Review JBL Club 950NC: robustness with noise cancellation [análise/vídeo]

The JBL Club 950NC is one of the most sophisticated active noise canceling headphones of the American brand. It has a robust metal design, a battery lasting up to 55 hours and a circumaural headphone format to wrap your ears and reduce external distractions.

Although it is not a cheap headphone, the suggested price of R $ 1,499 is less than that of the most famous models in the segment, such as the Sony WH-1000XM4. Is it worth it to bet on JBL? How is the sound quality? Does it cancel noise well? I have listened to dozens of hours of music in the past few weeks and I will tell you everything in the next few minutes.

Video review of the JBL Club 950NC

Ethics notice

THE Tecnoblog is a technology-independent journalistic vehicle that helps people make their next purchase decision since 2005. Our product reviews are opinionated and have no advertising intent. For this reason, we always transparently highlight the positive and negative points of each product.

No company, manufacturer or store has paid the Tecnoblog to produce this content. Our reviews are not reviewed or approved by external agents. The JBL Club 950NC was provided by Intel by donation. The product will be used in future content and will not be returned to the company.

Design and comfort

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

The Club 950NC’s design stands out compared to other active noise canceling headphones. While Sony, Bose, Beats and other well-known brands are betting on lighter and even less sophisticated materials, JBL has placed metal pieces joining the bow to the shells. It’s a double-edged sword: it feels robust and durable, but it makes the product heavier.

In the early days, I felt the Club 950NC a little uncomfortable due to the pressure around the ears and the above average weight of 372 grams. For comparison, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II is 235 grams, almost 40% less, which makes a significant difference when using the headphone for long hours.

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

It was a matter of time to get used to it, but it is not a phone I would choose for a long trip by bus or plane, for example. Adding the pressure of the headphone with the voluminous foams, covered in a leather-like material, the Club 950NC also warms the head more, which can be uncomfortable on hot days for some people.

Although it looks like a battle tank, it has no IP certification for protection against water and dust; is a headphone that should be used mainly indoors, like a train, an office or indoors, as well as other headphones with active cancellation. The transport of the Club 950NC is facilitated by the foldable format, which fits in a very rigid case, able to protect the phone well inside a bag or backpack.

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

Physical buttons are not lacking here. The left shell can be pressed to call Google Assistant or Alexa and it also includes the on / off, Bluetooth pairing and noise cancellation commands, as well as an input to connect a P2 cable. On the other side, we have a USB-C connection to charge the battery, volume controls and a bass boost button, which I will comment on below.

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

Software and functions

The headset can be controlled by the My JBL Headphones app, available for Android and iPhone. The iOS version is extremely poorly rated on the App Store, with an average of 1.4 stars, but this may have happened more because of a communication failure by JBL in informing which headphones are compatible than by the quality of the software; particularly, I did not find any problems with the Club 950NC application.

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

My JBL Headphones has an easy to use interface. It shows the battery percentage, allows you to configure your preferred voice assistant, enable or disable noise cancellation and customize the sound. It is also possible to define one of the two actions for the side button: TalkThru lowers the volume and lets the ambient sound pass through, so you can talk to someone without taking the phone off, while Ambient Aware only turns off the cancellation, so you don’t get hit for not having heard a car on the street.

The Stage + is the JBL equalizer, which allows you to adjust the frequency bands as a common equalizer, but it also features pre-defined DJ modes. By touching one of the photos, you can get more information about each one’s biography and style. , leaving the phone more or less energetic, depending on the DJ. It is a more democratic way of making an equalizer, without adopting terms that can be confusing for those who are more uncommitted with sound.

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

Sound and microphone quality

Being quite direct, the Club 950NC has a sound that I don’t like, but that makes sense from a marketing point of view and has its audience. JBL bet on a warmer and more energetic sound; the brand’s entire line of headphones tends to have stronger bass than the rest of the spectrum. What bothers me about this model is an elevation in the mid-bass that makes some songs congested. In addition, the bass sometimes seems superficial: I can hear, but not feel the beat so well.

For me, this sound profile is bad for pop songs with greater dynamic range. At Cornelia Street, by Taylor Swift, the calm parts appear to be more agitated than they should be, with beats protruding in a milder region. In addition, I felt that the singer’s voice is hidden in the choruses, with a weight less than it could. The curious thing is that any of the five DJs of the equalizer worsens this effect, increasing the beats.

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

On the other hand, the Club 950NC does well with more active styles. At Enter Sandman, from Metallica, the JBL bass comes into play and plays the drums with authority; they could have a little more depth and breadth, but most people should be very happy. At the same time, the mids and highs, which show no unpleasant spikes, let the guitar and cymbals work in harmony.

The result can also please bass lovers in Playing God, by Paramore, with a fun rhythm and a textured vocal. On the other hand, the sensation of tangled music can return to the final part of Looking Up, from the same album. This sound duality makes the Club 950NC a less versatile headset, which can be very good for some songs and not so much for others.

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

My previous considerations were made with the bass boost always off. By tapping this button, the low frequencies are even more present in the Club 950NC (as if they didn’t already have it normally!). But I believe that most people will not use this mode: it is cool in the first few minutes to play and feel the head bobbing, but it generates hearing fatigue and nausea after a while.

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

The integrated microphone is of average quality, just as expected for a Bluetooth headset. The person on the other end of the line can hear your voice with a certain clarity if you are in a relatively calm and quiet environment, but nothing more.

Noise and battery cancellation

The Club 950NC’s “NC” refers to active noise cancellation and the effectiveness of this feature depends on your expectations. Compared to references in this segment, such as the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, the JBL headphone is much inferior, especially in reducing the most serious and constant noise, such as engines, for example. Only it is also more accessible than these pairs, which are sold above R $ 2 thousand.

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

Noise reduction at mid frequencies is as expected for a headset with active noise cancellation, that is, it is not efficient in reducing fickle noises (such as background voices), but it softens the external noise enough to work listening to music at a volume nice. Much of this work is done passively by the shells, which fit more firmly in my head.

The battery delivers what it promises. JBL says the Club 950NC can handle up to 55 hours without noise cancellation and 22 hours with ANC. As usual, I always listened to music with the cancellation feature enabled, connected to an iPhone 11 Pro Max and at 50% volume, enough to listen to the music well for long hours. In a continuous test, the headset lasted about 23 hours, which is slightly above what the brand promised.

Worth it?

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

JBL Club 950NC phone (Image: Paulo Higa / Tecnoblog)

It may be, but not for everyone. The big problem with Club 950NC in Brazil is that it is in an ungrateful price range for a headset: it is less expensive than the best on the market, but it is still a very expensive product for most Brazilians. Looking at it this way, it is difficult to say that it is worth “saving” money (many quotes here) and not taking a Sony WH-1000XM4, for example, which is the benchmark in the active canceling headphones market.

I got to see some frequency response graphics that show the Club 950NC as a more balanced, versatile and less serious headset than the Sony WH-1000XM4, for example. It’s not what I hear: for me, the JBL headphone is much closer to a Sony WH-XB900N, which bears the Extra Bass inscription on the packaging. It is certainly a headset for bass heads and to enjoy music without compromise, shaking your head.

The Sony WH-XB900N, in fact, would be the direct competitor of the Club 950NC for the price range. Between the two, I would be divided, but tending to the side of Sony: it has an energetic and warm style similar to JBL, loses some luxuries like the hard carrying case, but gains a lot in comfort and brings a longer battery life with active noise cancellation.

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