The JBL Quantum One writes the company’s first trip to gaming headsets. JBL is a big name when it comes to high-end audio devices. From headphones to speakers, to studio equipment, chances are JBL is making something to enhance your home audio experience. Strangely, the company has never tried to create a gaming headset, as nuanced soundscapes and precise microphones are just about JBL’s hallmarks. This is our JBL Quantum One Review.
JBL Quantum One Review: Design
The Quantum One looks like a complicated piece of hardware. Every part seems complicated, from the black plastic chassis with scale engravings on the headband and ear cups, to the orange and black braided cable. It’s a large headphone, weighing 13 ounces, with a massive headband and ear cups. It’s not entirely designed enough to be unpleasant, but it’s an apparent reversal of the trend toward streamlined, small peripherals we’ve seen in other gaming headsets.
There are also many ways to manipulate the headset’s audio. The right earcup has a switch to activate noise cancellation, a button to center head tracking (more on this later), a volume button, a mute mic button, a USB-C port, a 3.5mm audio port, and it’s port for a removable, flexible microphone. There is also a small chat/game balance mixer dial that sits on your desk. It has a non-adhesive platform that creates friction, but in my experience, it’s still pretty easy to turn the dial off.
It also moves if you pull the headset too much in one direction or another. I would have preferred to use the headset without the dial, but that doesn’t seem to be an option, at least not if you use the included USB cable. Of course, you can also connect via a 3.5mm audio cable, which you have to do for systems like Xbox One, or the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode.
JBL Quantum One Review: Comfort
The first thing I saw about the JBL Quantum One is that it fits much tighter than most gaming headphones. The over-ear cups have made an excellent seal around my ears. In the beginning, I was afraid that after a while, this would feel uncomfortable, mainly because I wear glasses. But although the headset pressed a bit harder than I wanted, it never became painful, or even particularly annoying.
I liked the tight seal because it blocked out so much noise from outside. When I first turned on the headset, my partner was watching a TV show a few meters away. As soon as the Quantum One came around my ears, the show became almost inaudible, and I was left behind in my world of video games and classical music. Quantum One also has electronic noise cancellation, but you may not even need to activate it.
The only thing I didn’t like about the fit of the Quantum One was that it uses an old-fashioned series of plastic notches instead of a more attractive steel band or a more intuitive elastic band. The grooves aren’t numbered either, so finding your perfect fit is a matter of trial and error.
Here the range of the JBL Quantum One exceeds its range. The headset promises a huge variety of features, all of which theoretically help to justify the $300 price tag. With JBL’s QuantumENGINE software, you can adjust equalization options, adjust RGB lighting (the ear shells have extensive lighting patterns – it’s beautiful but unnecessary), adjust microphone levels, and activate spatial sound options.
There’s no way to make individual profiles or link them to games, so you need to micromanage your experience for each new app. Spatial sound is the best feature of the Quantum One, and we’ll come back to that in a moment. But first, I have to point out how wretched the installation process for this headset is. In five years of revising headsets, I can’t remember another peripheral that had a more confusing, complicated setup, or a less intuitive problem-solving process.
And yes, this is a familiar problem: JBL sent a very long list of instructions with the headset to make sure I would do it right. Without going into details, the Quantum One uses three separate drivers to install on Windows, and you have to uninstall them all manually and then reinstall them.
For the right driver, you need to tweak advanced sound options in the control panel manually; without this, you can’t get surround sound. But when I switched to the right driver, the Quantum One stopped producing music. To solve this problem, I had to uninstall and reinstall six different drivers, as well as the QuantumENGINE software – but even that alone didn’t do anything. Much to my frustration, I reset the device at the factory, and everything worked fine. Plug-and-play, this is not the case.
JBL Quantum One Review: Performance
I tested the Quantum One with Doom Eternal, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, and World of Warcraft to see how well the device performed in multiple genres. Overall, the headset delivered a beautiful, robust sound. Slaving demons in Doom Eternal, obedient villagers in Age of Empires, ancient death traps in Tomb Raider, and swirling blades in World of Warcraft all sounded vivid and lifelike. The way the Quantum One balanced the dialogue, the music and the sound effects were also compelling, so I could hear all three without even having to listen to them.
The JBL QuantumENGINE software also allows you to customize your gaming experience significantly. This program comes with a variety of pre-installed equalization options, including options that optimize the soundscape for FPS gameplay, or even long play sessions. You can also switch between surround and 360 sound – neither is excellent, but it’s fun to have the option.
Since JBL is primarily a music accessories company, it’s no surprise that the Quantum One does excellent with all kinds of music. I’ve listened to songs by Flogging Molly, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Rolling Stones, and G.F. Handel. In all cases, the vocals were bright and clear, and the instruments were resonant and lifelike.
The Quantum One also comes with Hi-Res Audio certification, a rarity among gaming headsets. Without going into detail about what this means, it means that if you can find lossless audio files, the Quantum One can play them in full fidelity. It’s an expensive way to listen to your favorite songs, admittedly, but if you’re the kind of person who likes to sit back and listen to music for their excellent, no distractions, then perhaps it’s worth the Quantum One’s premium price.
Our JBL Quantum One review claims that the fundamentals of the gadget work well. It sounds excellent, and it’s quite comfortable to wear. You can customize it to your favorite games, and you can use it with just about any system on the market. On the other hand, it is quite expensive, given the frustrations associated with installation and maintenance. Besides, the star feature is substandard and, at least in my experience, does not add much to the games that it should improve.
For $300, the Quantum One is hard to recommend, but if you can endure the price, it is not a bad headset at all. What is more interesting for me, however, is the whole upcoming line of JBL’s headsets, which start at $40 and include more than half a dozen different options. I don’t know if Quantum One strikes the right balance between price and features, but I think one of the others might. For more options, check our list of Best Gaming Headsets in 2020
The JBL Quantum One gaming headset offers a comfortable fit and good sound quality, but we wish it was more affordable.
- Great sound
- Noise-canceling options
- Works with any system
- Very expensive
- Frustrating setup