The JBL Tune 230NC are true wireless earbuds that offer a nice, bright sound, a comfortable fit and solid battery life for a pretty reasonable price. ANC isn’t best in class, plus you can find better call clarity elsewhere, but for the price there’s more to like than not here.
Bright, punchy sound
Good battery life
ANC is good, but not fantastic
Microphone quality just about does the job
Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.
The JBL Tune 230NC aren’t the priciest true wireless earbuds in JBL’s collection, but they do deliver a solid overall performance for under $100 / £100. The stem-style design provides a decent fit, they deliver powerful, well-balanced sound quality, matching that with great battery life too.
Throw in active noise cancellation and the ability to tinker with the sound profile and you’re getting some nice extras. The buds might not deliver best-in-class performance, but the list of features do make them versatile and useful in more listening scenarios.
If you want the best-sounding true wireless earbuds at this price, then there are better options elsewhere. That being said, the Tune 230NC deliver an experience that should satisfy those looking for a good all-round option for commuting and working out.
JBL Tune 230NC price and release date
- Available now
- $99.95 / £89.99 (about AU$140)
The JBL Tune 230NC launched in October 2021, priced at $99.95 / £89.99 - that works out at around AU$140, though Australian pricing is yet to be confirmed. This puts them in the price range of true wireless earbuds such as the excellent-sounding Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus and the similarly impressive Sony WF-C500.
Design and features
- Stem-style design
- IPX4 water resistance rating
- JBL Headphones companion app
The JBL Tune 230NC sport a stem-style design, with silicone ear tips to keep them in place in your ears. Not quite as svelte and slim as a pair of Apple AirPods, they didn’t feel bulky in the ears, however, and pretty much stayed in place throughout the testing period, which includes being worn whilst exercising. Up the intensity and you might start to encounter some issues on the fit front, but for runs and home workouts, they held up pretty well.
Those who work out will be pleased to learn that the Tune 230NC come with an IPX4 sweat- and water-resistant rating to make them fit for more rigorous use, and three sets of eartips helps to deliver a good fit for most, too.
The buds’ stems pack touch controls that you can tap to toggle through listening modes (ANC, Ambient Aware and Off), or double- and triple-tap to skip back and forward through tracks. You can also use those controls to take advantage of the four microphones on board to handle calls, and to access Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant smart assistants hands-free.
Overall, the Tune 230NC’s touch controls work pretty well. They didn’t feel overly sensitive, which can result in activation accidentally, and while it might prove tricky to direct multiple taps quickly on the move, they are in fact a good example of touch controls on a set of true wireless earbuds.
When the buds aren’t in use, you can drop them into the charging case. It’s neither the smallest you’ll find, nor particularly good-looking. Nevertheless, the flip lid does at least ensure they’re secure and covered, and they slot satisfyingly in place inside. A series of LED lights on the front of the case indicates the battery status of the buds, plus you’ll find a USB-C port around the rear for when it’s time to charge.
To get going with the JBL Tune 230NC buds you simply connect the buds via the Bluetooth connection settings on your device, or you can pair them through the JBL Headphones companion app. Through the app you can view battery status, turn on ANC, the Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes. The latter is designed to let you have a normal conversation with the buds still in your ears. You’ll also find an EQ here, too, letting you pick from some EQ presets or create your own.
- Enjoyable, bassy sound
- Adjustable EQ
- Reasonable noise cancellation
JBL packs the Tune 230NC buds with 6mm drivers, which we’d say deliver an enjoyable, bassy sound profile. Spend some time tinkering with the EQ through the app and you’ll be able to achieve a sound that isn’t dominated by roaring bass, but instead delivers a bit more finesse.
Bass is the priority here, though – and, thankfully, there’s no muddiness at either low or higher volumes. There is some sparkle in the treble department, making the Tune 230NC a good match for podcasts. The nice, smooth mids means that tracks dominant in vocals and instrument are well catered for here, too.
JBL does offer control over how much of that audio you hear with active noise cancellation, as well as Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes to block out the world or let it back in. The ANC here works reasonably well indoors and outdoors, doing well to battle the sound of the jet engine on our multi-flight trip to escape the country for a holiday, train noise or noisy traffic whilst out on a run. Those looking for exceptional noise cancellation, however, will have to pay more to get it.
When it’s time to let the sound back in, you have those Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes – which, like ANC, you can toggle on or off via the buds’ touch controls. You can’t customize how much sound is let back in, but it does a good job of making voices around you the most prominent sound in your ears.
The four microphones on board take care of calls, and do a good job overall of ensuring reasonably clear call quality, although it isn’t entirely free from muffled sounds. For the price, those mics perform well; but if crystal-clear call quality is a priority for you, you’d be better served elsewhere.
- Eight hours from the earbuds themselves
- 24 hours from the charging case
- Two hours of playback from a 10-minute charge
You can expect to get eight hours of listening time with the JBL Tune 230NC buds, which is with active noise cancellation in use; this figure increases to 10 hours with it disabled. If you’re using the buds in ANC mode, a fully charged case delivers 24 hours battery in total, jumping to 30 hours with ANC turned off.
In our tests, we found the stated times fairly accurate, with no worrying drop-off in use. An hour of listening with ANC on saw a drop-off of 2-3%, while listening sessions over an hour without ANC saw only a 1% drop-off. Note that you do get the benefit of speed-charging with these buds, which delivers two hours of playtime from a 10-minute charge. As such, a fully charged case will mean it actually takes some time to get down to 0% battery.
When you do hit zero, it takes two hours to get back to 100% – but, as we said, you likely won’t have to do that for some time based on our experience.
Should I buy the JBL Tune 230NC?
Buy them if...
You want bassy true wireless earbuds for less
The Tune 230NC bring the bass, but it isn’t overbearing – nor is it at the expense of an otherwise solid overall sound.
You want an affordable option for commutes and workouts
The useful active noise cancellation and reliable fit make the JBL Tune 230NC a versatile pair of buds for travelling and workouts.
Don't buy them if...
You want stellar active noise cancellation
ANC is present, but it definitely isn’t going to block out exterior sounds in their entirety, like some rival buds.
You want something to take calls on the move
The onboard mics make it super-easy to take calls, but if exceptional call quality is a priority, you might feel undeserved here.
- Check out our guide to the best running headphones you can buy
Michael is a freelance journalist who has covered consumer technology for over a decade and specializes in wearable and fitness tech. Previously editor of Wareable, he also co-ran the features and reviews sections of T3, and has a long list of bylines in the world of consumer tech sites.
With a focus on fitness trackers, headphones, running wearables, phones, and tablet, he has written for numerous publications including Wired UK, GQ, Men's Fitness, BBC Science Focus, Metro and Stuff, and has appeared on the BBC Travel Show. Michael is a keen swimmer, a runner with a number of marathons under his belt, and is also the co-founder of YouTube channel The Run Testers.