environment at the local shopping centre, these aren’t a set of headphones I’d consider for — looking into the future — air travel.
It’s generally a positive experience – What’s the downside?
There really isn’t a downside to these if you’re looking for decent (not outstanding) sound at a good value price. The package as a whole does lack a little bit of polish and thought in terms of accessories that could — perhaps should — be included. Given the target market for the Tune 660NC is for calls, streaming media and commuting: It seems like a swing and a miss to not have at least a carry bag included.
For me personally, it’s not an issue but some users may lament the charging cable length. It’s impractically short, even if you’re charging plugged into a PC if the USB port is at the top of the machine your headphones will be swinging in the breeze.
Finally, there’s a couple of minor areas of presentation that could be better. Specifically where the earcups hinge when stored, the plastic edging is quite angular to the point of being sharp. It would be easy to give yourself a little nip or graze on that edge: It would also be easy for JBL to round the edges to make it less likely to be a problem.
These are only minor things but contribute to the package feeling. Personally, I’d be happy to pay more than the RRP of AU$149.00, I’d even consider around AU$230.00 a reasonable price if these little things were addressed.
Should you buy them?
If the $149.00 price range is where you’re at then yes, these are a really good buy. While the sound isn’t Bose or Sennheiser level, it’s solid and (at reasonable volume) pretty well balanced. They’re clearly designed for streaming video and calls, but can be balanced to the listeners’ preference for music makes them pretty versatile.
There’s a comfort level with the Tune 660NC that surprised me, they really are very comfortable to a point where I forgot I had them on. The fact that they had pretty good noise isolation, even without ANC, caused a few minor issues with me hearing what was going on around the house.
At the end of the day, I’m confident in saying that you can pay more and get a lot less from other options on the market. The Tune 660NC is a really good option that delivers very well for the price and honestly, they’re probably worth more than the $149 asking price at retailers or JBL’s Online store.