Available in four color variations: Black, White, Blue and Sand, the JBL TUNE 230NC have a similar design to the TUNE 225TWS from the same manufacturer, and also very similar to the Liberty Air2 Pro from Soundcore, with an elegant stem-style design, where the JBL logo and the peculiar indentation can be found.
The build quality is good. They are made primarily of plastic and feel sturdy enough to survive an accidental drop without sustaining too much damage. They are also rated IPX4 for splash water protection.
The unique lightweight design, which does not exert pressure or penetrate too deeply into the ear, prevents or lessens the feeling of fatigue if you wear them for long listening sessions. Another important fact is that they protrude slightly from the ears.
As for the plastic used in the earbuds, it looks like it could easily be marked or scratched. The carrying case also looks cheap, and its cover seems flimsy. For almost or less than $20, the Jabra Elite 3 earbuds offer a superior IP55 rating, but no active noise cancellation system.
Its attractive charging case is nondescript, but its black exterior can be a bit slippery; its flip-up lid reveals the charging bases. On the front are status LEDs, while on the back is a USB-C port for charging (via the included USB-C to USB-A cable).
Your touch controls are acceptable. Its controls are similar to that of the Tune 130NC TWS. There are audible tones when pairing the earbuds and when toggling between ANC on, ambient mode and off. However, if you use the earbuds in mono mode, you lose some controls, as the command layout is split between the left and right earbuds.
In the left earbud:
- One-touch: Toggle between ANC on, "Ambient Sound Control", which allows you to hear your surroundings better without removing the earbuds, and off, which disables both ANC and Ambient Sound Control.
- Double-tap: Turns 'TalkThru' on and off. This function turns down the media volume and turns on 'Ambient Sound Control' so you can have conversations.
In the right earbud:
- Single tap: Play and pause the audio.
- Double tap: Skip to the next track.
- Triple tap: Skip to the previous track.
In any of the earbuds:
- Double-tap: Answers and ends calls.
- Tap and hold: Activates the voice assistant. It also rejects a call. When you are on a call, this feature mutes and unmutes the microphone.
Note: You can also use the earphones with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but setting up this integration requires you to do so via those services' respective apps.
The JBL TUNE 230NC earbuds use Bluetooth 5.2 and are compatible with Bluetooth SBC and AAC codecs. That means Apple ecosystem users can take advantage of AAC, but Android users don't have aptX or any other high-quality options.
In an attempt to compensate for this, the JBL Headphones app offers three playback modes: Normal, Audio and Video. The last mode is intended to combat audio-visual lag and, while it is better than Audio mode, it is not perfect.
Another good news is that the earbuds automatically go into pairing mode when you take them out of the charging case. On the other hand, there is no support for Bluetooth multipoint.
To put the earbuds back into pairing mode, you must either put them back into the case and remove them or touch and hold an earbud until it re-enters pairing. Make sure the Bluetooth signal on the last device is turned off before doing so, otherwise they may reconnect to it.
JBL Headphones app
The TUNE 230NC uses the JBL Headphones (iOS and Android) app. The app contains some pretty essential configuration options, so it's best to install it. Inside, you'll find shortcuts to ANC controls, ambient sound mode, and smart audio and video features.
Touching the gear icon at the top right brings up many more options, such as assigning different click controls to each of them. The Find My Buds feature will cause the earbuds to emit a loud chirp to help you locate them, so don't activate it when wearing these earbuds.
The JBL Portable app also contains an equalizer, which provides a way to adjust the playback of the earbuds. In addition, you can see the battery status of each bud and the case itself on the home screen.
The application contains an equalizer that allows you to adjust the playback of the earbuds. In addition, you can see the battery status of each of them and of the charging case itself on the home screen.
JBL estimates that the earbuds can last about 8 hours with ANC on, and an additional 24 hours in the case. If ANC is turned off, these figures increase to 10 and 30 hours, respectively, but results will vary depending on volume levels.
With the TUNE 230NC you can expect 8 hours of listening, with noise cancellation active in use; this figure increases to 10 hours with it off. If you use the earbuds in ANC mode, a fully charged case provides 24 hours of battery life in total, which increases to 30 hours with ANC off.
One hour of listening with ANC on resulted in a 2-3% decrease, while listening sessions of more than one hour without the noise cancellation system resulted in only a 1% decrease.
Note that these earbuds have the advantage of fast charging, which provides two hours of playback on a 10-minute charge. When it reaches zero, it takes two hours to get back to 100%, but, you probably won't have to do that for some time in our experience.
JBL equips the TUNE 230NC with 6mm drivers, which, in our opinion, offer a nice, bass-driven sound profile. Spend some time adjusting the EQ via the app and you can get a sound that isn't dominated by roaring bass but offers a bit more finesse.
However, the bass is the priority and, fortunately, it is not noticeable at low or high volume. The TUNE 230NC is a good match for podcasts, as the highs are bright. Nice, smooth mids mean that tracks with predominantly vocals and instruments are well served here as well.
JBL offers control over how much audio you hear with active noise cancellation, as well as Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes to block out the world or let it in. When it's time to let the sound in, you have Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes, which, like ANC, you can turn on or off using the touch controls on the earbuds.
