The name JBL invokes images of large black speakers belting loud, bassy sounds at every concert, wedding or school event I can remember. With the JBL Quantum 800, the company brings that same ethos to gaming, where we want to feel like total badasses slaying dragons in battlefield overrun with sounds of war.
And JBL isn’t the first audio brand to make its way into the gaming space, following the likes of Audeze, Bose and most recently, Bang & Olufsen. At $350, the Quantum 800 carries the price tag you’d expect of a premium brand and it ticks all the boxes for a modern headset – 2.4Ghz wireless, Bluetooth, Active Noise Cancellation, 3.5mm wired cable, 7.1 surround sound and of course, RGB. The question is, will these headphones evoke the same memories as JBL’s ubiquitous speakers?
JBL Quantum 800 Review
I admit I wasn’t overly impressed with the photos of the Quantum but this is one of those cases where reality is much better than the photo. They aren’t beautiful to my eye and they really look like gaming headsets if you know what I mean. The design is simple – a solid headband connected to large swiveling ear cups and a flip-up microphone. Everything is matte black with the exception of a glossy plastic on the back of the earcups and the red/black wires from the cups into the headband.
They remind me of EPOS headsets but somewhat less military and more gamer looking especially when the RGB lights are on. JBL included a two-zone lighting system that consists of a ring and illuminated logo on the ear cups. This is one of the best RGB implementations on a headset that I’ve seen yet and you have great control over it via the QuantumEngine software. Your battery life will take a big hit if you plan to use the lighting but more on that later.
The Quantums are very well built with a solid heft thanks to its 412g weight. Thankfully, both the headband and ear cups use very comfortable leatherette covered memory foam to cushion you from the otherwise oppressive weight. Clamping force is gentle and I wore these for entire workdays with very little discomfort.
As a wireless headset, you have all your controls on the left ear cup as is standard because all gamers are right handed I suppose. Anyways, you get mic mute, volume and chat mix dials and the ANC button. I don’t like the volume dials because you can’t tell the difference between them and always end up adjusting the wrong one. I prefer the excellent implement on the Xbox Wireless Headset or LucidSound headsets that use the earcups as dials. You also find the USB charging port and 3.5mm cable port at the bottom of the left ear cup while the power slider and Bluetooth pairing button live on the right ear cup.
The flip-up microphone is also located on the left cup and pulling it down activates it while flipping it back up mutes it. A red LED alerts you when the mic is muted. I don’t like the construction and design of this mic. JBL used a skinny, stiff plastic boom arm that feels noticeably cheap and weak compared to the rest of the headset. I kept fearing a wrong move and I’d snap it right off the headset.
Connectivity & Battery
One thing the Quantum 800’s nail is connectivity with the option of simultaneous 2.4ghz and Bluetooth 5.0 as well as traditional 3.5mm audio connections. This means that it will work splendidly with PC’s, laptops and Playstation 4 and 5 consoles. Xbox and Nintendo Switch owners will have to use the wired connection but you won’t lose out on sound quality or even microphone use.
Connecting to a Windows PC or laptop with the 2.4Ghz dongle lets the Quantums shine thanks to a variety of EQ presets and virtual 7.1 surround sound. Sadly, you don’t get these features when using Bluetooth connection but it works excellently with great audio though the lag is noticeable compared to the dongle connection. But the beauty is the simultaneous connections. I had the Quantums connected to my desktop PC via the dongle and my work MacBook via Bluetooth. The Quantums had no problem running audio from both devices with no interference even when I was doing Zoom calls on the MacBook while listening to music on the PC.
Obviously, battery life is a concern when running multiple connections and keeping the RGB lighting on. The headset would usually give me a battery warning in the evening after about 10 hours of use. Not great really but turning off the lighting allowed me an extra 3 – 4 hours which is in line with the headsets 14 hour battery life. IF longevity is what you want, consider rivals like the Steelseries Arctis 9 which has 22 hours or even the absurd 100 hours of the EPOS GSP370.
THere’s also no fast charging on the Quantums which is a shame but can still use them while they charge though you will have to get a lengthy cable for that. Alternatively, you can also use the bundled 3.5mm audio cable when the battery is flat.
