If you asked me a year ago which brands make the best gaming headsets, I’d have said SteelSeries, HyperX and even Razer, but JBL has recently broken into the gaming arena, and hot damn, it is taking no prisoners. Its flagship gaming headset, the JBL Quantum One, is the most badass PC gaming headset I’ve tested.
For a hefty $299, the JBL Quantum One features powerful 50mm neodymium drivers, active-noise cancelling, 7.1 spatial surround sound with head tracking, ridiculously comfortable ear cups and solid software to back it all up. It does have two issues, however. First off, it’s heavy as hell, and second, it’s made entirely out of plastic, which isn't up to the quality we expect at this price.
Despite that, the JBL Quantum One offers impressive features, making it one of the best gaming headsets you can buy right now.
JBL Quantum One design
Make no mistake, the JBL Quantum One is a thick boy. It looks and feels like a substantial premium gaming headset with maybe one too many design elements going on. The thick black cups are intricately designed and layered into two pieces. The smaller piece at the center that’s connected to the headband features a glossy silver JBL logo surrounded by glossy black ridges with RGB lighting.
The layer below houses the rest of the cup, which shows off weird glossy black patches, matte black engravings and arrow protrusions. It’s like the theme was to “gamify” a premium headset, so someone went buckwild to make it look as needlessly edgy and complex as possible. Following the weird patterns surrounding the headset is an RGB-lit ring, and there’s another set of RGB ridges near the microphone.
Just above the thick cups is a thin plastic slider that feeds into a meaty black headband. It’s disappointing that the headset isn’t backed by a steel frame like other premium gaming headsets. The headband features an engraved JBL as well as similar odd patterns found on the cups. Underneath the band is a pleather cushion that envelops the underside. The wires that connect the cups are not-so-discreetly popping out and freely feeding through the band, which just gives me anxiety.
The JBL Quantum One’s entire I/O board is located on the left cup. From top to bottom, there’s an active noise cancelling / talk thru button, a button that recenters your headset for head tracking, the volume rocker, a microphone mute button, a USB Type-C port, a 3.5 millimeter audio jack and the boom microphone jack. I’ve found myself fiddling around between the buttons to figure out what purpose each serves.
In the box, you’ll receive the detachable boom microphone, a USB Type-A to USB Type-C audio amplifier, a 3.5mm audio cable outfitted with a mute button and volume dial, and a calibration microphone.
JBL Quantum One comfort
Once the JBL Quantum One’s ear cushions caressed my head with soft pleathery comfort, I didn’t want to use another headset. These cushions are thick, fit firmly against my head but are not skull crushingly tight. As a result, the JBL Quantum One is one of the most comfortable gaming headsets I’ve tested.
Adjusting the fit can be a little annoying because the incremental slider is finicky. If I put too much pressure, it’ll go up two notches instead of one, as I intended. It’s not very smooth, but once you have a setting in, you don’t have to touch it anymore. Additionally, the ear cups swivel to face the user, which is nice if you want to hang them around your neck.
However, this headset has a crucial flaw: it’s heavy as hell. At 13.7 ounces, plus the force of the chat mixer weighing you down, the JBL Quantum One can feel like a burden to put on and take off. Don’t get me wrong, I can go hours wearing it and feel comfortable thanks to the cushions, but if I switch to a lighter headset, it feels like a heavy weight has been lifted.
JBL Quantum One gaming performance
JBL packed 50mm drivers into the Quantum One, and they deliver impressive audio thanks to 7.1 custom surround sound software and active noise cancelling.
In Phasmophobia, I took the Spirit Box into a bedroom, closed the door, and turned off the lights. I turned on the Spirit Box and asked, “What do you want?” A moment of silence passed before a hissed voice responded, “Attack.” I proceeded to get the hell out of there, but due to the surround sound, I could clearly hear that the ghost had initiated its hunt and was on the stairs behind me. I hid in the laundry room downstairs as spooky ambient noises filled the air. Playing this game with the JBL Quantum One made it infinitely scarier, but the headphones were helpful because I could hear death coming and evade its grasp.
I hopped on Ghost of Tsushima’s new Legends mode and started working my way through the story. When I hacked through people as the Samurai, those sweet, thick slices came through strong. When I was surrounded, I tossed my Kunai into the crowd, which emitted a sharp, satisfying sound. Being able to hear where the enemies tiptoed around me was useful, especially when I was up against the elemental creatures.
In Divinity: Original Sin 2, I watched some dude murder another dude because he said something bad, so I decided that the best way to rectify this was by murdering the murdering dude. I did what Lizard people do and unleashed a cone of dragon fire upon him. The burst of flames was explosive and hearing his flesh melt sounded crisp. It was like I was really there, breathing fire. Then I shoved my two daggers into his back, which created a short, sharp sound as pleasant as cutting into a juicy steak.
