JBL Club 950NC Wireless ANC Headphones Review: An Excellent Choice For Those Who Don’t Mind The Weight
The JBL Club 950NC are the mid-range entry in JBL’s Club range of wireless headphones, which also includes the on-ear Club 700BT and premium over-ear Club One. They offer a wide range of features, including active noise cancellation, Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes and EQ customisation, which, for the most part, function very well. Sound quality is admirable, too, making the JBL Club 950NC a very capable all-round pair of headphones.
The entire package feels even more appealing when you take a look at the INR 14,999 price tag at which JBL is currently selling them for instead of its MOP of INR 17,999. For that price, I was definitely pleased by the overall audio fidelity, build-quality and even the noise-cancellation performance of the Club 950NCs. Don’t get me wrong. These don’t match the overall quality of the likes of a Sony WH-1000XM3 or a Bose NC700, but those two options I just mentioned cost a significant more.
But if there was one important area where the JBL Club 950NCs lose points, it has to be the overall comfort – but not in the most obvious way. You’ll have to read on to find out why.
What all’s in the box and how durable do the JBL Club 950NCs feel?
For INR 14,999, you get a pair of wireless over-ear headphones that use 40mm dynamic drivers and operate over Bluetooth 5, a minimal-looking yet sturdy carrying case, USB-A to USB-C charging cable and a 1.2m-long 3.5mm to 2.5mm auxiliary cable. It’s pretty standard fare but the build quality of the headphones is better than anything you’ll see for this price.
Once you get past the box content and dish out the actual headphones from the box, you’ll realise how well-built the Club 950NC is. The earcup stems boast metal hinges that allow the headphones to fold inwards and upwards, towards the underside of the headband. In this position you can place them in their clamshell carry case.
Metal hinges aside, there is considerable use of plastic in the headband and earcup construction but this definitely isn’t cheap, flimsy plastic. The plastic all-around wears a matt-finish texture which exudes quality. In fact, the JBL team focussed so much on build-quality here that they seemingly just got carried away.
What do I mean? Well, the JBL’s did’t feel light from the moment I first picked them up. Certainly not as light as the class-leading Sony WH-1000XM3s. A look at the spec sheet confirms the JBLs weigh in at 372g compared with the Sony’s 255 grams. Heck, even the Sennheiser HD 450BT ANC headphones which match the JBLs for price are a whole lot lighter at 238 grams.
The build does include the use of PU-leather for the underside of the headband, but if you wear the Club 950NC for anything longer than 40 minutes to an hour, you’re bound to feel fatigue. In my case, I could feel the top of my head feeling the weight of these headphones – a problem that could be taken care off by simply increasing the cushioning on the headband. To sum it up, lets just say you won’t forget you have headphones on anytime you put these on.
How are the controls like and how well does the noise-cancelling fare?
Physical buttons on the right earcup allow you to control volume and track skipping and initiate Bass Boost, while the power, Bluetooth pairing and Smart Ambient button are housed on the left earcup. It takes a little getting used to the positioning of the buttons but they’re responsive and easily accessed.
The outside surface of the left earcup which is marked with a JBL logo can be pressed in to activate the voice assistant of your choice, which provides a convenient way of hailing either Alexa or Google Assistant. A convenient way to call upon voice assistance, but a bit of extra resistance would be nice as I often found myself pressing against the surface while wearing the headphones.
Power up the JBLs for the first time and they should automatically start the pairing process. Then you can add an extra device (up to two max) by pressing the dedicated Bluetooth pairing button.
A solid blue LED light indicates you’re paired, while a white LED a bit further along the edge of the earcup shows noise-cancelling is enabled.
The Club 950NC’s Adaptive Noise Cancelling is activated by pressing and holding the Smart Ambient button, while a short press controls either the Ambient Aware or TalkThru feature, which can be assigned in the app.
TalkThru lowers the music volume so you can have a conversation, while Ambient Aware allows more ambient noise through so you’re not quite as isolated from your surroundings.
Both features are executed well, and the JBLs’ noise-cancelling tech does a solid enough job of cutting out background noise without making things feel unnatural. Not quite flagship grade, but definitely best in class for 15k.
How’s the overall audio performance and how well does the mic fare for calls?
The JBL Club 950NC’s sound profile delivers a pleasureable combination of detail, bass and separating. The vocals on “Hunter” by Bjork were articulated very clearly. This track has drum beats ebbing and flowing on either side, and the sense of distance between them is not as expansive as Sony’s top of the line headphones but they’re good enough to make you feel an expansive sense of space. Likewise, The Last Shadow Puppets’ “Standing Next to Me” was presented with energy and dynamism and benefitted from the Club 950NC’s open soundstage.
The bass on Kcvee’s “Mystical Forest” sounded bouncy and the track should have been perfect for the Club 950NC’s Bass Boost mode. Conversely, it demonstrated the weakness of the feature. With Bass Boost engaged, the lower registers get a noticeable lift but only at the expense of the overall audio balance. I found songs that previously showed clarity became far muddier and, despite my love of bass, I preferred using the Club 950NC with the mode switched off.
Should you want to play around with the EQ, you can do so via the JBL Headphones app. There are five “DJ Signature” presets to choose from – including one from Armin Van Buuren –but I didn’t really feel any of them improved the listening experience. It’s also possible to create your own EQ or use presets for piano, vocal and jazz tracks. The app is simple to navigate and offers a decent amount of audio customisation in addition to voice assistant selection and an auto-off feature.
Call quality is also good, with the JBL’s employing a dual-mic configuration to help deliver clearer voices. I had these on for most of my Zoom calls and not once did I have the person at the other end complain about clarity. They also a great job of dealing with sounds like fan noise or a whirring AC unit in the room.
How’s the battery life?
The JBL Club 950NC’s offer 55 hours of playback over just Bluetooth and up to 22 hours with Bluetooth and ANC turned on. Hooked up via the headphone cable and just using noise-cancelling, battery life goes up to 30 hours. A 15 minute charge should get you two hours of play time. but a full charge does take a good two hours.
These numbers are again excellent for the price, although they don’t match up to the best of the best.
Are the JBL Club 950NCs meant for you?
The JBL Club 950NCs offer excellent value for its price. These go for $250 (approximately INR 18,650) in the US, so JBL’s definitely priced these well. These sound great, offer distinct ANC benefits, are great for calls and are built exceptionally well. If only for the excessive weight, these would almost qualify as my go-to recommendation under 15k.
As an alternative, you could opt for the more sought-after Sennheiser 450BT ANC headphones, but the Club 950NC does have it beat in the audio department – especially if you’re fond of genres like Hip-Hop and ELectronic that sometimes need a low-end kick.