The JBL Quantum 800 ($200) is an excellent wireless gaming headset that could have been great. Although JBL is a newcomer to the gaming audio space, it has been doing everyday audio products since 1946, and its pedigree speaks for itself. Like many of its other headsets, the JBL Quantum 800 is comfortable to wear and sounds incredibly useful for both music and games. The problem is that sometimes it’s very frustrating to use. Let’s discuss it in our JBL Quantum 800 Review.
JBL Quantum 800 Review: Design
For an expensive headset, the JBL Quantum 800 looks a bit cheap. The expandable plastic headband seems a little thin, and the ear shells are equipped with plastic mirrors, which pick up fingerprints as nobody else does. The microphone on the left auricle is not removable; I think a microphone in such an expensive headset should be removable or retractable, but at least it’s there when you need it.
The left auricle is where most of the action happens, with a noise-canceling button, a chat/game mixer dial, a volume dial, and a mute mic button. I’ve sat on my high horse before about putting the chat and volume buttons next to each other, but I think the point is still there. When the two dials are so close together and feel precisely the same, a headset almost begs the user to adjust the wrong one. There is also a USB-C power port and a 3.5-mm audio jack. In addition to a USB dongle, the headphone comes with a USB cable for charging and a 3.5-mm audio cable for console playback.
The right ear cup contains only the on/off switch, which also acts as the Bluetooth activator. This button was one of my first and most consistent points of frustration with the device, because the differences between the “on,” “off” and “pairing” modes are subtle, at best. Often I would like to wake up the headset after a long sleep and disconnect it from its USB dongle instead. (For re-pairing you have to press a button on the dongle itself, so good luck when it’s in the back of your PC).
While Quantum 800 is navigable enough, I was hoping for something that looked and felt a bit more elegant. There are cheaper wireless gaming headsets that look and feel a lot better – the SteelSeries’ Arctis 7 ($150) and the Turtle Beach’s Elite Atlas Aero ($150), for beginners.
JBL Quantum 800 Review: Comfort
With plush foam auricles and a padded, airy headband, the JBL Quantum 800 is very comfortable, even over long distances. The auricles provide a surprisingly tight seal around the ears, but in my experience, this didn’t cause any discomfort or pain over time. However, it did block out a lot of strange noise, which I appreciated. The auricles can also be folded flat, so they are easy to transport.
A good fit is quite comfortable, thanks to the numbered notches in the retractable headband. I wish the headband had been made of metal instead of plastic because the plastic of the headband tends to become quite brittle and fragile after a few years. It looks like a cheap design decision in an otherwise expensive gaming headset. I found the JBL Quantum 800 comfortable and quite easy to get a good fit, but if you prefer headphones on the looser side, it might not be for you.
Here the JBL Quantum 800 doesn’t work as well as it could. I’ve already discussed the Mercurial’s power button, but turning the system on and off is a breeze compared to a computer to recognize it. Unlike most other USB headsets, Quantum 800 uses five different drivers to manage the sound. If you think that it’s complicated, you’re right.
Windows don’t recognize the right drivers at first, which means you have to go into your sound settings and switch manually from the “headset” driver to a “speaker” driver. This also means that the volume of the headset does not directly match the volume in Windows, which is a problem if you want to use the keyboard media driver. Having all these drivers also makes it very difficult to get each program to recognize the correct input.
Sometimes I listened to music in VLC, paused to call up a YouTube link, and instead let the YouTube music play through my speakers. I often had to restart my entire system before Google Meet recognized the Quantum 800’s microphone. In the most frustrating incident of my time with the headset, voice chat on Discord identified the microphone fine but didn’t recognize the audio output for love or money. When I tried to reboot the headset, I pushed the power button too far, and instead wanted to pair it again.
I tore the USB dongle out of my computer, threw it aside, and connected a tried and tested Corsair headset instead. This is pretty much the worst-case scenario for a game headset. There are also all the annoying, loud sound effects to discuss. When you a start-up or shut down the Quantum 800 (or shut it down after an idle period), it makes a series of shocking beeps and buzzing noises. You can’t turn the volume down, and you can’t turn them off.
JBL Quantum 800 Review: Performance
JBL is one of the most famous names in audio technology, and from the moment I put the Quantum 800 on, it was clear why. I have led the headset through a range of games on a variety of consoles, including Doom Eternal, Assassin Creed Odyssey, Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The headset works wirelessly on PC and PS4, and via a 3.5 mm audio cable for Xbox One and Switch.
I was especially happy with the wireless performance of the device on the PC and PS4. The Quantum 800 did a great job balancing voice work, sound effects, and music, whether it was listening to Lara Croft’s moaning while scaling a stony structure, or the rapid discharge of bullets tearing a demon’s guts apart. I particularly enjoyed playing Age of Empires II, because the Quantum 800 let me focus on the beautiful soundtrack and the zone out to the cool medieval tunes.
When it comes to the quality of the music, the JBL Quantum 800 succeeds where many gaming headsets fail. Just like JBL’s audiophile headphones, the Quantum 800 offers rich, detailed soundscapes that provide a healthy amount of bass, robust treble and crystal clear voices. Audio performance is almost as good in 3.5 mm audio mode – and Bluetooth mode, which is a massive blessing for modern, jack-less smartphones. The fact that Quantum 800 works with almost any system is a feather in its cap.
The battery life, software, and microphone are all in order. JBL claims that you can get 14 hours if you turn off all the lights; I have about 10 with the lights on, so that’s conceivable. With the Quantum Engine software, you can switch surround sound, select equalization profiles, and adjust mic options. But you can’t set profiles for individual games and apps, which would have saved a lot of unnecessary tampering. My colleagues have cursed the microphone with vague praise for its “standard gaming headset quality.”
JBL Quantum 800 Review: Conclusion
I am looking for two essential criteria in a gaming headset: Is it comfortable to wear? And does it provide a good sound? If the answer to both is “yes,” the rest is often of minor importance. As explained in my JBL Quantum 800 review, I sometimes found the device positively furious. For such an expensive gadget, it feels quite unpolished. Sometimes it’s more trouble than it’s worth just getting a PC to recognize the right audio channel.
But at the same time, Quantum 800 is rich in features and sounds great for both games and music. It connects via USB, Bluetooth, and 3.5mm cable; it lets you customize your EQ profiles; it works with just about any gaming system on the market. That’s all quite a convincing argument in favor of the Quantum 800.
The Arctis 7 or the Atlas Elite Aero is still my recommendations for wireless gaming headsets. Nevertheless, if you don’t mind spending some extra money on excellent music, the JBL Quantum 800 is worth considering. Please note that you’ll need to work occasionally for fun.
The JBL Quantum 800 offers great sound and a comfortable fit, but frustrating interface issues drag the experience down.
- Excellent audio quality
- Wired and wireless connections
- Comfortable fit
- Frustrating interface