JBL is an established name in the audio business, but it’s by no means a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to embracing new product categories, and the firm has ridden the true wireless earbuds wave more confidently than many, turning out a succession of new models in recent years.
With its new Tune 225TWS buds it’s hoping to capture a slice of the mid-range segment, comprising earbuds priced roughly between $/£50 to $/£100. Whether it can make an impact in this hugely competitive space, especially when previous JBL wireless earbuds haven’t always made the grade, is unclear. However, on the evidence of these particular buds the signs aren’t promising.
The Tune 225TWS come with a raft of contradictions: they’re lacking splash-protection when their design is clearly intended for use during outdoor exercise; there’s a focus on bass performance, but this is undermined by the lack of a proper in-ear seal; and the lack of any noise-isolation pretty much rules them out for commuters.
None of this is to suggest that these buds have nothing to offer. A highlight is the design, especially the charging case, which is light and compact. The buds themselves are plastic, and follow the stemmed design of Apple’s AirPods, against which they appear to be pitted, rather than the in-ear design of models like the Samsung Galaxy Buds.
Like the AirPods, the Tune 225TWS don’t create an in-ear seal. While this makes them useful for those who like to listen to music while remaining aware of their environment, for example when jogging down a busy street, it obviates the inclusion of any active noise cancellation, so these buds aren’t a good option for those working in a busy office or who commute on noisy public transport.
They’re comfortable for the most part, though we found that over extended periods of wear a few harsh edges could begin to pinch. Though there’s nothing to ‘hold’ the buds in the ear, such as a silicon wing or tip, they mostly remained secure – and they’ll likely stay put even in the ears of energetic runners.
Sound quality is mostly good, given the inherent limitations of the design. With little passive and no active ability to block out noise, or the ability to create a tight in-ear seal, the ‘Pure Bass’ advertised for these earbuds is lacking in oomph.
Battery life was fine, if not class-leading, with around four hours passing before both buds gave up the ghost on average.
Though there are a few for whom the lack of any noise cancellation won’t be a concern, it does mean these buds lag behind much of the competition significantly – and even buds going for 60% of the asking price here advertise the presence of ANC as standard.
While the JBL Tune 225TWS are decent all-purpose buds, they don’t serve any particular users – commuter, exercise enthusiasts, or anyone else – well. Other options are available at the same price point, and lower, which offer more and look better. If you’re invested in the JBL brand, or are looking for a pair of no-nonsense earbuds, these will serve well. If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, however, it’s worth looking elsewhere.
JBL Tune 225TWS price and availability
- Out now
- Cost $99.95 / £99.99 / AU$179.95
The JBL Tune 225TWS are available now with a list price of $99.95 / £99.99 / AU$179.95, though discounts are currently available. They’re available in a range of color options: blue, gray, white, black, pink and gold.
- No in-ear seal
- No water resistance
- Light and compact design
The JBL Tune 225TWS buds sport an AirPods-like design with long stems, and a light (yet robust) build. The same can be said for the charging case, which is made from the same strong matte plastic, and feels sleek and well-constructed..
They sit well in the ear, although there’s certainly room for improvement here, with our main issue being some slightly sharp edges. This wasn’t immediately apparent the first few times we wore the buds, but, over time we found they did begin to dig into our ears a little and caused some discomfort, which is hardly ideal.
The buds also lack any kind of silicon tip or wing to hold them in the ear. This means it’s impossible to create a strong in-ear seal, which is to the detriment of overall audio quality, as you don’t get the kind of noise isolation required for a strong bass response.
If you need to maintain some awareness of your surroundings while listening to music, these will be a good choice. For anyone looking to block outside noise from seeping in, however, there are many better choices available, and for a lower price too.
Though there’s nothing to ‘hold’ the buds in the ear, such as a silicon wing or tip, they mostly remained secure, save for one unfortunate occasion which saw them become entangled in a face-mask – and they’ll likely stay put even in the ears of energetic runners. Saying that, there’s no IP water-resistance rating, so there’s no guarantee that the JBL 225TWS will withstand a sweaty workout or a jog in the rain.