Active Noise Cancellation
The TUNE 230NC TWS are equipped with 4 microphones, so you're always heard with perfect clarity. With VoiceAware you can control how much microphone input is sent to the earbuds and choose how much of your own voice to hear.
The built-in microphones take care of calls and do a good job overall of ensuring reasonably clear call quality, though it's not entirely free of muffled sounds.
Active Noise Cancelling technology with 2 microphones allows you to minimize audio distractions. With Ambient Aware, you can tune into your surroundings at any time to feel more confident when you're out in the world, while TalkThru lets you stop for a quick chat without having to remove your earbuds.
The TUNE 230NC does a good job of reducing the powerful low-frequency noises heard on an airplane. A recording of a busy restaurant that we played at high volume proved to be more difficult: they reduced the mids quite well, but the higher frequencies passed through the ANC circuit with ease.
Most other affordable pairs with ANC have the same difficulty, but the Life P3 and the Liberty Air2 Pro from Soundcore (Anker) do better in this arena. Of course, much more expensive models, such as the Sony WF-1000XM4, are far superior; they eliminate bass and mids to a greater extent and are much more effective against treble.
On the plus side, the ANC does not seem to affect the audio in a profound way, which is not always the case in this price range. Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes work well, but you don't feel much difference between the two. Voices are heard clearly in both modes without removing the earbuds.
The JBL TUNE 130NC are earbuds with similar performance to the TUNE 230NC. While both earbuds are comfortable and well-built, the 230NC has a more stable in-ear fit and better battery performance. However, the 130NCs have a more neutral default sound profile, which some users may prefer, and their ANC may block out more ambient noise.
The next alternative is the JBL Live Pro+ TWS True Wireless. The TUNE 230NC has a similar performance with a few differences. While both earbuds are comfortable and well-built, the Live Pro+ have significantly better noise isolation performance, and their microphone has slightly better recording quality.
On the other hand, the TUNE have a more neutral default sound profile, which some users may prefer, and have longer continuous battery life.
Another competitor is Soundcore Liberty Air2 Pro model. While the JBL TUNE 230NC has different strengths and depending on your preferences, you may enjoy one or the other.
The Anker's have superior noise isolation performance and come with nine pairs of earpad sizes to help you get the best possible fit. On the other hand, the JBL's are more comfortable, have a more neutral default sound profile, which some users may prefer, and have significantly better battery performance.
Finally, we still recommend the version before Sony's aforementioned XM4, the WF-1000XM3 Truly Wireless, which still offers greater versatility over JBL's TUNE.
The Sony's are better built, can block out much more ambient sound, and their microphone offers better overall performance. They also support NFC pairing. However, the JBLs have a more comfortable and stable fit in the ear. In addition, the battery performance is better.
Should you buy the JBL TUNE 230NC TWS?
If you like to listen to your favorite music while commuting to work or working out, the TUNE 230NC TWS will be your best companions.
You can adjust the noise cancellation of these earbuds on the go, which is handy for ordering a coffee or listening to stop announcements. And since they're sweat and splash resistant, wearing them during workouts won't be a concern either.
In addition, if you master the controls, you will be able to quickly access your voice assistant. You're sure to also find it useful for catching up on notifications or asking for directions on a busy day.
Specifications JBL TUNE 230NC
|Driver size (mm)||6|
|Driver sensitivity at 1kHz/1mW (dB)||105|
|Dynamic frequency response range (Hz)||20 Hz – 20 kHz|
|Charging Case Weight (oz)||1.7|
|Earpiece Weight (oz)||0.4|
|Charging Case Weight (g)||47.3|
|Earpiece Weight (g)||10.2|
|Bluetooth profiles||A2DP 1.3 , AVRCP 1.6 HFP 1.7|
|Bluetooth frequency||2.4 GHz - 2.4835 GHz|
|Bluetooth transmitted modulation||GFSK, π/4-DQPSK, 8-DPSK|
|Bluetooth transmitter power||<12 dBm|
|Charging time (hours from empty)||2|
|Maximum music play time with ANC off (hours)||10|
|Maximum music play time with ANC on (hours)||8|
|Active Noise Cancelling||Yes|
|Comes with APP||Yes|
|Hands Free Call||Yes|
|JBL Pure Bass Sound||Yes|
|In the box||1 x JBL Tune 230NC TWS headphones|
1 x USB Type-C charging cable
1 x 3 sizes of eartips
1 x Charging case
1 x Quick Start Guide / Safety Sheet (S / i)
1 x Warranty / Warning (W / !)
The JBL TUNE 230NC TWS equipped with ANC system offers a comfortable fit along with excellent build quality. They have an IPX4 waterproof rating. Their sound profile provides plenty of bass, and you can also customize the audio using the parametric equalizer and presets in their companion app. You'll get 8 hours of continuous battery life, and its carrying case holds about three additional charges if you need it. However, their ANC offers middling performance, so they won't block out intense noises like bus and airplane engines, which is understandable in this price range.
- Brilliant and powerful sound quality
- Application with equalizer
- Many configuration options
- Competitive price
- Good battery life
- Reliable fit
- Microphone quality delivers
- Active noise cancellation
- IPX4 protection
- ANC is good, but not fantastic
- Difficult to adjust correctly
- Unstable charging case
- Only AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs are available