JBL Quantum One music performance
While the JBL Quantum One is designed for gaming in mind, the premium headset balanced treble and bass quite well, highlighting the lows, mids and highs without creating a muddy tune. (Side note: Spatial audio doesn’t really work well with music or film, so I recommend sticking with the stereo settings.)
In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Right Hand Man,” the opening piano and vocals were vibrant and crisp. Low drums followed as Miranda’s vocals built up to Christopher Jackson’s pleasantly vocal entrance backed by strong percussion. I did notice some light hissing from the bass, however.
I listened to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “White Sandy Beach Of Hawai’i” and the melodic ukulele lulled me into a trance, as each note filled the air with depth and intention. The vocals sounded pure. Even though the song features only two instruments, they synchronised with one another without overshadowing the other.
In Paramore’s “All I Wanted,” the opening electric guitar riff filled my ears with a dulcet tune, and the vocals that followed were pleasantly mellow. Then the guitar power-chorded its way into the song with a mighty explosive sound, but the treble sounded balanced, as the guitar didn’t sound too noisy or sharp. When Hayley Williams unleashed her thunderous voice at the beat drop, the JBL Quantum One translated her vocals to a rich, powerful wave.
JBL Quantum One microphone
JBL includes a detachable unidirectional microphone with the JBL Quantum One. The unidirectional pattern, otherwise known as the Cardioid pattern, is shaped like a heart.
When I tested the Quantum One’s microphone, my voice was clear and loud, but maybe a little too loud. If I raised my voice, the audio would peak, which isn’t great for gaming while you’re angry. Additionally, when I played some music on my phone and placed it a few feet away from me, the microphone picked the music up at 100% and at 50%. You can activate the sidetone feature, which lets you hear yourself via the microphone through the JBL QuantumENGINE app (more on that later). When enabling sidetone, I did notice that my keyboard typing is relatively loud (sorry, not sorry). However, you can also adjust your microphone level through the app, so you don’t bother those in your party.
JBL Quantum One active-noise cancelling
The JBL Quantum One’s active-noise cancelling isn’t the best, but it’s nice to have. I tested the noise cancelling by playing a song on my phone from a few feet away. The headset was only able to block out the very first notch of volume increase (out of 26 notches). However, the JBL Quantum One did manage to block out the whining fans from my PC, so the Quantum One does its primary job well.
The talkthru mode essentially does the opposite and let’s you hear what’s going on around you thanks to tiny microphones placed on the cups of the headset. This lets you have a conversation with someone without having to take your headphones off, which, as I mentioned earlier, can be a hassle. However, it does significantly lower the audio volume of whatever you're listening to.
JBL Quantum One features
The JBL Quantum One is mostly designed with PC in mind, but you can use the headset on virtually any device that has a USB Type-A port or 3.5 millimeter jack. You can connect to the PS4 via the USB Type-A amplifier and benefit from noise-cancelling, but with the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, you’ll have to stick to the base 3.5mm stereo sound.
You won’t experience the JBL Quantum One’s best audio until you download the JBL QuantumENGINE app and tinker to your liking. The app is very clean and neatly laid out. At the top, you’ll see your volume percentage, microphone mute status, game/chat balance, a toggle for spatial sound and head tracking, as well as a button to recenter the headset. Below that, you’ll see the profiles you created as well as an option to switch between active-noise cancelling and talkthru.
And below all of that, you have all of your tabs to tinker with a bunch of different settings. There’s the Equalizer tab, which gives you access to a customizable equalizer as well as a few presets, like Bass Boost, Clarity and FPS. The Lighting tab lets you customize the RGB lighting for the logo, ring and notch on the headset. Then there’s the tab that I use most often: Spatial Sound.
Here, you can switch from regular stereo sound to JBL’s own 7.1 surround sound solution, QuantumSPHERE 360, and also DTS’ version of surround sound. For gaming, I personally prefer JBL’s surround sound, but for everything else, I stick with stereo. Finally, there’s the Microphone tab, where you can customize the microphone levels and amount of sidetone that you hear.
The Quantum One is a beast for a meaty $300 price tag. From its powerful speakers and active-noise cancelling to the 7.1 surround sound and useful software, the JBL Quantum One is a contender for the king of gaming headsets. Oh, and did I mention how comfortable these freakin’ ear cups are? Then again, there are some downsides. The headset sits pretty heavy on the head and the plastic shell is cheaper than it should be.
If you’re looking for something a little cheaper that’ll work wirelessly on both Xbox and PC, check out the $199 SteelSeries Arctis 9X. But that headset had a host of issues connecting on PC.
The JBL Quantum One is one of the versatile headsets for gaming on PC, so if you want the best and are willing to pay the price, this is it.