JBL Soundgear Sense review

    TechnologyAudio DevicesJBL Soundgear Sense review

    Instead of the usual in-ear or over-ear designs, JBL describes the Soundgear Sense as wireless open-ear headphones. Although reminiscent of the bulky headsets with ear hooks that were popular in the early days of wireless audio, it earned a 2023 Red Dot Design Award for its use of air conduction technology to deliver sound without blocking the ears. How does it perform in real life?

    DESIGN – 3.5 / 5

    For those of us who remember, the Soundgear Sense earpieces have a retro feel which, with their ear hooks and bulkier dimensions, resemble the Bluetooth earphones of the early to mid-2000s. Despite the dimensions of the oval plastic body, they are surprisingly lightweight at 13.1g each, making them easy to wear for extended use. The ear hooks are adjustable to fit various head shapes and sizes, ensuring a secure fit. A detachable neckband provides additional security and stability. This focus on comfort is evident in the way the Soundgear Sense feels during use. 

    Still, the bulkier dimensions and open-ear format might not appeal to everyone. I personally have mixed feelings about the Soundgear Sense: While I appreciate its lightweight and comfortable feel, I wish it were more discreetly-sized and less conspicuous, especially when in public places and social situations.

    HARDWARE – 4.5 / 5

    The Soundgear Sense leverages air conduction technology to deliver sound without blocking your ears. Its 16.2mm dynamic speakers ensure good sound quality with a balanced profile. Bass is present but doesn’t overpower the mids and highs, resulting in a clear and enjoyable listening experience. While the open-ear design might not deliver the noise-canceling immersion of some closedback headphones, it excels in clarity and allows you to stay aware of your surroundings. 

    Four built-in microphones deliver excellent voice quality, and the open-ear design provides a more natural-sounding experience during calls.

    Equipped with Bluetooth 5.3, it has multi-point connectivity and can be paired with two devices simultaneously. In my case, I paired the Soundgear Sense to both my phone and my laptop, and I was able to use it to attend Zoom meetings on my laptop and then listen to music and take calls on my phone seamlessly without the inconvenience of having to connect/disconnect either device.

    The Soundgear Sense features intuitive touch controls on the earbud housings. These controls allow you to play/pause music, skip tracks, adjust volume, answer/reject calls, and activate your voice assistant. The controls are responsive and can be customized through the JBL Headphones app to match your preferences. For example, you can assign a specific function, like activating ambient mode to a single-tap or double-tap gesture. 

    Each earbud offers a respectable battery life of 6 hours on a single charge. The included charging case provides an additional 18 hours, bringing the total playtime to 24 hours. While not the longest battery life on the market, it’s sufficient for extended listening sessions between charges. The included Type-C USB cable allows a quick charge of 15 minutes to deliver an additional 4 hours of playback, and a full charge takes only 2 hours.

    USER EXPERIENCE – 4.5 / 5

    Surprisingly, the Soundgear Sense shines in terms of comfort and fit. The lightweight design and adjustable ear hooks ensure a secure fit, while the open-ear design allows for passive ventilation, which eases ear fatigue during extended use. In fact, I often actually forgot they were sitting on my ears and would only be reminded after some hours when the pressure of the ear hooks started to feel uncomfortable. Compared to other in-ear headphones, I tended to wear the Soundgear Sense longer.

    The open-ear design is a double-edged sword. While it allows for complete situational awareness, it also means sound leakage. This can be an issue if you’re listening to music in quiet environments or want complete noise isolation. Additionally, outside noise can interfere with your listening experience at times. For instance, traffic noise on a busy street or loud conversations in a crowded cafe can disrupt your audio. In general, I liked using the Soundgear Sense while working and during commutes as they allowed me to enjoy my playlist while staying aware of what was going on around me. For spending alone time in cafes, though, I prefer the JBL Live Free noise-canceling in-ear buds. 

    Adding to the ease of use and functionality of JBL audio devices is its JBL Headphones app, which is user-friendly and convenient. The app allows me to customize the touch controls, adjust EQ settings, check battery life, and even “find my earbuds” — all from my phone. 

    VALUE – 3.5 / 5

    The JBL Soundgear Sense is listed at PHP9,499, falling within the mid-range price bracket for wireless headphones. Considering the unique open-ear design, good sound quality, and comfortable fit, they offer a compelling value proposition for users who prioritize situational awareness during activities for a safe and comfortable listening experience.

    Tech Specs:

    • Earphones: Driver size 15.2mm dynamic driver | Impedance 32ohm | Sensitivity 112dB SPL@1kHz | Maximum SPL 90dB 
    • Microphone sensitivity: -38 dBV/Pa@1 kHz
    • Bluetooth: Version 5.3 | Profile HFP 1.8, A2DP 1.4, AVRCP 1.6.2 
    • Bluetooth transmitter: Frequency range 2.4 GHz – 2.4835 GHz | Power <10 dBm
    • Weight: Earbuds 12.85g per pc, 25.7g combined | Charging case 68.1g | Neckband 5.3 g
    • Batteries: Lithium-ion | Earbud 70mAh | Charging case 600mAh
    • Charging time: 2hrs from empty
    • Playtime: Music with BT on up to 6hrs | Talk time up to 3.5hrs
    • Power supply: 5V 1A

    What’s Hot

    • Lightweight, comfortable
    • Good sound quality
    • JBL Headphones app

    What’s Not

    • Larger than in-ear buds
    • Not very stylish
    • Rather pricey

    Bottom Line

    The JBL Soundgear Sense offers a solid option for those seeking a comfortable and secure pair of open-ear headphones, delivering good sound quality with a balanced profile.

    Related Posts