Review: Are JBL Vibe Beam Earbuds worth it in 2024?

Wireless Bluetooth earbuds are a dime a dozen these days, and several different price point champions make it easy to find the right pair that fits your lifestyle — and your budget. That being said, in the budget category, it can be difficult to determine if a given pair of wireless headphones are worth the price or if it’s better to hold off on a splurge.

Enter JBL’s Vibe Beam earbuds. Marketed as true wireless earbuds that are water- and dust-resistant, they’re some of the most affordable earbuds on the market. At $50, they’re also a steal compared to higher-end options from brands like Apple, Samsung, and Bose. And with JBL promising 32 hours of total battery life and deep bass, they certainly seem impressive. But are they really? We put these buds to the test to see if they’re worth it.

First impressions of the JBL Vibe Beam earbuds

While I’m a long-time Apple AirPods Pro user, I’ve been a fan of JBL products for years. I was impressed when I tried out its upgraded JBL Charge 5, and Mashable has previously praised the JBL Flip 6, even compared to more expensive portable Bluetooth speakers from Bose and Sony. So I was excited to test the Vibe Beam earbuds for myself to see if they’re worth the hype. And straight out of the box? I was a bit disappointed.

The Vibe Beam earbuds look super cool and offer some great color options, but the overall quality didn’t match what I expected from JBL — even at the lower price point. The stick design looks and feels decently comfortable, but the charging case felt light and cheap — and it didn’t seem nearly as durable as other JBL products I’ve tried in the past.

close-up of jbl vibe beam earbuds charging case in hand

Up close and personal with the Vibe Beam charging case.
Credit: RJ Andersen / Mashable

The sound quality wasn’t what I hoped for from JBL

While I don’t consider myself to be a major audiophile, I will say that I’m quite a bit pickier than the average headphone user. I love a full, rich sound with a good bass level so I can drown out everything else, and — when I tested the JBL Vibe Beam earbuds while working, walking on the treadmill, or running errands — I was a little disappointed with the overall sound quality.

It was just OK, and it lacked the full bass I expect from JBL — so much for JBL’s Deep Bass Sound. I was able to adjust the EQ within JBL’s free companion app to compensate for this, but it didn’t do enough to really “sell” me on the sound the way I hoped. At higher volumes, my issues with the sound quality were more prominent, as the higher frequencies were pretty piercing in my ears, especially compared to other earbuds I’ve used like my AirPods and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds FE. Of course, Vibe Beams are half the price of Galaxy Buds and the cheapest AirPods.

That said, they did work well for casual listening, like when I was out running errands, but I found myself steering away from them during longer listening sessions. Whenever I really wanted to crank up the volume on a song, I had to reach for my AirPods. Otherwise, the Vibe Beam would hurt my ears.

JBL vibe beam earbuds next to Apple AirPods Pro

Comparing the JBL Vibe Beam to my Apple AirPods Pro.
Credit: RJ Andersen / Mashable

What I liked about the JBL Vibe Beam earbuds

While I didn’t love the sound quality of the Vibe Beam earbuds, there were a few features I really appreciated. The headphones have a great battery life — eight hours of listening time on the earbuds themselves and 24 additional hours with the charging case. Plus, the speed charge feature gives you two extra hours of listening with only 10 minutes of charging, which was a really nice touch. They also transitioned pairing between devices very easily, so I was able to swap from my iPhone to my MacBook without any difficulty.

These earbuds include three different sizes of ear tips, so you can customize the fit of the headphones, and the fit is pretty comfortable. I have fairly small ears, which makes finding comfortable headphones a challenge, and I was impressed that the Vibe Beam earbuds didn’t slip out of my ears while I was working out. They also didn’t leave my ears aching when I finally stepped off the treadmill.

Once you pair your earbuds with the companion app, there are some additional nice-to-have audio features. The Ambient Aware mode allows you to listen to music while increasing ambient sounds, like street noises, so you can stay aware of your surroundings without sacrificing volume, and Talk Thru lowers music volume while increasing speech, so you can have conversations without pausing your music. This is the closest you can get to active noise cancelling in the under-$50 category.

What I didn’t love about these earbuds

Other than my concerns about the sound quality and overall durability of the earbuds, most of my frustrations with the JBL Vibe Beam involve the “extra” features. JBL’s free companion app wouldn’t recognize my earbuds after several tries, and I didn’t like the fact that it was a different companion app from the one I use for my JBL Charge speakers.

three screenshots from the JBL headphones companion app

Inside the JBL companion app.
Credit: Screenshot: JBL / Mashable photo composite

I also didn’t like that some of the additional features required “overriding” the main touch gestures, such as playback and volume control, meaning you either lose these functionalities to gain Ambient Sound Control as a touch gesture, or you have to manually turn Ambient Sound Control on and off within the app itself. I would’ve loved the option to customize individual gestures on each ear — like the tap and hold — so I could replace one gesture instead of the entire category.

Are the JBL Vibe Beam earbuds worth it?

Here’s the thing: While I didn’t love the JBL Vibe Beam earbuds, I can understand why some people do. They’re incredibly cheap and frequently on sale, which makes them a great alternative to higher-cost headphones. Plus, not everyone will have the same complaints about the audio quality that I did. So, if you’re looking for budget earbuds with decent sound quality, solid touch controls, and customizable EQ, then these might be the perfect cheap earbuds for you.

However, if you’re on the fence, I’d recommend saving up and splurging on Samsung Galaxy Buds FE, Apple AirPods Pro, or even older-model AirPods. Yes, they are more of an investment, but — with features like Active Noice Cancelling, balanced sound, and a higher-quality feel — they’re worth the splurge in my book.

By 111 Tech

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