Audio performance and noise cancellation
- Thin bass
- No noise cancellation
- Decent clarity from trebles and mids
With no in-ear seal, it was always going to be difficult for the JBL buds to stand out against the competition in terms of audio performance – that’s because the physical barrier of an ear tip helps to block sound from leaking into to your ears from the outside, as well as leaking out, making bass frequencies sound more powerful. The only way to achieve this to any degree with the JBL buds is to crank the volume right up, which is not advisable due to the potential hearing damage this may cause.
Given that the marketing trumpets ‘PureBass’ as a distinct selling point of these buds, the overall lack of bass is therefore a disappointment. If you like a thumping soundtrack to accompany your morning run, these will likely not cut the mustard.
Thankfully, the picture is a little more positive when it comes to the mid and highs, which are clear and bright , making these buds particularly good for listening to podcasts and audiobooks. Pop is handled quite well in general, but energetic genres reliant on a wider soundstage, such as punk, rock and dance aren’t given enough room to breathe.
Overall, there’s enough detail for most, with the tuning tending towards a more crowd-pleasing sound. Those looking for a little more, whether that’s greater detail, a broader soundstage or more bass, will be best to look elsewhere.
As we’ve mentioned, because these buds don’t offer an in-ear seal there’s no noise-cancellation, either active or passive. When these are in your ears you’ll hear every noise around you.
For the most part at least the Bluetooth signal was rock-solid, and the compatibility with Google’s Android Fast Pair tech meant that firing up some tunes was never a difficult process. You can also use each earbud separately, if you wish.
Controls and battery life
- Physical controls
- Battery life roughly as advertised
- No wireless charging
Controls on small earbuds are often fiddly and almost never simple to use. In the race to abandon buttons, touch-sensitive housings and gesture controls have been adopted by many manufacturers as the main means by which you interact with your music.
The JBL Tune 225TWS buds are an outlier here, keeping buttons at the forefront of the user experience – and they actually work very well. Each bud has a thin button at the top of the stalk, with different control combinations accessed via the left and right buds.
This offered much greater accuracy and fewer false positives than with many touch-sensitive competitors; buttons are a less error-prone form of interaction than gestures. Pausing our music was never a complicated task. That isn’t to say that they are completely without fault in this area however – we found that it was too easy to power individual buds down when attempting to activate our device’s voice assistant for instance.
Battery life came in at around four hours from the earbuds themselves, with a further 20 provided by the charging case – though that onboard battery life did occasionally come in closer to the five hours advertised by JBL during our tests.
There’s no wireless charging through the case, and although this is something that may have made the case slightly bigger, it’s an unfortunate omission given the price of these buds.
Should I buy the JBL Tune 225TWS?
Buy them if...
You’re looking for a decent set of exercise buds
The JBL Tune 225TWS will allow you to keep an ear on your surroundings as you’re listening to music while out on a run.
You mainly listen to podcasts
The audio quality may not have made our music sing, but it’s perfectly fine for listening to podcasts and audiobooks.
You want a light pair of earbuds
These buds are exceptionally light, so would suit someone who want to give their ears a rest from bulky over-ear headphones.
Don't buy them if...
You want noise cancellation
The JBL Tune 225TWS don’t offer any kind of noise-cancellation.If that’s what you’re looking for, check out models like the AirPods Pro or the class-leading Sony WF-1000XM3.
You want the best audio quality
Though these will be fine for those who don’t need serious audio quality, or who mostly listen to podcasts, there’s better on offer from competitors at lower price points – such as the Lypertek SoundFree S20 or the EarFun Air.
You don’t like the AirPods look
Like the Apple AirPods, these earbuds come with protruding stems – if that doesn’t appeal, check out models like the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 or the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
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