Sounds like JBL
On a scale of 1 -10, with 10 being close to audiophile quality sound, the Quantums are a solid 7.5. What this means for you is that they strike a great balance in both games and music, something most gaming headsets struggle with. Take the Xbox Wireless Headset I last reviewed which sounds great in gaming especially with Dolby Atmos but music was muddy with overpowering bass. The Quantums on the other hand sound much cleaner with powerful bass that knows how to stay out of the way.
Across the audio spectrum, the Quantums handle themselves with confidence. The deep, foreboding notes of Doom’s Hellwalker soundtrack fill you with dread while gunshots boom with a meatiness matched only by the squelch of demons exploding in a shower of blood. Walking around the lush jungles of Outriders, you can hear every bird tweet and monstrous growl with excellent positioning and depth.
The Quantums also support JBL QuantumSurround which emulates 7.1 surround sound. I’m still not a huge fan of simulated surround sound on headphones and the Quantums didn’t do anything to change my mind. To me, all the audio just loses it’s punch, sounding almost hollow like you are listening to a loud TV in the background. Nevertheless, JBL’s channel separation is better than average and for once I could actually notice, even if just a little bit, the difference between front/back left and right channels.
JBL gives you the option of QuantumSurround or DTS Headphone:X which I found to be much better than the surround sound. The audio is still punchy and accurate while giving you a little bit better immersion and positional accuracy than standard stereo mode. You can also fine tune the sound profile using the QuantumEngine software which looks like a hipster 1990’s Macromedia Flash app. It’s simple enough to use with controls for EQ, Lighting, Microphone, System updates and of course, Spatial Audio.
Within QuantumSurround, you can choose between Precise, Balanced and Immersive modes – Stick with Precise for comp shooters and Balanced for slower, immersive games. Regardless, I didn’t find any benefit to positional accuracy than with other high end headsets. Advanced settings allow you to specify the size of your head(yes you read that right) so that the headset will adjust the soundstage to suit. I couldn’t tell the difference so your mileage will vary.
Active noise cancellation and microphone
It’s not everyday that you get a gaming headset with Active Noise Cancellation or ANC. In fact, I only know that the just launched Bang & Olufsen $750 Beoplay Portal has this. As you might expect, at less than half the price, the Quantums ANC isn’t the greatest. You activate it with a press of the ANC button on the left ear cup and the range of frequency coverage is quite small; dampening sounds rather than cancelling them out.
Low whining or humming sounds such as your PC or laptop fans, Refrigerators or dishwasher are some of the things the Quantums manage to drown out. It’s also fair at dampening the sound of mechanical keyboards but voices of my kids playing in the background or the Telly still come through loud and clear. I didn’t test the Quantums outdoors on the street or while commuting on a bus so I’m not sure how well they’ll perform in those situations. Overall, don’t expect the kind of performance similar to a dedicated ANC headphone like the impressive Sony WH-1000XM4’s.
The ANC doesn’t cross over to the microphone though and despite my issues with the flimsy build, it’s a very good mic. You can listen to the recording for yourself but I found the audio to be very clear with only slightest processing to my voice. I do wish the QuantumEngine had some tools to improve the audio quality but all you get is managing sidetone and mic input level.
I started by asking if the JBL Quantum 800’s can live up to the legacy of the company’s speakers. They do. I’m always on the look out for a wireless headset that I can use for gaming, music and work and most can’t do all three as well as the Quantums. It’s not perfect but for what it does, I’m happy. Given the size of the dongle, I wish they had a toggle to enable them to work on Xbox consoles just like the Steelseries Arctis 7X.
The surround sound is still unconvincing but with the option of QuantumSurround or DTS Headphone:X, you can surely find one that works for you. The microphone sounds great but I don’t like it’s construction and a retractable mic would be much better. Lastly. the $350 price is going to be a major barrier to most people and doesn’t compete favorably with much cheaper alternatives like the Corsair HS70 Bluetooth and aforementioned Arctis 7X.
Overall, the Quantum 800 is a very solid headset that is sure to please most gamers.
JBL Australia provided PowerUp! with the Quantum 800 for the purpose of this review.