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JBL Soundgear Sense in a hand, on white background

Good bass from open-ear headphones? JBL’s Soundgear Sense may have hit the spot

In case you missed it, IFA 2023 was a memorable year for audio bigwigs, and JBL was no exception. Alongside the launch of three retro-looking Authentics speakers, plus the Live 770NC and Live 670NC wireless over- and on-ear headphones, the company has released a sleeper hit; an unobtrusive, affordable open-ear ear design that actually punches differently on the low end.

Readers of our IFA 2023 live blog may have caught senior staff writer Hamish Hector’s initial thoughts on the JBL Soundgear Sense (because that’s the name of the product), but a quick summary makes for compelling reading. Thus begins his letter:

“I’ve been testing the new JBL Soundgear Sense air conduction headphones here in Berlin for the past few days and I’ve fallen in love with them.”

Yes, you are right to be intrigued. The JBL Soundgear Sense look like sports earphones (you know the ones), with a hook that secures them to your ear, but unlike the Beats Fit Pro they don’t go in your ear. Instead, they sit above the entrance and spread the sound into the air – think of them as direct open-ear headphones.

Of course, the main advantage of the Soundgear Sense over in-ear headphones or the best noise canceling headphones is that you can enjoy your favorite playlist while maintaining full awareness of your surroundings, because they don’t block out the noise of the world. real at any time. All.

Keep in mind that these earphones don’t use bone conduction technology to achieve this (so they won’t make it into our best bone conduction headphones buying guide) but considering JBL’s mediocre history in this area, the company has been busy.

In a bit of history, my verdict on 2022’s JBL Tune Flex — earphones that can actually switch between in-ear and open-ear designs — was less than brilliant. But the Soundgear Sense is a completely different thing.

“The sound quality is damn good,” Hamish enthuses, adding “At higher volumes, some distortion can creep in, but at moderate volumes (which is basically more than loud enough) they deliver good clarity. Mid-range and highs sound great and the lows are solid too, especially considering their small size.”

Will they completely replace his trusty Bose 700? No. And that’s because when you listen to music or a podcast, Hamish (like many of us) wants be secluded in your own sound bubble and free from the distractions of the outside world. But whether you’re on the go, jogging or walking home on a dark evening, our expert confirms that he’ll gladly swap them for these JBL earphones for the added awareness they provide.

How much? The JBL Soundgear Sense will be available in black or white from the end of September 2023, for £129.99 / €149.99, which is equivalent to around $165 or AU$255, but these prices are unofficial and will be updated when JBL confirms the Recommended pricing and availability for these regions.

Opinion: In its sound focus, JBL beats its past efforts with ease

JBL Soundgear Sense earphones in black, worn by TR's Hamish Hector, who also wears an excellent black and floral baseball cap

JBL Soundgear Sense offers a sharp look, with or without a detachable neckband (Image credit: Future)

Anyone remember the JBL Tour Pro 2 with screen, the company’s forward-thinking but flawed flagship work last year? The much humbler Soundgear Sense earphones – which also feature a detachable neckband – are nothing like those, for the better.

Honestly, it’s nice to see JBL putting aside the charging case gimmicks and focusing on the quality of sound it can achieve in an affordable, more safety-conscious design. Because JBL is talented here, just look at the gorgeous JBL Live Pro 2, which features some of the best active noise cancellation at the level I’ve ever experienced.

Keep in mind, though, that there’s no ANC here – it’s an open-ear design meant to offer some degree of aural access to the elements as you listen, expecting active noise-cancelling tech would be a bit crass.

What you I am you get is Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio (available via an update); JBL’s OpenSound technology with lovely big 16.2mm drivers; four microphones total for crisp, clear calls; up to 24 hours of battery life (six hours in the earphones plus an additional 18 hours from the case); fast charging so that a quick 15 minute consumption gives you an additional four hours of music; IP54 resistance to sweat, splashes and dust; on-ear touch controls and the JBL Headphones app for customization and EQ adjustments.

Will the JBL Soundgear Sense earphones better similar offerings from Oladance (my favorite pick when it comes to open-ear options), OneOdio, or Cleer Audio? Time will tell, but as I write this my colleague Hamish is working on a comprehensive evaluation of the JBL Soundgear Sense.

Watch this space.

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