Recently we’ve seen more audio companies step into the world of gaming headsets. Audeze did so with Mobius and worked with HyperX on the Cloud Orbit S, which have been our gold standard in gaming headsets thus far. With this in mind, we were excited to see just what JBL has to offer in their surprisingly robust and well thought out line up. Essentially launching with seven headsets at a wide variety of price points and a set of PC speakers coming soon, JBL is in a good place but will this gaming newcomer be able to match other established brands at the start?
Before we start our review of the JBL Quantum 800, it’s important to understand the product line. In regards to the previously mentioned seven headsets, it’s the second most expensive and tied for their best headset. Unlike a lot of brands, JBL makes things extremely easy by making most of their line up progressively better. Every headset, besides the most expensive JBL Quantum One, which features head tracking technology making it closer in concept to the aforementioned Audeze and HyperX headsets, gets progressively better. This means if you’re looking at, say, the JBL Quantum 600, the biggest difference is Bluetooth, Active Noise Cancelation, and higher frequency response. To make it easier to understand, we included the chart found on JBL’s own Quantum page.
From the second you look at the JBL Quantum 800, you can tell a lot of thought went into this product. It’s clearly meant to catch your eye and stand out with embossed images on the front, holographic letters, clear representation of features that easily communicates which features and items come with this headset. Similar to 1More’s Spearhead headset, it features a magnetic cover that explains the Quantum engine, shows the headset, and more. While every headset in their line up isn’t as elaborate, as I’ve seen about half of the boxes thus far, they all give you the impression of a quality product.
As for the headset itself, the JBL Quantum 800 is in an odd place in regards to building quality. At first glance, it looks cool, with the illumination being a cool bonus or pointless addition and eye-catching black and orange branded cords add some charm to the headset. The headset has a lot of cushioning that feels soft to the touch and inside the earpads is a light cover that indicates side but also allows you to clearly see the speaker. It’s neat in its own way. Behind there are a good number of buttons, with one side having mic mute, volume, a chat and game audio dial, ANC on, and the other power and Bluetooth. One unfortunate problem with this set up is the audio dials.
While this feature is still not considered essential or standard, it’s typically given a different location. On Astro’s high-end wireless headset, that control is on the side of the headset. LucidSound solves this issue by having one earcup dedicated to game volume and the other chat. HyperX has approached this a number of different ways, but most make it easy to understand said function. What makes this an issue on the JBL Quantum 800 is that it’s extremely easy to mistake volume for game audio. No one wants to be in the middle of an intense run, you go to increase the volume, you hear the game get louder and now you suddenly can’t hear your teammates because you turned the wrong dial.
As a final note on build quality, this headset uses a plastic brand, making it easier to break. In our tests, it feels sturdy, and like it can withstand some use but if you’re someone who is rough with their items, it might be a deal-breaker. Another potential problem is the included mic. Despite having Bluetooth, a feature that largely exists so you can use them as a normal wireless headset with your DAP, phone, or possibly television, there is no way to remove the mic. It can be lifted, an act that mutes it, or you can keep it down for a phone call and momentarily mute it via a button on the mic (there is an LED that indicates when it’s off), but not being able to remove it is unfortunate for anyone concerned about longevity or looking for a more standard-looking pair of headphones for using on the go.
When everything is said and done, the most important aspect to this or any other headset is the sound quality. And, in regards to the JBL Quantum 800, it does a pretty good job in a variety of situations. In general use, I had no issues getting them to work on a wide variety of devices and they managed to sound quite good. Those with something like a DAP or other Bluetooth devices might be happy to know it will auto-connect if you want it to, even if you don’t set it in Bluetooth mode.
That being said, this is a rather bass-heavy headset. This causes the disruptions in the world around you to be more pronounced, with the active noise cancelation doing a fantastic job of hiding the presence of my Dyson air multiplier, but it also makes the lack of highs rather pronounced. You can somewhat correct this with the QuantumENGINE app, since it lets you use a wide variety of sound programs, including FPS or Bass Boost, edit them as you see fit via various ranges and other things like personalizing the surround sound/LED lights. However, since this is done via the app and not via a button or mechanic like LucidSound and Astro do, it can be rough on those playing on consoles. Still, it’s nice to have the functionality and saving profiles/figuring up the best way to experience the world, either by enhancing footsteps or maximizing sound is always welcome.
Given the JBL Quantum 800 features their QuantumSURROUND sound, you can get a more immersive experience. Not quite on par with some of the other headsets we’ve reviewed, largely due to not sounding as distinct and inviting as the world they create, but they’re far from the worse surround we’ve looked at. Whether it’s Death Stranding or just an open-world game, you’ll get the distinct impression of where things are happening.
For music, even on the high enhancing equalizer, they were still rather bass-heavy. Given a listen to a lot of rock songs it isn’t the worst trade-off but anything with a lot of highs sounds far flatter than I know they do on other headsets. Considering this headset features ANC it will probably get the job done for most people or save you from having to use multiple pairs of headphones. That said, in our Bluetooth tests with my Android TV, iPhone XS, and FiiO M11 Pro, the chat mix and volume dials were disabled. I had to do it on the device itself, a rather annoying but manageable problem.
When everything is said and done, there is no denying this is one of the most comfortable headsets I’ve reviewed thus far. Even if this headset sounds slightly better or that one makes swapping game types easier, it doesn’t matter if you want to take it off after an hour. With the JBL Quantum 800, I hit five hours without feeling any of the usual pain on the top of my head or any discomfort from wearing, making it easy to recommend to anyone that typically has that problem.
Finally, like a lot of these headsets, the including mic isn’t going to outmatch a dedicated mic but does a decent job at getting communications across. I had no issue communicating with my teammates or hearing their replies to excel online or in a trial/raid. Having listened to recordings myself, I come off a little more nasally than normal but there was minimal background noises or distractions and good enough to keep pace with most better quality headsets on the market.
JBL Quantum 800 Verdict
Having used these rather extensively the past couple of weeks, they genuinely feel like a great first attempt from a company that better understands what the headphone market wants. With a couple easy changes, like making the mic removable, button the chat or volume dial on the other side, and repurposing the mic mute button to being a dedicated preset selector, this could easily be a product that will appeal to a lot of gamers. Unfortunately, that isn’t quite the case but it’s also important to understand most of these complaints are minor and easily corrected or potentially not even a concern. The important thing is, there are very few headsets at this price point that feel amazing to wear, have a robust feature set that includes active noise cancelation, plus surround sound, Bluetooth and easy to use software to attempt to achieve the ideal sound. And, as a result, they’re certainly worth considering if you’re looking for a great general use headset that is designed around gaming.
[Editor’s Note: JBL Quantum 800 was given to us for review purposes.]