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Quantum 800 wireless headset: JBL targets gamers

JBL Quantum 800 wireless headset 3

JBL made the Quantum 800 wireless headset for gamers.

It is a fun product. You could, at a pinch, use it for work, but it doesn’t look businesslike and it hasn’t been optimised for serious tasks. In other words, don’t buy it for work thinking you might use it for gaming.

Wireless gaming headsets are everyday headphones that come with a built-in boom microphone. They let you speak to other gamers while you listen to the game sounds and other online players.

There is no shortage of gaming headsets that need a cable to connect to your computer or games console. Wireless headsets are less common.

Cut the cord

As the name suggests, wireless headsets don’t need a cord. This is much more convenient, but it comes at a price. A wireless headset costs roughly $100 more. In practice the extra is worth it.

The Quantum 800 connects to a PC through a USB transmitter. You can use the Quantum 800 with Bluetooth. This is one backup option and the best way to use the headset with a mobile phone.

Sound quality and latency are worse with Bluetooth than with the USB connection. If you use the headset for gaming, which is the reason you’d choose this over alternatives, the Bluetooth latency is irritating.

JBL’s second backup audio route is a 3.5mm jack which can connect with a cable. This will work with a games console and is handy if the USB connection is not reliable. In testing this never happened for me.

Like all wireless gaming headsets, it can handle work-from-home Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls. That is, you can use it if your co-workers or your boss don’t object to its distinct, non-business-like looks.

JBL Quantum 800 wireless headset

Quantum 800 wireless headset dark looks

JBL has gone for a dark, military look. The headset is shiney black plastic with a non-shiney grey metal finish. Each of the two ear drums has a panel with an missable, large JBL logo that lights up in bright colours when the headset is on you. This is programmable, you can tone things down if you are working.

On the left earpiece the flip down microphone sits on a boom. It is foam covered. You can bend the arm to get a better fit.

There’s plenty of padding around the earpieces. More than enough to keep you comfortable through an extended session. While the headphones have active noise cancellation, the padding helps to keep outside noise away in its own right.

Controls and switches sit along the bottom of both earpieces. There is a USB-C charging port and a volume wheel.

Heavy

As headsets go, the Quantum 800 wireless headset is heavy. They weigh 400g. In comparison my three year old Sony MDR-1000X headphones weigh 300g. Over time you’ll notice the extra 100g. It’s not a deal breaker, but the weight isn’t great.

The USB-C wireless dongle is 70mm long and stands out a long way from a desktop or laptop computer. It’s thin enough to squeeze in between other USB devices

JBL gave the Quantum 800 a better microphone than you might expect. You can tinker with settings to get the levels right. When you’ve done this you’ll get a clear sound. It does what it says on the box. You’ll be able to talk to others during a game and come across clear.

Likewise the mic is great for videoconferences. You get a better sound than relying on your PC or laptop mic. It might not be good enough for recording, say, a podcast unless you’re aiming for a lo-fi effect.

The headset is impressive. It is great value at NZ$400 when you consider its performance and features. If you are a committed gamer, it could be right for you.

Negatives

That said, there are a few reasons why I wouldn’t choose the Quantum 800 wireless headset for myself. They may not affect your decision. The design is fine for games playing. It could be distracting if you use them for work. I don’t like the idea of a huge brightly lit logo on my ears.

Another negative for me, but not for 80 percent of computer users is that JBL has optimised for PC gamers. On a Mac the experience is less complete. At the same time, it is not the best choice for console gamers.

A third negative is the sound quality. It’s fine for gaming and video or Skype calls. Explosions are incredible. There’s too much colour for music. It will work OK for casual listening, but if, say, you work with music apps, you’ll struggle. It doesn’t seem possible to neutralise the EQ enough to get a flat response.

These things aside, you won’t find a better PC gaming headset. I can’t think of anything else aimed at gamers that has active noise cancellation. There are dozens of options and features to explore. You can even simulate surround sound.

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