One of the more significant announcements from CES 2020 (which honestly feels like a million years ago at this point) was that JBL was joining the ranks of other premium gaming headset manufacturers releasing its own line of PC gaming headsets and speakers. I've been spending some quality time with the flagship headset of the JBL Quantum range of headsets, the Quantum One, over the last couple of weeks.
JBL Quantum One specs
Driver-type: 50mm Dynamic
Impedance: 32 ohms
Frequency response: 20Hz -40,000Hz
Microphone frequency response: 100Hz-10kHz
Design style: Over-ear
Microphone: Detachable boom mic (unidirectional)
Connectivity: Type-C to A cable with Game /Chat Balance Dial, 3.5mm audio cable
Weight: 369g (0.79lbs)
What the Quantum One does differently than the rest of the Quantum line of headsets is its handling of spatial sound. Once calibrated with a special mic, its proprietary "Quantum Sphere 360" tech uses built-in head tracking and a custom algorithm to produce a surround sound effect.
JBL's Quantum Engine software does a decent enough job of being an easy to use source for doing things such as customizing your EQ, headset lighting and, more importantly, setting the Quantum Sphere 360 surround sound. As it turns out, though, it's a little bit more of a process than just hitting a switch.
First, you need to calibrate the headset to your height. Then you have to pop in a special earplug that measures your earholes, to best attune the sound to your own unique ear canal shape. The process only took a few minutes and had to be done every time a new firmware update dropped throughout pre-release.
Thankfully, calibrating the head tracker is a bit easier to do, though I did find I have to recalibrate every few days whenever the surround sound felt a bit off. The fact that there's a button on the headset to calibrate head tracking makes me think this sonic drift is probably a more prevalent issue that needs addressing. Sometimes it was easier just to turn it off when just listening to music.
Quantum Sphere 360, when compared to DTS (which is also available on the wireless Quantum 800s), gives you a fuller, more balanced sound when listening to music (when it works). I hear a lot of bass-heavy tracks, so it's nice to feel it creep up from behind you when listening to artists like Future or Travis Scott. Currently, I've gotten into the all-nighter playlist on Spotify that play a lot of electronic and trap beats. It's a strange sensation being entirely enveloped by the music while I work, which is kind of cathartic.
The Audeze Mobius, and its HyperX Cloud Orbit S derivative, are the best new headsets with 3D head tracking, but this comes in at a pretty close second. I did run into a problem where the Sphere 360 occasionally would wig out and would make music sound distant and would mess around with the balance on game audio.
The fix was, again, recalibrating. JBL is releasing a firmware update at launch that it says should address some of these issues.
The Quantum One shines in shooters. Lately, I've been playing an ungodly amount of Call of Duty: Warzone and Apex Legends, both are games where being able to decipher where gunshots and footsteps are coming from is crucial to surviving and getting those Ws. Hearing footsteps frantically running around adds a fun level of tension towards the end of the game, where only a handful of players remain in tight quarters. I also played Resident Evil 3 Remake, which only heightens the stressful encounters as you hear Nemesis' murderous stomp slowly approaching you.
If you're a competitive gamer and don't need the bells and whistles, you might opt for a lighter wireless headset with a great mic. It feels like this gaming headset is designed to cut you off from the rest of the world. Honestly, it's kind of what I've needed for the last couple of weeks.
Design-wise, JBL really went for it. The RGB lighting circuit board design took a while for me to warm to since I'm always apprehensive about excessive lighting in general. A feature that worked well was the TalkThru that lowers the background sound enough so you can have a chat with your friends on Discord.
The left earcup is where all the buttons live, such as the volume wheel, ANC, TalkThru, and mute. I do wish the placement of the buttons was a smidge lower.
The detachable boom mic works just fine. But just fine. For $300, I want a microphone that's more than just fine. I recorded some lines so you can hear how it compares with other headsets and microphones we've tested this year. As you can hear, my voice sounds clear, but a bit tinny when compared to other headsets. When playing Apex Legends, my teammates had no problem hearing me call out things. Right now, however, the gold standard for a detachable mic is still clearly the Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless SE.
That $300 price tag is a big ask for a gaming headset that isn’t wireless and doesn't have audiophile-quality drivers, but the sound and build, especially the Quantum Sphere 360 surround sound, really suck you into whatever you're playing—when it works.
Even with the shortcomings of JBL's propriety tech, the Quantum One still provides you rich, crisp game audio, easy-to-use software, and overall excellent build quality. For JBL's first attempt at a gaming headset, the Quantum One is a fine headset to lead the charge. But really only just fine.