New from JBL, the Tune 120TWS earphones have just been awarded the Red Dot Award for 2019. But with a whopping 16 hours of battery life and a $99 price tag, how do they fare?
JBL Tune 120TWS Review
The Tune 120TWS follows on the heels of other true wireless models like the JBL Under Armour Flash and Endurance Peak. But this is the first JBL true wireless earphone to feature a price below $100.
The Tune 120TWS features a sleek and slim design with an ergonomic fit. They feel relatively lightweight when held in my giant hands. The earpieces feature a 4 hour battery life, with another 12 hours from the charging case. A short 15 minute charge results in an hour of play time.
Following the latest JBL headphones, the 120TWS also come with SIRI and Google Assistant functionality right out of the box.
Playback can be adjusted from the earpieces. Pausing, playing, and accepting phone calls all take place on the right earpiece, while the left controls track skipping.
Six pairs of eartips are included. There’s also a product manual, the charging case, and a necessary USB cable.
Call quality seems decent, though no more impressive than on any other true wireless model.
Inside each earpiece, a 5.8 mm dynamic driver handles sound quality.
The JBL Tune 120TWS offers a fairly solid low end with just a little bit of punch. While not overwhelmingly detailed, there’s a good sense of definition for a true wireless earphone. And, while the bass response may seem a little underhanded, there’s still enough energy to impart life on most of my test tracks. Compared to other wireless earphone options out there, this may not be the liveliest low end I’ve ever heard. But for JBL, this sound remains an impressive accomplishment.
In the mids, vocals sound distinct, with only a small amount of compression. Surprisingly, there’s almost no distortion at play here, creating the impression of a very clean sound. Instrumentation sounds good too, but those vocals remains better-separated from surrounding notes and definitely steal the show in the mids.
Complimenting the lows and mids, the highs on the Tune 120TWS have a slight edge to them. Not quite bright, but not quite peaky, either, this high end sports just enough sparkle to make highs sound special. That being said, the high end never sounds too harsh or uncomfortable. Instrumentation and vocals sound equally good here, and just a little emphasized while retaining a feeling of clarity and accuracy.
When it comes to the soundstage, the JBL Tune 120TWS struggles. However, this is fairly common for any true wireless earphone. In ear headphones rarely deliver solid soundstage, and the inherent compression in Bluetooth technology adds to this drawback. Still, there’s a good sense of depth here, and while the soundstage may feel unduly narrow, the dynamics still feel solid, with relatively low lows and high highs giving the 120TWS some room to breathe.
If you need an inexpensive true wireless earphone that won’t cost an arm and a leg – while also delivering solid audio, it’s hard to not recommend the JBL Tune 120TWS. At $99, this earphone edges out much of it’s competition. Furthermore, the solid fit and feel, along with the 16-hour total battery life, go a long way in imparting a feeling of quality.
But if you’re the kind of person who needs to exercise a lot, or who really wants an earphone to survive end-of-world scenarios, the JBL Under Armour Flash True Wireless earphones may be more to your liking. Slightly more bassy, this model also features aluminum housings for a more rugged build. At $169, it’s more expensive, too.
Still, for the discerning listener, I would recommend a higher-fidelity option from Audio Technica (like the ATH-CK7TW at $249) or Sennheiser (like the Momentum TW – the current Sultan of Sound when it comes to true wireless).
Headphone Dungeon Score
I hereby decree the JBL Tune 120TWS as having achieved a four skull rating on Headphone Dungeon’s trusty skullometer. Sure, it’s not the best thing you’ll ever put in your ears. But for the price, you’re going to have a hard time beating this sound and the accompanying features.
Update: If you’re looking for the best true wireless earbuds on a budget, check out our review of the new Strauss and Wagner SW-TW401 earphones!